One Deck Dungeon Review

One Deck Dungeon

Year Issued: 2016, v1.5 2017

Publisher: Asmadi Games

Cost: $25.00 from www.onedeckdungeon.com

Playing Time: 30 minutes

Players: 1-2, 4

ODD 01

One Deck Dungeon.  One should notice that all the heroes are female!  And none of them are half-dressed.  Clearly this is a good sign as this game does not invoke the Inverse Rule of Gaming (i.e. the more female flesh used to sell/promote a game, the worse that game must be)

One Deck Dungeon is a “co-operative dungeon delve for one or two players,” (and if you combine 2 sets, 4 players).  In short, it’s a game in a small box that promises a D&D like quest in a short period of time, for a small amount of money.  Does it deliver?  Read on and find out!

One Deck Dungeon: Descend through the Dungeon Floors and Defeat the Boss

The basic idea of ODD is that the hero or heroes fight their way through 3 dungeon floors, each harder than the one before it, and then encounter the boss monster at the end.  Along the way, you grab items, skills, and experience to make the heroes tougher so that they can defeat stronger and stronger monsters.  The random element in the game comes in two forms: random selection of cards and dice rolling for combat and peril encounters.  If the heroes make it all the way to the boss and defeat it, they win; otherwise they lose.


Contents of the Game

  • 5 Hero cards
  • 30 small 6-sided dice (8 yellow, 8 blue, 8 pink, 6 black)
  • 1 Turn Reference Card
  • 44 Encounter cards
  • 4 Level cards
  • 5 Dungeon/Boss cards
  • 2 Basic Skill cards
  • 1 Stairs card
  • 15 red damage token cubes
  • 6 white potion cubes
  • 1 Campaign sheet pad
  • Rules booklet (39 pages)

The quality of the components is quite high.  The rules booklet is clear and edited well.  It explains the rules twice, once with helping pictures, and then in the back of the book it re-lists the rules in a text-only format.  The front section helps you learn the rules while the back section performs as a “quick reference” to look up rules questions.

The cards are printed well and have good art on them.  The reproduction of the colors on the cards match the dice (more on this later) very well.  The cards can be shuffled easily and do not appear to wear quickly.  Also, the cubes and dice are of high quality and will stand up to a lifetime of playing.  The game box is sturdy and has a handy divider to separate different sets of cards when storing the game. Overall, I am fairly impressed by the quality of the components.


The Rules

One Deck Dungeon is a quite easy game to learn and play.  A play picks a Hero and places the Hero card in front of herself/himself.

ODD 02

A Hero Card.  The Warrior will roll 4 Strength dice, 2 Agility dice, and only a single Magic die.  She also has 6 health.

The Hero card shows how much Strength (yellow swords), Agility (pink winged shoes), Magic (blue diamonds) and Health (red hearts) each hero has.  It also lists their Heroic Feat (in a blue scroll) and beginning skill (tan scroll).  The player/s choose a Dungeon/Boss card.  One side of this card provides information on the 3 floors of the dungeon while the back side has the Boss encounter.

ODD 03

The Dungeon side of the Dragon card

ODD 04

The Boss side of the Dragon card

The Dungeon card is slid under the Turn Reference Card, displaying the 1st floor of the dungeon.  The Turn Reference Card lists the components of a turn in order and also shows the available potion recipe (healing) that is available to the heroes from the start of the game.  A potion token is placed on the Turn Reference card at the start of the game and each time the hero/-ies level up.

ODD 05

The Turn Reference Card.  Note the Dragon’s Cave dungeon card at the top with its challenge boxes for the 1st floor exposed.

The player then stacks the Level cards and places the Level One card on top.  This card explains how many items and skills each player can possess, plus any bonus black (heroic) dice.  The player shuffles the encounter cards and stacks them on top of the Stairs card (thus, the Stairs card is on the bottom of the encounter deck). Once the Stairs card is exposed, the heroes may descend to the next level of the dungeon.

ODD 06

Stairs card (on 4-player side) with stack of encounter cards

At the start of each turn the player burns 2 encounter cards (reveals and discards them) to represent time (depicted as hourglass icons) spent wandering the dungeon.  Then, the heroes may either 1) open 1 of the closed doors and fight or flee from it,  2) encounter an already opened door, or 3) “Explore” which adds cards off the top of encounter deck as closed doors up to a maximum of 4 total doors (open and closed combined).

ODD 07

4 Doors, with 3 closed and 1 open

Encounters are either “combat” or “perils”.  And this is where the fun in ODD truly exists!  Each encounter card has a set of challenge boxes.  Each box is color-coded toward one of the player attributes (strength, agility, magic, or “any”).  The player must use rolled dice to defeat the challenge boxes by placing rolled dice into each box equal to or greater than the listed number.  Moreover, the hero must also defeat the challenge boxes listed on the Dungeon card for the current floor and each floor already completed (e.g. if the heroes are on floor 2, they must complete all challenge boxes for floors 1 and 2.

ODD 08

The two different types of encounters: Combat on top and Peril on bottom.  Note that the Peril encounter allows a player to choose which challenge box to face.  The left column of the card is its loot as an “item”, the bottom scroll is its loot as a “skill” or “potion recipe” (the top card has a skill, the bottom a potion recipe), and the lamps on each card are the loot as “experience.”

If the encounter is combat, the hero/es roll all possible dice (i.e. all strength, agility, magic, and heroic) while if the encounter is a peril, the hero/es roll only dice matching the challenge attribute plus any heroic dice.  At this point the hero/es may also use skills to increase the likelihood of defeating the challenges (e.g. turning a die from a 1 to a 6, rolling more dice, etc.).  Note that the players may transform any two dice into a single heroic (i.e. black) die of value equal to the lower consumed die (e.g. a blue 3 and pink 5 transform into a single black 3).  The value of this is that heroic (i.e. black) dice can be placed on any challenge.

ODD 09

Fighting a Shadow.  Because the blue 5 challenge box is not covered, the hero will take 1 point of damage (the heart) plus 1 time goes by (i.e. 1 card from the encounter deck is discarded).  Notice also how the player’s dice had to cover the challenge box on the Dungeon card too (the right side column has peril boxes and the left side column has combat boxes).

The hero/es place dice until they either defeat all challenge boxes or cannot place any more dice.  Any challenge boxes not defeated list a penalty in either damage or time, and each undefeated box inflicts its penalty on the heroes.

Once the encounter is over, the heroes take the encounter card (whether completely defeated or not) as “loot”.  Each card can be taken as an “item,” which adds to a hero’s attributes and thus allows more dice to be rolled, as a “skill,” or as “experience,” which contributes to leveling up.

Should the hero/es survive past the 3rd floor they face the boss!  This is a multi-round combat similar to encounters.  It lasts until either the boss suffers damage equal to its health or the hero/es all die.


Game Play

The rules are easy to understand, so players can get started right away after reading the booklet.  However, I found that I made some mistakes in my first couple of games that made me start over.  The most common mistake is that once you reach the maximum number of items and skills, you can replace any of them with any new encounter card.  The old item/skill gets transformed into its experience.  It is easy to forget this rule, but once you remember it, it really comes in handy.

Anyway, the game plays pretty fast.  Basically, you burn 2 cards, encounter a card, roll dice, choose how to distribute them to defeat the challenges, get the loot, rinse, lather, and repeat.  Once you reach the stairs, you shuffle and do it again.

The game play is nicely calibrated.  Some encounters are fairly easy but do not reward you with much loot, while others are best avoided until the hero/es get stronger.  Moreover, sometimes it is best to try an encounter, even if you cannot cover all the challenge boxes, just to get the loot.  You may take some damage, but it can be worth it for a great skill or an item that you need to boost an attribute.

Moreover, as you descend the number of challenge boxes on the Dungeon card multiplies and get harder.  Thus, a goblin on the 3rd floor is going to be much tougher than a goblin on the 1st floor.

There is also a bit of depth and strategy. Do I try to get xp and level up, or should I beef up skills and items first?  Should I loot that encounter for the Magic item that I need, or take it for that sweet skill?  Do I want to cover a challenge box that causes me damage or that burns time?  Do I use that potion to heal now, or save it in case I find a better potion recipe later?  There are plenty of choices to make that do not have a dominant strategy in each and every instance.  Sometimes a choice looks good but later you wish you had done something different.  The mechanic of replacing chosen skills/items with new items does allow the player to make up for poor choices, but only after consequences of undefeated challenges are inflicted.


Assessment

I use a rating of 1-10 “Dice” for each category.  For reference, a 1 is the poorest possible rating and a 10 the best possible.

Components: 9 Dice

The quality of the cards, dice, rules booklet, cubes, is top notch.  My only gripe, and it is a minor one, is that some of the challenge boxes are too small for multiple dice.  For example, the Dragon boss has boxes of 16 or 17.  The player must use multiple dice to defeat the box, but the box only accommodates 2-3 dice.  Well, that just isn’t big enough.

Fun/Enjoyable: 9 Dice

This is a solid solitaire and 2-player game (I did not play the 4-player variant as I do not have 2 decks).  The pace is quick, it doesn’t have complicated rules to distract the player, it feels like a dungeon crawl, and the rolling/distributing of dice is easy.  Moreover, you really get a sense of fighting monsters and dodging traps.

Tactics, Strategy, and Depth: 8 Dice

As mentioned that are choices to be made, and they do matter.  Also, each boss has a different set of challenges in its dungeon plus different challenges in the boss encounter, making each game different in the strategy that must be pursued.  However, there are not enough encounter cards to truly vary the play enough to my liking.  Note that there is a Kickstarter campaign for a new set of cards, which might take care of this issue.

Balance: 8 Dice

You can lose early with a really tragic roll (for example, more than half 1s and 2s on your dice before you get enough skills to change the die rolls) but generally you will be “in” the game and have a chance to win.  If you don’t prepare for the boss, you will lose, but if you prepare you have a good shot at winning.  The 1.5 version of the game has made leveling up slightly easier which has alleviated the imbalance favoring the dungeon in the original version of the game. (Note: all product at Asmadi Games is now v1.5).

Theme: 8 Dice

The game delivers on its promise: it feels like a dungeon crawl simulated through only 1 deck of cards.  However, because of the minimalist nature of the game, there is a natural limit to how much the theme can actually come through.  I think future expansions can probably expand on the theme through more mechanics, flavor text, campaign adventures, campaign settings, etc.

Overall Rating: 8 Dice

This is a solid, solid game.  Unlike small box die rollers put out by Gamelyn Games that lend themselves to analysis paralysis, ODD does not.  The number of skills that change the die rolls/add dice/etc are minimal, allowing the player to determine the best course of action quite quickly.  Yet, picking which encounter to face, which skill to use, how to take loot, etc., is not always straight-forward, bringing a strategic element into the game.  The pace is good, the theme is spot-on, and there is even a campaign format for those who want more depth.

Top 5 Multiplayer Strategy Tips

As everyone knows, a multiplayer game is a completely different animal from a two-player or solitaire game.  In a two-player game everything is zero-sum: a gain for me is a loss for my opponent and vice versa. Strategy typically revolves around finding (in Game Theory terms) dominant strategies that will lead to victory.  In other words, each time you are presented with a choice, finding the alternative that maximizes your utility.  In layman’s terms, finding the choice that strictly is better than all the other choices.

Typically, in multiplayer everyone is your adversary, but they also can be your friends.  This dynamic makes strategy in a multiplayer game more of a mixed strategy.  In others words, there may not be a single dominant strategy, rather strategies are also a gamble based on the choices made by the other players.  No strategy is inherently always going to be maximal.  As such, in a multiplayer game you must “read and play” your opponents more than just analyzing the board situation.

What follows are my Top 5 Multiplayer Strategy Tips that are applicable to any and all competitive multiplayer games.  Please note that I am not talking about cooperative games (e.g. Pandemic, Ghost Stories, T.I.M.E Stories, Grizzled, etc.) or multi-person solitaire (e.g. Race for the Galaxy) but rather truly multiplayer games where one player’s actions directly impact another player.  It can be a typical strategy game where you take something directly from an opponent (e.g. Risk) or a game where you fight for resources and territory (e.g. Settlers of Cataan) or even where the only interaction might be drafting a card from a shared hand (e.g. Among the Stars).

#1 Hide in Second Place

Okay, this one should be obvious to most casual and serious gamers.  Basically, you can read this tip as “Do not race into first place too early.”  If you sprint out to a clear lead, everyone else starts gunning for you.  If you put up the first City in Settlers of Cataan, expect that Bandit/Baron/or whatever you call it to be placed on your most productive hex.  Capture the North American continent in Risk?  Watch the attacks on Fortress America commence.  And don’t even think about building that biggest fleet in Enemy in Sight!  Your masts are going to get blown apart by every other player in the game!  Have tons of health in Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards?  You won’t for much longer as every spell gets thrown your way!

So what is a keen player to do?  Stay in second place and keep your quest for victory hidden.  Grab a Special Card in Settlers and try for a Victory Point, or maybe keep your long road just one segment less than the guy with the Longest Road.  In games with a lot of victory points awarded at the end (e.g. Among the Stars), do not build space station blocks that have immediate points, rather build the ones with points counted at the end–such a sneaky way to grab victory from 2nd or even 3rd place.

5 mp tips 01

Keep these beauties hidden so your opponents can only guess at how many victory points you have.

#2 John the Weaker Opponents

When my brother and I were kids, during holidays we always got in a long game of Risk with our uncles.  Uncle Bruce was clever and tough to beat, but uncle John always used a particular and quite powerful strategy.  He would convince one of our younger cousins that either my brother or I were winning the game.  He would argue that if the weaker player didn’t do something about me or my brother, no one else could.  So after a bit of logic, intimidation, and persuasion, my younger cousin Bruce Jr. would launch suicidal attacks against my troops.  Bruce Jr. couldn’t beat me, but he did weaken me enough for Uncle John to win.

Johning your opponent means to convince a weaker opponent to attack another opponent–thus weakening the stronger one and making your “emerge from second place to win the game” strategy pay off.  It is a very effective strategy that you can use in most multiplayer games where opponents can either pick their targets (e.g. Epic Spell Wars, Enemy in Sight, Dune, Seasons) or in games where geography allows for players to attack a multiple number of “near” opponents (e.g. El Grande, Risk, Eclipse, Kemet, Smallworld), to interfere with “near” opponents by denying them resources (e.g. Settlers, The Golden City), or by making resources more expensive (e.g. Power Grid).  Note that Johning can also be used in card “drafting” games by trying to get other players to deny cards to the “leader” or true target of your Johning strategy.  Try to John players in 7 Wonders so that you can draft a useful card while they draft a card that your key opponent needs.

5 mp tips 02

Who should those Amazons attack?  If you are the Skeletons, John that Amazon player and make him go after the Humans–convince him that clearly the Humans need some paring back!

Johning is a strategy that you should use much like voting in Chicago: do it early and often.

#3 Do Not Leave the Table for a Slice of Salami

When we were playing those childhood games of Risk, I learned a very hard lesson: never, ever leave the table to get something to eat.  I come from an Italian family and we always had multiple sticks of salami around at each holiday. The temptation of grabbing a few slices would pull me away from the Risk board often.  And what awaited me when I returned…a new alliance among two or more players hellbent on destroying my empire!  Of course, some members of this new alliance appear to have been victims of Johning, but that wouldn’t make their troops fight any less effectively.

5 mp tips 03

What the?!?  I left the table to get a slice of salami and now my Fortress Europa is under attack from all sides!  I fear an alliance has been made against me!

The moral of the story is that if you leave the table, other players can plot against you.  I recommend stacking up the food and drink within easy reach of wherever you are seated.  Oh, and develop a strong bladder.

#4 Run with the Pack/Dodge the Pack

Some games are set up to reward players who follow the same strategy and punish the lone wolves.  For example, in Eminent Domain if you try a Produce/Trade strategy by yourself, you will not win.  If no one else is leading Produce/Trade, you cannot follow.  Thus, you will have to do all the work yourself by consistently leading Produce/Trade.  Meanwhile, the other players who are all leading AND following a Warfare strategy are smoking you like a cheap cigar!   Running with the Pack will not insure that you win, but you certainly will not come in last.

Drafting games follow the opposite rule: Dodge the Pack.  Because drafting forces players to focus on accumulating one or two types of resources, each player has to ignore/pass along the resources that they do not want.  For example, how many times have I played 7 Wonders and seen the Scientific structures keep circulating?  If no one wants them, you can be sure that you can grab them all!

5 mp tips 04

So many scientific cards getting passed to me.  What to do, what to do?  I think its time for some scientific discoveries!

#5 Limit the Strongest Opponent

I know that when I sit down to play a strategic game that my brother Stew, the West Point Graduate, is going to play to win.  He likes strategy games, he is good at strategy, and he is ruthless.  Thus, I look for ways to keep him in check.  This can be overt, such as not trading cards with him in Settlers or drafting cards that he wants in games like 7 Wonders or Among the Stars.  Or it can be covert, like when I try to John the other players into hemming in Stew in Smallworld or Eclipse.  The point is to not let Stew run amok over the weaker players. Stew already would consider me to be his strongest opponent, so I can’t expect help from him.  Thus, returning the favor is the best strategy to pursue.  Sure, sometimes we end up negating each other and somebody else wins, but better the occasional loss than the beat down that an unchecked Stew can unleash.

As an example, when I play Dune (or the Fantasy Flight copy, Rex) and I have to pick a traitor at the start of the game, I always pick one from Stew’s leaders.  Why?  Because I know that if I have to battle Stew, he is going to be prepared with a weapon, defense, good leader, etc.  I will need the traitor to turn the battle my way.  Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that he has taken a traitor from among my leaders too!

5 mp tips 05

Hmmm, 4 possible traitors.  Stew playing the Bene Gesserit?  My only choice is to make Princess Irulan my traitor.

Conclusion

I hope these tips help you win more of your multiplayer games.  Remember, the main difference between multiplayer and 2-player games is that in the former you must remember to also consider the other players and their strategies.  John them, focus on the top player, run/dodge the pack, hide in 2nd place, and never ever leave the table for a slice of salami.

 

Hapsburg Eclipse – A Review

Hapsburg Eclipse

Year Issued: 2014

Manufacturer: Victory Point Games

Cost: $29.95

Playing Time: 30 Minutes

Hapsburg Eclipse at Victory Point Games

he-01

The game box

Sometimes you want to play a board game, but no one else is available.  So what can you do?  Play with yourself!  Wait, I think I meant play a game by yourself!  When I find myself in these situations I grab one of the many solitaire games in my basement and give it a whirl.

Hapsburg Eclipse: Can you Save the Austria-Hungarian Empire?

Hapsburg Eclipse is one of the games in the States of Siege series for Victory Point Games.  The basic mechanic is that of tower defense–a number of units relentlessly try to get to the capital of Vienna and you must prevent them from doing so.  In this instance (and as I explain below) you have to not only keep the invading Russians, Serbians, etc, at bay, but you must also keep the multi-ethnic empire together by making the ethnic minorities (i.e. Czechs, Croats, and Hungarians) stay loyal while also maintaining the national will to fight the Great War.

Thus, while playing Hapsburg Eclipse you will fell constantly besieged!  And that’s because you are.  Trying to keep the invading armies out while soothing ethnic tension is not easy.  And there is also the wider World War going on, and as the Germans lose battles in far flung theaters of the war, your National Will will wane.


Contents of the Game

  • A 11″ x 17″ fold-out map
  • A 11″ x 17″ map comprised of 4 interlocking (jigsaw cut) cardboard pieces
  • Rules booklet
  • 2 small 6-sided dice
  • 66 game pieces (punch outs and laser cut)
  • 50 cards (representing the events and game turns)

The quality is overall quite high.  There are two interesting things about the contents, one good and one bad.

The Good: Having two maps is a blessing.  Some players like fold-outs and others like interlocking pieces.  I prefer the latter, mainly because I hate the ridges in fold-outs.  In either case, having two maps gives the player a choice of which to use.

he-02

The two maps, fold-out on top and interlocking at bottom

You can see on the board a number of objects that will become important during game play.  First, the 4 different colored paths represent the different fronts of the war (Polish, Carpathian, Balkan, and Italian).  An invading force counter (e.g. Russians on the Polish front) will move along the path and if any of them reach the black Hexagon that is Vienna, you lose!

In the lower left is the National Loyalties Track.  It records the position of the important ethnic minorities inside the Empire: Czechs, Croats, and Hungarians.  They start loyal, but if all 3 go into revolt, you lose!

In the top right is the National Will Track.  This measures the will of the Austrian people to continue fighting the Great War.  It goes positive when you (and your German allies) win battles, and negative when you lose battles.  It also goes more negative if the advancing fronts reach key cities (the front boxes with flags) or if ethnic minorities goes into revolt.  If National Will gets to -6 or worse, you lose!  Historically, this is the way the Austria-Hungarian Empire exited the war.

The bad: The playing pieces are laser cut.  Okay, there is a positive as the pieces are sturdy and gorgeous.  But because of the laser cut process, the pieces all have black soot on them, especially around the edges.  Fortunately Victory Point Games gives you a napkin in the box.  You are instructed to use this napkin to wipe down the pieces when you punch them out.

he-03

The napkin and a piece with soot on the edges.  Note: the napkin is not an article of clothing and do not use the napkin as a flotation device!

The pieces are indeed fairly dirty from the soot.  I spent about 15 minutes having to wipe down all of them, especially the edges of each piece.

he-04

The used napkin and my dirty fingers

Having to wipe down the pieces was an inauspicious start to the game, but I guess a small price to pay for some quality counters.


The Rules

The game is really easy to play, as the rules are quite clear and organized well.  The 50 cards control the flow of the game and each represents a game turn.  They are divided into 3 unequal stacks: 15 Morning (Mobilization), 16 Mid-day (expanded and total war) and 19 Dusk (Great War).

he-05

The 3 stacks of cards.  From left to right, Morning, Mid-Day, and Dusk

Each turn you flip over a card.  Then, you address each element on the card in order from top to bottom (the flavor text at the bottom can be read at any time, of course).  Thus, each turn you execute the “Effect”, then “Advance” the fronts, then “Trigger” national loyalty rolls, then take player “Actions.”  It’s just that simple.

he-06

Battle of Dogger Bank–an Off Map Theater battle

As an example, we will use the Battle of Dogger Bank card (above).  When drawn, we read the text to see that it represents an Off Map Theater battle, basically a naval battle in the North Sea between Germans and Brits.  Starting with the Effect, we must resolve this battle.  If we roll less than 4 we lose, rolling a 4 is a stalemate, and roll 5-6 and we win.  If we have any Resources (see below under player Actions) allocated to the Naval Theater, we will get a positive DRM (Die Roll Modifier).  There is a counter associated with this battle, and based on the number we rolled, we put the counter into the “Victories”, “Defeats”, or “Stalemates” box on the map board.  If we win, the National Will gets better, but if we lose it gets worse (stalemates do not change National Will).

Next, we Advance the Polish and Romanian fronts.  If either or both fronts has an invading army on it, we move them one space to a lower numbered box (in other words, toward Vienna).  If a front is not yet active (and the Romanian one is not at the start of the war because the Romanians were not yet involved) then the front obviously does not advance (i.e. there is no army to advance).  If any front advances into Vienna, you lose!

he-07

An example of armies advancing.  The Polish front is almost to Tarnow and the Carpathian front has moved past the Fortress. Vienna awaits!

Then, we Trigger a national loyalty check.  In this instance it’s the Czechs.  They are the most volatile and have a national rating of 4.  Rolling a die, we need to roll a 5 or 6, otherwise the Czechs move one space to the left (i.e. one space closer to revolt).  If all 3 minorities are in revolt, you lose!

Once this is done we can take player Actions.  The player has the following 4 options (plus some special ones that I mention afterwards):

  • Launch an Offensive against a front
  • Allocate a Resource to an Off Map Theater (2 actions required)
  • Repair the Przemysl Fortress
  • Attempt to improve National Loyalty

Launch an Offensive: For 1 action, the player can attempt to push back an invading army on 1 front.  You choose the front and roll a die.  If it is greater than the battle number of the invading army (for example the invading Polish Russian Army at the start of the game has a battle rating of 3) you push the army back 1 space (but never off of the track).  Roll too low and nothing happens.

Allocate a Resource: For 2 actions, you may place a resource marker into an Off-Map Theater.  You may only place 6 such markers over the course of the game and only up to 2 in any single theater.  Each gives a +1 DRM on battles in that theater. On future turns, you may sacrifice these counters.  Each sacrificed counter gives you 1 extra action (called a German Staff Operation) that turn, but the counter is permanently removed.

Repair the Przemysl Fortress: The Przemsyl Fortress protects the Carpathian front (see maps).  As long as it stands, it is easier to push back the invading Russians.  The fortress has strength from 3 to 1 and is destroyed if it reaches 0.  Each time the front is closer to Vienna than the Fortress, the Fortress gets reduced a step.  For 1 action, repairing it restores a step.

Attempt to Improve National Loyalty: For 1 action the player chooses one of the ethnic minorities and tries to move it one step to the right.  Roll a die and if the number is equal to or greater than the Loyalty rating of the minority, you move it one box to the right, otherwise it doesn’t move.  The Czechs are a 4, Croats a 3, and Hungarians a 2.  So, watch out for the Czechs, they will revolt quickly!

Extra Actions:  There are two other actions possible.  One is to activate German Staff Operations.  As I mention above, you may sacrifice a resource marker in an Off Map Theater and gain an extra action.  You had previously spent 2 Actions for the Resource marker, so I hope you got some good die rolls in that theater before you were sacrificed the counter for 1 Action.  The second extra Action is the Great Retreat. Once the Mid-Day cards have been introduced, the player may at any time declare the Great Retreat (the Russians are retreating out of Poland in order to protect Russia against German offensives) by using 2 Actions.  The army on the Polish front is removed and never returns.  In exchange, the player must move 1 counter from the Victories box to the Defeats box.  Then, for each space the Polish front was closer to Vienna than Brest-Litvosk, the player must move 1 counter from the Victories box to the Stalemates box.  If you do not have enough Victories to move enough counters, you cannot start the Great Retreat (I often found this to be the case when I played).

The card has now been played.  The only steps left are the Kaiserschlact Phase (if that card has been drawn, it is a series of off-map battles), Fortress Reduction Phase (reduce the Fortress by 1 step if the front has advanced past it), and the National Will Phase.  The National Will Phase is an important one.  Basically, you add up all your Victories counters, subtract defeats, subtract 1 for each ethnic minority in revolt, and subtract 1 for each flag (i.e. key cities) that the advancing fronts occupy or have gone past.  If your National Will is now at -6 or worse, you lose!

If you have drawn the last card and have completed the National Will Phase without losing by any of the 3 methods (Vienna falls, Minorities revolt, National Will collapses), you win!


Game Play

Once you understand the rules, the game plays very quickly.  At its heart, you flip a card, move some fronts, roll the dice a few times, and take 1-3 actions.  It can seem like a flavor-less exercise if you do not read the flavor text.  Thus, I highly recommend slowing down and reading the chrome.  The game will feel more real if you do.

Anyway, the tension is created in that the number of negative effects each turn is usually greater than the number of actions that the player gets.  If you look back at the Battle of Dogger Bank card, you will see that you will most likely lose that battle (-1 National Will), at least 1 front will advance (probably the Polish front), and the Czechs will most likely move 1 step closer to revolt.  This might not all happen, but my grasp of probability math tells me that 2 are likely to occur.  And now you get only 1 action to deal with it.

Thus, each turn puts you into the bad situation of making decisions based on what you think might work best given that you can’t stop all the threats on that turn.  Do you try to knock back the Russians on the Polish front?  Do you try to reverse the Czech dissent?  Once you know what cards might be turned over on the subsequent turns, you might try to let the Polish front go for a while, hoping that the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia will do some of your work for you.  And of course, you can’t do anything about National Will directly, so if there is a front at or closer than a Key City, you might try an Offensive to knock it back to improve National Will.

Rare are the turns where you get much help.  There are a few cards that give you aid (mainly German aid). Typically, these are counters that allow you to make Offensives easier or prevent a front from advancing.  These aid counters are temporary and can be used only once each, so using them wisely is key.

Some turns you may find that by good luck no front advances (e.g. the Italian and Balkan fronts activate later and often have either a river or trench line in place to hold them back without you using Actions) and miraculously those wild Czechs don’t get more disloyal.  In that instance, you might want to use 2 actions to fortify an Off Map Theater.  Because if you don’t help the Germans, you are going to lose more Off Map battles than the number that you win–and then your National Will is going to decline quickly.  And by placing a resource counter into an Off Map Theater you “bank” it for later when you might need to transform it into a German Staff Operation for an extra Action.

I have played the game about a half-dozen times.  Every single game has ended in Crushing Defeat as National Will collapses (like in the real Great War).  For reference, if the game ends in Ethnic revolt it also is a Crushing Defeat.  Should an army get to Vienna, you have the possibility of (in order of what is better for the Austrians): Pyrrhic Victory, Strategic Stalemate, Marginal Defeat, Strategic Defeat, and Crushing Defeat.  I won’t even discuss the possible Victories from Tactical to International, as I have never, ever been close to winning the game.  If I ever do win, I will take a photograph of the board to prove that it actually happened!


Assessment

I use a rating of 1-10 “Dice” for each category.  For reference, a 1 is the poorest possible rating and a 10 the best possible.

Components: 6 Dice

I really like the quality of the rules booklet, cards, boards and counters.  Also, everything fits into a small box (the size of 1 of the 4 map pieces), so the game doesn’t take up much space on my shelves.  But having to wipe off the black soot was a major downer.

Fun/Enjoyable: 8 Dice

The game is indeed enjoyable to play.  The rules are not so complex that you have to run back and forth to the booklet.  Most of the important modifiers to remember are listed on the board.  The game flow is fast and not cumbersome.  The tension is thick and adds emotion to your choices.

Tactics/Strategy Depth: 8 Dice

Importantly in a solitaire game, you do not want to feel like the game is merely rote rolling of the dice or flipping of cards.  In Hapsburg Eclipse you clearly have tough choices to make when assigning your actions.  Your choices have a large impact on both tactical success (a roll on a given turn) and strategic success (e.g. your performance in Off Map Theaters and overall National Will).  I am not sure yet what choices lead to victory, but I know with some certainly which ones will end in grim defeat.  Knowing which cards are going to come up helps with planning, but it takes 1) a number of games before you can start to anticipate cards, and 2) some luck because if you have to add the last two decks early, the randomness will throw any planning out the window.

Balance: 4 Dice

And thus the card draw and merging of stacks make balance a major problem.  The randomness of the card draw can break a game quickly.  You start with the Morning stack.  One of those 15 cards instructs you to advance the war marker and add the Mid-Day deck (i.e. shuffle the new cards into the remaining cards in the draw stack).  Two Mid-Day cards advance the war and eventually add the Dusk Cards.

If you draw the card that advances the war early, you are going to get swamped.

he-08

My game where I drew Treaty of London on the first turn.  The game lasted 8 turns.  The picture shows the 8 cards that I drew in order (from left to right).

In one of my games I drew the Treaty of London on the first turn.  This was a major disaster because the Italian front activated, the two active fronts at the start of the game advanced, the Croats went crazy, and the Mid-Day cards got added.  My National Will fell apart on Turn 8.  In other game, I advanced all the way to the Great War after only 19 card draws.  All 4 fronts were active and I got mauled as once again, National Will collapsed as key cities fell in succession.

he-09

My defeat after only 8 turns.  The ethnic minorities were still loyal, but I had lost 4 flags and was -2 on Victories-Defeats.  My National Will fell to -6 and it was a Crushing Defeat

Each game might play very, very different because of the card draw order.  The game does have an option to put the cards in order by number.  This simulates the actual Great War.  But, other than that option (which might lead to games being too similar), I am not sure how to correct for the lack of balance that comes about from the card draw.

Of course, the one advantage of getting smashed quickly, is that I was able to sweep up the counters and cards, resetting the game for another try.

Theme: 9 Dice

Particularly if you read all the flavor text, the game does evoke the Great War and the desperation of defending the Austria-Hungarian Empire.  The box cover, the map board, the pieces, and the cards all stay on theme.

Overall Rating: 7 Dice

This is a solid game.  It does a good job simulating the Great War.  The States of Siege core engine works very well in this “tower defense” situation in which the Austria-Hungarian Empire found itself.  Players might even find themselves learning about some events in the Great War that they were unaware of, so there is even an educational value (something that historical war games can add to a gaming experience).  If you like solitaire games, give Hapsburg Eclipse a try.

Recent Games: Big Book of Madness, Monarch,7 Wonders Duel, Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards, King of New York, Tiny Epic Galaxies

Recently, the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club has had time for some serious gaming!  Here is a selection of some of the most recent sessions.

Big Book of Madness

bbom-dec01

The start of the game.  It was all downhill after this point!

We got in a game of Big Book of Madness (You can find my review of it here).  It’s a cooperative game where each player is a novice spellcaster and together they must defeat the monsters that spill out of an opened book of madness.  We have played it a few times, and we know that it is a hard game to win.  But this time we really got on the receiving end of the hard knocks and couldn’t recover.

bbom-dec02

By the second turn we were already suffering from our inability to get rid of the curses before they inflicted their pain on us.

In short, we seemed incapable of getting 4 of any element together to banish a curse.  Thus, the curses kept hitting us, and most seemed to drop Madness cards into our decks (see the picture above).

bbom-dec03

My hand just before the end of the game: full of madness and weak element cards.

By about Turn 3, Bob and Neal were drawing loads of Madness cards.  Without many playable cards, it became tougher and tougher to banish curses.

bbom-dec04

The end of the game…it came quick!

By turn 4, we had already run through the entire Madness deck and lost the game.  Particularly nasty were the multi-element curses (as seen above under the #2 spot) that kept adding additional elements to the other curses.

I highly recommend Big Book of Madness, because if you want a tough game to win, try it out!

Monarch

We tried out a new game that Stewart got for Christmas: Monarch.

monarch-dec01

The box cover of Monarch

In Monarch, each player tries to earn the most victory points by acquiring different titles and objects (represented on cards) related to the monarchy.

monarch-dec02

The basic layout of Monarch.  The 9 fields/villages, apples (red tokens), gold, and titles/objects.  I have a Pomeranian in the foreground.  Note that I am getting spanked!  I have 1 object while my brother (in the background) already has 5.

Each player must harvest apples from fields and use them to upgrade fields and villages.  Apples also are used to force villages to pay taxes (the gold coins) which are used to acquire cards–and it those objects that have varying victory points.  The game also has a faction mechanic and a few other subtleties.

It was the first time that we played it and Stew beat the rest of us down pretty good.  Bob and I competed for resources and also seemed to waste time upgrading villages only to have Stew upgrade them last and switch them to his faction.  The game was fun and with some more plays I am sure we will figure out exactly how to maximize our strategies.

7 Wonders Duel

Stew and I got in a couple games of 7 Wonders Duel.

7wondersduel-dec01

7 Wonders Duel with the new Pantheon expansion!

We played a couple games with the new Pantheon expansion.  For those who haven’t tried Pantheon yet, it adds 5 different Mythologies to the game (Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian).  You can recruit Gods to lend their special powers to your side.  Most interestingly, when you recruit a God you do not have to burn one of the discovery cards.  This can change the turn order so it adds a new tactical wrinkle to 7 Wonders Duel.

Stew won both times, typically by pursuing a strategy of collecting Civilian buildings.  I got really close to a Scientific instant win in our second game, but came up just short.

Stew really loves this game, as it is on his Top 10 list (Stew’s Top 10 Games click here), so anyone looking for a two-player game should check it out.

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill

I got the new Rumble at Castle Tentakill expansion to Epic Spell Wars and was burning up to try it out.

eswotbw-dec01

Lee dealing out the cards.  Castle Tentakill standing ominously in the middle of the table

Rumble at Castle Tentakill introduces two new mechanics.  First, now some delivery spells are Creatures. Creatures have a chance of staying in play from turn to turn.  They also can jump in front of damage, sacrificing themselves so that you don’t get hurt.  Second, the standee now has a purpose!  Certain spells move the standee to a player (or take it from another player).  Other spells give you bonuses if you have the Standee while some spells inflict more pain on the player who has the Standee.

We got in a few turns but unfortunately we had to end the game before the finish.

King of New York: Power Up!

I also received the new expansion Power Up! for King of New York.

kony-dec01

King of New York with the new Power Up! evolution cards

We played a three-player game.  I was the Sheriff (in the foreground above).  The new Power Up! evolution cards added a twist.  Now when you roll 3 hearts you can draw 2 evolution cards and choose 1 to add to your hand.  Each monster has its own set, so in this expansion choosing which monster to play actually can make a difference.

Anyway, I played the Sheriff and I quickly got into Manhattan.  I slapped both Stew and Bob mercilessly turn after turn.  I eventually got driven off, but by this time everyone was quite banged up and when I left Manhattan Stew had to enter it.  This set of a cycle whereby Bob eliminated Stew, and then I eliminated Bob to win the game!

I can’t emphasize how fun King of New York is.  If you haven’t played it, run out and get a copy and give it a try as soon as possible.  You won’t regret it.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

Stew and I got in a game of Tiny Epic Galaxies.

teg-dec01

The situation early in the game.  I am in the foreground with the red units and Stew is on the left with the green units.

Well, this game turned out to be a nightmare.  You can check out my review (click here for TEG review) of TEG to see why.  In short, probably a game to be avoided unless you want to play it solitaire, in which case it is fun enough.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  See you next time!

 

 

Top 10 Games – more information!

Two big improvements to the Top 10 Lists:

  1. I added Stew’s comments to his Top 10 list.  Find out why he picked each game and see if you agree with him.
  2. Now for the first time, you can leave comments on the Top 10 pages!  Yes, you can congratulate us for our picks, slam our picks, or generally leave comments on any game that you see on the list.  Have fun telling us why you agree or disagree with our picks!

As per my last post, you can find the Top 10 Games lists by either going to the About page (Click here) and then clicking on either Neal or Stew and following the link on those pages to the Top 10 lists, or you can click directly on the following links (Click here for Neal’s Top 10 Games) (Click here for Stew’s Top 10 Games).

Top 10 Games

So that you can have a better idea about the sort of games each member of the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club likes, I have added the first two Top 10 Games lists to this blog.  You can find them either by 1) clicking on the About page (Click here) and then clicking on the names of the TTGC members and following the links at the bottom of those pages, or 2) clicking on the links here for Neal’s Top 10 Games (Click here) or Stew’s Top 10 Games (Click here).  Neal’s page has some “Why I like it” information so that you can see his reasoning for his picks.

As Stew relays that information to me and the other guys get me their lists, the page will be continually updated.  There also will be more Top 10 lists coming in the future.

Tiny Epic Galaxies: The Good, The Bad,and the Very, Very Ugly

Tiny Epic Galaxies (TEG) from Gamelyn Games ( Tiny Epic series ) is the latest in their series of Tiny Epic games…games that come in a small box, but supposedly pack an epic gaming experience into it.

teg-sol-01

TEG promises to be both a multi-player game as well as a solitaire game.  It is for 1-5 players and the box says that it will take 30-45 minutes.  In this post, I review both ways to play the game.  And so that you are not left in any suspense: the solitaire game is solid but the multiplayer game has a really giant downside to it that can ruin the fun.  Read on for my reasoning and see if you agree with me!

Multiplayer Game Play

Basically, TEG is a more sophisticated game of Yahtzee.  You roll a set of dice (and a set that can increase over time as your galactic empire grows) and take actions based on the symbols that you roll.  There are six actions, one on each side of each and every die (as an aside, wouldn’t it be cool to have some non-uniform distributed dice so that you could bias your rolls toward a particular outcome?  How sweet would this game be if you could tailor your empire toward a particular strategy?  Anyway, I digress).  The six actions are: Move A Ship, Acquire Energy, Acquire Culture, Advance a Diplomatic colonization effort, Advance an Economic colonization effort, or Utilize your Galaxy Mat/Colonized planet actions.

The start of each player’s turn is quite easy:  1) Roll your dice.  But from there it gets more complicated.  2) You can activate a die.  If you do, any or all opponents may “follow” by paying 1 culture and taking a similar action.  3) At any time you can re-roll any/all of your dice by paying 1 energy.  This may occur before or during taking actions through #2.  When you are done, play passes clockwise.

What do you do with these dice?  You are trying to get to 21 victory points to trigger the end of the game.  There are only 3 ways to get victory points: advance your empire from level 1 to 6 (with a varying set of points along the way), colonize planets with your ships by using Advance actions, and achieving your single “secret objective” (always worth 2 to 3 points).

That’s it!  It is just like Yahtzee…roll and re-roll and hope to get more points than everyone else.  Okay…to be fair, it is much more complicated than Yahtzee, but the rolling mechanism is the same.  However, you do get a cool galaxy mat and some wooden figures to move around on it.

tegsol-03

The player mat with ships at home, my empire at Level 3 (hex with a star on it), my energy (lightning bolt) and culture (column) at zero.  I have 3 colonized planets worth a total of 5 victory points.

Which dice do I activate, in which order, when do I re-roll, how many do I re-roll, who will follow, and what will they gain when they follow?…and why these decisions in combination can be very, very ugly!

The crux of why the game is strategic and not just multiplayer solitaire (like that crappy Race for the Galaxy game) is the “follow” mechanism.  Because other players can mimic your actions for a very small price (=1 culture) they can do almost the same thing you do…but during your turn not during their turn.  For example, if you acquire energy they might acquire more…on your turn!  Thus, the game is all about opportunity costs.  You will not want to advance your empire if 1 or more enemies do it too, you won’t want to acquire energy if other players acquire more, etc.  You are going to want to take actions that might help you and be of little to no use to your opponents.

But this same mechanism is why the game is very, very ugly in multiplayer.  For example, in a recent game I found myself on the last turn (another player had triggered the end of the game by achieving at least 21 victory points).  I knew that I could win if I could get the dice to precisely be utilized in a specific order that would 1) get me enough energy (at least two dice of energy) to advance my empire, 2) roll a Utilize your Galaxy Mat action (to actually do the advancing of the empire), 3) because of actions available on my colonized planets and the open planets, I could roll another Galaxy Mat action to help out by using a planet power, 4) perhaps if I roll two ship movements I could land on a specific open planet and use its power to get some of these other actions done, 5) get me two diplomacy to colonize a planet and VERY IMPORTANTLY, 6) because of the follow mechanism these had to be done in a particular order so that my opponent with 21+ victory points wouldn’t get more points.  Also, I thought it a priority to colonize a particular planet to get my secret objective just in case he had met his secret objective (note: at the end of the game he revealed that he had indeed achieved it).

Guess what happened next?  Well, I started with 5 energy and used a bunch of it to re-roll, get more energy, and re-roll, and get more energy and re-roll.  In between each of my actions was many, many minutes of agonizing calculations of probabilities (if I re-roll 3 dice versus holding that one ship and two dice, which would be better?  What if the other guy follows any of these actions?  What if I have to re-roll after this re-roll?  How can I manipulate my ships and energy to maximize this process for the most re-rolls?).   That last turn TOOK FOREVER! Okay, okay, it was more like 20 minutes, but it seemed like an hour!  It was just plain awful.  And what do you think my opponent was doing the whole time?  Telling me to get on with it…but I couldn’t because I knew a solution was possible.  I was frustrated, the game wasn’t fun, he was quite angry and I am surprised that we didn’t just sweep the game off the table and forget about finishing it.

And what was the end result?  After gaining energy so that I could seemingly endlessly re-roll anywhere from 1 to 3 dice, it eventually came down to a last re-roll of a single die, where I had a 50% chance of winning and a 50% chance of losing–and I lost by rolling one of the wrong 3 symbols.  All of that agonizing for a coin flip to decide it!  Yep…truly the very, very ugly!

Verdict on Multiplayer:

To use a common term (and one that has been used in another review of TEG), this game suffers from a dramatic and debilitating case of Analysis Paralysis.  The game easily can take 2+ hours.  Each activation of a die or a re-roll can be an agonizing and exhausting effort in multi-variate calculus!  As the game progresses, the number of dice rolled expands, the number of colonized planets with possible actions expands, the possible number of re-rolls and follows expands…and all of this leads to a massive headache when trying to take actions!

Why does this happen?  First, the cost of following is too cheap.  Only 1 culture is needed, and it is possible if the active player is acquiring culture to actually gain culture on his turn (he uses his dice, you gain more than him!).  This is a basic flaw in the game.  Other games with a lead/follow mechanism make following either quite expensive, or make leading more profitable (for example, check out the mechanism in the excellent game Eminent Domain ( Eminent Domain on BGG  ) by which the “leader” gets an extra benefit that followers do not get).  Second, because there are 4 to 7 dice to be activated, one by one in a sequence, there are 4 to 7 separate lead actions and much more possible follow actions (in a 4 player game, if I roll 5 dice my opponents have a potential 3×5=15 follow opportunities).  Just thinking about the order in which 4 to 7 dice can be sequentially utilized produces many, many combinations (you guys can do the factorial math on your own).

As a multi-player game, the exceptionally long agonizing over activations/follows, especially during the last turn, ruins the fun of the earlier turns in the game.  Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this game to any gaming group in which even a single highly-calculating, serious, strategic player is involved.  The last few turns play much like Chess…one guy sits and sits, calculates and calculates for minutes, and then makes a single move…except that in TEG this is multiplied by the number of dice that one guy just rolled and multiplied by the possible number of re-rolls!

Solitaire play = Quite Fun and Fast

In the solitaire version, you play against a programmed opponent.  These “Rogue” galaxies can be found on the backs of the player mats and have increasing difficulty from Beginner to Epic (duh!).

teg-sol-04

The Beginner Rogue Galaxy!  Note the pre-programmed actions (the red bubbles).

In short, the programmed opponent never follows and you can force it to re-roll a die by spending 1 culture and 1 energy.  Its ships always colonize and never land on planets to use that planet’s action.  Its ships also colonize faster, as all of the rogue’s ships move when he rolls diplomacy or economy.  It has pre-programmed attacks that occur whenever it rolls a utilize a colony die face.  And quite importantly, when the rogue galaxy maximizes its energy it upgrades its empire automatically; and when it maximizes its culture it takes an extra turn.

The Rogue galaxy automatically wins if it reaches 21 victory points or if its empire gets to the final hex (the skull and crossbones).  You win instantly if you get to 21 victory points before the Rogue galaxy.  Pretty simple, huh?

Solitaire game play

The solitaire game is much quicker because 1) the player can follow the Rogue’s actions but the rogue cannot follow back, and 2) the Rogue is programmed so it never wastes time in calculation.  In short, each turn takes precisely as long as the player wishes to take on it.  If you want to calculate exactly the best way to follow the rogue and/or make it re-roll, go ahead and do it; if you don’t want to do the mental gymnastics, go ahead and do that instead!  Either way, there are not other players to sit around and steam while you take your time figuring out those probabilities in your head.

teg-sol-05

The whole TEG experience! 

The solitaire game preserves all the fun of rolling the dice, deciding which dice to accept, in which order, and when to re-roll, as well as, deciding whether to spend that 1 culture on following.  You do have to work to beat the Rogue and you feel like it will race ahead of you toward victory if you make mistakes.  At the same time, the solitaire game jettisons the downtime waiting for other players and dramatically reduces the calculus needed for the active player (in this instance, the only player) to decide on a clear path on their own turn.

Solitaire Verdict:

I highly recommend TEG as a solitaire game.  It doesn’t cost much, it has an opponent who scales in difficulty, it meets the 30-45 time limit advertised on the box, it has minimal set up, minimal clean up, and is a fun time (well, as much fun as you can possibly have in a solitaire game).

Overall Verdict:

You are going to want to play TEG as a solitaire game…because if you play it multiplayer, you and your friends might get so mad at each other that you will prefer to be by yourself anyway!

 

 

Pandemic Legacy December — The Final Chapter

 

After purposely throwing our fourth loss in a row, the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club (info here ) now was ready to finish off the long campaign of Pandemic Legacy in December.

— SPOILER ALERT BEGINS HERE —

IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THE DECEMBER EPISODE OF PANDEMIC LEGACY YET, DO NOT READ THIS BLOG UNTIL YOU DO. PLENTY OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE EPISODE IS REVEALED HERE.

— SPOILER ALERT ENDS HERE —

Recap: In the first eleven months, the disease in Asia (i.e. the red cubes) mutated into the non-treatable and incurable COdA virus. In April the virus further mutated into the COdA-403c virus and the afflicted became the Faded, with ground zero for the new mutation in Ho Chi Minh City.  We suffered a crushing defeat in our first attempt at the May episode as Moscow melted down, while the Blue and Yellow viruses spread like wildfire across the Americas and Africa.  In a heroic effort in the second episode of May, we triumphed and kept the diseases under control.  A rather lucky draw of cards in June allowed us to triumph in our first attempt.  But now the government was barely funding events and in our first attempt in July we lost so quickly that one of the three players didn’t get a second turn! We did however find the Virologist.  In our second July attempt we managed to triumph despite long odds.  In August, we had an unlikely victory and found the Immunologist. In September we found the Paranoid Solider and learned that we had been duped!  A mysterious organization known as Zodiac instigated the COdA virus in order to control the world.  Now we would have to dismantle the oppressive military state that we helped to build up.  We wiped out in both attempts in October, but we did find Patient Zero and a possible vaccine.  In our first game in November we started vaccinating Faded cities and in our second November game we vaccinated ALL the Faded cities while losing our fourth game in a row.

We purposely lost in November in order to make December much easier (Funded Event total of 8, 3 bonus cards from Box 8, all Faded cities Vaccinated, etc.).  Let’s see if it paid off!

December Setup

The Mission Briefing asked us to tear up all our old objectives and replace them with new ones.  We now had to destroy the secret stockpile of COdA and Vaccinate every Faded city.  Good thing we already completed that 2nd objective in November, isn’t it?

pan-leg-dec-01

The two new mandatory objectives

The find and destroy the secret stockpile objective came with a search card.  Unlike others in the past, this search would require us to discard player cards of specific colors in order to advance the search.

pan-leg-dec-02

The search for the stockpile

We drew the 9 infection cards and then selected our 8 Funded events: Local Initiative, One Quiet Night, Remote Treatment, Airlift, Borrowed Time, Forecast, Flexible Aid Package, and Resilient Population.  We also inserted the 3 Experimental Vaccine cards that we gained in November.  We picked our characters (listed below) and started in Atlanta.  By random draw, Stew was going to go first.

Given that we had already completed the Vaccinate all Faded cities objective, we were going to concentrate on staying in or near Atlanta and finding that stockpile!  We would mop up cubes and Quarantine cities as necessary to stop Outbreaks from chaining.

Characters and Turn Order

  • Stew – Dispatcher
  • Bob – Researcher
  • Neal – Scientist

No surprise here folks!  This tried and true three-way combo of characters should be able to trade cards quickly enough to get the search done.

Gameplay

Turn One

Dispatcher — Searched with a Red card (search=1), Treated 1/1 cubes, moved to Washington D.C. and Treated 1/1 cubes.

Researcher — Shared Knowledge to give the Scientist a Yellow card. Flew to Baghdad, moved to Istanbul and Treated 1/1 then moved to Algiers.  Drew Epidemic #1–but it got cancelled with the Experimental Vaccine.  Thank you box #8!  We then used One Quiet Night to skip the Infection Step.

Scientist — Searched (search=2) and Quarantined Atlanta, then moved to D.C. and Quarantined it too.

Turn 2

Dispatcher — Moved to Atlanta, Searched (search=5), then Dispatched himself to Algiers and Treated 1/2.

Researcher — Treated Algiers 1/1, moved to Madrid, Treated 1/2 and then Treated 1/1.

Scientist — Moved to Atlanta, Searched (search=8) and then forfeited his two remaining actions.  He didn’t want to move out of Atlanta so that the Dispatcher and Researcher could return there.

Turn 3

Dispatcher — Dispatched himself and the Researcher to Atlanta.  Shared Knowledge to get a Blue card from the Researcher and then forfeited his final action.

Researcher — Shared Knowledge to give a Black card to the Dispatcher.  Moved to D.C. and then Montreal, Treated 1/1, and Quarantined Montreal.

Scientist — Searched (search=9), moved to Miami, Treated 1/1, then Quarantined Miami.

Turn 4

Dispatcher — Searched (search=10), dispatched the Scientist and Researcher to Atlanta, then Shared Knowledge to give a Blue Card to the Researcher.  Drew the 2nd Epidemic Card (which is now our 1st Epidemic) in Vaccinated Sydney.  The Search target moved from 12 to 13.

Researcher — Shared Knowledge three times: Yellow card to Scientist, Blue card from the Dispatcher and a Red Card from the Dispatcher.  Searched (search=12) and forfeited his 5th action.

Scientist — Flew to Baghdad and Treated 1/1 and then Quarantined it.  Then flew back to Atlanta.  Drew Epidemic #2 (third Epidemic card drawn) in Chicago.  We used Resilient Population to discard the Chicago Infection card.  Then we used Remote Treatment in St. Petersburg (2/2).  Then we moved the Search target from 13 to 14.

Turn 5

Dispatcher — Moved to Chicago, Treated 1/3, then 1/2 and then Moved to Atlanta.

Researcher — Shared Knowledge to get a Red card from the Dispatcher.  Searched for the win! (search=14=search target).  We found the Stockpile, completed the 2nd Objective and scratched off “The Stockpile” card.

pan-leg-dec-03

Finding the Stockpile of COdA

What?!?  We didn’t have to use the C4 that we were hoarding in our hands to blow up the stockpile?  That was a complete let down.  We were looking forward to actually “blowing” it up.

Anyway, we completed both objectives and had now won the game.  We flipped over the winning card and read this…

pan-leg-dec-04

The end of Pandemic Legacy: one of the biggest let downs in gaming history!

That’s it?!?  “Congratulations. At long last…it’s over.”  What a crock!  Huge let down. That was really awful.

But wait, there were still a couple cards in the Legacy deck.  Maybe something cool still awaited us.

pan-leg-dec-05

Ranking your success

Nope.  It was a card that allowed us to rank our success.  We won…and now the game was going to tell us that we didn’t win well enough?!?  What a double-crock.  It just felt really wrong and misguided.  I expect success/fail ranking in two-player games that can be played multiple times (think Avalon Hill, GMT, Decision Games, etc).  But in a multiplayer cooperative game it fell flat.  After all, in cooperative games the goal is to win.  Failure is normal, so winning really counts for something.  This ranking  nonsense kind of cheapened it.

The back side of the card had the score sheet.

pan-leg-dec-06

Score sheet side of the card

We tallied it all up and we earned a 637=recovery and progress.  Who cares?  We didn’t.

Evaluation

After 12 months of playing Pandemic Legacy, the gang at the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club agreed on the following:

  1. It started out pretty fun.
  2. The Faded popping up was cool.
  3. The game waned badly in the last few months.
  4. The ending was awful.
  5. It ate up about 18 weeks of meeting for games–which pushed out other games that we could have played.
  6. We are NOT going to play another season of this game.
  7. And that I, your faithful narrator, needed to get on www.boardgamegeek.com and lower my rating of the game.

All right, there it is.  I hope everyone reading along enjoyed the ride!

 

Pandemic Legacy November Playthrough Part Two

 

After a rough loss in both games in October (see Pandemic Legacy October Playthrough and Pandemic Legacy October Playthrough Part Two) and the first game in November (Pandemic Legacy November Playthrough)the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club (info here ) now was ready to try a second time in November.

— SPOILER ALERT BEGINS HERE —

IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THE NOVEMBER EPISODE OF PANDEMIC LEGACY YET, DO NOT READ THIS BLOG UNTIL YOU DO. PLENTY OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE EPISODE IS REVEALED HERE.

— SPOILER ALERT ENDS HERE —

Recap: In the first ten months, the disease in Asia (i.e. the red cubes) mutated into the non-treatable and incurable COdA virus. In April the virus further mutated into the COdA-403c virus and the afflicted became the Faded, with ground zero for the new mutation in Ho Chi Minh City.  We suffered a crushing defeat in our first attempt at the May episode as Moscow melted down, while the Blue and Yellow viruses spread like wildfire across the Americas and Africa.  In a heroic effort in the second episode of May, we triumphed and kept the diseases under control.  A rather lucky draw of cards in June allowed us to triumph in our first attempt.  But now the government was barely funding events and in our first attempt in July we lost so quickly that one of the three players didn’t get a second turn! We did however find the Virologist.  In our second July attempt we managed to triumph despite long odds.  In August, we had an unlikely victory and found the Immunologist. In September we found the Paranoid Solider and learned that we had been duped!  A mysterious organization known as Zodiac instigated the COdA virus in order to control the world.  Now we would have to dismantle the oppressive military state that we helped to build up.  We wiped out in both attempts in October, but we did find Patient Zero and a possible vaccine.  In our first game in November we started vaccinating Faded cities.

November Setup

We had no permanent military base stickers left, so we did not have to add any new military bases to the board.  We drew the 9 infection cards and then selected our 6 Funded events: Local Initiative, One Quiet Night, Remote Treatment, Airlift, Borrowed Time, and Resilient Population.  We picked our characters (listed below) and started in Kolkata.  By random draw, Stew was going to go first.

As we mentioned in the 1st November game, we were suspicious that the previous mission objective was to only vaccinate 6 Faded cities.  It looked like a set-up to us (much like the earlier military base set up).  So, we decided that it was best to concentrate on vaccinating every Faded city this time.  Why?  Two reasons: 1) the more vaccinated cities the fewer Faded cities and thus the greater number of infection cards that would do nothing when drawn and 2) because we are guessing that in December the game will want us to vaccinate all the Faded cities.  We also were going to Sabotage the remaining military bases.

Characters and Turn Order

  • Stew – Soldier
  • Bob – Immunologist
  • Neal – Dispatcher

Gameplay

Turn One

Soldier — Moved to Delhi, Karachi, and then Riyadh.  Then treated 1/3 cubes.

Immunologist — Picked up 1 dose, moved to Hong Kong and then Taiwan.  Then remotely vaccinated Osaka.  Drew Epidemic #1 (Kinshasa).  The team used Tactical Centers Online to put up 3 roadblocks in Asia.  Then we used the Experimental Program to reduce Kinshasa from 3 to 2 cubes.  This turned out to be a good move because the Immunologist drew Kinshasa during the Infection step.

Dispatcher — Flew to Atlanta, then moved to San Francisco via Chicago.  Used Shady Background to Sabotage the military base in San Francisco.  During infection step drew Seoul, which is roadblocked completely, so it didn’t have an Outbreak, but its Panic Level went up from 2 to 3.

Turn 2

Soldier — Moved to Baghdad, then flew to Atlanta.  Moved to Washington D.C. and then New York.  Used Borrowed Time to get 2 more actions.  Sabotaged the military base with C4 and then picked up the card again.  Objective #1 (Sabotage 2 military bases) is complete!

Immunologist — Moved to Bangkok via Hong Kong.  Picked up 4 doses and then moved back to Hong Kong.  The team used Resilient Population to removed Santiago from the Infection discards.  Used Local Initiative to Quarantine Kinshasa and Riyadh.

Dispatcher — Dispatched self to Hong Kong, moved to Kolkata, picked up 4 doses and moved to Hong Kong.

Turn 3

Soldier — Moved to London and used C4 to Sabotage the military base there.  Moved to Essen and put up a Vaccination Center and Quarantined Essen.  Objective #2 met (if the Vaccination centers stay on the board until the end of the game).

Immunologist — Moved to Shanghai and remotely Vaccinated Seoul (3/3).  Then moved to Tokyo and Vaccinated 1/1. The team played One Quiet Night to skip the Infection step.

Dispatcher — Parachuted into Seoul and Vaccinated it.  Moved to Tokyo (by discarding Jakarta card) and Vaccinated it.  Then moved to Shanghai.  Drew Epidemic #2 (Osaka–but it is Vaccinated so no effect).  Drew Khartoum for Outbreak #1.

Turn 4

Soldier — Picked up 3 doses, grabbed the Parachute and Parachuted into Manila.  Vaccinated it with the Aerosol and then grabbed the Parachute back.

Immunologist — Moved to Shanghai, then Hong Kong, then Bangkok and grabbed 5 doses.  Drew 2 Yellow cards and cured BSNL-419.  Quarantines in Essen and Shanghai got removed via Infection card draw.

Dispatcher — Moved to Kolkata via Hong Kong.  Then shuttled to Essen and Quarantined it.

Turn 5

Soldier — Used Remote Treatment on Chicago (1/3) and Khartoum (1/3) and Parachuted into Beijing.  Vaccinated it and grabbed back the Parachute.  Parachuted into D.C. and Quarantined it before moving to Montreal.  Drew Epidemic #3 (Chennai–but vaccinated).

Immunologist — Parachuted to Khartoum and treated (2/2) before moving to Kinshasa and treating 3/3. Then moved to Johannesburg. Drew Riyadh for Outbreak #2 and drew Essen (quarantined).

Dispatcher — Quarantined Essen (again!) and took a Direct Flight to Santiago.  Treated 3/3 and Dispatched the Soldier to Johannesburg.  Drew San Francisco for Outbreak #3 which led to a chain reaction Outbreak in Chicago (#4).

Turn 6

Soldier — Treated Johannesburg (1/1) then moved to Khartoum and Treated 1/1.  Moved to Cairo.

Immunologist — Moved to Kinshasa and treated 1/1.  Moved to Lagos and Treated 1/1.

Dispatcher — Moved to Lima and then Mexico City.  Treated 1/1.  Then Cured Sprague (Black).

We now had cured 2 of the 3 diseases.  We began to debate whether to cure Fischer-Titus (Blue) or to lose on purpose in order to open Box #8 and increase our Funded Event total for December.

Turn 7 (how did we survive this long?!?)

Soldier — Treated a yellow cube in Cairo (1/1) and Eradicated BSNL-419.  Moved to Riyadh and Treated 3/3.  Grabbed a Parachute.

Immunologist — Took a Direct Flight to Cairo and Treated 1/1 Black cubes.  Moved to Baghdad and Treated 1/1.  Drew Epidemic #4 (Karachi).  Then during Infection step drew D.C. for Outbreak #5.

Dispatcher — Moved to Chicago, Treated 1/3 and then moved to San Francisco and Treated 1/3.

Turn 8 (Surely the end is near, no one survives this long without losing)

Soldier — Parachuted into D.C., Treated 1/3, moved to Atlanta and Treated 1/3 before ending in Chicago.  Drew Karachi for Outbreak #6–and Karachi became a Fallen City!

Immunologist — Airlift to Karachi and Treated 3/3.  Then moved to Mumbai and Treated 2/2 before ending in Delhi.

Dispatcher — Moved to Chicago and Shared Knowledge with the Soldier to get a Blue card.  Then moved to Montreal and Dispatched the Soldier there too.  Drew 2 Blue cards.

*** And here is where we had to make a choice!  The Dispatcher now had enough Blue cards to cure Fischer-Titus (don’t need to be in a Research Station and did not need to use an Action) at any time.  We chose instead to keep playing in order to lose.  It became clear that with over 1/4 of all cities Vaccinated and 1/4 of the cities Eradicated that this is how we wanted the board to look in December if possible.  We decided to lose in order to make December easier.

Turn 9 (How did we made it this far!)

Soldier — Quarantined Montreal and took a Direct Flight to St. Petersberg before moving to Essen and Quarantining it.  Drew Epidemic #5 (Miami- Eradicated).  No player cards were left at this point.

Immunologist — Forfeited turn.  Games ends because no more player cards can be drawn.

Here is the board at the end of the game:

pan-leg-nov-2nd-01

Panoramic View of the End of the Game.  Note the 5 Blue cards in the hands of the Dispatcher (far left).

We lost 4 games in a row and now could open Box #8.  Inside we found the following cards:

pan-leg-nov-2nd-02

The contents of Box #8

The Experimental Vaccine cards should make it really easy to win in December.

 

Endgame Upgrades

We put a permanent Vaccination Center in Essen and added the Supressed Upgrade to BSNL-419 (Treating removes all cubes).  We increased our Funded Event total to 8 and left with very positive thoughts about defeating the game in December.

Post Thanksgiving Game-o-rama!

Just after the Thanksgiving holidays we got in more gaming that usual.  On various dates we managed to delve into some 7 Wonders: Duel, Pandemic Legacy, 7 Wonders with the Babel expansion, and T.I.M.E. Stories.

Here are the photos of the fun!

post-turkey-01

Stewart contemplating what to do in 7 Wonders: Duel.  I had him at a severe disadvantage and eventually I nipped a victory by a few points.

post-turkey-02

Getting ready for some 7 Wonders with the Babel expansion (and of course Cities and Leaders expansions too!)

post-turkey-05

Stewart and Bob during Age II.  Stew had played that darn leader (the name escapes me at the moment) who returns -1 military tokens to the other players.  So annoying!  Note the Babel tower in the middle of the table.  Stew won the game thanks to mucho scientific structures.

post-turkey-03

Stew, Bob and I getting ready to start our 2nd November playthrough of Pandemic Legacy.  I will get a post out about that game soon.

post-turkey-04

Lee, Stew and Katie getting ready for a game of T.I.M.E. Stories.  Katie really likes the game but when we got to the maze cards, Stew and I spent like 10 minutes figuring it out and she got bored!  Btw, note in the background left the shield that I made for Stew when he was big into SCA at West Point.

Oh…and I will give out a not genuine “no prize” to whoever who leaves a comment correctly naming the most games (either from the boxes/books or the minis, boards, etc, used in particular games) that they see in the photos.  Note, there are also RPGs in the photos.  Don’t forget to look on the bookshelves and under the folding table too!

Good luck!