Even my 2 year old son with his infant motor skills could have made a better start than me last game night. The opening filler was a game of Bausack which involves stacking irregular shaped blocks on top of each other. Players choose shapes for each other which they can either add to their tower or pay to pass on. I crashed out nice and early blaming hunger and sobriety. Half a meat pie and a pint of ale later and I could have removed cataracts with an ice-cream scoop, probably drive better too. There’s something to be said for unshakeable bravado.
Players: 4 (Plays 2-4)
Duration: 15 minutes
Sadly not a satanic Duck Tales but a neat little card game with a dark fairy tale theme. On their turn players add a card from the deck to their hand and then play one from it. Cards have various effects such as awarding victory points, awarding tokens (armour, torches, swords or coins), card draw and so on and can vary depending on other cards that are already in play. Once used a card is placed in front of the player, in a communal central tableau or just discarded (this is determined by symbols on the cards). The deck is not refreshed so eventually one player will play the last card in their hand, at this point one last round is played and then the player with the most points is the winner.
Dark Tales is a neat little game. Aside from the way that the cards interact with each other and their traits (such as villain, location, monster, male or female) there are also day and night cards that can change the state of the game and give you more (or less) points. In addition there are two random cards drawn at the start of the game which award you bonus points at the end depending on tokens you have collected giving you something to work towards. It seems that short card fillers are my thing at the moment. Dark Tales had just enough strategy to fill its length with a nice ‘take that’ element to fluster other players. Lush fantasy artwork fills each card meaning text is quite small so players with poor eyesight might struggle to read them. I have eyesight like a hawk with a sniper rifle though so what do I care? There’s that bravado again, don’t worry, it fades after the next game.
XCOM: The Board Game
Players: 4 (Plays: 1-4)
Duration: 90 minutes
It seems that man’s hopeless last stand is a weekly occurrence at game night. For me it was my second chance to play this co-operative game. The full gameplay description is in a previous blog but to sum up – four players take unique roles and try to complete missions and ultimately defeat an alien menace that is slowly overtaking the world. Gameplay is in two phases, the timed phase is one where an obligatory companion app barks orders at you and then the resolution phase where you use a ‘push your luck’ dice-rolling mechanic to build on various resources you deployed in the previous phase.
In my first game I was the Squad Leader which is responsible for stationing troops and then resolving their deployments, a role which gives you the opportunity to either lose the game by failing to defend the base or win it by successfully completing missions. A failed dice roll carries a lot of weight. In this second go I was the Chief Scientist which by comparison was positively relaxing. If you are successful you get to hand out all kind of goodies to other players that they can use to bolster their defences but failure just exhausts scientists meaning they can’t get assigned next turn which isn’t really a big deal as you start with a healthy number anyway. The only real stress is deciding which excellent piece of alien-busting tech to research. In the late game it’s also a role that loses importance as the team concentrates on garrisoning soldiers or launching fighters but this is a team game so you can help other players like helping the commander to tot up the budget.
I am beginning to understand this game a bit better now and while I do think it is a bit scrappy (it lacks the simple elegant design of Pandemic for example) I definitely want to play it again especially using the two roles I haven’t been so far. In fact as soon as it became clear that we had lost I almost suggested setting up and starting again. There is no better praise than that.
Ticket to Ride: Europe
Players: 5 (Plays 2-5)
Duration: 2 hours
TTR is another game I have covered in a previous post but the basics of the game are that players play coloured cards to claim routes between cities across a map. Points are scored from claiming these routes but also for completing secret destination cards which give two cities that you must link in some way with your routes. The farther apart the cities on the destination tickets the bigger the points bonus but if you fail to finish one then you not only lose the bonus but it’s deducted from your score.
Previously I have only played the Europe map with my wife. With 2 players there is very little player interaction and it’s more of a race to get the cards you want so you can finish the game and quickly get your destination tickets before the other player but with 5 players it’s a war of attrition. It was a very different experience than the casual card gathering one I was used to and a lot more tense. Near the end of the game the board was almost full and destination tickets were constantly getting blocked. Poker faces turned to gurns and I heard more than one involuntary wail as route after route was claimed and shut down. It was great.
The Europe map does come with a nice variant where each player gets three stations that they can place in a city to piggyback another players route but this wasn’t enough when Southeast Europe started to look like a bad Jackson Pollock. None of my destination tickets were anywhere near it. I chuckled.