Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gambling to the Top (Lords of Vegas)

The year is 1941, the place is a little desert town known as Las Vegas.  Your goal: to create a sprawling fortune the likes of which have never been seen before, by changing this small town of little notoriety into the biggest entertainment scene this side of the Rocky Mountains.  But your biggest obstacle won't be money or bringing in customers.  No, the biggest threat to your empire will be your former friends also wanting to become the Lords of Vegas.

GAME DESCRIPTION: Lords of Vegas is a 2-4 player game published by Mayfair Games.  The objective is to build Casinos to gather points.  The winner is decided either by who has the most points when the End of Game card is drawn, or if any player manages to get to the end of the board before then.

THE BEGINNING: Play starts by selecting 1 of 4 colors, and placing the appropriately colored scoring counter on the board spot marked 1.  Each player than draws two Property cards from the deck.  The money on the card determines the total they start with, as well as the first 2 starting locations for each player, determined by placing the markers according to the alphanumeric location on the card (e.g. C4).

LOTS AND LOCATIONS: The game board is divided into 6 separate locations based on letters.  Each turn, a location card is drawn, and the player places a marker in that alphanumeric location, defined as that players Lot.  For every Lot, each player gains $1M.  The player may then spend money to buy a Casino in 1 of 5 colors.

CASINOS:  Casinos are how you'll make most of your money and get points.  Each turn, you may buy a location equal to the amount located on a location you already own a Lot on, or you may buy another location and place a Casino next to one you already own at twice the price printed on the board.  When you buy a property you'll notice a die number printed on the board.  That determines what the starting value of your property, and you'll place one of your dice into that Casino matching the number of pips shown. When a Property card is drawn that matches the color of a Casino, you'll gain that much money equal to the number of pips in all matching Casinos, and 1 point per matching Casino.

GAMBLING:  Any player may gamble at another players Casino, at a maximum of $5M per Casino.  If the player does not roll a matching number according to the boards wager space, they lose that money.  If they match a number, they gain that money from that player, with 2 and 12 doubling what they wagered.  If the player being bet against cannot pay the bank covers it.

STEALING:  If you place a Casino next to another player's Casino with the same color, the player with the highest numbered die now has control over all matched Casinos. All money and points will then go to that player.  If you have a die in a Casino or matched group of Casinos, you may spend money equal to the number of pips shown to re-roll all dice in each Casino.  You may also pay $5M per Casino to remodel the Casino to change it into a different color.  In the case of ties, you re-roll only the highest tied numbers until one player is definitively in control.

POINTS:  Each player gains a point times the number of matching colored Casinos when a property card is drawn.  However, there are bars of entry starting at 10 points called "Break".  To move past a break, you must have enough points to make it past it, with any excess points lost.

WINNING:  At the start of the game, the player shuffling the Location cards puts a special card called End of Game in the bottom quarter of the deck.  When that is drawn, all points are scored, all money distributed, and the game is over.  The winner is the player with the most points, or in case of a tie, the most money.  If you have managed to get 90+ points by the end of the game via the scoring system before the card is drawn, that player automatically wins (though this is rare).

CONCLUSION:  I've heard this called 'the fair, fun Monopoly', and I get why that comparison exists.  Like Monopoly, it can be a ruthless, cutthroat game that the luck of the dice (or cards, in this case) can factor in a huge lead or crushing defeat.  But this game can also whiplash any player into making a sudden comeback and cause come from behind victories.  It definitely has a strong give and take quality that makes it superior to standard board games.  This game is for strong friendships, risk takers, and deep strategy planners.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Next Big Series (Channel A)

Have you ever wanted to produce an anime?  Have you had just the best idea ever, and no one to share it with?  Good news, that's what this game is all about.  Pitch your idea against various players, give it a strong name, and maybe you'll be the next big name on Channel A.

GAME DESCRIPTION: Channel A is a card game designed for 3 to 6 players or teams, with the primary goal to have your anime chosen by the current Producer.

THE PREMISE:  Every player has a hand of 10 Title Cards.  Each turn, the current Producer takes 5 Premise Cards from the deck.  Premise cards are what structure what the theme of the anime will be, such as Aliens, Cooking, or Video Games.  Players will make an anime based on 2 Premise cards chosen by the Producer.

TITLE CARDS: Title Cards are what make up your hand.  Players make the title of their anime using up to 4 cards for that round, and are first played face-down.  Then, each player takes a few minutes to explain their title and plot in any order they wish.  Any simple articles (a, the, and) are free to use any time and do not count against you.

POINTS: Once all the Titles have been revealed and anime pitched, the Producer then picks the anime they liked, and points are distributed to the players.  Whoever has the most points by the time the game ends wins, generally so that every player has had the same amount of time to be Judge.

CONCLUSION: First off, if you nothing about or don't enjoy anime, then you may want to skip over this one for now.  This is a game about creativity, planning, social cues, and a little bit of improvising.  I said in my last review that games without much structure don't play well, but what I mean by that is if there is no obvious flow, the game grinds to a halt.  This game allows for relaxed, free flow playing, and adaptability in rules on a group-by-group basis.  I love story telling games like this, and I think it did well in its format.

AFTERTHOUGHTS: Could this work as a western focused theme of live action or animated series?  Absolutely, no question.  Video Games?  Considering a lot come from Japan, sure.  Movies?  Books? A bigger stretch, but yeah.  It ultimately works due to the structure of Eastern Animation titles, but I think it'd be neat if there were more games like this that were themed differently.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Okay, guys, who is it? (Are You The Traitor?)

The moment of truth is at hand.  You know the key must be destroyed, but who do you to trust to do the task?  Which wizard won't wield the wizardly wonder of the world?  And which will?  Perhaps the most important question is this: Are YOU the traitor?

GAME DESCRIPTION: Are You the Traitor? is a social card game for 4-10 players.  Each round, every player is given a character card face-down.  Once obtained, the two wizards will reveal themselves, and both are given either a good wizard card or evil wizard card that they keep secret.

OPTIONAL REVEALS:  If you are playing with more than 5 players, then the Keyholder will reveal themselves to everyone but the wizards.  If you are playing with more than 7 players, all Traitors will reveal themselves to the other traitors.

TARGETS: Each player, outside of the Traitor, has a target they're looking for.  The Guard and Good Wizard are trying to find the Traitor, the Evil Wizard is looking for the Key Holder, and the Key Holder is looking for the Good Wizard.  When a player believes that they have the correct player, they call "Stop!" and make their accusation.

TREASURE: If a good player (Key Holder, Good Wizard, Guard) guesses correctly, everyone on that team gains a treasure card.  If they guess incorrectly, the Evil team (Traitor, Evil Wizard) will instead gain the treasure.  The reverse holds true for the Evil team.  Once a player is called, all cards are revealed, shuffled, and dealt again face-down.  Once a player gets to 10 Treasure points, they win.

CONCLUSION: First off, I'm bad at playing Are You the Traitor.  But honestly, I can't say I have ever truly enjoyed playing it based on its own merits.  It is one of the most open games I've ever played, but that seems to be to its detriment.  Without some kind of actual gameplay to keep conversation going, there's not a lot to talk about, and it either goes off the rails, or you become focused on giving clues to subtly reveal yourself.  The problem I found was that actually playing the game makes the conversation stilted.  I like the social aspect, but the games rules seem to prevent actual conversation.  I just can't recommend this one when there are better games in this style like Resistance and Secret Hitler.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Connecting the Elements (Aquarius)

Groovy man, just let the feel of nature surround you.  feel the fire burn, smell the clean water, see the nice green grass grow.  And when all is calm, when the beauty of the world surrounds you, and all the pieces come together, you can truly discover peace into Aquarius.

GAME DESCRIPTION: Aquarius is 2-5 player card game, where the object is to complete a seven card link of a specific element.  Each turn, a player draws a card, and plays either an element that can link with another element already on the table, or an Action Card.

LINKING: In order to play an element, you must play it in a standard grid formation (long side touching long, short side touching short) and all sides touching another card must match one of the elements on that side.  You cannot move cards already in play, and all cards must line up perfectly/no skewed placement.

ACTION: There are various Action Cards you can play in place of an Element Card:

  • Trade Goals: You can swap goals with any player.
  • Rotate Goals: Every player passes their goal card to the next player in the order decided by the current player.
  • Shuffle Hands: Gather all the cards in every players hands, shuffle them and re-deal them evenly, starting with yourself.
  • Trade Hands: You can swap your hand with another players.
  • Zap A Card: Take any card on the board, and add it to your hand.  Your hand size increases from 3 to 4 until the next turn.
  • Move A Card: Take any card on the board, and move it to another legal spot.
WINNING: Each player has a secret goal card, known only to them.  The way to win is to complete your goal by legally matching 7 elements together that correspond with your goal card.

CONCLUSION: This is one of those games that feels quick and easy, but gets tricky due to luck and directly opposing strategies from other players.  It's not a long game, so it's easy to get a round or two in between long campaigns, or during a quick break or some down time.  In addition, the simplicity of the rules allows even youngsters to learn the game, with rule-sets added for simpler play.  Now, the version I played and reviewed was the 2nd edition, which changed a couple cards from the first edition.  Any differences in review or gameplay will be due to this.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In his house at R'yleh (Elder Sign)

Log #19: The natives no longer visit my place of residence. indeed, they now seem to fear and shun me.  Every attempt to get closer now results in nervous glancing, and hastily constructed excuses.  I believe that if it were to originate from a source, it would have been the day the man who delivered the obsidian statue and the letter, which states, ad verbatim:
"If you wish to know more, visit me near the sea at midnight in two days.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."
The line does not seemingly translate from any known language, but this may be a chance to discover the truth.  It may be the only chance left to me to discover the truth behind this cult, and the image left known as the "Elder Sign".

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Elder Sign is a 1-8 player game designed around the C'thulhu mythos published by Fantasy Flight Games.  Each player takes the role of an Investigator.  The object of the game is to seal away the current Ancient One away by travelling to various locations and gather Elder Signs.  Be warned, the longer you play, the more chance there is that the Ancient One will awaken and devour everyone.

INVESTIGATOR:  Each player will take a Investigator card and token. Each Investigator has a sanity and health meter off to the side of their portraits on their respective cards.  They can never go over their maximum number (barring specific circumstances), and if a player loses all their health or sanity, they are devoured.  The player returns all their items and trophies to the bottom of their respective decks, then take a new Investigator with the appropriate starting items, and add one Doom counter on the Doom Track.

ANCIENT ONE AND TIME:  At the start of the game, a random Ancient One card is drawn.  In the center is a number that determines the number of Elder Signs used to seal him away.  At the end of each Investigators turn, the clock advances three hours.  At Midnight, the player draws a Mythos card and resolves it.  Sometimes, the Mythos card will put Doom counters on the Ancient One's Doom Track.  Get enough Doom counters, and the Ancient One awakes.

ADVENTURE:  The majority of play takes place at one of these adventure cards.  Each card has a list of tasks you must complete, in any order or down the list.  In order to complete these tasks, you roll all available green dice, and try to match the symbols on 1 row at a time.  If you manage to match the symbols, you complete the task by placing all appropriate symbols in the row, and roll for the next task.
  • If you fail to roll appropriate symbols, you lose 1 die, and try again.  In this case, you may take a die, and 'focus' it by placing it on your character token.  If you lose too many dice to not longer be able to succeed, then you suffer the penalties, located in red at the bottom, and trigger any Terror effects.
  • If you finish all tasks, you take the card as a trophy, as well as all rewards, located in white at the bottom.

MONSTERS:  Every so often, a Monster will add or replace a current task with their own.  If you complete a Monster's task as well as the Adventure card, you gain it in addition as a trophy.

ENTRANCE:  If you don't feel like you can complete an adventure safely, you can instead choose to stay at the entrance to heal for free, or spend your collected trophies to buy health, spells, items, and even Elder Signs.

SPECIAL ITEMS:  There are three different types of item cards: Common, Unique, and Spells.  These have various effects from re-rolling, to adding the red and/or yellow die to your next adventures rolls, to locking a die until it needs to be used by any Investigator you share a room with.  Allies can also be gained with their own effects.  The Footprint, or Clue Token, can be spent to re-roll the dice if an Investigator failed to complete a task with no penalty.  An Investigator can keep spending Clue Tokens to re-roll.

BATTLE THE ANCIENT ONE:  If the Ancient One's Doom Track becomes full before their sealed away, then every current Investigator battles the now awake Ancient One.  At Midnight, the Ancient One attacks rather than a Mythos Card being drawn, and neither player assistance nor focusing may be used, but any items may.  Every time you meet the Ancient One's combat task, remove 1 Doom Counter.  If you no longer can, then your turn ends, and the clock advances.

THE END:  If any Investigator manages to gain Elder Signs equal to or greater the number needed to seal away the Ancient One, or all Doom counters are removed once the Ancient One is awake, then all Investigators, including the devoured ones, are victorious, and all human players win.  If all Investigators are devoured, then the Ancient One wins.

CONCLUSION:  I've played both this and the similar Arkham Horror, which was also reprinted by Fantasy Flight Games.  I liked the idea of Arhkam Horror, but the rules were shaky and hard to understand, the gameplay monotonous, and it felt unfair to a large group (which shows how confusing the rules were).  Elder Sign, I'm glad to admit, solved a lot of those problems.  It's rules are clear, and the turns are quick for a large box game.  The travelling is limited to going where you need to, as opposed to wandering.  It is a great introduction for players not used to "Big Box games", or games with a lot of rules and moving parts. If you're looking for a rich story-telling experience, and deep lore, there are other games.  But for a well-built Lovecraft themed adventure that plays well, even alone, then you might want to check this one out.  

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  Elder Sign can also be found on PC and Android under Elder Sign: Omens.  The game plays well there, and the hotseat function allows players to easily access their Investigator.  Certain rules have updated to take advantage of the digital layout, such as new locations and added difficulties.  Even so, it's almost a different experience, and I prefer the tactile feel and flow of conversation the physical copy has to offer.  On the flip side, it's cheaper to get it digitally, and plays smoother with less hassle.  Really, you can't go wrong getting both if you can afford it, or picking the one you'll most likely use otherwise.