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.

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.

Scythe: The Rise of Fenris — Episode One

— the new expansion/campaign for Scythe is out. Let’s get ready to rumble!

I picked up my order of Scythe: Rise of Fenris from Meeplesource at Gen Con 2018. My gang of friends was ready to get started right away, so we got a game in yesterday. I might give away a few spoilers, so you are forewarned! And remember to be forewarned is to have four arms! Wait…that’s not right. Oh well, you understand what I am trying to say.

The Premise: The Search for Tesla

The basic idea of the campaign is that the disastrous and inconclusive Great War is over. The city-sized Factory run by Nikola Tesla that supplied all the designs for the Mechs has gone silent. It’s 1921 and the Europa powers are back on their feet. They also are trying to get into Tesla’s Factory to see what is in the sealed inner vault. (As an aside, I hope Gerardo Rivera is not involved and that there is going to be more in Tesla’s vault than Al Capone’s Vault.)

Anyway, the set up for the first game is pretty much like a normal game of Scythe, except for three differences. First, an extra Objective Card is flipped over and placed near the objective track. Each player can try to complete this Objective in addition to their normal Objective requirements. Second, each player can pick a “perk” and add its bonus to their starting position. For example, there are +2 resources, +1 starting worker, +3 Power, etc. Third, an Influence Marker is placed on each of the 10 possible Achievements plus one marker on the revealed common Objective Card.

— a couple of the Influence markers

It wasn’t explained in the rules what the Influence tokens would be used for, but whomever was first to the achievement could grab the token.

The Game

There were four of us. Stew played the Rusviet Union and got to go first. Lee was next with the Togawa Shogunate, I was third with Saxony, and Bob last with Clan Albion. Lee got off to a quick start by upgrading his board to reduce the cost of more upgrades to a single resource. Stew was first to the Factory and looked to be catching up. I developed my mechs quicker than the others, allowing my Character to move quickly around the map looking for Exploration card bonuses. Bob focused on slow expansion and placing his flags.

As the game moved along, I slowly gained the most Influence tokens, mainly from being the first to complete an Objective, Build all my mechs, and place all my workers. I got to the Factory second but the cards there were not all that good. I retreated in the face of Lee and his Shogunate mechs, and he eventually got into the Factory.

As the end game approached, Stew, Lee and myself were getting close to the sixth Achievement, but each didn’t want to end the game from a losing position. Lee had a lot of hexes controlled, Stew had a lot of coins, Bob had top tier Popularity, and I was arguably in last. When it looked like my situation couldn’t get better, I stormed the Factory with two Mechs and knocked Lee’s Character out of it–but at a high cost! The Shogunate Trap was a -2 Popularity which sunk me down out of the second-tier and back to the first-tier, costing me roughly 15 coins!

Lee and his Shogunate ended up victorious with 81 coins, Stew’s Rusviet were second with 73, while Bob’s Clan Albion and my Saxons we’re tied at 53.

Each player now could mark on their Campaign Log the Achievements that they completed. For each Achievement, a player marks a spot on their Triumph Log. At the end of the campaign, completed rows and columns will give a coin bonus.

— Lee’s Campaign Log. Note that he got to mark his Episode One victory.

The Influence Vote: Peace or War?

After calculating victory, we learned what those Influence tokens were for. Each player was given 1 extra Influence token on top of what they earned. Each player then secretly allocated their Influence tokens into two hidden piles: any in the closed left hand was a vote for war, and any in the closed right hand was a vote for peace. We made our choices and then revealed simultaneously. Saxony and Rusviet had 7 votes for war and zero for peace, while Clan Albion and Togawa had 0 votes for war and 5 for peace. 7 to 5 for War!!!

The campaign has two separate sets of rules for the second episode: one for peace and one for war. This is pretty cool as different groups and/or second attempts at the campaign can have different episodes. Sweet!

Anyway, the first episode didn’t differ much from the base game, but given this war vs peace vote, we are expecting it to lead to some sort of big changes in the next episode. See you there!

State of Decay 2 – Best Tips and Tricks

— all photos courtesy of my TV and IPad. ’nuff said.

I’ve logged my hours playing the new State of Decay 2 on my Xbox One. And I’ve learned a few things. What follows are some of my sneakiest tricks to keep my community alive and jack my influence through the roof! And these aren’t the run-of-the-mill tricks that you can find all over the internet. Those tips are from reviewers who probably barely played the game. Typically they say things like, “use guns on freaks” or “use guns on plague hearts” or “be nice to enclaves, they can help you.” Yeah duh! Those aren’t tips or tricks, they are things any competent player learns in the first few minutes.

No, my tricks come from wasted days and wasted nights with my controller in my hands. So, if you listen carefully grasshopper, you too can become a SoD2 master like me!

Recruit Everybody…and then kick them out!

This trick is so obvious that you would have to be a no-brainer to not figure it out. Get it? No-brainer. Like a zombie! Hahaha! Okay, it wasn’t that good of a joke. Anyway, on those missions where some lost and lonely survivor wants you to run down some rucksack for them, it totally is a bummer when you do all the work and then hand them the loot! Well, I say do the work, get the loot, and more! After you give them the rucksack, recruit them to your community. Once you get home to your base, switch to the new character and bogart that rucksack and everything else that he/she is carrying (most likely a melee weapon, gun, and at least 1 other item), and then boot them! You don’t know what to Bogart something means? Have you been living under a rock? Anyway, this trick works with enclaves too. Recruit one of them, bring them home, loot them, then boot. Rinse, lather and repeat as necessary to fill up your supply locker.

Move Your Parked Vehicles to Your New Base Using Teleportation Pads–With all the Rucksacks That They Can Hold

Don’t you just hate switching bases and leaving all your vehicles behind? It totally blows chunks! And if you are like me, half those vehicles are crammed with surplus rucksacks. How do you get those vehicles and rucksacks to your new base all the way across town? You COULD enlist a platoon of dudes in co-op to join you and then drive that fleet to your new base. They get nothing out of it and lose 5 minutes of their lives that they can never get back. Ba-ba-ba-ba-boring! Instead, make sure your vehicles crammed with rucksacks are parked in your parking slots, drive a different vehicle (full of items and/or rucksacks of course) to your new location. Here is the important part: do NOT park in a designated parking spot. Go inside, claim the home base, and viola your parked vehicles teleport to the new base like its Star Trek and are sitting in parking spots!

— those yellow lines and that square, blue sign designate your parking spots, aka Teleportation Pads!

Load Up Items on Characters Before Completing the Last Legacy Mission

Once you start the last legacy mission the game will end when it completes. When you start the next game you can grab up to 3 characters from any previous communities. And when you start a new game, you do NOT start with all the items in your supply locker that you had before (a great, big bummer). Wouldn’t it be nice if those 3 surviving characters were loaded with .50 cal weapons, first aid kits, grenades, etc? Well they can be! Before you start that last legacy mission, figure out what 3 characters you want to use in the next game. Then switch to them one-by-one and fill up their inventory with weapons, items, etc. And don’t forget to give each a rucksack too! As an extra tip, you will need a gas can when you start the next game, so be sure to pack at least one.

— look at that packed inventory! This character has an AK-47, a shotgun, some pipe bombs, meds, a gas can, and an auto repair kit. Once I grab a rucksack, Lulu is ready for the next game!

Remember What Mr. T. Said, “I Pity the Fool Who Finishes that Fast Car/Action Movie Mission”

If you have played SoD2 at all, you know all about the fast car/action movie mission. One of your survivors will say something like “killing zombies is exciting, but not action movie exciting. I’ve got an idea to fix that.” What you might not know is that the game generates a fast car on the map so that you can complete the mission. And what you might “double not know” is that in the trunk of each of these cars are 2 to 4 slots of explosives and other cool items! And what you might “triple not know” is that as long as you don’t complete this mission, it will spawn over and over and over and over. Let it do so, go find the cars, look in the trunk, and grab the goodies!

— this fast car has a fuel bomb and fireworks. Use them to light up some zeds like the Fourth of July!

Blood Plague is Your Friend

Say what?!? I bet you think the blood plague is a scourge. Au contraire mein freund! Did you know that for a measly 3 blood plague samples you can get 15+ influence? I bet you didn’t! Let a survivor get hit by a plague zombie and then head over to your infirmary. Select “Infection Therapy.” For 3 plague samples (I am serious here, it doesn’t even cost you any meds, only the samples–which by the way you should be collecting off the pavement like discarded pennies) you not only get rid of the blood plague, you also get 15 influence (or more if you have jacked on your command center to boost your gained influence). What a bargain!

— 17 influence for only 3 plague samples?!? Yes! Don’t listen to those other tips online that say to sell them to traders for 1 influence a piece (and the occasional glitch where you get 2 influence). Why grind away like that…and get a lower return. Just go to your base and collect 5+ influence per plague sample…and cure your survivors at the same time. Oh…why you ask are my survivors “cheerful”? Because they are happy that I have been using my tricks!

See, I told you I was the #realdeal! Now you know it! So get out there and slap around those zeds with my tips and tricks! Tell them I sent you!

Stew’s Rant Corner: Daimyo’s Fall

It’s time for another edition of Stew’s Rant Corner in which my brother Stew explains how and why a game disappointed him.

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— Daimyo’s Fall. Treasure Hunting Deck Building Card Game. Yep, that’s how it’s labeled on the box.

A Lot of Good Ideas….

Hi again, everyone.  It is nice again for me to rant about a game that I want to love, but just cannot possibly do so.  That game is Daimyo’s Fall.  Ok, you may or may not have heard about it.  But Daimyo’s Fall was Kickstarted quickly and is a deck-building card game.  It has everything that would make me fall in love with it: samurai, ninjas, leaders with cool powers, incredible card art, random cards to buy to build your deck, cards with multiple uses, deck-building, random treasurers to be had, cards with value that can be exchanged for other cards, the ability to exhaust cards, ways to duel other player’s leaders…….ok wait a minute.  How much does this game include in it?

— Some of the card art on Hero cards, some samurai and some ninja. Numbers in top left are attack and defense. Bottom left are petals (ie the timer that leads to the game ending). Victory points are top right.

…But Too Many Jammed into a Single Game…

This is the trouble with Daimyo’s Fall.  It has everything that I would want in a game, but everything sometimes means it has too much.  Every card in the game has multiple uses, which leads to stagnant delays while each player goes through the multitude of permutations of possible actions.  Every card can be used to buy other cards, or be used for its power, leading to many cost/benefit analysis decisions going on with each and every card.  It begins to become overwhelming.

….And an Objective that Doesn’t Really Work…

Another problem with Daimyo’s Fall is the objective gets lost. Ok, the objective is to supposedly replace the Daimyo who has fallen (hence Daimyo’s Fall).  In order to do that you need to get more victory points than your opponents. One of the ways to do this is to gather treasures (either Samurai or Ninja).  Oh, by the way, the ending to the game is determined by how quickly the petals fall off of a lotus plant, which happens when certain cards are played.  Unfortunately, this mechanic is there to stop the game at a certain point, since, as I will detail, there is no actual replacement of the Daimyo going to happen here.  But, as I was saying, you attempt to gather treasures to help gain victory points and make your deck more powerful.

Here is the problem with this strategy.  I played the game with two other individuals, Neal and Bob.  I got on a roll early, was gathering treasurers like bees gather honey.  Neal was doing OK with gathering treasures and Bob barely had any.  Once the last lotus petal dropped we counted victory points, expecting that I had overwhelmingly destroyed my opponents in the game, Neal had done well, and Bob had done very poorly.  You can imagine our shock when Bob’s victory point total was almost Neal’s and Neal’s was barely a point behind mine.  What?!  All of my work to gather treasures to garner victory points was for naught?  (Editor’s note here: I agree with Stew in that Bob and I did NOT have any superior strategy or gameplay than Stew’s. Yet, we were close to him on victory points. It didn’t make sense to us either.)

— Clockwise from top left: ninja reinforcement (ie the cards that you buy and sell, in top left corner is buy price=4 and sell price=2), samurai reinforcement, samurai treasure (now top left is attack and defense, not buy/sale prices; victory points at top right of card), and ninja treasure. Are you keeping up? At bottom of cards are Tanto Cuore-like bonuses for drawing cards, mon (=currency), deployments, and trades. Still keeping up? Trade points allow you to send treasures back to their piles and draw new ones. Did I mention that you shuffle traded treasures in the pile before you draw new ones? That means you can trade in a treasure and draw back the same treasure.

…Leads to Counter-Productive Game Play…

Unfortunately, this is the “everything turns into nothing” problem of Daimyo’s Fall.  The treasures are given to me randomly; and some of them hurt my victory point total.  Say again?  I was working hard to hurt my victory point total?  Yep, that’s exactly what happened.  The mechanic of random treasures meant that I got treasures that hurt my deck-building, dropped lotus leaves, and took away from my victory points.  So one must ask, why was I trying to get treasures in the first place?  I was trying to win the game by doing so.  Counter-productive isn’t it?

…Combined with too Much Randomness…

The next problem arose as several pools are set up to allow players to buy cards, either samurai, ninja, or leader.  These often contained multiple cards of the same type which led us to constantly be wasting time with actions just shuffling cards out of the pools in the hopes that the next random card would be better.  While I can enjoy a little randomness in a game, if each of the three card pools is random, each of the 3 treasure decks is random, ok what actual strategy is left in the game if everything is random?  See the problem.  Daimyo’s Fall makes winning truly random (see the paragraph above as to the hard work I did just to fall behind).

 …That Adds up to Less than the Sum of the Parts

Daimyo’s Fall is truly a case where everything leads to nothing.  The game becomes unmanageable quickly, turns stagnate as we watch each other working hard to figure out all of the combinations, randomness makes any real strategy meaningless, and working towards the goal can be counter-productive.  All of this makes me sad to say that another game that I would love to love, I will never play again.