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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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The Big Book of Madness: A Post-Gen Con Review after Two Games

The Big Book of Madness by Iello Games (BBoM) was released last December.  My brother and I got a chance to check it out at Gen Con 2016 (check out some photos Here and Here) and we purchased it.  We really enjoy cooperative games such as Pandemic and Ghost Stories, so we figured BBoM would be a nice addition.

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The Big Book of Madness

Initial Impression?  Visually Stunning and Great Theme!

One of the negatives that I got from walking about the Indy Convention Center at Gen Con 2016 was that many game companies are rushing games to market.  Without naming names, I saw a plethora of games with bad art, cheap/sub-standard components (can you say it looked like crayon on a cereal box interior?) and poor execution.  The Big Book of Madness is exactly the opposite of all that!

The art is visually stunning and evocative of the theme: students of a magic academy open a Big Book of Madness and now have to try and contain the monsters jumping forth from its pages.  The character choices (there are 8, 2 in each of the 4 colors/elements of magic) are all distinct in presentation and have different rules mechanics.

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4 of the 8 characters.  Sorry about that light source on the Green card, my bad!

Other game components are also of high quality.  The board is sturdy and supports the theme. On the board, he BBoM rests in the middle, the madness emanates from the hole on the right, and the scroll on the left keeps track of the rounds and curses.  On the scroll, the arabic numerals are rounds, the roman numerals are the 3 levels of difficulty, and the brown cards are extra curses to add each round.  Spaces for the curses are at the bottom and the large numbers are for the individual turns within a round. A book token moves along those big numbers counter-clockwise from 1 to 5 and back again.

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The Board

One of the best thematic components, and also a great source of evocative art, is the Big Book of Madness itself.  The book has a cover that is opened at the start of the game, revealing the first monster and its curses.  Each round the book is turned until it gets to the end.  Here is an example of what an open book looks like.  Looks like a real book, doesn’t it?  In reality it is a set of double-sided cards that are slowly flipped and moved from the left pile to the right.

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Example of an open book.  Pretty cool huh?

Game Play: Fun…and really, really tough!

To summarize the rules, each player manages a deck of element cards and a set of spells toward the goal of removing curses.  If the players remove all the curses on the board they defeat the current monster and get a bonus, otherwise they get a penalty.  If the players defeat the final monster they win, otherwise they lose.  Players get more and more element cards and also Madness cards as the game progresses, combining deck-building and resource management mechanics.  The game has a lot of opportunities for cooperation as players develop a common support pool of element cards and can actively give non-active players actions during any active player’s turn.

I found the level of both tension and difficulty within BBoM to be very similar to Ghost Stories (Ghost Stories at Asmodee).  We played both a 2-player and a 4-player game, and like most cooperative games, the more players involved, the harder the game felt.  We won the 2-p game but lost the 4-p game (pretty badly actually).  While bad luck certainly played a part in the 4-player loss, most of the game we felt like we were behind and struggling to catch up as the number of curses slowly increased each round. And we were playing on the lowest level (I) of difficulty!

As this is what makes BBoM very fun indeed!  Beating a cooperative game the first few times you play it should be tough.  The enjoyment comes from both trying to win and also learning how to win.  At one point in the 4-player game we were down and just about out.  On my turn I needed to draw a 3-point white card to defeat a curse that was going to finish us by draining the Madness deck.  What happened?  I drew the needed card and well…the crowd went wild!  We were hooting and hollering even though we knew that I had only temporarily delayed the inevitable defeat.  I learned a lot in my first two plays of BBoM and I anticipate that winning will be easier but probably not more likely than 50-50.

Verdict: A Very Good Game

What else can I say about BBoM?  The rules are well-written (and the rulebook is gorgeous too) and the game offers 1) enough strategy and complexity to keep avid boardgamers interested while 2) being simple enough for casual gamers to enjoy it.  Here is an example of what a game looks like in progress:

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The Big Book of Madness in progress.  Note the little Book marker on space #3.

If you like cooperative games, I highly recommend you run, don’t walk, to your nearest game store and buy The Big Book of Madness!

 

Gen Con Day One

My brother and I wandered the Exhibit Hall today and only made our way through just over half of it!  Tomorrow I will post some photos from the Exhibit Hall, but today I want to show you what we purchased so far.

Eminent Domain: Microcosm.  It’s a 2-player game set in the Eminent Domain universe and promises to last only 10 minutes.

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Two expansions for Smash Up: It’s Your Fault (fan requests) and Cease and Desist (Sci Fi/Fantasy that mimic Star Wars, GoT, etc).

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The Big Book of Madness.  A co-operative game for 2-5 players.

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Two copies of a Promo Card for Tanto Cuore.

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And the free annual Gen Con d6 from Crystal Castle.

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We have already played a couple games and I am going to write up some reviews once I get back home.

 

That’s it for now.  More good stuff from Gen Con 2016 tomorrow!