Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Dead of Winter

Product– Dead of Winter

Producer-Plaid Hat Games

Price– $75 here http://www.amazon.com/Dead-of-Winter-Crossroads-Game/dp/B00HFKITJC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432091044&sr=8-1&keywords=dead+of+winter

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45-120 minutes (2-6 players)

Type-American

Depth-Medium

TL; DR– Battlestar Galactica meets Zombicide.  89%

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Basics-Can you survive the winter with the dead outside?  Dead of Winter is a simple American style game where player take the role of a group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse.  At the start players choose a scenario with a victory condition as well as each player receiving a secret goal that can range from getting enough of one item to a traitor card who has to undermine each other player!  Next, players receive starting items and choose two characters out of four possible options.

Each round the players uncovers a new problem that they must face.  These problems require players to spend a number of cards to solve or more enemies will be added and the players will lose moral, a general survivability of the colony that when it reaches zero the players lose.  Then, all players roll dice equal to the number of characters they control.  These dice can be spent to do actions with no limit to the number of actions each individual character you control can do.  Next, each player takes their individual turns, but here’s the catch- before a player starts his/her turn, another player draws a crossroad card.  A crossroad card is a random event that may happen that turn depending on what characters are in play, actions the player does, and even the number of cards in the discard/garbage pile!  The current player spends dice to take actions that range from attacking zombies, searching, building barricades, and some character specific abilities.  The number rolled on the die really only count for combat and searching.  Each character has a search value and a combat value.  If you spend a dice for either of those actions with a value equal to or higher than the characters search or combat result for search or combat, you succeed on your search or combat and get to draw a searched card or kill a zombie.  Thus, you know you will be successful before you even attempt your turn.

What makes this more interesting is the exposure die for combat and moving.  The exposure die is a 12-sided die with over half he faces being no result, a few are damage, less are frostbite, and one is a tooth.  The damage icons do one damage.  All characters have three hit points.  Frostbite does damage each turn which can quickly kill a character, and the tooth means a character is bitten.  Bitten characters instantly die, and then another character could become bitten.  Each character also has an influence value, and after a character is bitten, the lowest influence value in the bitten characters location becomes the target of the bite giving that character’s controller two options: kill the character and end the bite OR roll the exposure die.  Roll anything besides no result, and the new bitten character dies and the process repeats.  Also, when players move between locations, players roll the exposure die to see if the traveling goes smoothly.  Traveling between the different locations doesn’t cost an action, BUT does risk damage from the exposure die.  Barricades provide a temporary buffer against zombies.  If a zombie would be placed on a barrier, you remove the barrier and that zombie.  Players can also spend cards to do the action on the card or spend them face down to try to solve the problem for this round.  Each chard has a symbol, and enough cards must be spent or the negative effect of the rounds card event occurs.  Traitors can also spend cards with different symbols that count AGAINST the other player’s cards.  After the player has spent all his/her dice, play progresses around the table until its back to the first player.  Then the round’s problem card is resolved, for good or ill!  Next, zombies are placed at all the different locations; one per character at outer locations and one for every two characters at the central location.  If a zombie would be placed and there is not a zombie space available, then the character with the lowest influence at that spot is instantly killed!  A new problem for the round is revealed, the first player marker passes, and the turn starts anew.

What makes this game novel is the hidden goals each player has.  Not only do you have to meet the major goal for each game, but you have to complete your own goal.  In this co-operative game, you can lose while everyone else wins!  Players win by completing their goal, and can lose if the game goes too many rounds or if moral drops to zero.  Moral decreases whenever a character dies, through the crossroads cards, or a failing a round problem card.  While all of this is going on a traitor could be in your midst spending the wrong cards to cause events to fail and has his/her own goal where they succeed if everybody else fails AND they have the proper items or characters to win.  Even the traitor can lose if they don’t have their gear ready when everybody else loses!

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Mechanics– I was serious before, this game feels like a mix of two great tastes making something better.  You have the card use of Battlestar Galactica for hidden card resolution and turn events with the simplistic combat of Zombicide.  Those two things work amazingly well together.  This game is MUCH more swingy then Zombicide as dice dictate actions and combat results, but once you know your dice for a turn, you pretty can plan out your turn.  It’s quick, easy to play, and not any more complicated than it needs to be.  The crossroads cards are fun, but they might have been a bit over sold.  You do have random events happen, but I expected something a bit more intricate.  What does happen is about one out of every four turns, something unexpected will happen.  It does add something interested, but don’t expect the moon.  4.5/5

 

Theme– Here is where things are a bit off.  The majority of the theme is great.  Players fight zombies, struggle for items, and in general are the proper amount of miserable as the fun from this game comes from a hard co-op experience.  But, some things don’t quite fit.  Players lose moral for the number of cards in the discard pile.  You can spend a die to clean some, but honestly that’s kind of such a weird concept.  “Yep, zombies are killing my friends, but I’m sad that Steve didn’t take out the garbage!”  One game I chose the school janitor as one of my characters so I could clean garbage.  That’s not as much fun (or exactly as much fun) as you’d think it would be in the zombie apocalypse.  The game uses a few abstractions to bring things in like how combat is instantly resolved as its part of survival, but not the whole part.  Overall, its fun, feels like zombies in winter, but isn’t perfect as a few minor things keep it from being a slam dunk.  4.25/5

Instructions– Here is the worst part of the game.  It’s pretty simple rules that read relatively quick, but they bury a lot of the leads.  There are very intricate rules that should be followed that are not expressed as importantly as they should be.  Sure, you can play in about five minutes, but you WILL miss something important.  The game comes with some nice player boards, but they leave out important information that would really help a new player like when and how many zombies to add to each location.  The rules are not bad, but they are not as well layout out or emphasized as I’d like.  4/5

Execution– I really like how Plaid Hat puts their games together.  It’s a well done game with lots of parts, tons of standees with great detail, and lots of small things like intro paragraphs to each game, and epilogues for each victory and traitor win.  This is a theme game (don’t play this if you want a Euro experience!), and Plaid Hat delivers on that.  Even the first player marker is a big knife cardboard token!  Well done.  Also if you want to see my unboxing of the game check this like out: https://youtu.be/nOgN3v8OiqY 5/5

Summary-If you want a great game that has absolute kick in the teeth difficulty, then this is your game.  If you want a co-op with lots of story built in, this is your game.  If you want deep mechanics that are completely new and different, then this is NOT your game.  This is a quicker version of both Zombicide and Battlestar Galactica.  It’s got the high points of both, but does lose a few elements of both as well.  That’s not bad is what comes out of the Plaid Hat kitchen is its own tasty entree, but it is a new, simpler, quicker thing.  Instead of the weekend killer that is Battlestar, this is less than two hours to get a game in-great for a weekday game night.  I think the crossroads mechanic was a bit oversold as the end all/be all new interaction mechanic, but that doesn’t ruin this game.  The instructions are a bit rough, but the videos online will teach you to play quicker then reading them.  Overall, this is a solid game that that’s fun if you want an amazing American-style gaming night with zombies, possible traitors, and some team work picking up some garbage around the barricaded house.  89%

Daily Punch 5-18-15 Quick Reaction quality for Shadowrun 5e

How about some love for the counterspell wage slaves out there?

Quick Reaction

Cost: 10 karma

You’re quick on the draw, or more specifically, on the anti-draw.  Each turn you gain an extra free action that can only be used to declare the counterspell action is ready.  This extra action follows all the regular rules for counterspell.

Thoughts?

Ring Side Report-Video Game Review of Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown

Product– Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown

Producer– Cliffhanger Productions

Price– $25 here http://www.shadowrun.com/shadowrun-online/

TL; DR– An ok game, but overshadowed.  80%

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Basics-It’s never just a milk run…. In Boston Lockdown, you take the roll of a shadowrunner who wakes up on a metal slab.  How did you get there?  Why did a dragon destroy the Red Sox playoff hopes?  Take the roll of any kind of shadowrunner you want, hit the matrix, shoot straight, and never, ever, deal with a dragon.

Mechanics– There isn’t much here in the game, but it works decently. Players get to choose a race and select how they want to build their character.  But, there isn’t a whole lot there.  The races give a bit of a difference at character start, but don’t really change the game all that much.  You get a couple of powers that you will use through your archetype all the way through the game.  You increase the powers by training up a simple skill tree.  That’s fine, but you don’t really get a ton of depth from that.  Once you have your powers, that’s in!  Don’t expect a ton of difference between a start character and a character that finishes the game.  You’re numbers a bigger, but that’s really it.  In terms of game play, the game is a simple tactical game.  You’re team of characters takes their turn moving and shooting/using powers, then the bad guys go.  That is every single mission.  You might get a mission to defend a location for a bit or touch X number of switches on the map, but overall it’s the same mission over and over again.  Again, not bad, but you won’t spend 10 hours playing this game.  It’s fun for a short burst, but then you’ll put it down and do something else.  It’s a semi-solid B effort. 4/5

Theme– Here is the saving grace of the game-This is Shadowrun 2075!  You’re playing modern Shadowrun set in the same universe as all the current books.  Wiz!  If you want to see how the world story is changing, then you’re going to play this game.  The story is fun and fresh.  It does have the standard “milk run to major plot” cliché we know and love, but it does get its foot in the door.  4.5/5

Execution– If the theme is good, and the mechanics are ok, then the execution is the bad.  This game is lag-tastic.  I have a laptop and a desktop that can both run some pretty hardcore, taxing games, but this game lags on both.  There aren’t even that many people on screen, and the game lags.  Forgiving lag, the game feels kind of half done.  It’s a working finished product, but some characters get a voice, and some don’t.  Why?  Stick to all voice or all text, as it feels like the budget run out halfway through this part.  The controls are semi-intuitive, so that’s ok, but the learning curve can cost you some money in the beginning.  The fact you only really get two powers for the whole game doesn’t really make me think leveling up the character is important.  It’s not a horrible game by any means; it just feels like it’s not completely finished.  3.5/5

Summary-There are two major Shadowrun computer games coming out now: the online game and Shadowrun Returns.  This is where it gets hard.  Shadowrun Chronicles isn’t a bad game, but compared to Shadowrun Returns, it’s not the best.  Honestly both games tend to get a little same-y as every level is a tactical encounter with little roleplaying, but Returns beats Chronicles on that front.  What Chronicles has that Returns doesn’t is the current world/metastory and co-op.  That’s what has its hooks in me.  I’m a sucker for a shared world I can influence, and this one has it in spades.  So the honest summary-if you only have $25 to spend and need a great introduction to Shadowrun-buy the RPG ebook (Didn’t see that one coming did you?!).  However if you need a video game, then you should hands down get Dragonfall and Shadowrun Returns.  If you want an online experience with leveling and co-op with friends with some current Shadowrun story, then Shadowrun Chronicles is a good place to play.  Neither beat the tabletop experience, but Chronicles will at least let you game with some friends.   80%

Daily Punch 5-4-15 Someone from Nowhere quality for Shadowrun 5e

If you can get a bonus, how about a penalty?

Someone from Nowhere

Bonus: 5 karma

Everybody knows that person.  This person has two anglo human parents in Brooklyn, but always gets confused with a half-Spanish/Half-Japanese dwarf from Africa.  It wouldn’t be so bad except the Human Polyclubs always tend to find this poor person when they go out to the McHugh’s.  Well, you’re “that” person.  When dealing with any non-player characters, any character who has a prejudice against any particular human race will always assume you are that race  and apply those penalties as appropriate.  Metatype penalties apply as normal.

Thoughts?

Daily Punch 5-1-15 Someone from Anywhere quality for Shadowrun 5e

Let’s keep the hits rolling with some new qualities.

Someone from Anywhere

Cost: 7 karma

You look like the guy that everybody’s met. You get confused for street gangers from Hong Kong or upscale businessmen from Cheyenne.  When you have any interactions with any other persons, no race based prejudice are factored into these dealings.  People just assume your from whatever group they are from.  Metatype basis can still be factored into your dealings.

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Shadowrun: London Falling

Product– Shadowrun: London Falling

System– Shadowrun 5e, Shadowrun 4e

Producer– Catalyst

Price– $12 here http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/140722/Shadowrun-London-Falling

TL; DR– Fun adventures, not by favorite execution. 83%

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Basics– Let’s run in jolly future England!  London Falling is a series of Shadowrun convention specials that have been updated and formatted for public play.  Players get to take part in slightly harder than normal runs that decide the fate of 2070’s England in adventures that are part of the Shadowrun Missions living game.  Can you handle the pressure of these runs and get home for tea time?

Mechanics or Crunch-Get ready for hard mode!  The con Shadowrun Missions are all made with a “big risk, big rewards” mentality, and it shows.  What’s here is hard core Shadowrun.  It’s fun and done well, but you might have to keep this in mind when you run the adventure as newer players might not stand a chance. 5/5

Theme or Fluff- Overall, the adventures are well done.  Seattle is fine, but it’s fun to run in a completely different location for once.  However, I think since this is a different place, I’d like more background for my players and myself as a GM.  Sure, I can hand wave some stuff, but I’d like a small section to help me better understand the world as I present it in game.  One mission has this, but why not the others? Also, some of the descriptions of locations and layouts are not done as well as I’d like.  It leaves a ton up to the GM to decide.  I can work with that, but I’d like there to be a bit more to help me set the scene.  4/5

 

Execution– While I’m overall happy with the crunch and fluff of this product, the execution is semi-lacking.  A major flaw is the lack of contact sheets and adventure summary sheets in the back of the book!  These are already Shadowrun missions adventures, so those sheets exist, so why are they not here?  That knocks of some of the score.  What is interesting is some of the mix between 4e and 5e as the contacts get the full treatment of how each type of contact will give you some information.  But, some of the contacts are all mixed up.  Art, your default Mr. Johnson for several of the missions, isn’t given a full rundown until the second mission.  That’s kind of strange as he’d be really helpful if presented in the first one.  That kind of summarizes the execution as a whole.  What is here isn’t bad, but I’d just need a bit more and a bit better organized.  3.5/5

Summary– If you want some Shadowrun Missions, then you’re going to get this.  If you know your Shadowrun, this is a great resource for more easy to run, quick to prep missions.  However, if you don’t have all the Shadowrun world lore or an encyclopedic knowledge of 2070’s England and London, you’re going to have a tougher time running these adventures.  I did enjoy them, but I need more.  I need my mission sheets.  I need more information as I love Shadowrun, but don’t have the near 30 years of real world background to run these missions as well as a Seattle run.  These are fun missions that are hard core with some hard traps but also some great rewards, so new players may need a bit of extra help to survive and win those rewards.  New GMs may need a bit more background to know all that is going on in the world.  Overall, it’s an ok book that provides some fun missions, but requires lots of extra work from your GM. 83 %

Daily Punch 4-30-15 Friends with Benefits quality for Shadowrun 5e

I’m reading tons of Shadowrun lately.  Let’s put in a positive quaility that I thought of when I read about ally spirits…

Friends with Benefits

Cost: 10 Karma

You’re slick, and anybody who knows you just wants to help you.  This even goes for the spirits you keep around you.  When you spend karma to improve an ally spirit, decrease the cost of each individual improvement by one karma.

Thoughts?

Daily Punch 4-29-15 Astrally Insensitive quality for Shadowrun 5e

Bug City Chicago is full of all kinds of horrible magic backgrounds.  Let’s see if we can work with that.

Astrally Insensitive

Cost: 7 karma per level (1-3 levels)

You’re attuned to the ways of mana, but other people’s mojo doesn’t throw you like it throws others.  For every level you have in this quality, decrease the background penalties you receive from a background count by one.

Thoughts?

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Harbour

Product– Harbour

Producer-Tasty Minstrel Games

Price– $20 here http://www.amazon.com/Tasty-Minstrel-Games-TTT3002-Harbour/dp/1938146786

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 minutes (2-4 players)

Type-Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR– This game feels like a pocket Lords of Waterdeep.  90%

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Basics-Let’s do worker placement with only one worker!  Harbor is a worker placement game where you only have one worker while you manipulate the market for fish, meat, stone, and wood to buy property and build your economic empire.  Each player gets a different role from a penny pincher to a pirate.  These cards give each of you a power, a start location, as well as a marker to keep track of your different good.  Between all the players sits the market board as well as a number of location cards.  These building each have a cost, a victory point value, possibly extra ability markers, and a power.  Each turn, players move their one meeple to a new building and do the action on the card.  These actions range from buy a building, gain some of one resource, or lose X of one resource and gain Y of another.  And that’s the entire game!  I’m not being condescending here; I’m impressed by the elegance.  What really cranks this game up to 11 is the market.  On a separate board is a market of good with the current value of meat, fish, wood, and stone.  You must have at minimum the same number of a good as the dollar value of the good.  When you move to a building that allows you to buy a property, you move the good to the sold location on the card, which is below the normal location.  You will most likely sell multiple goods at once, so multiple goods will be on the sold locations at the end of your turn if you buy.  But, the market shifts now.  Goods you didn’t sell move higher in the market, increasing their price.  The sold goods have saturated the market.  They move on the sold track to the last spots.  Since goods you sold a lot of have moved into the last spot in the sold row, good you sold more of enter the market on the lowest value as the market is now flooded.  Play continues until someone has bought their fifth building, then all players get one more turn, and the player with the most points in the harbor master!

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Mechanics– I wasn’t being glib above.  The rules are that simple, and that’s fantastic.  Also, this game has a semi-realistic economy.  If you sell a ton of something, then the market has a lot of those goods and won’t pay much for it.  I love any game with slick rules and easy grasp concept that plays quickly.  This feels like a pocket Lords of Waterdeep! 5/5

Theme– The theme isn’t bad, but it does need a bit of work.  I like the world this game is in.  It’s in the same world as Belford, and I like the way that place looks and feels.  It’s almost like the Discworld.  Also, the unique player cards do bring some story the game with all the cards have flavor text on them. That’s a good addition to a card game that adds a bit more theme to a semi dry concept of buying property and market manipulation.  Overall, it does feel like I’m a real-estate mogul in a fantasy world, but some of the simplifications does take away a bit from the theme.  This game is good, but it’s not Arkham Horror levels of immersion. 4.25/5

Instructions– The rules are simple, and they read quickly.  However they are a bit cramped and a few of the leads get buried.  On my first game, we made two fatal flaws: we multiplied the goods sold by the price and we didn’t use the center, uncontrolled buildings.  If you dig deeper into the rules, those are central to the game.  I’d like the rules to be a bit expanded and to provide a few more examples.  As it stands the rules are ok if you take the time to really read them, but you can’t just bust this game out and play in four minutes. 4.25/5

Execution– I like what comes in this box.  However, I have to whine about two things.  1-Stickers!  Tasty Minstrel Games loves to add stickers to wood.  It’s not as bad as say Village or Belford, but I hate having to put that on my stuff.  2-The card sleeves are nice, but I can’t fit my game into the game box now.  I’d like the box to be a bit bigger to accommodate the sleeved cards.  Normally, card sleeves wouldn’t be a problem as there something extra I’m adding to the game, but Tasty Minstrel Games gave out card sleeves as part of the kickstarter.  So, these are company provided.  Those things said, I do like how this game is done overall.  I like the art, the iconography, and even the wooden components.  Just give me some premade components as well as a bigger box, and I’d be thrilled! 4.5/5

Summary– This is a great game if you need something between heaver games.  It’s good in its own right, but you won’t get the two hour experience of a deep fantasy world.  That doesn’t make this game bad in any way, but it’s something to consider.  However, if you want to play a game that has about 1 minute of set-up and you’re then you’re in the middle of things, this is an awesome game.  The “realist” economy makes this game a fun puzzle, and the different races and fluff on the cards does bring you into the world of the game.  Even with having to put some stickers on wood, this is a great, quick game. 90%