Tag Archives: games

Firefly

On my most recent game night, I was fortunate enough to get to try Firefly: The Game. This is a board game based on the short-lived TV series, Firefly. In this game, players take on the role of starship captains, and must hire crew and find work, whether legal or illegal.

Jobs are dispensed by four contacts, and usually involve taking some sort of cargo from point A to point B, or just heading straight to point B and plain misbehaving.

The goal of the game can vary, but in this case, it was simply to be the first to collect 12,000 space bucks.

Firefly Board Game

This game manages to feel a lot like the TV series. For example, I was ahead in money and needed a high-paying job to win the game. So I had accepted a job to deliver some contraband to the Alliance capital. Unfortunately, on my way there, I was intercepted by the Alliance command cruiser (the green spiky thing), and had my contraband confiscated.

Fortunately, as one unit of contraband is indistinguishable from another, if I were to find a replacement unit of contraband, I could still complete the mission. So, in the meantime, I launched a bank robbery mission in a nearby sector and fortuitously gained possession of three units of contraband in the process. I launched my ship back toward the Alliance capital, to try the original mission.

In the TV series, the switcheroo would have been close to perfect and the day would have been close enough to saved as to make no difference. In my case, however, my ship was intercepted by the Alliance cruiser yet again, and the contraband was confiscated yet again.

I managed to find one more unit of contraband through sheer luck and blasted a trail to the capital at maximum speed, only to bungle a critical roll. The mission failed. My crew members were killed (one by the mission’s sponsor) and my captain ended up with a warrant for his arrest.

But although I suffered some bad luck, and totally failed to win, this is certainly a game I’d consider playing again.

Fortune and Glory

I recently had the pleasure of playing a favorite board game, Fortune and Glory.

image

Fortune and Glory attempts to capture the adventurous spirit of movies such as Indiana Jones, The Mummy, or even National Treasure.

In this game, players take on the role of treasure-hunters in the late 1930′s. The goal is to venture into the world, collect 15 Fortune tokens, and then return home. The first player to do so is the winner.

Fortune is collected primarily upon the sale of artifacts, which appear in random locations around the world. To collect an Artifact, a player must successfully face a given number of perils. Perils can be overcome by successful dice rolls. Successfully overcoming a peril awards an adventurer with Glory tokens (used as money) and the opportunity to press on in the adventure. Failure to overcome a peril results in a situation called a cliffhanger, which affords a player one last chance to salvage the adventure. An adventurer failing a cliffhanger returns home in shame, losing some portion of his Fortune, Glory, and adventuring gear.

That’s the basic game. Optional advanced rules can add a Nazi War Zeppelin, Mobster Strongholds, Villains that compete with the adventurers, and lost temples to be explored.

I enjoy this game, mainly for the improbable adventures that players find themselves undertaking: navigating alpine trails, then climbing further up the mountain, then scuba-diving; navigating an ancient maze, only to find another maze just beyond; finally obtaining the Crown of Poseidon only to lose it again in a cargo plane mishap.

However, the game is certainly an evening’s entertainment. It’s not a marathon game, like Monopoly, but one should plan for well more than an hour’s time. Setup also takes some time, as around ten decks of cards must be shuffled. Also, the box contains a great many pieces (though still less than some other games that I’ve seen.)

Despite the drawbacks, I certainly look forward to playing Fortune and Glory again soon.

Storytelling Games

You may recall that I mentioned a recent birthday, which was, in fact, my own. Though I can’t seem to recall having a cake, I did receive several gifts, including a hat, Disneyland tickets, and two games. Last night, I finally had the pleasure of playing both of them.

The first was Gloom.

Gloom

Gloom is the story of several unlucky families, which compete to experience the worst day ever. A player will attempt to beset his own family with unfortunate events, while attempting to cheer up members of opposing families. This is done by piling transparent cards atop one another. The object is to get each family member’s value as low as possible before playing a death card, which locks in that value. The game ends once all members of any family are dead. The player with the lowest valued family at that point is the winner.

I quite enjoyed Gloom, though I quite enjoy storytelling games in general, but any game that can have alcoholic dogs, homnivorous weasels, and boil-beset lords faking their own deaths is okay in my book.

The next game was Grave Robbers From Outer Space, or GROS for short.

Grave Robbers from Outer Space

I’ve been curious about GROS ever since hearing about it in an episode of Game Night Guys. And now I have my own copy.

Another storytelling game, GROS is the story of movie studios competing to release the best horror movie. Players will play locations, actors, and props to gain points for themselves, while also using events and monsters to attempt to deprive other players of points. This continues until one of the players obtains and plays the “Roll Credits” card, or the deck is exhausted. At this point, players tally up their scores, and the player with the highest-scoring movie is the winner.

I liked this game a lot, too, especially for the ridiculous situations created by card play. For example: the Prom Queen, in the basement of the Funhouse, which is really the Alien HQ, defends the Earth from relentless Killer Toys from Space by using her Explosives. Great fun!

How I Have Traveled

We here at La Casa de los Replicantes haven’t had a real vacation since our last road trip. That was the time we drove out to the Grand Canyon way back in August, 2010. To be honest, we did go to Las Vegas last winter, but that was really only an extended weekend, so that doesn’t count.

Since I now have buckets of free time to do so, and a few more weeks of favorable weather, I decided to use an upcoming birthday as an excuse, and made arrangements to once again wheel off into the wilderness, with my usual traveling companion in tow. (Not literally, of course. In fact, he did most of the driving.)

Our trek lasted almost a week, taking us quite literally to the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Even though we’ve since returned, I will recap an easily-digestible few days at a time rather than attempt to relate every detail in one single eye-watering post.

Our plan for the first day was quite straightforward. We would depart San Diego in the morning, after, of course, I enjoyed a complimentary birthday breakfast at our favorite pancake house. And gas up the car. And hit the ATM. And buy snacks. And… and… and…

Anwyay, we eventually did get going. The trip toward the mountains was fairly uneventful.

Roadside Fire

Meh, it’s fire season. Santa Ana Winds and all that.

We eventually got onto old Highway 395 and headed north through the High Desert and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Old 395

The sun set and we drove through the darkness, eventually reaching South Lake Tahoe late that night. Though the relatives I’d come to visit had gone to bed, we travelers were famished from being on the road all day. So we walked across the state line to explore the casino resorts for possible eateries. Eventually we settled on the American River Cafe, an all-night eatery themed on the biome of the Sierra foothills, featuring an indoor waterfall and stream, and artificial aspen trees.

The next day, we got a glimpse of the beautiful lake itself. The largest lake in California, and the second deepest in the US (at about 1,600 feet.) It was once known for its stunning clarity, but since the colonization of the area, runoff bearing things like silt and terrestrial nutrients has clouded it somewhat. It is still an impressive sight. Why, I could gaze at it for hours.

Lake

I wouldn’t dare swim in it at this time of year— it’s much too cold, although oddly enough, it never quite gets cold enough to freeze.

I spent the rest of the day catching up with relatives, while my traveling companion (sensibly) went to hunt for secondhand shops. That expedition was a bust, and so we all met up at the end of the day to enjoy a meal of pork roasted in pineapple— in an actual, hollowed-out pineapple— which was delicious. That was followed with a few games of Elder Sign.

Elder Sign

And a delightful time was had by all.

Game Night

Last night, treacherous siblings had me Shangai-ed. I charmed my way off the ship, but a punitive curse turned me into a donkey. I helped a scholarly Efreet prepare a legendary banquet. I rescued a Yaltese princess, who wed me out of gratitude and bore two children whose visage resembled that of the full moon. I became a respected vizier, was enslaved by a mad prince, and was briefly imprisoned by the Sultan before charming my way out of the dungeon.

These events all happened in a game called Tales of the Arabian Nights. Despite being wounded, diseased, and crippled, I barely won that session.

Tales of the Arabian Nights

Tales of the Arabian Nights, hereafter referred to as TotAN, is board game based on storytelling. Unlike other games which designate one player as the session’s storyteller, in TotAN, players take turns telling the story.

The object of the game is to collect a combination of Story Points and Destiny Points which total twenty. These points are generally collected by successfully resolving Encounter cards or by completing Quests. Each player is dealt a Quest card at the beginning of the game, which will describe a long-term goal to be achieved, and the rewards for successfully doing so. The reward may include Story Points or Destiny Points, but also wealth, treasure, and status effects, which can provide bonuses to the players.

As a character moves around the map, he will stop in cities and wilderness locations. At that point, he will draw an Encounter card, and then the storyteller’s work begins. The process of resolving an encounter involves various dice, a couple of lookup tables, and several decisions by the active player. I’ll provide an example.

Suppose that Ali Baba ends his movement in the city of Hamadan, as shown in the picture. He then draws a Thief card from the Encounter deck. This card tells the storyteller to begin encounter number 92. There are 12 variations of the Thief encounter, so the active player rolls dice and adds terrain and destiny modifiers to the result. Suppose the result is 10. This tells the storyteller that the encounter is with an Armed Thief, and the active player must choose a reaction from Matrix D. On a whim, the player chooses the “Rob” action. The storyteller will then consult a table and flip to a numbered paragraph in the Book of Tales. In this case, the paragraph describes the results of the robbery attempt, and then provides two alternative outcomes, one for characters who have the Weapon Use skill, and one of those who do not. A character with Weapon Use would gain a Story Point and gain the status of Pursued by the Sultan’s guards. Other characters would gain a Story Point, the Weapon Use skill, and the status of Wounded.

I received the game as a gift from someone who thought it would be right up my alley, and I must say that it certainly was. Some might argue that it’s less a game than an overgrown Choose Your Own Adventure story, but I say that as an evening’s entertainment, it’s not bad. I’d certainly play it again, with the right participants.

Cthulhu and Friends

I was given a copy of the game Elder Sign recently, and I thought I’d share my impressions of it, and of its predecessor, Arkham Horror. Both are published by the same company that publishes Mansions of Madness. I shared my opinions on Mansions of Madness in Witches and Worse.

Elder Sign

Elder Sign

Elder Sign is an interesting species of board game. There’s no actual board, and although there are cards in play, it’s not what I’d call a card game.

The game is set in a creepy museum, which is represented by six adventure cards. The players are put into the roles of investigators of the paranormal who have learned some disturbing news. Cthulhu, or another Ancient One, is preparing to enter the world of the living. The investigators must prevent this by collecting Elder Signs, enough of which will seal an Ancient One away. They must hurry, for at the end of each turn, the game clock advances. When the clock strikes midnight, bad things can happen. Monsters may appear, the players may be cursed, or the Ancient One may grow in strength.

Elder Signs are awarded upon the completion of certain adventures. (They can also be bought from the museum’s gift shop, for a price.) Each adventure card has at least one set of symbols that must be matched by a roll of the dice. If all symbols are matched, the player wins a reward and ends his turn. The catch is that each time the dice are rolled without matching anything, a die must be discarded. Once a player runs out of dice, he suffers a penalty and ends his turn.

This game is easy to learn, and is challenging to win without being impossible. I’d suggest that in two player games, each player take two investigators each.

Arkham Horror

Arkham Horror

Arkham Horror is an earlier game from the publishers of Elder Sign. The situation is nearly identical: an Ancient One is preparing to enter the world of the living. However, in Arkham Horror, the players wander the streets of the city of Arkham, searching for clues, battling monsters, and encountering portals to Other Worlds.

The board has two areas, one of which represents the city, and the other represents the eight Other Worlds from which the portals issue. A new portal may open as often as every turn, so players must move quickly. If too many portals are open at once, the Ancient One arrives, and the investigators must challenge it in a final battle. A portal may be closed by moving into it and then adventuring through one of the Other Worlds, and it may be sealed by spending clue tokens or special items.

The players may win if all the portals are closed, or if enough of them are sealed, or if the Ancient One is defeated. The latter is quite difficult, and I can only remember having done so once. Because portals can open so often, I’d suggest a group of two to three players take two investigators each.

This is a hard game, a long game, and a big game. When I say big, I mean it literally. I need to expand the dining table to make room for the game board. When I say long, imagine Monopoly with Cthulhu. Well, it may not be that long of a slog— Cthulhu may eat you first. The fact is that it takes at least three turns to close one portal, and that’s when things go well. Add to that trying to get around a city that is overrun by monsters, and you can easily have an all-day event.

Despite the size, length, and difficulty, Arkham Horror enjoyed a spot as my favorite game for some time.

Witches and Worse

Ready for more spooky, creepy boardgames? Great! (And I hope you said “yes” right there. It would have been really awkward if you’d said “no” and then I’d just gone ahead and said “Great!” anyway. Wouldn’t you agree? Well, let’s just agree that you said “yes” both times.) Last time, I shared a few ghost themed games, and before that, I shared a few zombie themed games. This time, the theme is the occult. Witches, and worse…

Mansions of Madness

Mansions of Madness
Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Mansions of Madness puts players into the roles of investigators of the supernatural. The investigators will enter a mansion and move from room to room, encountering obstacles, clues, useful items, and dangerous opponents.

One of the players must take the role of storyteller, who is called the Keeper. It is the Keeper that places obstacles and clues and controls the monsters. The investigators (who must work together) and the Keeper will each have their own goals throughout the game. These goals depend on certain decisions made by the Keeper during scenario setup.

The rulebook contains several different story scenarios, each of which has several options that the Keeper may choose from. For example, in one scenario, the options are that the cultists may want to recruit new members, or they may wish to summon something from the beyond, or they may merely want to lure investigators in to the mansion to be devoured. These options influence the placement of the clues and items throughout the mansion.

The mansion itself is represented by arranging modular room tiles as directed by the scenario setup. In addition to room tiles, the game comes with figures to represent the investigators, more figures to represent various monsters, several decks of cards, and a huge assortment of chips and tokens to represent things such as fire, darkness, corpses, ladders, and so on.

The greatest drawback of this game is possibly the setup time. Not only must the zillions of tokens be organized and distributed, the mansion must be constructed, the Keeper must search for specified cards and place them in specified rooms, certain other cards must be removed from the game, and the decks must be shuffled.

If it’s not too late at night by the time all this is done, then the Keeper may read the introduction to the adventure. He must read this without paraphrasing, for it may well contain the first clue the players will need if they are to prevail. If he were to leave the clue out, the players may spend the entire game fruitlessly exploring the wrong side of the mansion. They would almost certainly be justifiably upset when the game suddenly ends with a Keeper victory. (I would, ahem, never allow such a thing to happen.)

The combat system is a bit tedious. It relies on drawing cards until one is drawn that matches the investigator’s weapon type. Then a die roll, as instructed by the card, determines the outcome.

Setting these gripes aside, Mansions of Madness is a good game for those who like complicated games with lots of flavor text. If you liked HeroQuest, you might well like Mansions of Madness.

A Touch of Evil

A Touch of Evil

A Touch of Evil is set in a creepy village in the early 1800′s. The village is under assault from a villain, who may be a werewolf, vampire, scarecrow, or headless spectral horseman. As in Mansions of Madness, players are put into the role of investigators. Unlike Mansions of Madness, there is no Keeper. Villians operate according to rules printed on their villain cards. Villains’ actions are sometimes triggered by drawing event cards, and sometimes by the advancing of the shadow track. As the game progresses, the shadow track counts down toward zero. If it reaches zero, the villain wins.

Each investigator’s main goal is to discover the whereabouts of the villain, in order to initiate a showdown. In order to do so, investigators must collect investigation tokens, which are used to purchase Lair cards (and other items.) The Lair card designates a place for a showdown, as well as the cost (in investigation tokens) to begin the showdown.

An investigator may enlist the help of two of the six town elders during a showdown, but beware! Each elder has at least one dark secret, and may even be in league with the villain! Choose poorly, and you must defeat not only the villain, but the rogue elder as well.

The first player to defeat the villain is the winner.

I really enjoyed playing A Touch Of Evil. It’s less complicated than Mansions of Madness. There is one fixed board representing the village and its surroundings. There are fewer tokens to deal with. Although, now that I think about it, there may be just as many, if not more, cards to deal with. Fortunately, setup only requires shuffling those cards and resetting the shadow track.

Witch Trial

Witch Trial

By far the least complicated game of the three, Witch Trial puts players into the roles of lawyers. Certain townsfolk will have the misfortune to be accused of various misdeeds, such as displaying atrocious manners, wearing a hat in the theater, or smuggling. Players will prosecute or defend each character. This is done by playing cards which represent evidence, witnesses, or motions. This influences the jury in finding the accused to be guilty or innocent.

At the end of each trial (or before, if a plea deal is reached) the victorious lawyer collects his court fees. You see, the object of the game is to collect the most money before the cards run out.

Witch Trial is one of my favorite games to bring to parties. The rules are easy to learn, and much entertainment is had in inventing explanations for how certain pieces of evidence fit into each case. (“Eugenia the Lewd wasn’t just wearing a hat in the theater— she was smuggling in that hat!”)

Best of all, it is now available for free. You’ll have to print and cut out the cards, of course, but it may be worth it.

Ghostly Games

A little while ago, I posted my thoughts on a few zombie boardgames. This time, I’d like to share a few ghost-themed board games that are haunting my gaming closet.

The Haunting House

Game Night: Haunting House

The Haunting House is a game in which the goal is to be the first to successfully navigate a haunted house. Sounds simple, right? Of course, the interior of the house is a random maze. Still no problem, right? I forgot to mention that the maze is constantly revising itself.

The tiles making up the maze are manipulated by card play. Card play happens in two phases. There is a normal phase, in which players strategically choose cards and play them in a particular order. Then there is a random phase in which cards are played at random, to make it feel as though the house really were haunted and malevolent.

It is easy to learn and entertaining. Those wishing a strategic game may be disappointed, as the chaos of the random phase will often foil any attempts to plan ahead and outmaneuver opponents.

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories could be thought of as Ghostbusters with an Asian theme. Players must work together to save a village from an invasion of ghosts (or, more accurately, evil spirits) and defeat their leader, Wu-Feng. Unlike The Haunting House, in Ghost Stories, having a proper strategy is a necessity to win.

The board consists of nine village tiles. Each tile is occupied by a villager, which can provide help to the players, such as by dispensing supplies, transporting ghosts and players to new locations, performing exorcisms, or delaying hauntings.

The board also consists of four player boards, each of which has three ghost slots. When a ghost comes into play, it will occupy one of these slots. Most of these ghosts will also attempt to haunt adjacent village tiles. When this happens, the players lose the help of its associated villager. If any three village tiles become haunted, the game is over.

It is therefore up to the players to banish the ghosts as quickly as possible. This is done by rolling dice and using tokens to match a combination shown on the ghost’s card. Because multiple ghosts can come into play each turn, and players are penalized when their boards are full, teamwork is vital.

My main complaint with this game is that the rulebook is somewhat cryptic, as much information is conveyed as icons.

Monsters 4

Monsters

Monsters 4 is a board game produced by LEGO. The game comes as a box of plastic bricks to be assembled, along with a book of simple rules. The scenario is that gangs of werewolves, goblins, devils, and pumpkins are trying to take control of a haunted graveyard.

The reality is that the game is basically tic-tac-toe on a 4×4 grid, with the addition of skeletons that serve as wildcards, a spider that can clear a quadrant of the board, and a big rubberized LEGO die to roll.

This isn’t a subtle and nuanced game of misdirection and countermoves. It is, after all, meant to be enjoyed by little children. I didn’t buy it to play it, though, I bought it to collect the adorable monster heads.

Peril on the Tabletop

Even though boardgames aren’t part of the RIP Challenge, I thought it would be fun to open up my closet and share some games with spooky, mysterious, or horrifying themes. Let’s start with the theme of zombies.

Zombie Dice

Zombie Dice

Zombie Dice is a simple dice game. In Zombie Dice, you take on the role of a hungry zombie in search of brains. The first zombie to collect thirteen brains wins. To collect brains, you roll dice three at a time. When you roll a brain, you may add it to your collection. Rolling a foot icon means that your meal has escaped and you may roll that die again. Rolling an explosion means that your meal fought back. If you collect three explosions, your turn ends and you lose all the brains you collected this turn.

I’d recommend this as a travel game, as it could easily be played at an airport, on a train, or in a motel.

Zombies!!!

Zombies!!!

Zombies!!! has been around for a while. It’s on its second edition and has spawned a great many expansion packs. The object of Zombies!!! is to survive a zombie infestation. To do so, you may either be the first to defeat 25 zombies, or you may wait for the rescue chopper to arrive. Either strategy is fraught with peril.

A player has about a fifty-fifty chance of defeating a zombie, though there are tokens and cards to turn the odds in the player’s favor. When a player is defeated by a zombie, he returns to the starting square and loses half of his zombie trophies.

Is waiting for the chopper a better idea? Well, Zombies!!! is a game where the board is built up as play progresses. There are 30 city tiles. Each one, when played, brings more zombies to the party. Since the heliport is always placed at the bottom of the tile stack, you will be waiting a while for it to appear. When it does, you will still have to brave the zombie-lined streets to get there.

Although Zombies!!! can sometimes be a long game, it is relatively easy to learn, which could make it a good choice for a game night.

Zombie Fluxx

Zombie Fluxx

Fluxx is a card game with only one rule: Draw one card, then play one card. The goal of the game changes as play progresses, as do the rules. There are four basic card types. Rules modify the game’s basic rules. Goals set the game’s victory conditions. Actions let players take actions such as swapping hands, stealing cards, or removing rules from play. Finally, there are Keepers, which usually don’t do anything on their own, but they are needed to win the game. Goals usually require a player to possess some combination of Keepers to win.

Zombie Fluxx has added an additional card type, Creepers. These are sort of anti-Keepers that make the game more difficult to win. A player is required to play a Creeper, when one is drawn. Creepers sometimes also have additional effects. For example, a zombie Creeper named Larry changes ownership whenever a new Goal is played.

Whenever I’m asked to bring along a board game, I usually bring Fluxx, since it’s extremely easy to learn, but is never the same game twice.

Well, that pretty much exhausts my supply of the zombieific. Fear not, for there is more to explore: the ghostly, the occult, and the Lovecraftian.

More Games

I’d like to introduce you to another favorite game of mine. It is a card game, and it’s not exactly new, and I don’t even play it that often, but I do enjoy it. It is called Nanofictionary.

Looney Labs' Nanofictionary

Nanofictionary is inspired by the idea of nanofiction, a story told in 55 words or less. The goal of Nanofictionary is to collect enough Plot Devices to tell the most entertaining story possible. It is less about gameplay and strategy, and more about performance and creativity.

For example, if I were to somehow end up with these cards…

  • PROBLEM: a terrible accident involving food
  • CHARACTER: The Mischevious Children
  • CHARACTER: The Dude who Always Says “Dude”
  • RESOLUTION: They snuck out and went home
  • SETTING: The ice cream parlor
  • CHARACTER: The slightly defective robot

I might tell this story…

One fine day, a pair of mischevious children went to their favorite ice-cream parlor after school. To their considerable surprise, the usual dude behind the counter wasn’t there. Instead, to their delight and wonder, a shiny new robot stood behind the counter.
“Hello,” it booped. “May I TAKE YOUR ORDER?”
“I would like one scoop of chocolate,” said the first child, “and also whatever whatever my friend is having.”
“I’ll have the same thing,” said the second.
Unfortunately, nobody thought to program the robot with a recursion check, so it continued to serve chocolate cone after chocolate cone until the ice cream dude came back later that day, long after the children grew bored and went home.

I could go on and on, but I imagine you get the idea.