The return of Kickstarter?

Good day fellow dicers! Like every week, we’ve been scouring the four corners of Kickstarter in search of new games that cut the mustard. Unfortunately, we havent seen that many exciting Kickstarters for a good long while. Aside from the magnificent campaigns of Storyception Games‘ space opera Beat ’em Up “Galactic Arena“, and Van Ryder Games froth inducing “Hostage Negotiator“, there just hasn’t been much else to wet our whistles. That is, until now….
Between Two Cities

near-final-with-rough-graphic-designCue dramatic cavalry music and a blazing emblem across the sky with Stonemaier Games logo. We should have expected Sirs Stegmaier and Stone to fix things with their bullet proof reputation for genuinely innovative games. This time Stonemaier present us with “Between Two Cities”, a semi co-operative game by Ben Rossett and Matthew O’Malley, which if you’ve paid attention to board gaming over the past 2 years, you’ll be more familiar with those names than with your Nans. Basically this project is the board game equivalent of a 70’s prog rock super group with 6 bassists. Massive is a understatment to say the least.

Why is the game cool? Well, it can accommodate 2 – 7 players, with the possibility for a solo variant later on, and regardless of the amount of players it’s a fast paced game set to take no more than about 30 minutes, but most of all, it looks primed to be THE Carcassonne killer. Now don’t get me wrong, we love Carcassonne, but let’s be honest, it needs to be buried….in the middle of the woods…in a far, far away place…so no one can ever find its charred, dismembered remains. Much like the aforementioned dearly departed, BTC will have players laying tiles down like their lives depended on it, BUT the main difference lies in the central theme of BTC, which puts you literally between two cities. Literally. You’ll be building cities on your left and right with whoever is sitting next to you at the table, and together you need to cooperate in order to eventually come out on top alone. This already fixes a lot of the problems with Carcassonne. I enjoy playing a light, peaceful game on occasion, but for some reason Carcassonne brings the out absolute worst, most despicable traits of human beings. Greed, spitefulness, treachery, you name it. Behind the seemingly innocuous guise of an innocent, anonymous, little wooden person, lies the darkest intentions, that have been scraped off the bottom of Freddy Kruger’s mothers bricked up cell.

Full of Hate

                          Full of Hate

We usually have to play something “LIGHT” after a game of Carcassonne just to cool down from some extremely tense situations. Either that or we lock ourselves away and avoid eye contact for 3 days at least. Like I said, BTC seems to have this fixed, by working with others and never churning up the malice too much but still trying to win out by the end. Almost like a compact Stefan Feld game. In short, I’m excited by BTC. It looks like it’s a fast playing, tile laying, easy access, thinker. “Between Two Cities” has exterminated its funding goal by several fold already and is set to be a welcome addition to the Stonemaier Games roster. This company looks unstoppable at the moment. You can throw your money onto the mounting pile here.
Dragoon

4e34f9b5dbf19c2e5f0100ddc4a4264b_originalSpeaking of gateway tile games. “Dragoon” by Lay Waste Games is another Kickstarter that has us intrigued. No doubt its borrowed a heavy dose of indie video game aesthetic design for its general look and feel, but that is a GREAT thing. If playing board games has taught me anything, it’s how to appreciate video games again. I can approach most video games with fresh board game soaked eyes, which enables me to see the set pieces and mechanics that are lying underneath all the cinematics, and actually be able to tell if there is a game there or not. So when I see a little reverse cross-pollination occur, I start to get very excited, because this tells me that the chasm that once existed between the two media is slowly being bridged.

Ok, sure. Maybe I’m mad, and reading a little too much into it, but the first thing I took note of Dragoon is that it instantly reminded me of old school video games like Battle Tank or Zelda, only polished with a modern sheen that so many indie games have these days. I guess it’s just kinda cool to see old school values delivered in a beautiful package. And when I say beautiful, I mean “DAMN THAT ASS IS PHAT!” Solid metal game pieces and dice? Roll out fabric game mat? Two tone graphic designed art? I mean….come on, this thing looks the business. And I was even more surprised when I found out from the gameplay video that this Dragoon is not solely about the eye candy. There is a legitimate game here.

0e88c594c555283ce9968eeb294d468e_originalBasically each player takes the role of a dragon (already cool) and you need to fend off oncoming attacks from thieves, raiders and your fellow dragon brethren, all in the aid of accumulating the most gold, the fastest. We LOVE games that have you chasing a target score. Like Netrunner or Mars Attacks, when the challenge is to reach a certain goal before your opponents, it gives the game a sense of urgency. So you’ll sit there desperately planning how to one up your opponent while ravenously clawing towards your goal, one gold coin at a time. Furthermore, the game is set on a modular playing field, combined with limited actions and intricate card play, I just can’t imagine a world where this doesn’t at the very least get your pulse racing a bit. I mean, let’s be serious for a second, you get to play as a dragon. Let that sink in for a minute.

Now I know I had a go at Carcassonne earlier for being kind of “over competitive” for what it is, but Dragoon has those same qualities, but in a good way. It’s those very things that lead to shout out loud bursts of elation or the foulest of curses breathed in some forgotten language. Basically it’s got all the ingredients forge great gaming moments that you’ll laugh about for years to come….as you stare past the bars of the maximum security prison they put you in for first degree murder…..Dragoon is nullifying its funding goal as we speak and you can feel free to pledge here.

Not a review! The Witcher…to the rescue!

Has it really been one year? I know it’s been a while but DAYUMMM!

Well, first and foremost, I must apologize that we have not kept abreast with all things “board gamey” like we had intended. In our defense, we had to strip down on a few other activities during the year due to work and other important but boring stuff. However we never stopped playing! Hopefully you follow us on twitter where we’re a little more active and would’ve seen some of our photos and board gaming grumbles.

Anyway. We’re sorry. We’ll try to do better. Moving on.

It would seem “defense” is the central theme to this weeks post.

image1Why’s that? I thought it was about the new Witcher Adventure game?”

Well, if you’re like me and are one of those gamers that’s been waiting for The Witcher Adventure Game ever since it was announced about a year ago, you will hopefully be pretty stoked round about now since it’s been out for a couple of months. Unfortunately, if you’re even more like me (you’ve first got to ask yourself “am I a clone? Then…) you might also be kind of astonished as to why this game is garnering a considerable amount of nerd scorn on the internet. Not in the “good” bad publicity sense where the game is morally controversial and everybodies mothers won’t let them play. No no, that’s not what I’m talking about.

It’s more the case that a few individuals were expecting The Witcher Adventure Game to be some thing else.

image9You take on the role of 1 of 4 main characters from the Witcher story line and your objective is to accrue the most victory points by the time you’ve completed 3 quests. Each character can develop new skills that are specific to their individual play style and you’ll be rolling dice to complete tasks, defeat monsters and generally avoid injury. On you’re turn you’ll have a selection of 2 actions but mostly you’ll be moving from place to place in the Northern Kingdoms of the Witcher, collecting “leads” that enable you to complete your quests. Sounds like simple and effective action point, resource mangment, dice rolling fun…..WRONG! At least if you listen to the games critics. Lets look at the supposed negatives of TWAG first and then we can discuss its virtues. Which I believe to be many.

image11The first down side with any kind of pop cult property that’s a much bigger entity than it’s board game extension, is the obligatory theme/lore issue. So straight off the bat I’m gonna tell you, if you’re a fan of the Witcher books or video games, you’ll likely have a deeper appreciation for this one over players that have no idea about the story. The second big criticism that has come up on the forums are with some of the gameplay design features. Namely the dreaded “skip a turn”  mechanic. What I’m picking up from other pundits is that those are designs that set modern board gaming back by “decades”.

image4Firstly, my experience with Geralt and his merry band is quite limited. I’ve only played about a quarter of the first video game and like many other gamers who have formed an opinion about TWAG, I have played the iOS version for a bit. That’s it. I haven’t read the books. I haven’t seen the movie. I don’t have a Dandelion tattoo on my ass. Nothing else. So a Witcher fan boy I am not. In fact none of our players had any relation to the Witcher franchise. So we started from a pretty clean slate as far as jumping into any lore traps and bugs.

I am pleased to say that none of that was a problem for our games. It’s pretty important for a story driven game that has a massive legend behind it to not let the players get put off by complex “in-house” story politics. I’d say TWAG nails it by striking aimage6 balance between having a general enough narrative that any gamer can jump right and have fun. If I performed an action but was interrupted by “Dijkstra’s raiding group”, I felt compelled to find out a bit more behind this struggle with Dijkstra and in doing so gain a better appreciation of the internal narrative. It’s nice little touches like that make the game feel balanced and a joy to play.

The second gripe about the games mechanics is one of those things that’s just going to be subjective till the day we all die. Look. I get it. Loads of new games have “fixed” many of board gaming’s early design features by virtue of designers pandering to modern cultures obsessive need to be constantly entertained. What once was “roll & move” is now the “bluffing mechanic”. That’s what is popular now. And like every other trend that has ever existed, these things will pass. The point I’m trying to make is I don’t think there is anything wrong with “missing a turn”, or drawing a card that says “nothing happens”, as long as its done in the right way, and I believe TWAG does it THE RIGHT WAY.

image8The game is so bleak and is constantly piling misfortune on top of you like a dump truck of sorrow, that whenever I drew a “nothing” card I was genuinely happy. Now if a game can paint such a grey, dead and unforgiving picture of the world that when “nothing happens” it makes you happy, I say bravo. That’s my kind of game.

The thing is, what the game actually is, is a race. Each character is trying to tight rope walk across this arid landscape in order to find the path of least resistance. So once again, if I have the misfortune of being “delayed” on my turn, that’s destiny pulling the brakes on the ol’ victory train. You’ve just got to think how roll with the punches and still end up on top. Yes it’s been done before, and yes it’s frustrating to lose under seemingly random conditions, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. Stuff like that, and patience, and thinking, is what separates board games from video games. I like that I can take a breather and plan (however futile it may be) my next move. It suits this game. Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not trying to be a Luddite and nay-say everything that’s modern and sparkly. I love how innovative board games have become and how they continue to push the envelope, but all I’m saying is that I don’t need every single game to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes I like simple. And the Witcher Adventure Game is just a good, simple and colourful game. What more could you ask for?