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?

 

Advertisements

Kickstarters of the week 18/11/2013

Image

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.