Cool Games that We Played Recently: Maximum Apocalypse, Kami-Sama, and Enchanters: Overlords

Welcome back my intrepid followers! Hopefully all of you have been getting in some fresh rounds of games. Well…we’ve been busy playing games over here too! Today I’ve got three games for you to try and why we think that they are fun and cool!

Maximum Apocalypse

— a mission layout

In Maximum Apocalypse, a team of heroes drives a van (yep, it’s like the A-Team) to a site and attempts to complete a mission. It might be rescue a scientist, check out a ufo, defeat the vampires, etc. Maximum Apocalypse has multiple scenarios where the “enemies” are represented by a unique pack of cards special to a unique set of missions (e.g. there is a zombie deck for missions against zombies). The heroes play cooperatively, taking turns exploring the map.

So each hero roams the map trying to find gear and the objective, while having to defeat the monsters that pop up and keep hunger at bay.

— the Surgeon with some of his cards and a zombie dog attacking him

Each hero has their own deck of cards with special abilities and items. As each player takes actions, they can place their unique items or scavenged items into play, thereby using their cards and abilities to maximum advantage (did you catch that joke?). Once the objective is found, the hero’s must deal with it and collect fuel for the van.

— a fueled up van ready to extract the heroes and the scientist.

Why this game is cool: A game of Maximum Apocalypse feels like a classic horror movie. You have to get in, complete the objective, and get out before you die from the baddies or multiple other problems. The random map allows for multiple replays of each mission. And heroes will die, so complacency, bad luck or poor planning gets punished. If you get the Gothic Horrors, or other expansions, you should have about 2 dozen possible missions, allowing for almost infinite replays.

Kami-Sama

In this new game, each player is a different Kami, or spirit, who controls a particular aspect of nature (you know, stuff like water, death, the earth, etc). Each Kami is unique and have special actions that no other Kami has. The game is played over three years with each year having 4 seasons. Victory points are gained in many ways and determine the winner. in short, players use their actions to place their shrines into regions and remove/move opposing players’ shrines.

— the victory point track. This picture is at the end of the game. The white disc player won with 56 points.

The board is circular and it rotates 90 degrees at the end of each season. Players typically can only place shrines onto the board slice that is in front of them (some actions allow placement elsewhere). Players try to strategically place shrines to gain favor and nature (which are worth victory points), create patterns that score bonuses, and to control regions.

— Kami-Sama main board in the middle. A player board with the top of it shown sits at the bottom

Why this game is cool: Kami-sama combines area control, set collection (you collect villager cards at the end of years), some light drafting (again, the villager cards), strategic placement, and asymmetrical player boards. Oh and did I mention that the Art is fantastic and evocative of the theme of Ancient Japan? I didn’t? Well, now I just did!

— a villager card

Enchanters: Overlords

Enchanters: Overlords is a fairly light game (no, not it’s physical weight, it’s complexity of play) that simulates fantasy adventuring. Each player starts with a Fist of Enchanting which they upgrade by buying items and enchantments. Each new item or enchantment is placed over the top of previous cards.

— this player now has Plate Armor of Light instead of just a worthless fist!

Attack and armor bonuses are on the top and/or bottom of each card. Newly purchased cards cover up bonuses on the top of other cards but bonuses on the bottom remain. Also all special abilities on cards can only be used if they are visible (i.e. on the top card).

To start the game, each player chooses a 25-card deck of villains/monsters (such as Bandits, Dark Elves, Angels, etc) and all of the chosen decks are shuffled together to form the adventure deck. Six cards are dealt into a community area and are available for purchase. As cards are purchase and monsters defeated, the top cards form the deck replace them. The game ends when there are no more cards to purchase.

— You can see the row of cards to be purchased in the middle of the photo. Purchase cost in crystals are listed under each card, from zero to five from left to right.

Each turn a player can either purchase (by using crystals) an item/enchantment, fight a monster, rest (to get crystals) or fight the Overlord. In this manner, the game is simple enough for anyone to play it. Basically the game is like Talisman or other D&D-ish table–top games: build up your character and then slay monsters.

Why this game is cool: Enchanters: Overlords is a fun game that remains light but does have some strategy for the more serious players. And if you look closely enough at each card, you will see that the chrome text and card names have some great witty humor. You need an example? How about the card “Grey Dragon” whose flavor text is “it comes in fifty shades”

Is Star Wars Battlefront 2 Scripted Like FIFA or Madden?

I am a 25+ year veteran of playing Electronic Arts (EA) sports video games. I started with NHL in the 1990s, and then played Madden a little bit before settling into 15+ years of playing FIFA. In that time I (and many others in the EA community of players) noticed a worrying trend: the games seemed to be “scripted.” Now I play Star Wars Battlefront 2 from EA and its my belief that after the latest patch, that game is scripted too.

— photo courtesy of my TV and my iPad

Scripting in EA Sports Franchise Games

When does LeBron James miss a wide-open dunk with no pressure from any opponent? When does Harry Kane miss a tap-in a few feet from the goal while under no pressure? The answer is never. These athletes only make mistakes under pressure. Okay, how many times does Manchester United lose to Trondheim in a European match? Same answer: never.

Scripting in EA sports games creates both these absurd and unlikely events. When I played FIFA, in some games my players just couldn’t pass straight, shoot straight, or tackle. My best player would miss a tap in while under zero pressure. But….the other team could pass right around me, and in the dying minutes they somehow would score a miraculous goal.

Maybe it was bad luck? Maybe I didn’t play well that game? Okay…I would replay the game by not saving the results. Guess what happened next? I would lose the next game BY THE EXACT SAME SCORE! This my good friends is called “scripting.” EA developers have admitted that the sports games have “momentum” added to them to make some games “more competitive.” Players from all over the world have complained about the scripting.

The problem with scripting is that you are not really playing the game. The results and gameplay are not influenced at all by whatever you are doing with the controller. If you don’t believe me just google EA and scripting. Check out the discussions and decide for yourself. Many of us gamers turned away and are turning away from the EA sports games because of scripting.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Scripting

Let me preface this discussion by saying that I have played all the Star Wars Battlefront games. In Battlefront 1 I was one of the best star pilots in the world. In Battlefront 2, my brother and I play routinely. We usually score in the top 5 on our side and quite often we appear in the MVP standings at the end (you can find mine as screenshots on Xbox One–look for njesse99).

Since the last update in late spring, we have noticed some changes. One change is the major imbalance in teams. EA changed the scoring of battle points to allow players to gain them much quicker. This has led to the first team to get a hero overwhelming the other team. It works this way: we get a hero 1st, that hero starts slaying opponents, guys on our side get assist points and easier kills, we get more heroes, the other side can’t get points, the other side can’t get heroes (or gets them one at a time), we win easily. Almost all games now are blow outs: either you win quick and easy, or you get stomped.

But there is another problem: the appearance of scripting. Lately it goes like this: I set a trap that I have set a thousand times BUT now it doesn’t work. For example, I wait around a corner with my assault shotgun ready, a guy walks into my sights, I blast him, BUT he doesn’t die (like he normally would). That guy turns and shoots me once with a pistol and even though I shoot him a second time with my shotgun, I die and he doesn’t? Say what?!? Yeah, something that works every time suddenly doesn’t. LeBron missed the dunk; Kane missed the tap-in.

And it is more than that. My shots suddenly do less damage, every shot that hits me seems to kill me instantly, my ion torpedo doesn’t blow up the turret this time, etc. Maybe it was just my bad luck and/or bad game play? Nope! When the game ends and I check my stats, my meager six kills put me in the top 3 on my side. EVERYONE on my side had bad luck and/or bad game play! Hardly possible.

The problem with scripting is that you usually don’t notice it when every shot you take kills an opponent. You only notice it when you are on the receiving end. But it is real and clearly Star Wars Battlefront 2 now has it. I noticed it because of my experience with the EA sports games. The frustration of nothing going right and the impossible happening again and again is what gives it away. If Lebrun missed dunk after dunk he would guess that the rim was smaller than normal. Well in an EA franchise, the game decides when the rim is smaller or even closed.

Another Franchise Ruined by EA

EA has done it again. They have ruined another franchise by adding scripting to the game. It made some sense in Games with micro transactions: scripting makes good players lose, giving them the artificial need to buy more packs to strengthen their team. It is fake, they don’t really need to strengthen their team, but they don’t know that and EA makes more money when players buy packs.

But why put scripting in Battlefront 2? EA got rid of micro transactions early after releasing the game. Do they think the “run over” gameplay will attract new players? I doubt it. Is EA planning to reintroduce micro transactions? That’s my bet. So fellow Battlefront 2 players, if crates and micro transactions come back, you will know why. EA has been setting you up.

State of Decay 2 – Five Tips To Enhance the Zombie-Slicing Fun

State of Decay 2 has finally launched for Xbox One. I was a big fan of the original game and spent hundreds of hours playing it. I also can faithfully say that I love the sequel. So without any further ado, here are my 5 tips on how to get the best possible gameplay experience.

Note: all photos courtesy of my iPad camera and my tv. Deal with it!

1 – That vehicle has a trunk

In the original SoD Undead Labs added carrying capacity (aka a trunk) to vehicles through some DLC. SoD2 has it right from the start. Vehicles that you are driving around have carrying capacity and broken down vehicles also have can be holding stuff. A vehicle trunk effectively doubles your character’s ability to collect and transport items. So next time you go scavenging don’t forget that I told you to put junk in the trunk!

My truck’s trunk with one rucksack in it. Just walk to the back of the truck and hit Y to interact with the trunk.

2 – Remember what Col. Kurtz said, “Never get out of the boat–unless you are going all the way!”

Darn straight. Your vehicle is both your protection against the zeds and a battering ram. Never, I repeat never get out of your car! I don’t care how much road rage you have, stay in the car! Trust me, you will live longer.

A picture of my truck after I rammed two, yes two, hordes.  Do you see me lying dead on the ground?  Nope, because I stayed in the truck.

A pic of my truck after I ran down two hordes. Do you see me lying dead on the ground? Darn straight you don’t! I stayed in the truck.

3 – Rucks jump from trucks!

Do you know what those parking spots are for at your base? So that you can unload stuff to your supply directly from your trunk. Don’t know what a trunk is? See tip #1.

Did you miss in the pic from tip #1 that on the bottom right it says RT to “transfer to base.” Now you know why you are looking at the same pic because most gamers have not yet noticed that tiny message! So go ahead and hit that right trigger and fire those supplies directly to your supply! No need to run back and forth!

4 – Outposts are for key utility service

In SoD1 you needed outposts to protect your base and provide basic stuff like food. Not this time as you can collect plenty of resources and those zeds walk right up to your base no matter how many outposts ring it. So instead use your outposts to provide utilities like water and electricity to your base! Trust me you will like the game more when your base lights are always on!

You better believe that I just made that water tower an outpost! It provides water for my garden and kitchen AND a morale boost! Much better than 1 extra food a day. And my yellow circle is highlighting the power station that I nabbed as my next outpost.

5 – Your radio is your best friend

I don’t know about you, but I can rack up some serious influence. So what is a guy to do with all that influence? Get on the radio! Use your radio to find resources, survivors, and other stuff. Heck, I bought the prepper’s pack so for a measly 200 influence I get a shiny new yellow truck dropped off at my feet any time I want! If you grab a military outpost you can even call in an artillery barrage. Ba-boom!

Use your radio early and often if you want to stay alive in style!

Special bonus tip #6

Use the co-op function to get your buddy in your game (or join his/her game). A real human to whom you are talking on a headset and is watching your back can make a big difference. And for real kicks bring in up to 3 friends, grab some trucks, and start a convoy of destruction (see tip #2) that surely will get rid of every zed in the city!

Okay, now go out there and chop up those zombies!

What did I just get from Kickstarter? A: Helionox

I support a lot of games on Kickstarter. I feel that sponsoring games from smaller companies is a good way to support the “little guy/gal” in the industry. So I am always happy when I come home from work and find a package at my door that contains a game from Kickstarter.

Yesterday I received my copy of Helionox!

I ordered the Deluxe Edition that includes the Mercury Protocol Expansion from Mr. B Games and Zeroic Games. Helionox is “a movement based deck building board game for 1-4 players that can be played in competitive, cooperative, or solo modes.”

I love sci-fi themed games, and Helionox is a dystopian future. “In Helionox, terrible events plague the Solar System as the result of a dying sun. Players are the Architects of the future, vying for influence among the remaining population. Craft your deck with powerful faction cards, explore and exploit the system’s worlds, and gain the most influence so you can lead civilization to a new beginning in the wake of the Helionox!”

The game combines deck-building with the common “threat” mechanism by which the slow build-up of events and catastrophes slowly bring about the end of the game.

The components look top notch (including wooden pieces not included in my photos) and the rules are clear and solid. The art by Luke Green is fantastic and evocative of the dystopian theme.

I can’t wait to play it!

What I Learned in only 2 Games of Forbidden Island

Lee gifted me Forbidden Island from Gamewright for Christmas.

The game is cooperative in which 2-4 players race across a sinking island to secure four treasures and get to the helicopter before everything descends into the murky, watery abyss. It plays similar to Pandemic in that players get to take actions, collect sets of cards, and slowly reveal what sections of the island sink each turn. As the water rises, the pace increases, and the players must try to stay one step ahead.

As a veteran of Pandemic (and Pandemic Legacy) as well as Ghost Stories and similar games, I felt I had a good handle on these sort of cooperative race games. Boy was I pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was! After two games, here is what I learned:

1 – The Island Sinks Fast

Compared to Pandemic, the pace in Forbidden Island is much quicker. The game plays in under 30 minutes….easily. I found that what I thought were reasonable actions (like shoring up some tiles–in other words, flipping a tile from flooded to unflooded) were completely wrong. I realized after two defeats that I would have to optimize my turn much more than I originally thought.

2 – Hand Management is Tough

To get a treasure, a player needs a set of 4 matching cards. There are two big issues: 1) there are only 5 of each treasure card available in the Treasure Deck and 2) a player’s hand limit is 5 cards. Unlike the higher hand limit and excess matching-color cards in Pandemic, the scarcity of cards in Forbidden Island and small hand size mean that players must trade cards more strategically.

3 – Protect Fools’ Landing

Fools’ Landing is the tile with a helicopter for the players to escape the sinking island after grabbing the treasures. If it sinks beneath the waves, game over Man! We lost a game because we chose to leave Fools’ Landing flooded while taking care of other tasks. We paid the ultimate price when a Waters Rise! card was drawn and the first Flood Card drawn was Fools’ Landing, sinking the tile.

4 – This Game is Fun!

Despite two losses (on Novice level, egads!) I am ready to try again. The gameplay is quick and enjoyable. I have a lot to learn, but the fun will be in the trying.