Monday Night Tabletop Round-up 13/04/15

Due to a disgustingly unfair amount of work (ie. some) I completely failed to write a round-up last week. It would have been a bumper size too as it was a bank hoilday all-dayer. Here’s the express edition. Tammany Hall (I suck), Ticket to Ride: Europe (I rule), Blood Bowl Team Manager (I really suck), 7 Wonders (cards, cards, more cards) and Stone Age (love tent). On with the latest.

Welcome to the Dungeon

Players: 4 (Plays 2-4)

Duration: 20 minutes

This was described as ‘chicken’ on Monday and that’s not an unfair description for this minimal push-your-luck dungeon crawler. At the start of each round one player (last rounds dungeon delver) picks one of four heroes (barbarian, mage, thief or warrior) and places them in the centre of the table along with six pieces of equipment unique to that hero. Play goes clockwise around the table with players either drawing a card from a monster deck or passing. If they draw a card then they have two options, either to put it face down into the dungeon or discard it along with one of the chosen heroes pieces of equipment. Passing puts that player out for the round. Chicken!

Eventually there will only be one player left. They must then reveal one card at a time from the dungeon and see if they can use the remaining equipment to get past each monster. Monsters are essentially really only a number value so this is a swift process to see whether the player fights their way to glory or perishes at the hand of some lucky goblin. If all monsters are defeated then the player receives a victory card but if the hero should fall then they take a hit. Players win by being the first to get two victory cards or the last man standing (two hits and you are out the game).

This is the definition of a fun filler as rules are simple and play moves around the table at a brisk pace. It’s a little slice of silliness where knowing when to pass is part calculated-risk and part luck. The cute dungeon crawler theme fits it really well too and I loved how they boiled down the idea of an equipment heavy-RPG into just a few cards. For 15 minutes of fun you can’t go wrong here.

Shadow Throne

Players: 4 (Plays 2-4)

Duration: 45 minutes

It would be interesting to see what this game might have been called had Game of Thrones not been so popular. It’s like one of those iphone games like Age of War or Modern Combat that remind you of another much more successful franchise. Thankfully, once you put its painfully generic title to one side Shadow Throne is a very unique blend of card-drafting and hand management.

The core of the game are a deck of character cards, each one belonging to one of the three factions and having an influence, a value and a price/income as well as some kind of special ability. At the start of each round players are dealt 6 cards, draft one into their hand and then pass the remaining to the next player. Cards are then drafted and passed along in this way until every card is chosen.

Players then select a card from their hand and play them simultaneously in front of them. Special powers are applied and then each card’s influence is then added to its factions power track. After four cards are revealed in this way players are awarded points equal to the value of cards they have played that match the faction that is highest along the power track. The power track is then reset, players are dealt 6 cards and a new round starts. Once a player has over 15 points the game ends and the player with the highest score wins.

The card drafting and selection is nice and simple with a lot of potential for depth but each round seemed to play out a similar way where once a faction pulls ahead in the power track then it’s too easy to fall in line and play cards of that faction. This is mitigated by having an increased cost for playing consecutive cards of the same faction but there was a definite pattern to each round. Also, card powers seemed to only have a minor effect, adding to a rounds predictability. I am guessing the designers were trying to minimise wild power swings but it would be nice to get a big surprise at the last minute. I may sound a bit down on this game which is not the case as it was good fun but a few more powerful cards could really add to the tension.

Space Hulk: Death Angel

Players: 2 (Plays 1-6)

Duration: 1 hour

Death Angel is the co-operative card-driven little brother of Space Hulk where a group of space marines explore a vast abandoned spaceship trying to avoid being torn to confetti by monstrous aliens (called genestealers) swarming through the vents. It’s a bit like Aliens complete with the same low, low odds of survival and total lack of courage under fire. Game over man.

Players take control of two-man fire teams that are randomly put into a line down the centre of the table. The object of the game is to get at least one of those marines safely through the last location card in a deck of 4-5 that are randomly assigned at the beginning of the game. Some locations have special conditions but in general the way to get to the next one is to empty one of two blip piles that aliens spawn from. Location cards also dictate terrain that is placed along the column of marines.

At the beginning of a round players issue one of three orders for each of their pair of marines, Support (place one reroll token on any marine), Move & Activate (each marine may swap with the one above or below him, change facing and activate terrain) and Attack (try to kill a genestealer in range). Each team also has a unique additional effect that they can use depending on the order that they choose. Genestealers then attack any marines they are adjacent to and are more likely to hit if there are more attacking at once. Finally a card is drawn from the event deck which has some effect on the game (usually bad, this is a co-op game after all) and dictates which terrain genestealers will spawn from and whether or not they move. Clear the last location card and the players win but if all marines have been killed then it’s all over.

It may come as no surprise to fans of co-op games that this game is tough, really tough. Marines die after one hit and once genestealers start clumping into swarms then the odds of losing a marine go from likely to almost certain really fast. Each round is like a little puzzle that you are just trying to survive through. It’s hellish. We managed to get through to the last stage which I thought was pretty good although by the time we got there the writing was on the wall. In blood.

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