Kickstarters of the week 18/11/2013

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Christmas may not come early this year but this weeks Kickstarters will. This is your last shot at backing these awesome projects in their final hours. As always, we’re watching your back so you don’t have to…plus that would leave a nasty crick in your neck. Lets begin shall we?

Brew Crafters: A board game about making beer

c94de757c3d48b32e513d9d6345a4d22_largeIn continuing last weeks thread of innovative games, we’re going to show you a game whose subject matter is quite close to most gamers that’ve ever hosted a game night. Well, sort of…We’re not brewing anything, we’re just drinking it, but just hear me out for second. Beer has become intrinsically connected to board games in recent times, epitomised by the likes of the Beer & Board Games Show and Wil Wheatons collaboration with fark.com creator Drew Curtis and Stone Breweries to create their own imperial stout. What a handsome looking beverage, don’t you think? Thanks to these guys though, twitter is now awash with board gamers tweeting about their favourite ales. Hell! I’ve even gone full hipster & make sure I always check the beer section in our local store. I’m not really a hipster though…What was that? Why yes, I do collect 70’s prog rock records…& yes, I also ride a single speed bike…but I’m not a hipster….I swear……F*%k. I’m a hipster. Moving on. Refreshingly this new-found love of beer is performed in a really sensible manner. People are genuinely interested in knowing their hops from their barley, so it was inevitable that this subject matter would “crop” up in board game form at some stage. What’s amazing though, is that this could ONLY have been done as a board game. I doubt you could get kids excited with a flash game about managing your own brewery. “Tap the screen when your beer is ready….loading….loading….loa…*zzzzzzz*”. However! The moment you say “we’re making a euro style board game about beer brewing, where you’ll have to compete against players for ingredients like malt, yeast and fruits in a market place, while developing new beers in an expanding facility AND managing your breweries costs & output”, I say “Oh. Hell. But. F*%k yeah!” There’s something magical about board games that lets us investigate a subject in an interactive yet entertaining way that no other medium can achieve. Brew Crafters not only looks beautiful but also looks like a charming and sincere game to play. The thought of collecting those Pumpkin Stout tokens is too good. I reckon fans of Kolejka and Viticulture will enjoy this.

Shadows Of Brimstone

8d9c585bafdf3ea75a8afbef638b6e37_largeWoah! It looks like this game needs no help from anybody as its made over a million frickin’ dollars! But we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t report on the big guns as well as the little guys. Shadows Of Brimstone is not the only game to net a substantial figure on kickstarter though. You might remember Kingdom Death from one of our earlier posts. While Kingdom Death might be having its share of teething pains during its development, lets hope Shadows Of Brimstone avoids any of these set backs that seem to bog down the more succesful kickstarters. Aside from financial likeness though, SoB does share many other similarities with its millionaire cousin. Both are expansive dungeon crawl epics that come chocka-block with highly detailed miniatures, and as things get better on kickstarter, more options are being unlocked in the stretch goals as we speak. If I recall Kingdom Death ended up with 11 expansions by the end of their campaign. Thats NUTS! There’s obviously something about these kind of games that get people reaching for their wallets quicker than a wild west gunslinger in a showdown. However I think the main feature that’s attracting backers to Shadows Of Brimstone is the setting and story. Watch the games developers talk about just ONE of the worlds you get to explore in this video. It’s clear that these guys love this stuff and have spent a lot of time developing the mythos in this beast of a game.

7309aba848931b71a8c02a7ffc948a5a_largeSo the premise of the game is this. Once upon a time in a small mid-western mining town called Brimstone, townsfolk started finding a mysterious black rock. More & more of this precious stone was mined and stock piled around the town. Unfortunately this served as a catalyst for the unknown material to react in a violent explosion, destroying everything in its wake. From out of the smoke and charred remains, inter-dimensional demons started to emerge and Hell on earth had been unleashed. As the mines spewed forth unspeakable horrors, Brimstone would never be the same again. If your familiar with Descent or Cave Evil then Shadows Of Brimstone will be right up your alley. Players embark on a massive campaign, exploring the mines one stage at a time, finding new equipment while upgrading in small frontier towns in the interim, until finally you reach portals to the other side, where your quest goes from a spaghetti western to a Lovecraftian nightmare. The game comes in 2 flavours from the get go, either you take your chances in the frozen wastelands in the City of The Ancients, or you can try your luck wading through the sludge of the otherworldly Swamps of Death. It’s all very schlocky and is your standard dungeon crawl affair, but that’s exactly what you want from this kind of game. You don’t need to elevate yourself to a higher plane of enlightenment to enjoy this. It’s a straight balls-to-the-wall dungeon slug-fest, only this time you get to be cowboys and cowgirls. Something we definitely need more of in the board game world. All I have is BANG! (which is amazing!), but it does surprise me just how much a simple flip of the switch can add so much colour and life to a well established genre. So if your tired of the usual fantasy warrior/elf/dwarf kind of thing, I reckon this will satisfy any urge to go down in to the bowels of hell.

The Kings Armory

bad45eb08f011dd6cc5881d1131a4f73_largeDon’t throw away your Gandalf hat just yet though. You want fantasy? You got it. Before I got stuck into The Kings Armory’s kickstarter page, when I thought of tower defense games I could only muster images of grumpy commuters on the 6AM tube to London Bridge frantically smashing their iPhone screens, trying to throw shit heaps of plantlife at hordes of oncoming zombies. Needless to say my knowledge of the genre was fairly limited. So when I saw a kickstarter for a board game that claims to be “THE” tower defense game, I figured, “all right hot-shot, lets see what you got”. After spending some time lurking the page I am now confident that TKA is exactly what it says it is. In fact, I am pretty sure that the people who INVENTED the genre are probably clenching their fists so hard round about now, that they could compress a lump of coal into a diamond.This is Gate Keeper Games second attempt at Kickstarter for the Kings Armory, but that is completely irrelevant because, in short, this is going to be a wicked game! The first campaign was criticised mostly due to its unreachable funding goal, but this time around GKG has streamlined things, polished off the rust and delivered a tour de force of a package.

da22c5bcbd45a0eb96d4dd6e663f4fb4_largeDown to the nitty-gritty. In TKA up to 7 players take the side of the king’s guard, who are sworn to protect the armory which holds terrible & great weapons of destruction. Wave after wave of monstrous being pours out from the enemy’s camp with the sole objective of breaking through your walls. It’s your job to stand in their way and take it . Unlike plants Vs zombies, pears Vs ninjas, monkeys Vs parking attendants or any of those other finger melting games of pure swill, what strikes me as the main selling point of TKA is its variability. You can change the difficulty, the length of the game, the number of monsters, the number of players, the modes of play, you name it. The game even accounts for new players joining in late or players leaving early, WITHOUT unbalancing the game. The level of adaptability is truly remarkable. Actually everything about this game looks like tremendous fun. Right down to the slightly goofy art, the fantasy fiction character names, the whole thing looks to me like the kind of game that should be advertised on the back of some comic book with a picture of an over zealous kid exclamating “The Kings Armory ROCKS!”. It’s not just a wave of nostalgia that attracts me to this game though, its more the fact that the whole prospect is so exciting, and for a long time now fantasy board games have needed a kick up the ass. The warrior will be tanking enemies as they desperately storm passed you, as your mage, positioned in one of your constructed towers, shoots fire balls at the ones that manage to slip past, hopefully setting them ablaze so that may burn asunder in their upkeep phase. Once you’ve managed to hunt the last little bastard of a wave down, you get a moment of respite to buy new armour and weapons, before gearing up for the next attack. Slowly getting better equipped but edging closer to death. “Here they come again!”. You keep chopping at that bit, dodging and weaving, chasing and crushing until finally the big boss comes rampaging through their gates, throwing your troops across the battle field like rag dolls and you need to collectively regroup for that one last stand. Eh-pic. If I own just one tower defense game in my life time, I think I’ll make it this one.

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Android: The Universe – Pt 1.

introAs usual it’s taken us a long time to write anything for the blog. For once it’s not down to sheer laziness though….well maybe a little. It was summer! Can you blame me??? Mostly however, we’ve been focusing a lot of our game time hacking the Android universe. Now I’m sure our twitter followers are sick to death of hearing us harp on about Android, which by the way, is the single most useless game to tweet about since your “#Android” tweets just get lost in a sea of OS spam. Nonetheless, I get the feeling that there is some hesitation from gamers about getting into this series. It might be the mixed reviews floating around the net about both Android and Infiltration (both of which were made by acclaimed designers), or maybe board gamers are a little reluctant to get sucked into yet another “collectible” card game like Netrunner. Whatever the cause of this trepidation, I thought it was high time to write why we enjoy these games and why it has become our favourite tabletop franchise. So coming up in the next few weeks we’ll have a look at the all the games in the franchise. Today however, we start with the big boss. The one that started it all….

Android

Why are streets always wet in detective movies?

Why are streets always wet in detective movies?

Android is a murder/mystery story building game set in the dystopian future city of New-Angeles. Mega corporations run the sprawling network of the city, which your investigator needs to navigate, gather information from and try to solve the murder. In my humble opinion, Android is probably the most underrated game in the history of documenting things & calling it “history”. Alas, I am but one man though. Where ever you look on the net that reviews things made out of cardboard, it gets tagged with that dreaded “so-so” review score. Fans love it because of the setting and story, but those that hate it scream from the rafters about the mechanics. Mostly I think it’s a big misunderstanding about the point of the game. I can’t blame them though. Before its release Fantasy Flight really pushed the role play and mystery solving angles on this game. Which I’ll admit, sounds like an intriguing prospect and is indeed what caught my attention (Who wouldn’t want to see a Sci-Fi Noir, D&D and Clue hybrid?) but that’s not really how the game pans out. You’re never actually trying to find out who the murderer is as you already know this from the start of the game. Well, that’s not quite right either. Actually you have possible SUSPECTS that you’re trying to pin the murder on. This is probably the biggest point where people start to jump off the Android ship. People were expecting a “whodunnit” story game that plays out as you go gumshoeing along, somewhat along the lines of Arabian Nights or Agents of SMERSH; instead they got a highly strategic puzzler. I for one love that! And here are a few reasons

image(3)The game possesses such varied mechanics that interleave with one another. Each layer adds different strategies you can employ to win the game. Firstly you can attempt to pin the murder on a suspect by mounting evidence against them, or as. While your detective chases up leads around New-Angeles, you have the option to uncover evidence. Don’t worry; you won’t be shouting obscenities at each other just yet. That’ll come later. You’ll take a token from the evidence pool and place it on a particular suspect involved in the murder case. Depending on the value of the token, it’ll determine if the suspect is innocent or guilty. Usually, the point of the game where derogatory utterances begin is when a player places evidence on a suspect, and you refer to the 2 “hunch cards” you were dealt in the beginning of the game, one showing you a guilty suspect the other an innocent citizen, and of course, said player is building a case against your innocent hunch. Or at least who you believe to be. After all, you’re only going by your ‘dick’ instincts.

image(6)However you need to keep hunches secret for as long as possible. If your opponents find out who you’re building a case against/in favour of, they might employ “Humanity Labor” to put hits out on your suspects. Once there are 3 hits on a suspect, he/she is dead, removed from the game and potentially lost a player a ton of precious victory points. That’s not the only cuss inducing method in your quest for evidence though. There are also these nasty little tokens called “alibis”, which as we all know from day time soap operas, seriously derail the plot line. Alibis have the power to “reverse” evidence, as well as synapse with your brain, forcing you to shout out random portmanteau expletives. Subsequently, the word “funt” now adds colour to many more situations in our daily lives. Thanks Android! Surprisingly though, building a case against a suspect isn’t the most important thing on the board, although it is a really fun part of the game. Back and forth bluffing will potentially have you offload evidence on one suspect as each player battles for their hunch card, only to have him eventually assassinated! Meanwhile, the unsuspecting mining clone ‘Mark Henry’, sits with +1 point in his case file, making him the guilty party and netting another player 15 valuable victory points.

You could also try your hand at resolving your characters “plot cards” as a means to gain VP. When the game begins, each player is given a plot card that instructs them what to do in order to progress onto the next stage of the plot. This could be anything from discarding player cards to choosing how you are going to fight. Basically, as you journey around New-Angeles you will do things. Doing things will get you “baggage”. Which is sometimes good…

image(2)Raymond enters a seedy club on the south side of town. He feels the eyes of every patron scanning him up and down. They’re wondering if Raymond is going to kick up a stink and nose around in things that should maybe be left well alone, or is he going to just be the predictable jaded alcoholic cop that he is and take a seat at the bar. You play one of your “light” cards. “Hey, didn’t you fly in the 21rst division?” Ray cuts through the tectonic beat of the clubs sound system and turns to the sound of the voice. He sees someone vaguely familiar to him. It’s an old war buddy he used to fly with. Rather than make a fuss or drown his sorrows at the bottom of a bourbon alone, Ray pulls up a seat, places his order with the waitress and begins to reminisce about the good ‘ol days. The guy gives Ray a free “dropship pass” and Raymond gains 1 GOOD baggage for entering a “nightlife” location during this plot line. Sweet. – (This was actual gameplay by the way)

On the other hand though, sometimes baggage can be bad….

image(9)The bioroid Floyd overrides one of his prime directives in the hopes of getting a deceitful lead on the case. You play one of Raymonds “Haunted by the Past” cards. By now Ray has had a few too many drinks anyway. He barely manages to stand himself up with some semblance of dignity and stumbles into the clubs bathroom where the music is less deafening. After splashing some water on his face he takes a long deep gaze at his reflection in the mirror. The voice in his head starts to murmur as it normally does. The memories come flooding back and all of a sudden Raymond can’t breathe. A hand reaches out to help, “Hey buddy, you okay?” In a panic Raymond lashes out and starts throwing punches. Flailing in a drunken stupor like an unbalanced spinning top, and then darkness. The next thing Raymond sees is his own two feet staring back at him, as he slowly realises he’s waking up in a dumpster in the alley out back. He gains 2 “bad baggage” for fighting like a chimp. Bollocks.

Fantasy Flight made no secret of Android being a story driven game, which comes to much woe for players who just aren’t into roleplaying (or a bit rubbish at it), but that’s fine. No problem. You can delve into the cards text as much as you like or just go straight into what the cards actions are instead. In the end, you’re trying to score your plot cards with a positive amount of baggage to get the maximum amount of victory points.
image(7)Even if you’re not a storyteller kind of group, there is a THIRD way to play (and possibly the highest scoring yet most understated in the rules). In the top corner of the board is a puzzle board, and instead of placing evidence on a suspect after following a lead, you have the option to uncover a piece of the conspiracy. What this means is that you are trying to build links between some of the corporations in the game with the current murder case. “There’s more to this case. I just know it. Someone else was involved.” You place a puzzle piece down and try to connect a continuous line between the corporation spaces on the outside of the puzzle. Unlocking these can fundamentally change who will win the game. Sometimes a space grants that a certain currency token count towards your victory points or maybe it affects the results of plots, or maybe you get to place a hit for free, or maybe…There’s a lot of options here and having a good look at the puzzle will greatly improve your chances at winning. Not merely because of the links you’re trying to uncover, but also because there is a second dimension to the puzzle…yup, you guessed. That’s right, bingo…No, really. It’s bingo! This can net you a whole mess of points, but if you focus too much of your time on trying to uncover the conspiracy, you’ll have no time to chase any real leads on the case and your left holding a crumpled, sweaty bunch of newspaper clippings, with indecipherable hieroglyphics hastily scribbled on them, trying to convince the commissioner that it’s all connected to lizard men, screaming “Can’t you see?!?! There! It’s in the numbers! It’s so obvious!”

Whoever is the best at managing these three criteria and scores the maximum amount of score wins the game. I cannot stress though how interwoven these areas are. Things you do in one area might affect another. Each action you spend completing one area leaves your guard down on another, opening the door for another player to take advantage. There is still a bunch of details I could still go into, like each characters special abilities that you need to manage, the process of paying for card play, the movement system, just trust me, this shit is deep. It’s massively competitive, extremely strategic, complex in its subtleties and is as heavy as a cake eating convention.

image(8)Therein lays its main points of criticism though. Yes it’s a big ‘ol fat ass of a game, but just like Jabba-the-Hut, it has an endearing quality. The people, who enjoy this game, will almost always say it is a masterpiece. I understand where the criticism comes from though. Android is like a pink elephant in the board game world. Not in the sense that it sticks out (Because that’s impossible when your hash-tag is #Android) but rather it’s both a fascinating & unique creature, as well as clumsy & frustrating. As much as I didn’t want to talk about the theme since it’s the most obvious draw of the game, I will say that I think it’s not the theme in itself that people love, nor is it the mechanical elements that give the game colour, it’s the fact that the game needs to be played or approached as if it were a giant dystopian rubix cube. For us it’s HOW the mechanics are played out in relation to each other that makes it fit so well with the theme. The world of Android feels rich and therefore should be interacted with in a complex manner. If there was a stripped down version with streamlined rules, the glue that holds it all together would start to disintegrate and the experience would just fall apart. Despite its caveats you can net yourself a copy on Amazon for nearly NOTHING!! It would be foolish not to give it a go….and X-mas is around the corner.

Kickstarters of the Week

After a long hiatus, we return to the blog to scour the seven seas of the internet, in search of games, so you don’t have to. Check out these awesome looking Kickstarters.

Iron & Ale

69990b3dd6a6f5c322b9f94d4c9b7076_largeStarting things off this time we have probably one of the most invasive yet hilarious games ever created. Iron & Ale is an adventure drinking game where players take on the role of dwarven lords and must perform extreme feats of strength, will and fortitude, all in the name of honor. I’ll say right off the bat though, we are not fans of violence here at We Die A Lot (despite what the name might suggest) but for this game, we condone all jackassery. Each player takes turns drawing cards from two decks, starting with the Mountain deck which tests your dwarven mining and battling abilities. Lets face it, dwarves are the undisputed kings of digging for shiny things, and if a goblin or giant happens to get in the way of their quest for gold, you know it’s going down hard with a crack in the skull from a weighty cudgel. Then comes the Meadhall deck. These are challenges that range from guessing another players dice roll to (“safely” – and you’ll know why I say that in a minute) skipping your next turn. However (here comes the unsafe bit), some of the more entertaining challenges actually get you to punch and slap your fellow dwarven lords. The penalty for failing either Mountain or Meadhall tasks is usually a few hefty swigs of ale. The prize however is being honoured as the mightiest dwarf this side of Mount Doom.

Now keep in minf5463f79b574a070f16cf6dfd0da2a94_larged this is a drinking game, and let’s be honest, if you were at a round table of mythical dwarfs, chalices filled with the finest mead, you would expect some drunken boisterousness. And that’s what makes this a great thematic game. You get to partake in those dumb-shit drunken shenanigans that everybody’s done after a few sips of dutch courage, only this time it’s totally justified. BECAUSE YOUR A DWARF! BWAHAHAHA!!!…Genius… Like I said, this is a great idea for thematic play. Hell! It’s practically the ideal introduction to role-playing for non-role players. The game doesn’t just happen on the table with a bunch of cards strewn before you. You actually become part of the game in a very tangible sense. And for once, the pledge level bonuses actually do aid your game in some ways. You get coasters, bottle openers and a pair of spiffy looking beer mugs if you want to fork out the extra dough. The point is you’ll have a laugh with this game and I can see it being a hit in college dorm rooms. What a perfect way to steal yourself for those pre/post exam anxiety jitters….but do play responsibly…it’s all fun and games until someone loses and eye….and then it’s just hilarious. BWAHAHAHA!!!!

Two Rooms & a Boom!

227afc2451d4c065a1be69d50dee1a0b_largeI’ll try to avoid all puns about how this game is going to be a “blast” (walked into that one :/), but the boys and girls over at Shut Up & Sit Down have been making a song and dance about this game in recent weeks, and rightly so. It looks like an absolute riot! Two Rooms & a Boom combines elements of some of our favourite hidden role games like ‘The Resistance’ and ‘Werewolf’, with the frantic panic of Pass the Bomb. Players are divided into two “rooms”, and then given roles, either you’re in the red team or the blue team. The latter contains the “President” while the former has a “Bomber”, unbeknownst to the other players. Each party has a chosen leader for three timed rounds, who has to elect hostages that will be passed into the opposing room. However the bombers ultimate objective is to make his/her way into the same room as the president by the games end and then BOOM! If all goes well with the kickstarter then other roles will become available, ranging anywhere from clowns to drunks to robots. Now if your like us, that means you love hidden role games, which in turn means that you relish in the idea of lying to your friends face. Only now you get to deceive them AND blow them to smithereens. What joy! Most hidden role games of this nature rely on a players cunning to get them through the task at hand, which engineers this uneasy feeling of distrust at the table, whereas this game just goes for sheer outright blind hysteria to hide your motives and complete the task at hand. Few games I know can create an atmosphere of deception as thick an ‘Ed’s diner’ peanut butter double milk shake, but by Jove if there was ever one that did it so elegantly as well as viscerally, it has to be Two Rooms and a Boom….tick. toc. tick. toc. tick…..

Dreaming Spires

prototype photoEnough of all this vulgarity with bombs and drunken dwarves. Can we have some decorum please. This is another one that SU&SD have mentioned on a few occasions, and naturally we wanted to take a look at what all the commotion was about. Well, it turns out there was no bloody commotion after all. Instead we found a grand, ceremonially decorated hall filled to the rafters with histories most famous intellectuals. Needless to say, we took off our beer hats and respectfully sat down amongst these celebrated academics. Welcome to Dreaming Spires by Game Salute. The only game in history that allows you to build your own college in Oxford. The first thing that comes to me about his game is a sense of awe. In a world where zombies and Cthulu reign supreme, the fact that anyone can make a game about building their own university is testament to the creativity of the hobbies designers. And really that’s what I love the most about board games. Diversity. I often find myself looking at our vast collection and yearn to play something with a touch of class sometimes. Something a little more refined than rolling a twenty sided dice to slay an undead dragon mage, before sucking its soul through a straw like the last bit of Pepsi in an ice filled glass (also known as the most annoying sound ever). So for the fact that this game even exists, we whole heartedly salute all board game designers. Sometimes your ideas are a little kooky, but god dammit we respect your ability to create a game out of anything.

PeopleOk, so it’s a unique idea, but what do you actually do in Dreaming Spires then? Players pit their strategic wits against each other in the quest for building the greatest school that ever came to be. You build your college from the ground up by laying down tiles that represent observatories, libraries, cloisters, quads and other posh sounding hang outs in order to attract the academic masters of Oxford’s vast repertoire of life changing thinkers. I always imagined Lewis Carroll and J.R.Tolkien would’ve been found sitting with their heads in the clouds amongst the college gardens, at least that’s how my brain interprets what the great minds of the past were always doing. Sitting under trees and thinking. Really though they went down the pub for a bit of a piss up (True story!…apparently). Anyway, I digress. This all happens over several eras, and as time goes by, old scholars graduate and new geniuses enrol, improving your colleges stature, depending on how well you utilised their abilities of course. Ultimately though it’s all about reputation. What will the annuls of history say of your hallowed halls? You best choose your faculty wisely is the answer. Also factor in shifting events and a euro scoring mechanism and what you have is a perfectly academic experience.

packshotI used the word class early on to describe the air around Dreaming Spires, and that’s another thing that grabs me about this game. The theme, play style, mechanics and design has this classic board game shimmer about it. As you’re building your college and collecting various famous intellectuals, you’re also learning real stories from the rich history Oxford. That’s a really nice touch that a lot of modern board games lack these days. Sure you can have a session of Descent during the week for your RPG fix, or whip out the beer and chips for a bit of Elder Sign with your chums on a Friday night, but all the individual nuances of Dreaming Spires makes it more than just a unique idea. It’s one of those special kind of games. For me it’s like a Sunday game, and I mean that in a good way. It’s the kind of game that refreshes the week. After all the other games have had their say, this is the kind of thing that you would want to put on the table just because you want to play a game with your friends and family. Something that you can learn from as well as test yourself in. It’s the kind of game I would rely on at the end of the week to give a breath of fresh air into the weekly grind to make the whole cycle feel interesting again. And it’s about bloody time the world got a game like this. Something needs to replace Monopoly and Cluedo….so it might as well be a good one. Definitely looking forward to this.