Villainous Vikings; don’t mead and sail…

I first stumbled across Villainous Vikings around June of 2013 somewhere on the BGG site.  It looked much different than it does now, but it was interesting enough to catch my attention.  I had reached out to Jeremy Stoltzfus about playtesting it or reviewing it for him back then.  The rule book wasn’t completed at the time, and there weren’t many prototypes available.  Sadly, I’m not someone who is going to tackle a print and play, I’m just not confident in making my own copies of games, and the gamecrafter components were just a little more than I could justify on a game that was still being worked out.  Jeremy was great with correspondence, and eventually I decided I would have to wait until a later date.

A few weeks ago I was on the Victory Point Games website and noticed a ‘Preorder’ for Villainous Vikings and I told myself to look into it when I had more time.  Pleasantly to my surprise it was the same Villainous Vikings that I had spoke to Jeremy about over a year ago.  I missed the Pre-order, but was able to get in a quick order and had the game arrive a couple days later.

IMG_2949

What was it about Villainous Vikings that drew me too it and kept my attention for this long? Simple and easy answer, Vikings.  My gaming group owns a copy of ‘Vikings’ but it’s more of a euro game, which didn’t fill the space in our collections for a true viking based game.  Villainous Vikings seemed to have the elements that we were looking for in a game.  So, after all this time, what is the verdict?

 

In Villainous Vikings you set out to amass as many Valhalla points as possible, so that after Ragnarök occurs, your Captain has the best seat to sell his tales of battle and drink mead.  You will gain Valhalla Points by trading, raiding and battling the other Captains who are vying for Odin’s favor.

At it’s core, Villainous Vikings is a simple game.  During your turn you will have the option to take one of three actions.

Use a Map Card, and decide whether to Raid or Trade with the city.

Interact with the Gods via an Asgard Card.

or

Regroup in the Northlands.

With only three options for a player to choose, you may wonder if there’s enough depth and strategy to keep this game hitting the table again and again.  I’ll cover these options in more detail, as well as the set up of the game.

As always, you’ll set the board up first.  The board is made up of 5 pieces that are simple and easy to put together.

Villainous Vikings comes with 50 Map cards and 9 Asgard Cards.  20 First Age, 21 Second age cards, and 18 Third Age cards.  You also get 1 Ragnarök card.  To prepare the game you’ll combine and shuffle all of the First Age cards and draw 8 cards, you’ll do the same for the Second Age cards.  Then shuffle all of the Third age cards and draw 10.  Take 5 of the Third Age cards and shuffle the Ragnaök card in with those.  Take those 6 cards and place them on to the table near the board, stack the rest of the Third Age cards on top, followed by the Second and First age cards.  Your Map deck is now prepared and ready for the game.  Place the remaining cards back into the box, you won’t need them for this Journey.

IMG_2950

We place the Journey Deck at the top of the board, then reveal the top 5 Cards.  You will also need to Sort the three hero decks as well and place them near the board.  In Villainous Vikings there are 3 types of heroes, Convert, Mercenary and Bosses.  When you flip the top 5 cards of the Journey deck, if any of the Map locations have a banner that lists a hero, find that hero and place it with the Map location.

You’ll also place the Conquest Legacy and Trade Network tokens next to the board.

IMG_2953

The game comes with 8 Viking Captains.  Use whatever method you would like to determine which Captain each player chooses.  There is a 9th Captain that was part of the Pre-Order through Victory Point Games, I understand that these will also be available at limited Con’s that the creator will be attending, so there’s hope for us that missed the Pre-order.

IMG_2959

Place any unused Captains back in the box.  Each Player will Prep their longship by assembling three cards, and then place your ship token in the Northlands.   You’ll distribute gold based on turn order, which is determined by beard length.  (For once I’m a lock for always having first place.)  The first player received no gold, and each additional player gains two for their position in turn order.  You are now ready to Raid…or possibly trade if you’re feeling nice.

 

Players Turns:

The first thing a player must do is determine if they would like to permanently expand the Journey Card pool by one card, if it is not at the maximum of Eight Cards.  Every game will start with 5 Map/Asgard cards available to players.  The costs for adding additional cards to the Journey pool is listed on the game board.

Then they must take one of the three available actions that I listed above.

Use a Map Card.

To use a map card, you must determine if you are going to Raid the town, or Trade with the town.

IMG_2955

To Raid a location:

You will move your longship onto the region that corresponds to the location that you want to visit.  It’s this early in the game that it can start to get ugly.  You must check for Enemy Captains in the Region (This is also the same if you decide to trade).  If another player is in the location that your in, the player that is already there, must decide if they’re going to Intercept your ship.  If they decide not to intercept your ship, they must immediately move their ship to the Northlands.  If they Intercept your ship a Battle will begin.  (We’ll cover battle in just a minute.)

Each location lists the the corresponding dice that you must roll to battle it in the upper right hand corner.  If your Raid fails, aka you lose the battle your turn immediately ends.  If you are successful, you will then collect the amount of Gold that is listed on the bottom right corner of the card.  You will then deal with Heroes in that location.  Adding any Convert hero to your Viking crew, discarding any Mercenary Heroes, as they must be hired during a trade option.  And finally you will place any Boss heroes into your player area, they’re worth Victory Points at the end of the game.

IMG_2962

Here’s is where part of the strategy comes in, when you successfully raid a location you must determine if you are going to add the location to your player area, collecting the victory points in the bottom left corner of the card.  Or you may decide that you are going to Raze the location, to Raze a location you will place the card in the discard pile and take the gold listed in the bottom right a second time.  This will also allow you to ‘take captives’ and turn over an empty (aka destroyed) areas of your longship face up.  (You will always replenish your ship from left to right.

To Trade with a location:

When trading with a location you may do all of the following.

Replenish your crew.  You will spend two gold per empty longship crew card to flip it back over.

Hire a Mercenary.  If the location has a Mercenary, you may pay the Mercenaries cost and add it to an vacant space on your ship.  Each ship has three spaces on it, so you may hold up to three heroes on your ship.  Bosses do not go into ship spaces.

IMG_2961

Bribe the Guards, you may pay two gold to permanently reduce the number of Combat dice the location rolls in battle by one.  Each location may only be bribed once.  You will turn the card sideways to signify that it’s been bribed.  (Seriously, not having the ability to just say ‘tap’ a card is ridiculous.) A location will always roll a single die in battle, so you can’t bribe you way completely out of battle.

Or can you? You can Buy the Loyality of a city.  Some location cards have a price listed in the upper right hand corner, while trading with the city you may pay the amount listed on the card to add the card to your player area.

Interact with the Gods via an Asgard Card

IMG_2957

Instead of using a map card, you may interact with the Gods.  You will simple choose the Asgard card you wish to interact with and follow all instructions listed on it.  It should be noted that all battles that occur due to Asgard cards are considered to be outside of the normal world, so any location bonuses that you may have will not apply.

After you’ve followed the card instructions, reveal a new card from the Journey Deck to refresh the Journey Card Pool.

Regrouping in the Northlands.

If you begin your turn in the Northlands, or you decide to move there, you may replenish one of your longship crew sections for free.  If you wish to refresh additional areas, they are 5 gold each.  This is the only action you may take this turn.

 

When you’ve completed your turn, you will replenish the Journey card pool and the next player in turn will take his turn.

 

Raiding a town or intercepting another Captain is where a good part of the game is going to take place, and to have a better understanding of that, we’ll need to go into more detail about Battle.

To Determine what dice you will roll during a battle, you will look at the active parts of your longship.  For each section active you will roll the corresponding dice.  When combating a city, you’ll roll the dice listed in the upper right hand corner.  Both participants will roll their dice at the same time.

You will check for any Heathen Hammer Abilities that you may have rolled.  (The Hammer symbol on the dice) Compare the Color of the Heathen Hammer rolled to your Captain sheet, and you are then able to use that ability.  If a Heathen Hammer is rolled for a location without a Boss, it counts as 1 Sword.

IMG_2960

You will then total the Attack and Defense Strength.  Attack Strength is the total number of Swords for your side, while Defense is the total number of shields.  There are a few things to check.

Swords and Shields from Combat dice.

Swords and Shields from Static Abilities.  Each Captain and a few Convert/Mercenary Heroes have a Static ability that will add Swords and Shields.

Swords and Shields from Heathen Hammer Abilities. Make sure to look at any Boss cards you may be fighting when rolling for them, they often have brutal Heathen Hammer abilities.

During this point you may also Sacrifice a Journey Card and/or a Asgard card to add the ability listed on the card.

Ok…got that? It seems like a lot to do, but it happens very quickly and is much easier than it all reads out.

Then you must determine losses for your ship.  To do so, you will take your Opponents Attack Strength and subtract your defense.  That’s your total losses.  If you have taken one of less damage you are unscathed, if you have taken two or more, you’re going to have to start to flip ship cards over.  Starting at the right side of your ship, you will count the number of losses and flip the cards according the the helms on the upper left hand side of the card.  Two losses and the tail of your ship is flipped over, etc.

IMG_2958

The good news is that loss doesn’t define the winner of the battle.  The participant with the most attack strength is the victor, so your ship may have been partially destroyed but you’re still victorious!

But what happens if you tie for total attack power?! If tied Viking Captains have the opportunity to retreat to the Northlands with the Current Player deciding first, retreating is considered forfeiting though, so the opposing player is considered the victor.  If neither Captain retreats, you will roll again.

When tying with a location, you may retreat, if you do not retreat and roll again, the location will roll one less combat die in the next battle, but remember you must always roll at least one die for a location.

If you defeat another Captain, you make take captives aka replenish one of your longship section cards.

Ragnarök!

As soon as the Ragnarök card is in the Journey pool, the game ends and players are summoned to their final showdown in front of Odin!

Each player may now replenish their ships at the cost of 2 gold per section.

This is your last chance, to score some points.  You will determine the number of rounds by subtracting one from the number of players.  For example in a two player game, there is only one Ragnarök round.

Each player will roll their dice and add any non location attack from static abilities or sacrificed cards.  Whoever has the most will win the Ragnarök card.  If there are more then two players, this continues until there is only one remaining Captain.

Entry to Valhalla!

You will now total your Valhalla points from Asgard cards, Boss Cards, Map Cards.  The Trade network (if you have more than 4 different colored location cards in front of you it’s worth 6 points), Conquest Legacy  (The person with the most location cards of one type with a minimum of 3 cards, it’s also worth 6 points).  Finally determine how many point you will earn for your gold, one point per 3 gold and an additional 6 for the Captain with the most Gold.

 

Final Thoughts:

Victory Point Games has done it again, completely taken me by surprise.  This is the 3rd or 4th title of theirs that surpassed my expectations. The art is fantastic, completely capturing the theme of the game, the laser cut pieces are sturdy and well done.  The card stock is good, though it feels lighter than the card stock in Darkest Night.  (Is this the new Playper that they’ve been talking about?)

Setting up the initial deck, allows for the game to have a lot of replayability.  Only using 8 of the First Age and Second age cards keeps the game fresh and new for each game.  The end game trigger also has the ability to change game length.  There are multiple paths to victory, you can Raid multiple locations and gain the Victory Points by keeping locations cards, you can also decide to Raze the locations and start to amass money.  While I don’t think that the gold will win you the game, it can certainly set you up to buy the locality of locations that you may not have the ability to beat in battle.   I’ve gotten this to the table 6 times already and I still haven’t seen all of the Bosses, Mercenaries or Converts come out yet.  These cards also can completely change your strategy, if a boss hits to early, you may have to switch from an aggressive stance to more of a trading stance to prepare for battle and bribe city guards.

The game could technically be played without player vs player combat, though I don’t think it’s a good idea, nor do I think it was intended to be played that way.  In fact, in one of our recent plays as a 4 player game, 3 of us were always at each other, while the 4th player just sat in England and continued to beat every location card that came up, because we were so blood thirsty against each other, we didn’t even realize that they had beat 6 location cards.  I don’t need to tell you how poorly we lost that time.  There are times you have to make a decision on whether or not to risk intercepting another ship or moving into a location where you know you will be intercepted, just to possibly get them out of the location because if they win, it’s trouble for everyone.

We’ve had a lot of fun with Villainous Vikings, and I see us continuing to raid locations for a long time.  I gave it a strong rating on BGG, and can only hope that they’ll keep expanding the game.  While it’s brand new, I can tell you if there were a deluxe edition with better ships, engraved dice and a larger map, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase it.  I know that it will bother some people that they have to sticker their dice, but it wasn’t an issue for me at all.

IMG_2963

If the game has any faults, it comes down to the rule book and it’s lay out and clarity.  Jeremy has been excellent responding to emails and answering threads on BGG about any questions people may have.  While it may be apparent to some, I don’t think I’ve found anywhere in the rule book that says that “Empty ship” sections means a Destroyed ship section.  If you have more questions please refer to the threads on BGG, as Jeremy has been a excellent help.

I haven’t seen Villainous Vikings hit retail channels yet, but I hope that it gets proper distribution and the success that it deserves.  If you’re looking for a proper Viking game with excellent theme and mechanics, Villainous Vikings is a must have for your collection!

Posted in Game Reviews | Leave a comment

My FLGS (an editorial)

Long before Wil Wheaton became the sweetheart of the gaming industry, before he invaded our computers with his fancy Geek Chic table and his celebrity friends, geeks were rolling D20′s in their basements and slaying trolls.  The popularity of table top gaming in the states increases every day, the attendance of conventions such as Gencon and Origins grows yearly.

The internet has changed our hobby, creating an accessible format for anyone even remotely interested in gaming, if you’re curious about the gaming industry, it’s just a Google search away.  There was a time when it wasn’t as accessible, when you had to track down a game, when you had to enter one of those rare store fronts that were usually hidden in a strip mall and buy a game based on a store recommendation or just because the art on the box was something that peaked your interest.  As I’ve said though, we’ve come a long way from those days.

There are unsung heroes in the gaming industry, the people that take the risk in putting their savings into opening a local gaming store.  There’s a huge risk involved in opening a gaming store, especially when the internet age has dropped prices and made the retail world harder to gain traction in.

Often we talk about the artistry in gaming, the work that has to go into the development, the art and the mechanics but we rarely talk about the work that gets put into the conventions, the tournaments and our favorite stores.  To open a store is difficult, to open a store that goes above and beyond normal gaming conventions has to be even that much harder.  Which is why I’m writing this review, because those in the Midwest have an opportunity to experience more than just a gaming store.

The Wandering Dragon is located in downtown Plainfield, Il, if you weren’t paying attention you might even miss it.  Though if you’re interested in gaming, it’s something you don’t want to miss.  From the outside, it looks like your average brick building, which just happens to have dragons painted on the window and hanging over the front door.

ls

I’m sure the question is ‘What makes the Dragon different from other local game stores?” It’s not something that’s easily answered, we have plenty of game stores in the area, especially if your willing to drive a bit to get to them, some of them have even been open for 20 years or more.  There’s no way to define what the Dragon means to many of us…

The Wandering Dragon opened at a smaller location not to far from their current location and had a successful run at business.  The Dragon’s story starts before their opening though.  It started when they first threw up their coming soon sign, I did some research and emailed the owner about their new shop, without knowing anything about me, I received an invitation to visit the shop before they opened.

This little shop on the second floor of a building, consisting of only three rooms, helped to create a culture of gaming.  They started with shelves full of games and a large room of tables.  There was an open invitation to game, bring your friends, grab a game off of their shelf and dig into the rules.  Through this small local game store, I was able to grow my gaming collection,  I was able to give games a shot before I spent any money on them.  It was a great opportunity to be able to preview demo copies and learn more about gaming.

Unfortunately, or as it turned out, fortunately the Wandering Dragon was forced to actually wander a bit.  It relocated itself, roughly a block away in a larger location.  It was at this location where the Wandering Dragon really started to flourish and become so important to the gaming community.  Though some of the decisions have been met with mumblings and whispered voices of dissent, but don’t worry I’ll get to that coming up.

The new location completely changed what I expected in a gaming store.  There were the usual shelves full of games, RPG’s, dice and whatever else you could need to get your geek on but there was something else.  Something that wasn’t easy to put your finger on.  The new location not only housed a large room full of games, it also had another separate room full of options but that’s just the beginning.  What it also had was numerous rooms set up for private gaming.  I’m not talking about your typical 4 walled room with a plastic folding table, there’s the large event room.

Event Room But there’s also a Kaiju room

Kaiju RoomAnd a Star Wars room.

Steam Punk RoomA Hobbit room.

Hobbit RoomThere’s the Star Trek room for those Trekkies who aren’t into debating who shot first…

Star Trek Room In case you want to get your RPG on and need a thematic room to get you into the right frame of mind to hunt Orcs, there’s the Dungeon room.

Dungeon RoomAnd in case you need an even fancier room, there’s always the VIP room.

VIP Room

It’s these rooms that have caused some of the complaints to come forth about the Dragon. As the Dragon expanded into a large location and went out to really build an environment based on their clients, they also took on the added responsibility of raising their rent and over all costs.  So they did what any smart business person would do, offered to rent out these private rooms to their guests.  If you prefer not to pay for one of the private rooms, there’s always the event room in back where you can pull up a chair and break out a game, but if you want the comfort of a closed room for you and your friends, now you have an opportunity to do so.  What’s the outlandish, extravagant fee that the Dragon is charging you for this room? $5.00  Insanity right? I mean for $5.00 now a days, you can almost buy two gallons of gas, wait…no you can’t do that.  Uh, you can buy a couple cans of monster at at gas station for 5 bucks though.  For $5.00 a person, you and your friends can have a private room, for basically as long as you would like.  How dare they?  I’m sure you’re asking yourself why would I possibly pay for a room to game with my friends when I can game at home for free? Well, maybe I’m in a different place, but as I get older, and all of my friends get older, it gets harder and harder for all of us get together.  So this provides us (gamers) an opportunity to get a few different gamers together and give us a place to roll dice and get to know each other.  It’s not always easy finding people that you’re willing to game with, not to mention it’s even weirder bringing random people into your home.  So what’s the cost of being able to sit down with new people and start to build a relationship and gaming community… $5.00, I can’t believe their audacity.

The Wandering Dragon did more than just build a gaming community though, they’ve built friendships.  It’s few and far between that I’ve heard anyone say a negative word about Kevin and Laura, Elias their son may get a few more grumbles but that’s just because he’s a strong gamer who isn’t afraid to light the room on fire and possibly burn your favorite D&D character with d20 points of damage.  Kevin and Laura amaze me with the knowledge of their customers and how they keep everyone’s names straight. They know your gaming habits and what type of games your enjoy.  Again, there’s been some talk about how they’re money driven because of that evil, evil $5.00 charge for a private room, but I’d like to address this.  There was a time when Kevin and I were talking for weeks about a game I was excited to come out, and when it finally hit the game store, I was actually at home on the couch severely ill.  I made a joke about the shop delivering the game to me on my death bed, and I received an email message from Kevin asking for my address because he was going to drive the game over to my house, it wasn’t a joke, he wasn’t having fun with it.  He sincerely reached out to find out how he could get the game to me, now you may feel differently, but to me that isn’t the greedy hand of capitalism at work, it was the genuine outreaching of an owner to a loyal client.

The Wandering Dragon sells games at MSRP.  Gasp… yes, they ask the actual MSRP for their games.  They don’t sell their games above MSRP, though some may say they do.  They don’t overprice or gouge their customers, what they do is provide an awesome gaming experience and a genuine interest in gaming for their customers, who should really be referred to as their friends.  To offset the MSRP they have a loyalty program which provides you with Dragons Gold for every purchase you make.  That Dragon’s gold is then collected and allows you to get discounts on future purchases when you’ve collected enough points.

The Wandering Dragon is more than just a game store for many people.  It’s a place to go to meet mutual gamers, it’s a place where you can go to fight dragons or try to feed your family (I’m shaking my angry old man fist at you Agricola), to shoot down Tie-Fighters and to battle Ancient Terrible Things.  It’s run by two very honest and genuine people who care about the gaming community and their customers.  If you’re looking for a game store that goes above and beyond what you’ve ever expected from a retail location, join the caravan and wander over to the Dragon.  It’s an experience you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

(I’d like to note that this review and article was written 100% unsolicited.)

Posted in Game Reviews | Leave a comment

Ancient Terrible Things: An adventure in pulp horror…

IMG_2667

Ancient Terrible Things was a kickstarter project, which at the time, I decided not to back.  The decision wasn’t based on game play, but more an exercise in self restraint as I had just purchased too many games and I knew that I needed to slow down a bit in my buying.  It was to my surprise that I saw this show up in my FLGS recently and immediately had to pick it up.  Pulp Horror theme and dice.  What else could I want? I know many of you are asking, but don’t you already have Elder Sign? Yes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have room on my shelf for another Mythos based game.  They’re actually slowly taking over my gaming shelves, and I have no complaints about that at all. The real question should be, does one of them outshine the other? Read on…

In Ancient Terrible Things, you play the role of an intrepid adventurer exploring a dark jungle river for Ancient Secrets.  Why you’d willing do to a dark jungle to investigate terrible rumors of beasts and unspeakable horrors is beyond me, but that’s what you’ve decided to do.  Turn after turn, you’ll decided to travel to a Fateful location and attempt to collect Ancient Secrets (Victory Points) by overcoming an ‘Ominous Encounter’. If you fail to overcome the encounter, you’ll unleash a Terrible Thing, which will count against your points at the end of the game.

IMG_2670

To set up a Game of Ancient Terrible things, you’ll first need to build your deck of Ominous Encounters.  There are three different levels, Green, Orange and Red.  Depending on the number of players, you’ll build a deck of encounters. For Example, in a 2 player game, there will be 6 Red encounters, 6 Orange encounters and 6 Green Encounters.  You’ll place the Red encounters on the Ominous Encounters Location on the board, place the Orange on top of that, then finally place the Green encounters on top of the Orange.  You’ll then deal one card from the top of the Encounter deck to each of the numbered 6 locations.

Shuffle your Swag Pile, and fill the three open Swag spots with cards.  You’ll be able to buy these at a later turn.

Shuffle your Feat Cards, discard the top Feat card into the designated pile.

Place the 4 Achievement Cards near the board and place the 5 Green dice in the center of the board.

You’ll need to now randomize all of the Terrible Thing tokens and depending on the number of players you’ll draw a certain number of them.  In a two player game you’ll use 7 random Terrible Thing Tokens. You’ll now flip them over and arrange them from the least harmful (0 negative points) to the most harmful (3 negative points) on the Expedition track.

IMG_2684

Each player will now choose a character.  If the Captain is in play, they’ll receive the first player token.  Each player will receive their player board, one of each type of token.  Focus, Treasure, Courage and Feat and 3 Feat Cards.  They will also receive any additional starting resources that their character may reward them.

IMG_2677

Each Character will place their pawn on the Riverboat location and take one of the Scenario Cards.

IMG_2672IMG_2687You can decide as a group which Scenario you want to play.

Ancient Terrible Things will be played over a series of turns, each turn broken down into 7 Steps.  Each step is easily referenced on the player board, so there’s no need to worry about the amount of steps.

1. Riverboat Phase

This step is only performed when there are no more cards at the board.  If there are no cards, the player then deals a card from the Ominous Encounters deck to each location in numerical order.  You’ll take a resource token from the supply matching the encounter type and place those tokens on the cards.  If no cards are left in the Ominous Encounters deck at the beginning of the phase, the game immediately ends.

2. Explore Phase

You will move your pawn to any active location, a location with an encounter card still located at it.  You’ll take any resource token on that location and add it to your player board.  You may now also take the Special Location Action as well.

IMG_2678At the Sinster Chateau, you may exchange any token from an opponent’s stash with a Token from your own stash.  You may not swap out Terrible Thing tokens (also referred to as Doom Tokens)

IMG_2679

At the Crumbling Ruin, you will take the Map token, which will make you the first player for the next round.

IMG_2680The Ghastly Gorge will allow you to discard any Feat cards you have in hand and draw that many new Feat Cards.

IMG_2681 The Rusted Gunsloop will let you gain either a Courage or a Treasure token.  This is in addition to any resource tokens the card placed there may give you.

IMG_2682At the Accursed Shrine, you can either take a Focus token or a Courage Feat token.  This again, is in addition to any tokens that you may received from cards placed there.

IMG_2683The Yawning Chasm allows you to perform a ‘Desperate Act’ at any available location.  We’ll cover what a Desperate Act is in the next phase.

 

3. Desperation Phase

During the Desperation Phase you may spend Courage Tokens equal to the Ancient Secrets Value of the Encounter Card at your current location to perform a Desperate Act.  By doing so, you immediately overcome the Encounter and place it into your Score pile.

IMG_2673

In the picture above you’d need to spend 2 Courage tokens during the Desperation phase to immediately overcome the ‘Dark Signet’ encounter.

4. Encounter Phase

This is where most of the game will happen, during your Encounter phase you’ll roll dice to overcome encounters and to gain resources.  You’ll Take the 5 Focus dice (Green) to build your dice pool.  You may then play any Swag or Feat Cards (paying the Feat cost listed in the upper left corner of the card) that allow you to add Luck (Yellow die) or Panic (Red die) to your dice pool.

Roll your dice.  You may then Re-Roll up to two times, you may re-roll all of your dice for free, with the exception of Panic Dice, whatever you roll on Panic dice, that’s what you’re stuck with.  You may also spend Focus tokens to re-roll individual Focus Dice (Green) equal to the number of Focus Token Spent.  (Spend 3 Focus tokens, you can re-roll three dice)

Before of after each roll, you can play Feat cards, or exhaust Swag cards if they have an exhaust ability.  (Aren’t we getting tired of finding ways to say ‘tap a card’ by this point).  You may not play cards that allow you to swap out dice after your initial roll!

What can you do with your results?

IMG_2674

This was my initial roll for the Dark Signet Encounter.  2 5′s and 3 3′s.

IMG_2675

I decided not to re-roll any of my dice.  I used the pair of 5′s to defeat the Dark Signet Encounter, adding the card to my area, which will be worth 2 points at the end of the game.  Then I reference the Scenario card.  In this particular Scenario, I was able to spend the 3 3′s I rolled to receive 3 additional Feat tokens.

So what would have happened if I didn’t beat the encounter? Or if I choose not too? You can always make the choice to not beat the encounter, using all of your dice to prepare for upcoming turns and spending them for resources based on the pay outs from the Scenario card.  If you do not beat the encounter, you’ll take one of the Terrible Thing tokens and place it on your player board.  At the end of the game these will be totaled and subtracted from your Victory Points.  But wait…there’s strategy to this, as the Terrible Thing tokens are random, the first few on the track may be worth no negative points at the end of the game.  So you may want to purposely lose to an encounter, take the Terrible Thing token and just prep for the upcoming rounds.  But I skipped a head a bit…

5. Terrible Thing Phase

If you fail to overcome an Encounter, or choose not to, you unleash a Terrible Thing.  Discard the Encounter to the Rumors area of the board and take a Terrible Thing Token.  If this is the last Terrible Thing Token on the track, then the game ends immediately.

IMG_2685

 

6. Trading Post Phase

You’ll now move down river to the Trading post, where you’ll be able to purchase any of the face up Swag cards available by spending treasure tokens.  When you’re finished buying, if any spaces are empty, refill them with the top card from the Swag pile.  If you did not purchase a Swag card, take the left most card and return it to the bottom of the Swag pile.

7. Refresh Phase

Draw Feat Cards from the deck until you have three cards in hand.  Turn all of your exhausted Swag cards back to the non exhausted position.

If all Pawns are on the trading post the next round starts with the player who now has the Map piece.

The Unspeakable Event

This is the end of the game.  When there are no more cards to be placed onto locations or the last Terrible Thing token is taken, the game ends.

Add up all of your Ancient Secret Points, subtract any Terrible Thing points, add in any Achievement points you may have earned.  The player with the most points wins.

 

IMG_2686

Thoughts on Ancient Terrible Things:

Ancient Terrible Things is a blast! As a Lovecraft Mythos fan, I’ve enjoyed Elder Sign, in fact it mostly gets played on my phone as it’s easier, due to the fact that there no set up.  As much as I enjoy Elder Sign, there are times where it feels like an exercise in futility.  There is just no way to win, sure we’ve beat it, but a few bad rolls and it’s all down hill.  I don’t expect a battle with the Elder things to be easy, but I also want it some what fun as well.  Which is exactly what Ancient Terrible Things brings to the table.  Please don’t mistake the above commentary for A.T.T’s being Elder Sign light, because it absolutely isn’t.  Sure there are similarities, but they’re very much their own games.  The ability to manipulate your dice rolls, spend focus tokens, or just use your rolls to gather resources is what really makes this game shine.  The way the Feat and Swag cards work with your tokens and dice rolls all comes together very nicely.

If you’re looking for some pulp horror fun, with some interesting and unique art and shiny dice, you need to look no further.  Ancient Terrible Things has earned it’s self a spot on my shelf next to all of the other terrible things that go bump in the night!

Now, if I could only get my hands on that Kickstarter card… Who knows maybe I’ll befriend a cultist who can conjure one.

 

Posted in Game Reviews | Leave a comment

Shinobi WAT-AAH! A game with kung-fu sound effects built into the title.

IMG_2666

Shinobi Wat-ahh had me at Naïade.  You may not immediate recognize his name, but I’ll bet that you’ve seen his art on some of your favorite games.  Xavier Gueniffey Durin AKA Naïade is probably best known in the gaming world for his excellent illustrations for the game Seasons, though you may also know him from Isla Dorada, Tokaido or The Phantom Society.  Regardless, I’d probably lay down my hard earned cash for almost any game that he’s created the art for, it doesn’t hurt that my wife also loves his artwork, so it’s easy to get her to play anything he’s created.  Now, that is out of the way, let’s talk about how Shinibo Wat-ahh actually plays, don’t worry my reference to the art will continue to pop up throughout the review.

This review will focus on the ‘Grasshopper Mode’, I’ll return at a later date to get more in depth on the ‘Grand Master Mode’ after I’ve had the chance to play through it more.

Shinobi is set in ‘The Empire of the Moon’.  Unfortunately for the empire, a rift has recently opened, providing passage for terrible creatures that have been lurking in the shadows for millennia.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, our pal the Emperor, son of the Moon is getting pretty old and his loyal lords, aren’t so loyal anymore, in fact they’re making a play to seize the throne.  Clan lords will appeal to warriors known as ninjas to help them battle their ‘honorable posteriors onto the imperial throne’.

Set up for the Grasshopper Mode,  only involves shuffling the deck of 94 Shinobi cards.  The deck is made by combining 81 Clan cards, there ate 9 cards per clan, 4 Ronin cards and 9 Yokai cards.  It plays 2 to 4, each player will take a Ninja Master Token and places it in front of himself.  Set the Shinobi deck in the center of the table, leaving room next to it for the Jigoku (Discard) pile.   Each play will then reveal one Shinobi card from the top of the deck, the player who revealed the card with the highest strength will be the first player.
Each player will now draw 8 Shinobi cards, with the exception of the first player, who will only receive 7 cards.

IMG_2642

You’re now ready to battle it out for the throne.  The game will take place over a series of rounds, with very simple rules.  Play will continue clockwise until there is a winner.  Each round will consist of 2 mandatory actions and a 3rd possible action.

IMG_2641

1. Draw Cards

You have an option when drawing cards, you must chose before you draw though.

Recruit: You will draw the first card from the Shinobi Deck and place it into your hand.

Be Corrupt: You’ll draw the first card from the Shinobi Deck. You’ll then show the card to the other players and place it face down under your Ninja Master token.  You then draw as many cards from the Shinobi deck as the strength of the card you drew plus 2!  The cards under your Ninja Master token now make up your Corruption pile.  The values of the cards in this pile will be negative points during final scoring.  The temptation is strong…

IMG_2664(Being Corrupt, Card shown face up for visual purposes.)

IMG_2644(By using the Clan of the Fox with a Strength of 3, I’m now allowed to draw 5 Shinobi Cards into my hand)

 

2. Place Cards (optional)

You have 2 ways to place cards.

Place a Clan: Once Per turn, you can form 1 clan by placing 2, 3 or 4 cards of the same clan.  A clan can never consist of more than 4 cards.  If you are placing your 2nd, 3rd or 4th Clan, it must be a different clan than one you already have in front of yourself.

IMG_2665 The Clan’s power is activated when you place the card.  Placing 2 of the same clan activates the 2 card symbol, placing 3 or 4 cards of the same clan actives the 3 card symbol.  You may not activate the 2 card symbol twice when placing 4 cards at once. 

The Ronin is considered a wildcard and can stand in for a card in any clan.

IMG_2660(Your non-union ninja…he’ll work for anyone at anytime)

Reinforce a Clan: Once per turn, you may place or or more cards on a clan already in the game, as long as you ensure that no Clan has more than 4 cards.  You can reinforce a Clan by placing 1, 2 or 3 cards of the same clan, possibly including a Ronin.  If you now reinforce with 2 or 3 cards, you can trigger the ability on the Clan’s card.  If you have 2 cards out and only reinforce with 1 card, you do not trigger the 3 card ability.

You can instead reinforce a Clan by placing 1 Yokai card on the clan.  It’s power is then triggered immediately, a Yokai card can only be placed on a clan already in play.  You can not add one during your initial building of a Clan.

IMG_2643(Nezumi is a Yokai card, he’s a nasty little rat, who you definitely want on your side.)

3. Discard a card.  (Mandatory)

If you still have cards in your hand, you must discard one card and place it into the Jigoku face-up.

The next player in clockwise order takes their turn now.

IMG_2649

These rounds continue until a player places his 4th Clan and applies it’s power.  Each player will now determine the total strength of their troops by adding the values of all Clan cards placed in front of them and then subtracting the total value of cards in their Corruption pile.

IMG_2648

The player with the highest final total is declared the Victor.  In case of a tie, the place with the least Corruption wins the game, if there’s still a tie, play again.

 

The Clans

IMG_2658The Clan of the Spider have weak strengths, with 5 cards 2 strength and 4 only 1 strength.  What the Clan of the Spider lacks in initial strength, they make up for in their triggered abilities.  When you place 2 cards, you can destroy a card sending it into the Jigoku.  Why you really play the Clan of the Spider is to trigger the 3 card ability and Destroy 1 Clan of an opposing player.

IMG_2656The Clan of the Bear bring the highest Strength to the table, with all 9 Cards having a strength of 6.  They offer no triggered abilities though.  If they can make it to end game scoring, they’re going to help you out quite a bit, but watch out for the Clan of the Spider!

IMG_2651The Clan of the Dragon have 3 different Strength Values.  4 cards with a strength of 3, 4 cards with a strength of 4 and a single card of 5 strength. Their triggered ability helps you draw additional cards and pick the ones that you need to help build in hand clans and prepare for the next round.  My first few games, I underestimated their ability.

IMG_2652The Clan of the Rat bring 4 different strengths to the table.  2 cards at  1, 3 cards at Strength 2, 2 cards at a strength of 3 and a final card with a strength of 4.  Rats play their part well, they’re down right dirty, triggering their ability can cause your opponent to have to discard a good portion of their hand, forcing them to ‘Be Corrupt’ the following round to build their hand back up.

IMG_2654The Clan of the Toad only have 3 separate strength values.  2 cards with a strength of 1, 4 cards with a strength of 3 and 3 cards with a strength of 4.  The toads are a great end game strategy, allowing you to place 2 cards to force a player to put a card back into the hand, or the 3 card trigger effect to return an entire Clan to it’s owners hand.  If the Clan of the Toads are your 4th Clan, they can help drop an opponents score quickly.

IMG_2653The Clan of the Crow bring 3 card strengths, 3 cards with a strength of 2, 4 cards with a strength of 3 and 2 cards with a strength of 4.  The Crows can really help turn a game, if an opponent was just forced to destroy a Clan, placing that clan into the Jigoku, and you can then get out a Clan of Crows, you can go right in and take that discarded clan.  Being able to utilize the Jigoku as a personal draw pile is very handy.

IMG_2657The Clan of the Monkey brings only 2 values with them.  6 cards of 1 strength, and 3 of 2 strength.  No one trusts a monkey right? These evil, ugly guys are able to copy the abilities of enemy clans, so if you just play a strong Spider clan, watch out because the Monkey Clan can immediately destroy them in return.

 

IMG_2655 The Clan of the Carp has 4 different strength values.  2 cards with a strength of 1, 2 cards with a strength of 2, 2 cards with a strength of 3 and a single card with a strength of 4.  This is the Clan you want to get out early game to build your hand of Shinobi cards.

IMG_2659The Clan of the Fox has 3 different strength values.  4 cards with a 3 strength, 4 cards with a 4 strength and a single card of 5 strength.  The triggered abilities are definitely going to aggravate your opponent.  Trigger your 3 card ability when your hand is almost gone to steal an entire hand of awesomeness from your opponent.  They never even saw the sly foxes coming.

Yokai Cards

IMG_2662IMG_2661There are 9 Yokai cards which can be used to reinforce your troops.  Each triggering a separate ability when played, while a few benefit the player who just used them, most of them are just nasty little beasts which will harm your opponents.

 

Thoughts on Shinobi WAT-AHH:

I initially purchased Shinobi based entirely on the art, hoping that the game play was as good as the art was.  Théo Rivière didn’t disappoint! Shinobi is a fast paced card game of take that, if your friends don’t like direct confrontation, do not put this game in front of them! There are many different strategies that will work as the 9 different Clans have entirely different abilities and can be used well to play off of each other.  In my games I’ve yet to find any balance issues with the card abilities.  While there is a definite element of luck of the draw, the abilities on the cards help to mitigate that some.  It comes down to really smart hand building and paying attention to your opponents.  With the ability to not Play a card/Clan on your turn, you can take the time to build the hand you need before having the Clan hit the table as long as your aware of your opponent, who may be trying to push the speed of the game, to hit that 4th clan before you can save up for that big attack.

I’ve only played one game of the ‘Grand Master Mode’ but it just builds upon the base game and adds in an element of deduction and surprise with a final boss battle, but I’ll try to get a review of that up shortly.

The components are decent, though you may need to sleeve these cards if you plan on having it hit the table often.  They have a decent gloss on them but at a bit thin, especially the cards for the ‘Grand Master Mode‘.  The box insert is really bizarre, while it accommodates everything nicely, it really doesn’t make any sense at all.

IMG_2663Why are there 4 circular holes and one larger circular hole? There’s absolutely no need for these, unless they’re planning for future expansions.  Overall for the $39.99 MSRP, you can’t go wrong.  Shinobi WAT-AAH! is an excellent game.  I hate to call it a filler as this is a review based entirely on the ‘Grasshopper’ mode, but that’s what it feels like.  It’s really delivers in terms of artwork and theme.  We recommend it!

Posted in Game Reviews | Leave a comment

‘Existence is a die thrown by blind human hands – only the gods glimpse its final outcome.’

IMG_2464

Quantum slipped right past me, somehow, even with all of its hype from Essen’13, it went completely under my radar.  It wasn’t until I saw a local distributor on Facebook post about it that it even caught my attention.  How? I have no clue, I enjoy science fiction and I enjoy throwing dice.  I did a little digging into it and realized that this may be right up my alley. I thought about what my game groups reaction would be.  Would there be too much randomness and luck built into it for some of us? Absolutely.  Would there be enough strategy for me to want to bring this to the table over and over? Is there really enough of a game when dice are a huge part of the mechanics, or is it just a luck fiesta? Read on to find out…

 

Overview:

Sometime in ’52 during the Cold War a seam of theoretical physicists and experimental poets (what? Seriously? Experimental poets?!) hack time and space to create the ‘Six-Dimensional Quantum Displacer – or Quantum D6.  A machine that projects future possibilities and selects one to become a reality.  (Uh…sure.  I guess if I can buy into Dune and Star Wars, I can buy into this.)

Jump to ’84 when there was an epic war, no… in fact there was a Planet-Shattering War.  The Quantum D6 demanded inconceivable amounts of energy, and with fuel limited, war was inevitable.  (Are you still with me here?) Wars started and Earth’s superpowers split the planet asunder to drain the last breath of life from the core.  We must have then fled earth on ships fueled by Quantum, of course headed for the stars.

Alright…I won’t go on, but you get it right? We’re not playing with fancy colored dice, we’re playing with the ever powerful Quantum D6.  Quantum can do everything! It can change your ships into entirely different ships, it can build Quantum Cubes which rip energy from planets to feed our massively hungry ships, really what can’t it do?

IMG_2466

Game Setup:

The game set up will depend entirely on the number of players that you have at your table. Quantum can accommodate 2 to 4 players.  You’ll choose from a variety of maps that are laid out for you either in the rule book (starting maps) or on the additional Sector Maps sheet that comes with the game.  There’s a large variety of maps that you can choose from once your acquainted with the game and it’s mechanics.

Each player will choose a command sheet, the matching 7 dice and specified number of quantum cubes based on the map you choose to play.  The number of Quantum cubes can range from 5 to 7.

You’ll place a die on both the Dominance and Research spaces on your Command sheet, with 1 pip showing.  You’ll place the specified amount of quantum cubes on the corresponding spot on your board and you’re almost ready to play!

You’ll roll 3 of your remaining 5 dice and those will be your starting ships.  The other two dice, place somewhere to the side, they can be earned later in the game as expansion ships.  You can re-roll your dice if you don’t like the outcome, but you must re-roll all of them and must keep the second roll.

The first player will be the one with the lowest ship total, aka the lowest total number of pips showing on their dice.  That player will then place one of his Quantum cubes on one of the starting planets.  Then in player order you’ll also place your 3 starting ships (the dice you’ve rolled) in the spaces next to your starting planet.  These are the orthogonally adjacent spaces, not any spaces diagonal to the planet.

Grab those awesome combat dice, that’s the fancy term for the black and white die that come with the game and place them near the map.

Now all that’s left is to shuffle the two separate decks of advancement cards.  The white Command cards and the Black Gambit cards.  Deal 3 of each of these face up on the table.

Get ready to start beating up on your friends, because it’s time to start draining planets!

 

Game Play Overview:

The game will be played over a series of rounds.  Each round a player will have exactly 3 actions to utilize in Phase 1.

Reconfigure: You can reroll one of our existing ships.  If you get the same starting number, you may reroll again until you get a new number.

Deploy: You may relocate a ship from the scrapyard to an orbital position on a planet that contains one of your Quantum cubes.

Move/Attack: You can move your ship up to the number of pips on it and may attack by landing on an enemy.  A ship can only attack/move once per turn even if it’s number changes.  You may not move through other ships (yours included) or planets.

This is really the only action that we need to go into much depth on.  Each of the 6 different faces on your die represent different ships.  The smaller the number the larger and more battle hardened your ship is.  Each ship also has one special ability which you can use on your turn as well that does not cost you an action.

The ship breakdown:

1: Battlestation.  This is the toughest ship that you have.  It’s special ability allows it to attach 1 enemy next to it. (Orthogonally)

2: Flagship.  This allows you to pick up 1 ship from a surrounding space and carry it on your move, then drop it any empty surrounding space.  Surrounding in terms of Quantum is any of the 9 spaces around where the Flagship moves into, the placement must be legal and you can not place on a planet or another ship.  This does count as a movement action. 

3: Destroyer.  This ship allows you to swap places with one of your other ships on the map.  This does not count as an action!

4: Frigate.  You may change your ship to a 3 or a 5.

5: Interceptor.  You may move diagonally as you move/attack.  This is the only ship that allows you to move diagonally.

6: Scout.  This is your fastest ship, it’ll allow you to move the furthest across the board but it’s very weak.  It’s special ability is that you’re allowed to re-roll it once per turn for free.

Attacking: When moving and attacking, you must have enough movement to be able to move into the space in which you are attacking.  You will move you ship halfway into the space in which you are attacking, and both participants in the battle will roll an additional die.

IMG_2470

Here’s the catch, the lowest total combination of your ship plus your die roll wins the battle.  Remember when I said the 1 was your toughest ship? Yea, it’s slow and tough as nails.  Example: The green player has a Battlestation (1) in which the red player is attacking with their Destroyer (3).  The red player rolls the black attack die and gets a 4, for a total of 7.  The green player rolls the white die and gets a 4 as well for a total of 5.

IMG_2471

This means that the defender wins the battle and essentially nothing happens.  The red player will move back to the last space they moved from (the space before they entered your air space) and it’s over.  Had the Red player rolled lower than the green player, it’s a victory and the green player would remove his ship from the board, re-roll it and place it in his Scrapyard on his player board.  The red player will then gain 1 dominance point and the green player would lose one Dominance point.

IMG_2472

Battling your way to 6 Dominance points is the only other way to place a Quantum cube on the board.

 

Construct Cube: This takes 2 actions.  You may only construct a cube on a planet in which you do not already have a cube.  (There are some adjustments to this rule which I’ll cover later).  You may only place a Quantum Cube on a planet in which your ships are in Orbital Positions and add up to exactly the number of the planet.

Research: Simply add 1 to your research die.

Phase 2: the Advancement Cards

You are allowed to take 1 card for each Quantum cube you placed on the turn, and 1 card for a research breakthrough, which means raising your research to a 6.

You are only ever allowed to have 3 Command cards, if you are to earn an additional card, you may draw it and then choose which Command Card to discard.

Gambit cards are one time bonuses that happen once you take the card.

Think carefully about the cards you choose, those quick fix Gambit cards are awfully tempting, but the Command cards can give you ways to take extra actions or manipulate the dice.

Game End:

The game ends when one player places out his last Quantum cube.  Yes, it’s that simple, there isn’t some crazy Victory condition.  Place your cube, end the game, laugh at your friends.  Quite simple.

 

Thoughts:

Quantum wound up filling a void in my gaming shelves.  It allows players to utilize strategy while giving your opponents the ability to completely destroy that strategy on their turn.  There are those who are going to hate Quantum because of the luck factor, in fact it was only 3 rounds in when one of our regular game group said ‘I already hate this game, it’s entirely too luck based’, of course this was after a string of bad rolls. So know going into it that the dice can play a large part of your success or failure, but that all depends on how you plan your actions as well.

Quantum provides (for me at least) a quick, fun, space game that allows direct confrontation and doesn’t shy away from making you attack your friends.  If you want to be the peaceful ambassador and try to just ensure that you’re getting the right numbered ships adjacent to the planets to place your Quantum cubes, nothing is stopping you.  Oh wait…yes there is, the other players at the table that have that rabid bloodlust in their eyes, just waiting to position their ships next to yours to blow them to little quantum bits and pieces.  You could technically win by avoiding battle entirely if the other players allowed you to do so, but the games I’ve played there was no way to let one player just do what they wanted.  You had to pay attention to each player, how many cubes they had on the board, where they were moving and what possible benefits they could have on their turns.  Quantum practically begs you to beat on your opponents, this is a battle for supremacy not an acoustic camp fire session for pacifists.

If you aren’t a fan of direct confrontation games, look else where.  If you want a completely friendly space game, try…uh I actually don’t know what to tell you. Maybe TI3 because before you actually get to battle you may have fallen asleep.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

It’s played well with 2 and 3 players, I haven’t gotten 4 players to the table yet, though I only assume that’s going to make it that much more fun. It’s fairly quick, with 3 players it’s averaged under an hour, a 4th may prolong it a bit, but you should have no problem finishing in just about an hour.

The components are good, at least my copy had none of the complaints that I’ve seen on BGG so far.  The Command Sheets are really nice card stock, the print quality is excellent.  The dice are large, mine did initially have a weird film on them, they weren’t sticky but they weren’t smooth either, but after a few games no one even noticed any longer.  The card stock isn’t amazing, but they should hold up just fine.  The insert is actually really well created, though for those of you that sleeve cards, they’ll no longer fit into the box.

IMG_2467

Overall, if you’re looking for a new space themed game with a good amount of direct confrontation and strategy, Quantum may be right for you.

Posted in Game Reviews | Leave a comment