What did we play? Clank! Sunken Treasures!

Do you love racing through dangerous dungeons in pursuit of treasure? Do you want to stealth around and steal a dragon’s eggs right from under the great beast? Clank! simulates that fun! It’s a deck building game from Direwolf and Renegade Game Studios where players explore a dungeon looking for artifacts while simultaneously trying to not make noise (ie clank around) and wake up the vengeful dragon.

Sunken Treasures

Sunken treasures is an expansion to Clank! that adds underwater action. It has two new maps, penalties for staying underwater without SCUBA (Sorcery-Created Underwater Breathing Apparel), new cards, treasure rooms, and more. The game is the same as before: grab an artifact and other goodies and then race to get out before the Dragon knocks you out.

— one of the Sunken Treasures boards. My Meeple (I am yellow) has raced very deep under water to grab the 25-point artifact.

Game Play

The game is basically the same, except if you start your turn in a space underwater and you don’t move through or end your turn in a space with air, you suffer 1 health (hearts) damage. As in regular Clank! the board is a complicated map and players can go different directions in search of goodies.

Stew mainly raced along the top of the map, gobbling up whatever secrets he could find. I delved deep for the 25-point artifact and then Lee eventually followed the same path to grab Monkey Idols. Bob had great luck getting cards, bought a Master Key in the Market and unlocked paths that the rest of us couldn’t explore.

— I made it out first!

The Endgame

After grabbing the 25-point artifact, I quickly raced out of the underwater cave system and headed for escape. Stew and I both had a lot of damage from the Dragon, Lee was deep underwater, and Bob with his great cards had no worries at all about Dragon damage.

I made it out first and thus the endgame clock started ticking on the other players! For the next 4 rounds, every time it was my turn the Dragon would attack the other players. On the last turn, the Dragon knocks out any thief who has not yet escaped.

Stew, Bob and Lee raced for the exit! Stew got unlucky and his health cubes got drawn out of the Dragon bag and he got knocked out. Bob made it out on the third turn. Lee was the deepest in the underwater cave system…and he just quite didn’t make it out.

— The end of the game! Stew (red) and Lee (green) got knocked out, missing out on the 20-point bonus for getting out of the dungeon.

The Winner

We counted up all the victory points from gold, cards, artifacts, and other treasures….and Bob won! He used those two more turns he had (I didn’t get those turns because I was already out of the dungeon) to pick up a bit more loot and to nab a Secret Tome. In the end, that made all the difference as he beat me by 5 points.

— Bob’s stash of cards and loot that won him the game

The Verdict

Sunken Treasures doesn’t change Clank! very much, but having new maps and some new cards adds a bit of novelty to the game. The game is still fast, easy, and intuitive for players of all skill levels. If you love Clank! already, you should enjoy Sunken Treasures.

What Did We Play? Near and Far

This week we all got together to try out Near and Far from Red Raven Games. I picked up the game at Gen Con (actually, I got the next to last copy from the Red Raven Booth) this year. It is a sequel to Above and Below, a game that I have never played but have heard good things about. Fortunately, you do not need to own Above and Below to play Near and Far.

Near and Far advertises itself as a storytelling game, an atlas game, and a campaign game! That sounds like a lot…and it had me intrigued when I saw the game at the Red Raven booth. Then I noticed the artwork! I was hooked!

— Clockwise from top left: Storybook, Atlas, Town Board (dusk side shown)

The Basics

The overall goal of Near and Far is to accumulate Journey Points. You do this by preparing your character in the town and then adventuring on one of the maps contained in the Atlas.

The game is essentially an action-taking game where each turn a player places their character standee on a town location and performs the action(s) listed there. Generally, you are trying to load up on food, coins, friendly adventures, etc so that you are ready to travel out of the town on the map.

On the map, you move around looking for quests and establish camps. The camps allow you to collect coins or gems, and also allow for less exhaustive movement across the map (ie it costs fewer “hearts” to move).

— The map for the first game, as contained in the Atlas.

The game ends once one player has placed all 14 of their camps (on the map, in the mines, and/or on Threat Cards). Journey points are awarded for camps played, trade routes covered, artifacts found, threats defeated, coins, gems, faction tokens, Chiefs obtained, Reputation, and any other card/board bonuses.

Gameplay

Everyone in my group expressed that the basic standee placement and action-taking mechanism closely resembled games like Raiders of the North Sea. Turns are completely fairly quickly and each player has a chance to get something accomplished on their turn.

Exploring on the map takes a bit longer. Once a player travels to the map, they move in a point-to-point system more similar to strategic war games than typical abstract board games. If a player stops on a quest, another player reads the corresponding lettered quest from the Storybook. Each quest has two alternative acts available for the player to choose from among (e.g. help the old lady or ignore her plight) similar to games like Scythe. Usually a skill or combat roll resolves the chosen action.

Players alternate their time from loading up in town and exploring on the map, much like a pen and pencil RPG. This adds a storytelling/role playing element that adds to the fun (it also allows even players falling behind in Journey points to have a good time questing).

— my player board early in the game. I had placed two camps, recruited two adventurers to my party (next to my faithful cat companion), and added a pack bird.

In the game that we played, it seemed like each player tried a different strategy. I was trying to collect as many artifacts as possible, Lee was placing camps on the map for resources, Stew was going after quests, and Bob was mining a lot.

— The game a few more turns after the last photo but still in the early part. Note that camps have started appearing on the map as we began exploring outside the town.

The game lasted about two hours. It was our first play and it took a while to figure out what the best options were each turn. Eventually my artifact grabbing rewarded me with a very narrow victory over Lee.

— My board close to the end of the game. I was well-prepared to explore and my loot of faction tokens and gems would allow me to buy plenty of artifacts from the Mystic.

The Verdict

From one play of the game, all of us agreed that Near and Far was quite fun. Everyone felt that they were “in” the game and that no one got left behind early. Also, the exploration on the map added a nice touch that broke up the monotony of standee placement in the town.

In short, we are looking forward to trying the Campaign game and adventuring on new maps. The gameplay is solid and fun, the rules clear, and the art gorgeous. If you haven’t tried Near and Far, I recommended that you give it a shot.

Scythe—The Rise of Fenris: Episode 2A War

At the end of Episode 1, we voted for War and not Peace. We had no idea how that was going to change the next game, but by the start of set up we found out.

— Spoiler Alert: I am not even going to try to hide anything revealed by the rules for this episode. If you haven’t played Episode 2A yet, I advise you to stop now…unless you like knowing the twists and turns ahead of time, so if you do, read on!

Episode 2A War

Set Up

Basically the nations of Europa have readied for war. Each player starts with 3 upgrades, 1 additional worker in play, 1 structure in play, +4 Popularity, and can purchase a perk for $15. Thus, each side can effectively upgrade their randomized player mat to make production easier. Like maybe a good idea might be to make Deploying a Mech require only 1 resource.

Also, each player could place up to 4 of their stars on other players’ starting points to declare them a “rival”. If you defeat a rival in combat you remove the star and place it on the achievement track and get a bonus of $5.

But the biggest change was yet to come! Packaged in the RoF box was a new double-sided achievement board that you overlay atop the regular achievement list on the map board. The “war” side changes the available achievements to emphasize winning battles and collecting 8+ combat cards.

— The War Achievement Board overlay. Note how some achievements are missing, replaced by more spots for winning battles.

Game Playthrough

Stew drew the number 1 player mat and had to go first. The turn order would be:

Stew-Rusviet Union

Lee-Togawa Shogunate

Neal-Saxony

Bob-Clan Albion

— The start of the game. You can see that my (I am Saxony) two neighbors have put rival stars on my start point.

Rusviet got off to a great start. He built a mech on the first turn and increased his speed. Using his faction power to select the same action on successive turns, he quickly moved his character toward the Factory…but then veered away to reveal his Divide and Conquer objective.

— Rusviet completing an Objective by the third turn

But Stew wasn’t the only player to quickly finish an objective. Lee skillfully manipulated his units to complete his objective a couple of turns thereafter.

— Togawa Shogunate finish their objective early

As each side quickly deployed all their mechs, both the Rusviet and Saxony were able to find a quick victory in combat against a rival. Exploiting their speed, the Rusviet isolated a single Clan Albion mech guarding workers and defeated it. Saxony jumped across the board via a tunnel to defeat a Saxony mech.

–The board after the Rusviet and Saxony victories against rivals

From there the game turned into a real boring affair. Each player had generated 8+ combat cards (one of the new “war” achievements) and had deployed all 4 mechs. Saxony had the most Power, but each faction quickly Bolstered until they too were above 7 Power.

This led to each player concentrating at least 2 mechs and their character (The most units that could move together on a single action) onto a single hex with some human shields, ie workers. Nobody could get their sixth achievement without winning a combat…but nobody could attack without running into 3 units, at least an equal number of cards, and a hex full of workers that would ruin the attacker’s popularity if the attacker won.

— all 4 factions turtled up! The poor Togawa and Clan Albion couldn’t find any way to attack, and the other factions were afraid of ruining their popularity by attacking or losing the attack and giving the game away. Saxony had the best chance to attack, but would have to vacate the 3-hex Factory to do it.

The calculus was simple: if I attack but the defender’s cards are better, I not only lose the game, but I just threw the victory to the player that I attacked. This kind of “kingmaker” situation is ubiquitous in multi-player games and can portend a bad ending: the eventual reckless attack by a player that gets bored.

The Sad Ending

After a few turns of staring at each other with nobody willing to gamble on an attack, we decided to just quit rather than continue. I am pretty sure this ending is not what the game designers envisioned, but it seemed preferable to us rather than just “grinding” more turns of a senseless buildup of resources, Popularity, Power, etc. as nobody wanted to launch a reckless attack that in essence was a coin flip to determine the winner.

We all thought the problem was the rival stars. If each player had been able to take back at least one rival star still uselessly sitting on an opponent’s starting point, the game would’ve ended quickly. Instead those rival stars were “stuck” on the map board preventing a resolution. Another problem was the ability to use those first 3 upgrades to deploy mechs early meant that each side had all their mechs deployed pretty much before anybody could attack anybody else. This was particularly true for Togawa and Clan Albion. Neither has Speed so they couldn’t actually attack because their opponents could see easily avoid unfavorable confrontations.

After calculating ending coin totals, Rusviet won the episode, with Saxony in second. So, the two factions that won a combat did indeed finish higher, but there wasn’t any decisive victory.

Also poor was that the War Achievement board effectively negated the Saxony faction power. Because every faction could get 4 combat achievements, Saxony didn’t have any true advantage from its power to get any number of combat achievements.

The Verdict

In the end, this episode was quite disappointing. The set-up changes didn’t encourage combat, they instead made combat impossible. We all hope that the next episode would be better.

Kickstarter Finds: Shifting Realms and Horizons

I really love to gamble on new games on Kickstarter. Why you ask? Because sometimes the smaller or new game designers come up with something interesting, like when I picked up Helionox. Well, I recently received two more games. And I am telling you they are so good that if you play them it will be raining fun! So grab your umbrella-ella-ella-ella and give these games a try.


Shifting Realms

Shifting Realms is a 2-4 player game that should take about 60 minutes to play. Each player must send their scouts and soldiers across 3 different (but connected) realms trying to earn the most victory points. Each realm has a different set of structures to build and realm-specific cards and events (watch out for that dragon!).

— the 3 randomly chosen boards placed together (each is 4×4) with some structures placed. The cubes are resources (brown=wood; pink=magic; grey=metal), the yellow markers are gold=currency; the cylinders are scouts that gather resources and the Meeples are soldiers that protect your scouts or alternately run off your opponents’ scouts

The game runs on a simple action taking mechanic (ie take 3 actions on your turn) where scout placement/movement leads to resource acquisition and then the building of structures. There is some direct confrontation as a player can use soldiers to run opponents’ scouts off of resource allocations and replace them with their own scouts.

— the score track

Each game 3 Realms are chosen randomly to comprise the board (the game comes with 5 starter realms). Each has a different set of story cards, structures, resource allocation, end game condition and maybe some special rule(s). Once the end game conditions of 2 Realms are met, the game ends. The game play is fairly simple and fast. Players must optimize placing units, moving them around, obtaining story cards, and building structures.


Horizons

Horizons is a 2-5 player game along the standard lines of a 4x space game (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate). Players play either a human faction (in the standard game all players play human factions with similar abilities; in the advantages game the backside of the player boards have alien races with unique abilities).

— the faction board. Actions are listed on the left, the structure (energy collectors, metal collectors, and colonies) on the right, and the world types (with building costs) on the top.

Each player takes two actions per turn in which they try to maximize the return from these actions. Players have to “adapt” to planets before they can build structures on them. But they must first “explore” in order to find desired planets that match each player’s mission cards. The goal is to have the most victory points when the game ends (in the base game this is when any player places the last of their 5 colonies).

— the solar systems and worlds. With some collectors and colonies placed on them.

Victory points are earned by 1) completing missions from a set of randomly shuffled mission cards, 2) collecting knowledge, typically from exploring, and 3) controlling systems at the end of the game. Control is determined by counting structures: 2 per colony, 1 per either collector. Whomever has the most gets 6 VP and whomever is in 2nd gets 3 (ties change these payouts a bit, but no need to go into that here).

Key to the game are the Ally cards. Ally cards are activated when the player takes the action associated with the Ally card. For example, if a player had the Librarian Ally, when that player takes an Explore action, they both do the regular action and ALSO activate the Librarian’s action. Allies can only use their actions twice before they go back into their respective piles. So grabbing the right Ally Cards and pairing them with future actions effectively multiplies a player’s actions on a turn.

— The Librarian, an Ally card. When you take an Explore action (the grayish Star in the blue square), you gain the Librarian action: gain 1 knowledge(= 1 VP) and play a new world.

In our first game, we all played Human factions with similar actions. Lee and Stew seemed to maximize the Ally cards the most effectively. Both ended with 29 VP with Lee winning based on the tie breaker of whomever had the most resources of energy and metal.

— Lee’s winning total. He had many knowledge tokens (the purple triangle wooden tokens) plus he got VP from missions and coming in second in all 4 solar systems (VP collected at the end is represented by the purple cardboard triangles).

Overall, it was a fun and fast game with elements of 4x exploration, action management, and area control that combined nicely into an enjoyable game.

What Did We Play? King of New York with Power Up! And Monster Packs

Recently we got in a 4-player game of King of New York. We used the evolution Power Up! Cards plus all three of the Monster Packs! Let’s get ready to rumble!!!!

Game Summary

Bob was Anubis and the first player, so he had to claim Manhattan. Stew was Cthulhu and he quickly set the tone for the first few turns: he rolled a bunch of slaps and punished Anubis. The dreaded Pyramid Die was stealing health from whomever had the Scarab…which unfortunately was me. I was Captain Fish (boo! The only guy without a new Monster) and I broke buildings on my turn. Oh, and I couldn’t get rid of the scarab so my health was draining. Lee was King Kong and continued the slap-fest! He knocked Anubis out of Manhattan and moved in himself.

— The remains of a defeated King Kong as he got knocked out climbing skyscrapers in Manhattan.

On the second turn Anubis and Cthulhu rolled mainly energy, traded the Superstar card, and slapped the big ape a bit. On my turn I rolled 3 slaps. With my evolution power this would mean not only Kong taking 3 damage, but Anubis and Cthulhu taking 1 each. Bob used his Anubis evolutionary power to deflect it back on me! I was down to 2 health! Fortunately Lee didn’t roll more than 1 slap, so I held on. After the 2nd turn everybody was badly injured–we just weren’t rolling any hearts.

But King Kong’s time in Manhattan would be short. On turn 3, Bob hit him and then Stew slapped him hard but Lee stayed in Manhattan with three health remaining. Then Kong’s luck run out as I managed to roll 4 slaps and Kong was defeated before Lee got his third turn.

With only 3 of us left, and me in Manhattan with almost no health, it looked like the game was going to end quick. But then the Curse cards became favorable to the Scarab holder and we rolled bundles of hearts for health.

— the three remaining players and a game that started to equalize.

As Captain Fish, I grabbed Stink Attack and scattered units into boroughs to attack Anubis and Cthulhu. Stew used Cthulhu to give Bob and I madness tokens which stopped us from re-rolling some dice. Bob used Anubis’ powers to constantly steal energy from Stew and I so he could buy cards.

The game went back and forth for about 30 minutes. Bob and I each dropped Stew’s Cthulhu to zero health on separate turns, only to see Cthulhu not die (I hate that “Even Death May Die evolution card). So…slowly but surely Cthulhu wore us down while he gained fame. Stew ended up holding on and won with Fame.

— all of Cthulhu’s permanent Evolution cards that led to Stew’s victory

In the end, it was a crazy game that started out fast and furious with King Kong getting shellacked early, then settled into a game of attrition.

The Verdict

The Evolution cards are a must for King of New York. Each monster is distinct, which is an improvement over the base game. The new monsters are totally cool and the Anubis Curse Die adds a nice mechanic to the game. A really fun game got even better!