The week in Kickstarter….and one other thing….

Hello Wildcats. Today we’re gonna dish out some straight talkin’. Well, a little bit at least. We’ll still round-up what we think are some cool looking Kickstarters, but then we’re going to have some words. Don’t worry though, no ones dying! In our experience, it’s always best to get real at the end of something.That way the message sticks and it won’t pollute the overall tone of todays post. Which is of course about sweet new board games! So if you’d like to pull up a chair, sit back, relax and we’ll get started then. Alternatively you can skip to the end for an ear thrashing!!

Grimslinger

b8ab984f50ab0e4b009be0535d5a92b1_large“Well gosh darnit. Them cow-poke sure are popular these days. Ah-Shucks!” At least it would seem that way from the slew of wild west themed games that have hit the market in recent times. The next Cthulu or Zombie perhaps? We’ve just seen “Doomtown” and “Shadows Of Brimstone” (the latter we covered here) explode like cheap dynamite on tables across the world, and now we have “Grimslingers” by Stephen S. Gibson to look forward to.

Grimslingers puts you in the seat of magic wielding cyber cowboys, and you gotta be the last man (or llama!) standing in classic space western duel-to-the-death fashion. I’m sure that counts as classic right?…RIGHT?? Each player will construct a hand of cards that represents their characters grimoire of spells, which will consist of unique signature spells and elemental magic.

15cf20_e8dc271ac18d4f1195d93cbc3265effa.png_srz_p_495_648_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzOnce you’ve got your firepower in order its on with the errmm….grim….slinging? Two to four players will square up, either 1 on 1 or in teams, hurling spell after spell in a barrage of arcane madness until everyone’s dead…or until one of you isn’t at least. What’s really cool is how the game captures the flavour of a western duel. Fellow board game pundits Shut Up & Sit Down, recently reviewed “Doomtown”, the latest LCG on the block, and it does a very similar thing in that the central mechanisms of the game tries it’s best to recreate the tense posturing of a wild west gunfight. Eyeing each other up, fingers stroking the butt of the gun, walking slowly out into the dusty road and then BANG! It’s over in a heart beat. When the dust settles, someone’s left bleeding and crying from the pain.

Grimslinger attempts to capture that very same magic, in a sort of, compacted form. The game plays out over a series of stages where you have to standoff with players and line your ducks in a row. Then when the lightning strikes hot, everybody draws, reveals their hand and awaits the aftermath.  Best of all, it also utilises card suits in a black jack style face off for tie breakers. It looks really, REALLY fun. Not to mention the art is real purdy. PLUS, if you’d like to try before you buy you could always just play it online! WIN! If I was you, I’d mosey on over to their Kickstarter page and give it a swing…..

Entropy

8e5432ecf1f0327993c1bd5c341f1deb_largeOh. So we’re sticking with sci-fi? Fine by me. I’ll keep my helmet on then. Entropy by Allen Chang aims to be the latest filler game on the scene. It’s got some stiff competition with “Love Letter” and “Citadels” but it looks sufficiently different from those games, that the Kickstarter community just doesn’t give a f**k. In Entropy, each player takes the role of an inter-dimensional space roamer that has been torn from their home realm in a terrible time cataclysm. Trapped in the nexus (that’s sci-fi talk for purgatory), you need to grab at the shards that remain of your reality to find your way home. Like Alice in Wonderland on acid…I mean, even more acid….than usual. Anyway.

What you’ll be doing is playing cards simultaneously, resolving them in initiative order to have a stab at claiming a revealed card from the discard pile or a blind card from the top of the nexus pile. The game is more lathered in theme than when Neo awakens in the Matrix. Don’t worry though!The lingo may seem intimidating at first but it’ll take you all of 6 minutes to get it. That’s 4 extra minutes if you’ve never seen a playing card before. In other words, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of. Just watch the gameplay video and if you havent figured it out by end of turn one, call a doctor. You may need brain surgery.

Jokes aside, Entropy is one of those games that is easy to learn but hard to master. In the aforementioned Love Letter and Citadels, you reset the cards after each round and begin your strategy anew. Entropy has a bit more of a competitive edge to it, in that each player has a set hand of cards and the mastery comes in knowing when to play.  Light but also very strategic. And if you don’t get lost in the artwork you probably don’t have a soul….or are a ghost. There’s still a few days left for the campaign so get stuck in the void here.

Sultan’s Library

2d8ff736c944618efd19f479a438018a_large“Sultan’s Library” by Photon Games is probably the underdoggest (not a real word…yet) game in the history of Kickstarter. This small game studio from South Africa is having a rough time with their first attempt at crowd funding a game, but by the looks of it, they seem to have created a game that is some kind of blend of Antoine Bauza’s Tokaido and Richard Garfield’s Netrunner.

You take on the role of one of the Sultans envoys in search of rare books for the royal library. You’ll have to travel across several sub Saharan locations to find said books, but be warned, others are on the hunt as well. If you’re not so much into killy-killy, stabby-stabby kind of games and just enjoy going on a journey, then Sultan’s Library has that in spades. Where’s the tension you ask? Well you don’t just simply drift on by, magnetically attracting sacred books. You’ve got to find them first. Then, you’ve got to bring them back. Easier said than done. You need to deposit 3 books to win, but you can only hold 2 at a time, which immediately becomes a bit of a logistical nightmare. On top of that, you’ll quite often have to pay for an extra detail of guards to fend off any spiteful book burners. It aint easy wondering the desert ya know.

f1d17babb7d80b5da31807d9c2d8d38e_largeThe way you play the cards in this game weaves such an interesting story that it seems kind of hard not to enjoy the ride. Sure that will only last the first few times you play, but the competitive interplay will keep players on their toes for the whole journey. I think that’s where this shares a lot of similarity with Netrunner for me. You’re loading these books in your satchel and trying to make you’re way back to the library before someone else grabs it from under your nose. It looks really nifty and is nowhere near as obtuse as Netrunner, which means that you don’t have to be enveloped in its own culture to get the same kind of thrills.

Overall the game has this serene tranquillity about it and seems a breeze to play. I will say though, it’s looking pretty steep for them at the moment as their funding goal is quite high, but even if it doesn’t make it, these guys came up with the idea for the game and managed to produce a working copy in the space of a few months. I’m barely awake until June most years, so I think these guys have a tremendous talent on their hands. If this doesn’t make it I hope they will relaunch with a bigger, better campaign so Sultan’s Library can indeed see the light of day.

…One last thing before I go…

I have seen a growing dislike for Kickstarter games within the board game community as of late. Nothing outright or aimed at any one in particular. Just a disturbance in the force if you will. I’ve seen numerous articles and posts that refer to Kickstarter projects with that “Oh, it’s you” kind of attitude, and for the life of me I can’t understand why. I know in one of our previous posts we criticised recent projects in that we just didn’t find them particularly up our street, but equally we also didn’t pay much attention during our hiatus and were likely to have missed out on a bunch of good ones.

Some have complained “there are too many”, others moan about project creators clogging up their social media channels, and others just don’t seem to consider Kickstarters as “real” games. All of that may be true in small doses but as a result, I feel the need to justify why we do these previews.

I’m a person that’s easily entertained. Straight up I’ll tell you. I don’t need to feel like a game is engaging with my insides to enjoy it. I like colours, I like the art, I like dice, I like cards and I really appreciate all the effort that game designers put in to make their products work. A lot of which is done in their free time. So with that in mind, I just don’t care about what will be the next big thing, or if a game will take off. I just like to be entertained. Even if it’s for a moment.

I look at each Kickstarter game and recognise what the creators are trying to accomplish and focus on those positive aspects. I know they may not always be the best game ever, but I try to look at it from the perspective that these are all designers that are trying to make it against the odds. Most don’t have money to get their dream out there and on to your table for your enjoyment. Yes there are stinkers. Yes there are ripoffs, but there have been some absolute gems in the time that I’ve known of Kickstarter. For the most part I try to give designers the benefit of the doubt because it can’t be easy producing a game for several hundreds of people who want to have their say as well.

I’m also not saying we’ll solely support Kickstarters every week or all the time, but for me, a failed journalist, it’s a nice way to get a glimpse of what is out there on the indie scene. So when there is this general distaste or negativity towards a game or designer simply because they went the Kickstarter route, I try to remember what my mother used to say. “If you got nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all”. After all, can you do better?

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Reviews! First rule of fight club is…

Street Fighter 2 Arcade CabinetWhen we were kids my grandmother used to take us on walks down to the local store every Saturday morning. I remember around 1990, while on one of our trips, we arrived at the store like usual, but something was different. Like someone had moved our house 2 centimeters to the left. As we approached the entrance of the store all we could hear was the hum of people and a strange synthy music, interpolated by thuds and elephant sounds. As we got within sight of all the noise, there stood before us this black cabinet as tall as a man, thronging with people around it, two at the helm frantically pushing buttons and jostling sticks with red balls. Everyone was much older than me so I knew to stay well back, but from the sides I managed to catch a glimpse of what was going on. Through the cracks I could make out a screen, with a bearded man wearing red briefs and boots, scars across his body, wrestling with another man, made of rubber that could spit fire. My mind was blown to the point of collapse. From that moment on, I was transfixed with this style of game, which I later learned was known as “Fighting Games”.

street_fighter_cosplay_zangief_by_jsekelentonkey-d47cweb

Maybe not as blown away as others

If you’ve made it this far you’re probably wondering “what in the goddamn hell does this have to do with board games?”. Let me put it this way. For years the ‘Fighting Game’ was one of the most exciting video game genres. Only the most high-tech of systems could capture the realistic feel of slogging it out with an opponent until one of you was a pulpy, bloodied sack of flesh that couldn’t get up. Well, aside from actually assaulting someone of course. Which I don’t advise…..because that’s a shit thing to do. Obviously…..errm…where was I? AH yes! Instead we had games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Punch Out, Super Smash Brothers, Tekken, Samurai Showdown and so on during the 90s. Legions of Fighting Games entered our cultural vernacular, and these were THE games to test your might (Pun!) against other players. You had to employ all the strategy and dexterity of a mutant ninja to be considered the ultimate fighter.

However, I was more of a log than a ninja. My brain could never quite communicate with my hands fast enough to pose a serious threat to even the weakest of opponents. So I was happy to find the one ratty fighting game at the back of the arcade, behind the washing machines, that nobody played anymore and MAYBE get to the third stage. Nonetheless I loved them. I loved the idea of taking control of a character that was as cunning as a fox and strong as a bear. A character with a back story and a purpose. Now that was something I could chew on. I think you know where I’m going with this now. Welcome to board game fight club…

….Round 1…..FIGHT!!

Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice

IMG_5188“Rules? Well rules were made to be broken. AND YOUR NECK COULD BE BROKEN!!! OOOOoohhhh YEEAAAHHH!!!!!” Luchador Mexican Wrestling Dice by Mark Rivera was released unto the masses back in 2013 and up until then, I don’t think there ever was a proper wrestling game. Not unless you consider this proper. In which case, I’m sorry…so very, very sorry. You and your opponent take on the roles of Lucha Libres vying for supremacy of the squared circle and of course, there can only be one victor.

This game is dead simple. You get 4 dice which allow you to hit, block and counter your opponent, but beware, if you’re an over zealous roller, and your die falls off the board, sorry bub, but it don’t count. In fact, one of the strategies you’re meant to employ, is to actually lay the smack down on your opponents die and knock them out of the ring. Once you’ve grappled enough, if you were able to sneak a hit through, you get to roll the damage die and see just what kind of pain you’ve inflicted on your enemy. IMG_5186Drop kick, chair smash, table slam, choke hold you name it, it can happen. If you’re extra lucky and you manage to squeeze two hits through while the referee isn’t looking, you can roll the Lucha die, which has a 50/50 chance of doing massive damage with a high-flying move, or hilariously injuring yourself and losing a valuable die in the next round of steamy man grabbing.

The absolute funnest part of the game is when you’ve weakened your opponent enough and you have the chance to pin him or her. They have to make saving throws on the count of 3, by rolling enough blocks or counters. EVEN BETTER THAN THAT is if they managed to roll 3 identical block or counter results in one go, they reverse the pin and the attacker finds themself at the bottom of a fresh can of whoop-ass.

IMG_5189This game is a treat and an excellent opener to get the blood pumping on fight night. Make no mistake though, just like actual wrestling, you NEED to ham it up. Seriously. It’s in the rules. When you’ve pinned someone, you’re encouraged to shout out the countdown, “1….2…….3!!!!!” If you’re playing a tag match with 4 players, once you roll a successful tag, you have to actually physically tag your partner in. If not, it’s illegal. Thems the rules, now GET OUTTA THE RING!! It’s those kind of touches that make the game pop out and come to life. You can almost see tiny beads of sweat dripping off the glistening cubes. That being said, if you prefer something a bit more diverse, you can always play the advanced rules where each Wrestler has individual strengths, weaknesses and can even unleash a killer combo. Oh! Did I also mention that the 2nd edition comes complete with a 3D wrestling ring? Yeah, I thought that might impress you. We only have the orignal flat board and it serves us well but the real deal ring adds another level of visual deliciousness that is quite frankly impossible to beat. Unless you’re a real wrestler, in which case you can probably beat any thing you want because you’re left breast is probably twice the size of my head…..please don’t hurt me…..If you’re a fan of wrestling get this game. Heck! If you’re a fan of fun get this game.

…Round 2…FIGHT!!!

Knockout

IMG_5160“Step right up, Step right up folks! For tonight’s contest of manliness, two pugilists take to the ring for the heavyweight championship. Come see the sweet science of a gentleman’s sport. Step right up, step right up!” Back in old timey town, the number one way to prove yourself as an honourable fellow was to test your mettle in a good ol’ fashioned bout of fisticuffs. Knockout, released by Victory Point Games and designed by Frederic Moyersoen, is probably one of the most colossally underrated games of modern times. No, I’m not exaggerating one damn bit.

In Knockout, each player squares up in the center of the ring, draws their hand of 8 cards and waits for the sweet chime of that beautiful bell. Ding, ding. What happens after that is so elegant you would think you’re at a Bolshoi State Ballet recital. You take turns playing cards, either attacking or defending, pressuring each other to the point of exhaustion, until there is just nothing left you can do except eat some knuckle sandwiches. So what do you do when you’re getting wailed on? You suck it up, and take some more. That’s easier said than done though. MMMmm, is that my tooth?

IMG_5169The object of the game is to knockout your opponent (HINT: It’s in the name), but it’s getting there that’s the tough part. In your hand of cards you’ll likely have a selection of offensive maneuvers, like a straight punch, a cross, a jab and the almighty haymaker, but you’ll also potentially draw up some defensive cards, like move, parry and counter. When a player uses an attack card, the defending player must react with a card of equal or higher strength in order to avoid getting hit. If you can’t, you take a hit and your hand size gets reduced by 1, meaning when you do get a breather and can draw back up, you’re going to have less scruples about you and won’t be able to fight back. Luckily though, both parties need to draw up frequently to stay in good shape and prepare for the next flurry of fists. The round ends when there are no more cards in the draw pile. All it takes to win is landing 6 good hits, but you wouldn’t believe how tricky that can be against one of these wily boxers. If you survived the first round, the weakest player receives a “pep” card at the beginning of the next and this can turn the tables quite dramatically.

IMG_5156I think Victory Point out did themselves with this one. A gentleman’s game of bouting that is as beautifully simple as it is lighting fast. The balance of the card play creates a genuine feeling of bobbing and weaving, going toe to toe with someone. However the game is not merely a functional “take that” card game. It has one of the most visually pleasing designs I have ever seen on a board game. Everything about it captures the grit and raw energy of old school boxing, while avoiding the crass and brutal tropes of modern sports games. I am absolutely dumbfounded as to why this isn’t the crown jewel of Moyersoens career.

…Finish HIM…

Apocalypse Universe: Galactic Arena

IMG_5145Dum dum dum, duuduudum, Dum dum dum. MORTAL KOMBAT!!!” Here it is. The meat and potatoes of todays post. Apocalypse Universe: Galactic Arena by Storyception Games is a gladiatorial space opera and is fresh off the presses from their succesful Kickstarter campaign late last year. You have a choice of 10 different fighters, each with their own special abilities and strengths, to fight to the death on the intergalactic stage of Cetus 7. Before I get into the game itself, it’s worthy to note that the guys and gals at Storyception have put in a tremendous effort at writing the world for Galactic Arena. Every character has a thoroughly fleshed out back story and if you take the time to read them it really elevates your appreciation for the characters.

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Now on with the game. First you choose you’re combatants, then you’ll need to prepare them for the oncoming war. Each character has a dizzying array of stats ranging from defence, attack, health, actions, initiative and most importantly, special abilities. Before combat commences, players will have to customise their fighters according to how much pain they want to dish out. So you can tailor your fighter to be as slippery as an eel or a full-blown homicidal maniac hell-bent on murder.The kicker is you never know who you’re up against or how they may be fitted out for the fight. The game comes with these giant iron gate screens from behind which you will prepare your fighter. Trust me, when you’re hiding behind the screen you’ll chuckle like a chipmunk at all the possiblities for inflicting instant death. As you become a veteran of the Galactic Arena you’ll learn what are the most effective skills to choose from and best combos to utilise, but until then, you’ll probably just mount the plasma cannon on your shoulder the wrong way.

IMG_5147Why Galactic Arena feels more like a fighting game than say a turn based strategy game, is because of its length. It’s fast, aggressive and very, VERY brutal. All the planning in the world wont save you from the short sharp shock of a quick decisive defeat if you’re caught dawdling around the arena. Your opponent WILL come after you, and you always want to be applying the pressure. The fun really comes in when you get to know your fighter a bit more and you start doing the right things to bait your enemy, forcing them to waste actions, hopefully giving you enough edge to splatter them on arena walls. For that reason bouts can be as quick as 10 minutes, which is perfect for a 2 out of 3 style match. We recommend using the draft rules where you choose 3 fighters as a team but face off 1 on 1. If you chose the 3 on 3 match you’ll get a bit more length out of the fight, but I find it’s easier to focus on one fighter at a time. All in all, Galactic Arena feels very much like the Board game iteration of classic arcade fighters, at least in the sense that the game places heavy focus on the characters. The rest of the game plays out in typical action point on hex grid type fashion but like a say, it’s the fighters that make this one special. They all have unique abilities and you’ll probably pick the ones that you identify with the most. Maybe you like the strong guy, so you’ll pick the mutant with four arms, maybe you like the “duo”, so you’ll pick the guys that are closely matched, the assassin, the ranger, etc. There are lots to choose from and a mega ton of variation within those choices. Top marks to Storyception for their debut effort. We’re looking forward to more.

Hopefully we’ll see a few more games emerge that suit the fighting game genre, there’s almost certainly a ton out there that I don’t know of. If you do, let us know! Until next time….

….FATALITY….