Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Crazier Eights: Camelot

Product-Crazier Eights: Camelot

Producer– James Gray

Price– $9 here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/recoculous/crazier-eights-camelot

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 20 minutes (2-4 players)

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Fluxx and Crazy Eights! 92%

IMG_20161103_090132.jpg

Basics-  Need a lightweight game, but also need a bit of depth?  Crazier Eights: Camalot is an awesome mix of the simplicity of Crazy Eights and Fluxx.  Each player starts with eight cards.  Then on a player’s turn, they draw a card.  That player can play a card and discard a card that matches to top card of the discard pile either in suit, number, or an eight.  The cards players play range from effects which are one time events that might cause a player to draw cards to assets that are permanent things in play that might destroy other assets, cause a player to draw a card, or even change how the game ends.  Then, the next player goes.  The game ends when a player gets to zero cards and wins, an asset makes that player the winner, or there is only one person left.  Long live the king!

Mechanics-I like the simplicity of Uno and the zannynes of fluxx.  This game is both.  It’s fast, simple (you just learned all the rules above), and easy to play.  My wife and I learned this game in the time it takes to order at Outback, and had played a full game before the appetizers came!  It also fits in a pocket, so it’s a blast all around. 4.75/5

Theme-The game doesn’t have perfect theme, but for a simple card game it’s about as much as I can ever hope for.  The cards do semi-appropriate things for the name and art on the card.  It’s hard to symbolize the holy grail in Uno, but this game does the theme enough justice to keep it going.  The game also has some great art, so that always helps theme.  4.5/5

img_20161103_072610909

Instructions-The instructions are one page, front and back.  I had a review copy, so there may be more pictures in the normal game, but it’s enough to get the point across.  I will admit something here, I never learned Crazy Eights as a kid!  But, this game taught me how to play and added on its own crazier rules, so that speaks well of the rules as written.  4.5/5

Execution-I like what I see here.  The art on the cards is good.  The cards layout is nice, and the cards are not too wordy.  I’d like the cards to be a bit thicker, but overall, it’s a well put together game.  4.5/5

Summary-You read my deep confession before, so this game should tell you how well done it is.  I like its simple nature, the rules work well, and the art and theme tie things together.  It’s not perfect, but the flaws are few and far between.  I think the fluxx comparison is a good one.  It doesn’t have the humor of Fluxx, but the serious art drives home the theme and keeps me in the game.  And for 10 bucks, you can’t lose on this one.  92%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook

ProductDelta Green

System-Delta Green

Producer-Arc Dream

Price– $20.00 here http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/181674/Delta-Green-Agents-Handbook?affiliate_id=239993

TL; DR-Great RPG with one big problem 87%

29974577

Basics– ia ia cthulhu fhtagn- BUT NOW WITH GUNS! Delta Green is Call of Cthulhu if run by the government as secret agencies vie for power and try to keep the horrors from beyond time and space from destroying the world or taking over the United States!  Can you handle the truth?

Mechanics or Crunch-Let’s break the mechanics up and give the basics as well as my assessment.

Base Mechanics-Delta Green is a classic percentile based system.  You have a skill or an ability rating, and you roll under that number to succeed.  As I grow older, I like this no fuss/no muss methods of rolling dice to avoid overly math-y systems.

Difficulty-When a situation is harder or easier than normal, the GM might ask you to add or subtract 10% or 20% to or from your skill or ability total.  Again, it’s a simple and easy  way to modulate difficulty.

Combat–  Combat is basically simple.  Characters act in dexterity order from high to low.  On your turn you do one action.  These actions range from move, shoot, or aim among other things.  For actions that require a roll, you roll under a skill as above.  There is no given dodge roll if you are attacked.  If you haven’t acted in a round, you can forgo your next action to try to dodge an attack by rolling under the attack roll.  Damage is a single dice roll that subtracts from a hit point total.  Go too low on the hit point total and you pass out.  Also, some weapons have a lethality rating.  If you roll in that range, the weapon just kills the target in one go!

Personal Life and Sanity- Just like other horror RPG, Delta Green has a sanity system.  Characters lose sanity and gain mental illness as they go crazier and crazier dealing with horrors beyond time.  This system throws in bonds as a serious component as men and women lose family members, friends, and loved ones.  Think of the PTSD struck veteran, but now add the fact that he/she deals with monsters beyond human ken.  Players may lose family members or whole families as they slowly go deeper and deeper into the world of Cthulhu slipping away from normal.  That level of commitment to roleplaying in the mechanics is awesome.

Advancement-Advancement is a snap in this game as well.  When a player attempts a roll in this game and they fail, they mark the skill with an X.  At the end of the game session, any skill that you failed that you had at least 1% in, you gain an additional 1%.  Also, between sessions, a character can gain 1 in an ability or they can gain 1d10 in a skill if they spend time working on it.  If they do, they lose 1 level in a bond as they lose touch with someone they felt was important!

Summary- I really want to like this game more than I do.  The addition of solid role-playing psychology makes this a great way to blend the theme and mechanics of a world where things just can’t be and can’t be dealt with rationally.  However, combat just makes me irrationally angry.  I don’t like systems where you can’t move and act.  That’s a minor issue as if all the players and monsters abide by this rule, I can deal.  However, the rules as written basically make it better to have a lower dexterity.  You get to react to an attack, but people who go fast can’t.  I can understand not being able to take your next action if you dodge, but this game penalizes people who go first.  Sure, it can be a minor issue if you don’t fight much, and I can deal with not having a dodge roll at all.  But, this irks me deeply to my core.  Therefore, it’s an ok system with a serious flaw. 3.5/5

Theme or Fluff-I mentioned above how much I love the commitment to theme the game has in its mechanics.  This game might even be darker than Call of Cthulhu as this game brings the role of sanity and psychology to the forefront in a very post-9/11 way as the psychology of the soldier is experienced first hand.  The book is full of stories and fragments of people trying to handle the unhandable.  It’s deep and immersive in a way I can really dig, safely and from afar.  5/5

Execution-This is a well put together book.  It flows well, has great art, and the PDF is well done and hyperlinked.  I like the index, the layout, and the whole book overall.  Some things could use a bit more organization, but the book is an exhaustive reference on both the government and the paranormal for new players.  4.5/5

Summary-Delta Green is a great RPG with one serious flaw.  Now, as a gaming group, you can play this however you see fit.  It’s a flaw that you can fix by all deciding that this is how the game runs.  It’s a flaw I will fix instantly in my tables, but the rules as written make me spitting mad.  And it’s just that one part.  The rest is amazing.  I love the depth of little extra bits that the authors throw in about government jurisdiction and random trivia that are in the book.  The art is great and the treatment of psychological factors in our veterans is phenomenal.  Sure, this is a just a game, but the level of depth that game goes into to use these conditions as things a person would experience if they experienced Lovecraftian horrors is excellent. I like everything in this EXCEPT one thing.  If you can get past that one thing, this is a great RPG that really updates Lovecraft to the post 9/11 world.  And since it’s under $20, it’s well worth the look even if you just use it for a guidebook to government organizations in your horror games.  87%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Mansions of Madness, 2nd ed.

Product-Mansions of Madness, 2nd ed.

Producer– Fantasy Flight Games

Price– $100 here https://www.amazon.com/Mansions-Madness-2nd-Board-Game/dp/B01J4NB6CO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477872904&sr=8-1&keywords=mansions+of+madness

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60-360 minutes (1-5 players)

Type- American

Depth-Medium

TL; DR-Great, but the price is a bit too steep! 89%

pic3118622.jpg

Basics-  Can you survive the Mansions of Madness?  Step into this fully co-op board game as different investigators trying to uncover secrets best forgotten and lore never found!  The game is very easy to learn and basically teaches you how to play as you go. First, the players choose a scenario that they want to play from a computer, iPad, or android device.  That is the first thing to note here- you MUST have a device to play this game.  These scenarios range in difficulty from one to five with the intro scenario being a two.  After scenario selection, players then choose different character to be with different powers.  With that done, the game will then give the players different starting items and the players divide these up as they see fit.  Then the computer will layout the story and world telling the players where to put icons on the map, what map to build, and what other actions they can take.

Turns are fast and easy to do.  Each investigator takes their turn in whatever order they choose.  On a player’s turn, they do two actions.  These action range from moving two spaces, interaction with different icons on the map/computer, interacting with puzzles, casting spells, and attacking creatures.  Interaction with some icons expands the map and story.  Sometimes when you interact with an icon on the map, you have to roll a number of dice equal to one of your skills to discover something.  The dice are eight sided with blanks, clue icons (magnifying glasses), and elder signs.  Elder signs are always successes, but clue icons indicate you could succeed if you spend a clue token.  You only get clue tokens when you explore or uncover something which makes the clue economy extremely important!  Also, some skill checks will require multiple successes to to succeed.

Attacking is interesting as when you attack a creature, you must tell the game how you attack.  Then the computer randomly assigns you an attack method that depends on a skill roll.  Sometimes the skill is obvious like strength for a punch, but other times you might end up doing agility when you swing a hammer.  Again, sometimes you only need one success and other times you might need multiple.  If you succeed, the computer tells you how much damage you do to the target.

Spells vary from attacks and player buffs.  Each spell is a deck of cards where you draw one card and keep it face up in front of you.  When you cast the spell, the computer or the spell will tell you how to cast it, what skills to roll, and then it tells you to check the reverse side.  Some spells cause you to have to make another skill check to avoid damage or insanity and some just go off without a hitch.  After you cast your spell, you then shuffle the spell back into its deck and draw a new, random version of the spell.

Puzzles are one of the most intriguing additions to this game.  Unlike other games where players have to just roll a die to uncover the family mystery, in this game, the players have to do sliding tile puzzles, math puzzles, and even picture puzzles to uncover secrets.  All are done on the computer, so there’s no fuss or muss on setup and clean up.  

After all players have taken their turns, you tell the app or computer you are done, and the computer takes control, possibly spawning monsters, doing horrible events against some of the players, and advancing the story.  Monsters are the biggest threat as they move around the map directed by the app.  The app will tell you to move monsters and then attack players in their spaces.  Monsters’ attacks are resolved like player attacks.  The target of the attack rolls a skill.  Unlike player attacks, each success on this roll only removes one damage, not ALL damage.  After attacks are done, the app directs the players to make horror checks against the monster with the highest horror stat within three spaces.  This is another skill roll that only removes one insanity for each success the player achieves.

Damage is interesting in this game.  This game builds on Fantasy Flight’s other games with damage cards being both normal damage and special damage.  When you take damage or insanity, you get a card face down of the type.  Some cards and events will direct you to randomly flip one or more cards face up.  Now, you get special effects like being lame or agoraphobic.  When your damage equals your health, you discard all face down cards and gain a wounded condition card.  You can’t do the move action twice in a turn, and if you gain the wounded condition again, you are dead and out of the game!  If you gain insanity equal to your mental stat, you go crazy and gain a secret goal.  Now, you might not win by helping the other players but might only win if you start enough fires!  It’s a fun, fresh twist on the game.  

Once all the monsters are done, then the players take over again the the cycle continues until the players win or horror descends across the land!

IMG_20161011_222755518.jpg

Mechanics-Overall, I like what I see here, but the computer part is a bit of a pain sometimes.  The hardest part is that the app is slow and there’s limited options on it.  If I attack with a 2×4, odds are I will see the same attack roll five times in a game.  That wasn’t bad in the first edition when I as the bag guy shuffled four cards for an attack, but now with the computer app, I’d like more options and descriptions.  The computer tends to slow down game play a bit.  However, I do like the general speed of human play.  A turn is quick as a human, and it is not overly complicated.  All the fun different things I want to do are easy to do, and I enjoy that immensely. 4.5/5

Theme-My wife and I can’t stop playing this.  It’s fun, and I feel like I’m in a Lovecraft story.  It’s even got a modified version of my favorite short story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”!  Things feel right, the toys are nice, and the look is great.  5/5

IMG_20161011_222743282.jpg

Instructions-Fantasy Flight Games has been doing this new version of game instructions where the simple instructions get a short book with pictures and the nitty gritty get their own book with an index.  That’s ok, but I end up needing to cross reference things, and it feels clunky.  Also, I feel some things were not explained as well as they could be, like how horror and monster attacks are not blocked with one success, but they need multiple.  Those details are pretty important, and I think it wasn’t emphasized enough.  I got the feeling of missing key instructions until later a few times playing this game.  4.25/5

Execution-Ok, here is the bitter pill to swallow-this game is not worth $100.  I like what’s here, but I feel I got more from the first edition than the second.  Sure the app is nice, but I got more cards in the first edition, more books, and just more stuff.  Now, I get more generic cardboard, monsters, and the app.  What makes me give this a “4” is the backwards compatibility of the starter box.  Fantasy Flight was a class act by giving me a conversion kit to get my old stuff into the new.  I think what I get here is fair for $80, but for the $100 it went for, maybe that’s a bit much.  Everything is great, but maybe not that good.  If you want to to make that choice for yourselves, check out our unboxing here https://youtu.be/HK3Mb369xoA  4/5

Summary-I like this game, but it’s a game that you have to invest in.  What’s here is good, but too expensive.  If you NEED your Cthulhu fix, then this is a great continuation of the Arkham Horror games from Fantasy Flight Games.  It’s a solid set with nice monsters, good cardboard, great stories, and easy mechanics.  But, if you can’t drop the equivalent of a small car payment on this box, you might want to wait till this thing goes on sale.  It’s a great game, but at this price, I’d like a bit more in the app, the box, and the game overall.  That said, I’m still glad bought it, and I plan to buy the expansions.  So, it’s gotta be good. 89%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

 

ProductCall of Cthulhu 7th Edition

System-Call of Cthulhu

Producer-Chaosium

Price– $30.00 here http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/150997/Call-of-Cthulhu-7th-Edition–Keepers-Rulebook?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Great RPG with an ok execution.  85%

150997.jpg

Basics– ia ia cthulhu fhtagn! Call of Cthulhu is back with the newest edition of the classic horror RPG.  It’s got a new update, a new hardcover, and a new look.  Let’s see How it stacks up to the current stack of other RPGS!

Mechanics or Crunch-Let’s break this one down into a few different areas.

 

Base Mechanics- This is a classic percentile dice based game.  Much like any other RPG, when you are told you need to roll the dice, you roll percentile dice (d100).  The goal is to roll under your skill or ability.  An example would be trying to read an ancient Egyptian manuscript.  You would see if you have the skill Language(Ancient Egyptian).  If you do, you can roll your d100.  If you roll under, you roll succeed.  It’s quick and simple.

 

Additions that are new to the system (or at least to me)-CoC 7th edition my first edition of Call of Cthulhu .  What this system does instead of modifying your percentage in a skill or ability like other systems is the use of ½ and ⅕ skills.  If the test is difficult, you may be asked to roll under ½ your skill.  If the task is amazingly difficult, then you have to roll under ⅕.  Again, it’s a quick and easy way of executing difficulty .

 

Pushing–  Let’s say you fail, but you want to try again.  You want to steal a wallet.  You fail once, but you think you could do it again.  This is called a push.  When you push, you get to reroll a skill.  Failing to steal the wallet is bad as you might get caught.  BUT, if you push, you might get the wallet and not get caught.  HOWEVER, if you push and fail, then it get really bad.  Maybe instead of pushing you off as a harmless carpetbagger, the target of the theft calls the cops and starts swinging immediately instead of just yelling loudly.  It’s a great addition to the risk and reward of Call of Cthulhu.  Also note-you may never push in combat.  Speaking of which….

 

Combat-Combat is quick. There is no initiative.  You have an statistic called dexterity (dex).  Combat resolves from high to low dex.  Each turn you can move a bit and then do one action.  Just like the base mechanic it’s roll under.  If I want to attack, I roll under an attack skill, and the target tries to roll under a dodge or counter attack skill.  If we both succeed , then we look if both are under ½.  If that happens, we check to see if we’re under ⅕.  If that happens, the defender wins.  Each character only has a few hit points and damage adds up quickly, so combat is deadly fast!  I love quick and efficient systems.

 

Bonus and Penalty Dice- Many other percentile based systems have modifiers you add or subtract from a skill.  Call of Cthulhu 7ed doesn’t do this, but It uses something similar to DnD 5th edition advantage system with bonus and penalty dice.  When a situation is particularly good like doing research on ancient Egyptian mythology in at the University of Cairo’s Egyptology department library, you would get an extra d10 die.  You roll this die along with your other percentile die and use the lower of the 10 position dice.  Penalty dice work exactly the opposite.  Say you are trying to decipher a deep one script while riding across the countryside in the dark avoiding horrors from beyond time and space, you get an extra d10 die.  Now, you get the higher of the two dice as you have a harder time doing the skill.  Of all the things I’ve seen develop in the RPG world lately, this is one of my favorites.

 

Money-Here is a weird one.  Characters don’t have cash, per se, they have a credit rating.  This is a rough estimate of how much they can spend at any given time.  You walk into a shop and want to buy something and it’s under your credit rating expenses in a  day, you just get it.  If it’s massively above your credit rating, then you might lose some credit rating at the end of the adventure!

 

Advancement-Every session, a character marks all the skills they use and succeed at.  At the end of every session, the character makes  single attempt to roll over their current skill in that task.  If they do, then they gain 1d10 extra points in that skill.  In addition, characters can also attend school and do a test over their skills and advance much the same as above.

 

Sanity-It wouldn’t be Lovecraft without someone going mad!  When you see something scary or learn a spell, you make a sanity roll.  Sanity is like any other skill that you roll under.  If you roll under, you lose less sanity.  If you roll above, you lose more.  Both events make it harder to deal with in the future!  Lose all your sanity and you go insane!

 

Magic-Magic exists, but it comes with a cost.  Spells use skills like any other action, and each spell uses magic points.  When you run out of magic points, you start to lose hit points.  To cast a roll, a character has to succeed at a ⅕ power roll.  From then on, the character doesn’t have to make a check to cast the spell.  Again, it’s a sleek and easy system.

 

Summary-  Overall, I like what I see here.  It’s sleek, easy to run, and more important, easy to play.  Players are not buried under a mountain of information at the start of the game.  You want to do X.  If X could fail, then you roll.  If you do fail maybe you can push and succeed or things get really hairy.  Call of Cthulhu has an advantage-like system that makes life easy instead of having to fiddle with different modifiers.  Money is easy to handle, and advancement is a snap.  I like what I see here.  My only issue is diversity and options.  You really only advance in things you succeed at.  If I want to learn to speak Aramaic, I have to know it at the start of the campaign.  I don’t freely learn that unless I train which might not happen.  My second problem is character options.  Sure there are lots of cool options, but beyond character generation, character are more flung into situation and can’t really build in a direction.  It feels a bit swingy to me, but that also enhances the helpless feeling from Lovecraft.  These are minor complaints, but overall, it’s a good system.  4.5/5

 

Theme or Fluff-The theme of this game is on point.  This is the 7th edition of the game, so they know how to make a good story with Lovecraftian themes.  In general, you CAN’T hack and shoot your way out of a confrontation with the horrors beyond time.  The book has lots of help to get new investigators into the game quickly and efficiently.  There are even two fully fleshed out adventures that the keeper(GM for this game) can throw at the players to get them playing the day you get the book.  4.75/5

Execution-This is the one area where I have some significant problems.  Things are written relatively well, and the art is good.  But, the layout of the book is a problem.  The PDF is hyperlinked, but finding what you need is still a pain.  The book has over over 300 pages, and I still have problems every time trying to find the credit rating table to figure out how much my players can spend at any given time.  That is a significant problem!  3.5/5

Summary-This is a great system that the layout of the book hurts a bit.  I love the way the system works in general, but wish that it had just a bit more options for the players during the game.  The  theme is on point, and I love what here.  My major problem is the book’s design.  I can’t find what I need when I need it.  I will admit, that might be a problem from me not having much experience, but if a new keeper is having problems, then that’s bad no matter what.  However, if you can push through some problems with using the book, you can easily fall in love with this horror RPG.   85%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Torment: Tides of Numenera-The Explorer’s Guide

51q0h9kpw-l

ProductTorment: Tides of Numenera-The Explorer’s Guide

System-Numenera

Producer-Monte Cook Games

Price– $40.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Torment-Tides-Numenera-Explorer/dp/193997951X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473811918&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Torment%3A+Tides+of+Numenera+-+The+Explorer%27s+Guide

TL; DR-What I want in a video game tie in book. 97%

Basics– Are you excited about Torment, the computer game?  Do you want to run your Torment Numenera tabletop game?  Torment:Tides of Numenera-The Explorer’s Guide would best be described as the “companion” book based on the video game for the Numenera tabletop RPG.  It’s  DEFINITELY NOT a strategy guide, but it does have new mechanics and world building so you can play the compute game at your table.

Mechanics or Crunch-This might be the weakest part of the book, but that’s like finding a single spelling error in a classic book.  What’s here is good.  It’s new, it’s fun, and it’s well done.  There are the expected things to help build out the blanking blank who blanks as well as cyphers and artifacts, but there is also a whole new social interaction system built on how the characters act.  It’s a small thing as it doesn’t need to be added, but it’s something GMs can make as big or as small as they like.  My one complaint is there isn’t more blanking blank who blanks options.  It’s minor though. The system doesn’t need a book of feats as much as it needs flavor. 4.5/5

 

Theme or Fluff-There might be more in this book about one small section of the world than there was in the core book.  I am absolutely serious.  I love the depth put in this book.  The small piece of the world that the game covers get’s a massive world building.  Here is the rub-as a GM for the game, you will have all the information you need.  As a players, there might be almost too much as it could spoil the game or even the video game.  That…is the proper amount of information for me to run an RPG.  I kickstarted the video game, but my wife and I are more excited to get this to the table with our Cypher group.  5/5

Execution-Cypher system has the best use of space of any RPG I’ve read.  You describe a fearsome adversary in the text, and the stats are less than a tweet in a sidebar.  Describe the use of a little used rule in the text, and a sidebar lists where the rule is in the core book.  MORE COMPANIES NEED TO DO THIS!  As for the layout, its great.  Few pages have too much text, but there is enough art, either hand drawn or game images, to balance out the reading.  I loved reading this book. 5/5

Summary– I was asked to review this book, but give the direct warning that “this is not a strategy guide.”  that is absolutely true, but what this book is amazing.  It’s full of crunch, fluff, and is well made.  I get new mechanics to play in a new part of the world.  I love everything about this book.  My one problem is I want more.  If there were a bit more character options, I’d be in heaven.  If you’re getting the video game, if you love the cypher system, or if you just want a well done splat book for Numenera, don’t pass this up.   97%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Mystic Vale

 

Product-Mystic Vale

Producer– Alderac Entertainment Group

Price– $45 here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DMZR1QU/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60 minutes (2-4 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Not perfect but amazing none the less.90%

MysticVale3DBox

Basics-  Only you can save the vales!  In Mystic Vale each player takes the role of different druid clans attempting to restore the world after a magic calamity.  Each player has a deck of sleeved cards.  At the start of each of a player’s turns, he or she reveals cards until three spoils symbols are revealed.  The last card with a spoils symbol is placed on top of the player’s deck of cards and is “on-deck.”  Players can also push their luck and harvest their on-deck card.  If they do, they can continue to reveal new cards on-deck, and place them in their field.  If they do, they may get extra points, but if they reveal another spoil symbol, then their turn is over.  This game has a built in bonus for when a player does this however.  A player has a token that if they spoil, they get to turn this token over and it allows them to use it as an extra mana, or purchasing power, in a future turn. The on-deck card is not part of a player’s “field” or cards a player can use to buy cards or gain points.  

IMG_20160630_172052899

Here is where the game gets interesting.  Each card has a number of symbols on it.  These symbols are mana (money for extra card pieces), victory points, growth to counter spoils, and spirits (a second currency to buy vales or permanent cards).  If a player doesn’t spoil, that player gains victory points, and then can spend mana to buy card inserts or spirits to buy vales.  A player can buy two of each, each turn.  Vales are placed in front of a player and provide a constant benefit and inserts are inserted into cards in a player’s field.  Here is the major strategy of the game.  A player doesn’t build as many intercard combos, but instead crafts intracard combos as new inserts unlock new abilities based on the symbols on the card.  Additional symbols called guardians provide benefits only if a card has an ability that triggers off guardian symbols.

IMG_20160630_172038312_HDR

This game uses a victory point based mechanic to determine when it ends.  Each game starts with victory point pool.  When the pool is empty, each players receive an equal number of turns, but now take victory points from the box.  After everyone has the same number of turns, players count count victory points on their cards, their vales, and the physical victory points they earned during the game.  The player with the most points is leader of the best Druid clan and reigns supreme!
IMG_20160630_172027831

Mechanics-The card crafting mechanic of the game makes this an amazing game.  I had a blast building different card combos.  In addition, the nature of building your field means you can build off turn and have almost no down time.  I’ve seen games take as little as 20 minutes when four experienced players hit the table.  I also love any game that has two different markets.  I get bored when the victory strategy is build the biggest card to win, and this game doesn’t have that at all.  The drawbacks of the game are player interactivity and a runaway victory.  I am basically running a race against myself. Other other players steal cards from you, but only from the buying pool.  I really don’t need the other people at the table.  Furthermore, if someone has the best card inserts due to the available cards, then that person will win.  There is strategy, but if they play better, they will win and nothing you do will stop them.  You can only just be better at the start and not fall behind.  It’s not a bad game, but know that going in! 4.25/5

Theme- Mystic Vale has a ton of theme, but it is a theme you must find yourself.  The game can be simply played as deck builder with a new mechanic of building cards instead of decks, and this will not detract from the game at all.  However, if you are like me, you really want to have a massive amount of story to your game.  It’s here, but you need to dig for it.  From the terms like field being where you harvest your mana to the idea of spirits revitalizing the mystic vales, you get a story as you play.  But, that means theme is not front and center. 4/5IMG_20160630_172022720

Instructions-This is an awesome game that teaches quick, plays fast, and masters instantly.  You don’t feel stupid stepping up to this game as you get a quick intro with enough introduction to get you gaming quickly.  By the end of turn two you have the game down pat.  Also the helper cards are amazing!  They really do get you gaming faster. 5/5

Execution-I love everything in this box, but the game’s execution suffers from its main mechanic.  The art is amazing.  The cards are good quality.  The box has beautiful dividers.  This game is almost everything I want to see in a deck builder.  But, every card has three sections.  Since you want to have the new cards inserts work in each spot, you have to divide the card insert pool by one-third.  That means the game can grow a bit stale semi quickly.  Luckily two expansions have been announced already.  It’s a minor problem, but it’s one worth mentioning.  If you want to see a full unboxing check out our video here https://youtu.be/cPVRTU2h5bk 4.75/5

Summary-Mystic Vale is one of my new favorite games.  It’s fun to get to the table. It’s phenomenally fast to learn and play.  It’s gorgeous, and it’s fun to insert cards into sleeves and unlock their power.  That said, it’s not without it’s faults.  The game doesn’t fix common deck building problems.  The theme isn’t as strong as I’d like, and you might get tired of seeing the same card after 10 plus plays.  But if you play a game over 10 times, then the game is a win as it keeps you coming back for more.  It does for me.  Despite the faults, I’d recommend this over many other deck builders out there.  90%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Scythe

 

Product-Scythe

Producer– Stonemaier Games

Price– Preorder here http://stonemaiergames.com/buy-scythe/

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 115 minutes (1-5 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Medium

TL; DR-Great parts, but player count dependent. 95%

pic2323719

Basics-  COMRADE! Scythe is a board game of nation rebuilding and development following an alternative World War I.  Players take the roles of different nations attempting to become the most successful nation after the fall.   Each player is given two player boards to start the game.  One board is your nation, describing your nation’s special power and unlockable powers you get when you build mechs-giant walking war machines that provide you with extra powers when you build them.  

The second board each player receives is an action selection board.  Here is where you get more variety from the game.  Each board has a specific type of focus associated with it.  These focuses range from industrial to manufacturing, and the focus of your nation will drastically change how you play.  The second player board also has the actions you will take each turn, but divides the board into top action and bottom actions.  These actions are simple to read as actions with an icon in red being a cost, while icons in green are the resources they provide. This allows for language-independent play.  Top actions typically get you resources to spend while bottom actions are where you spend resources to build your nation.  The top actions are bolster (get points/cards for combat), produce (get resources depending on the tiles you are on), move (move your pieces/earn money), or trade (get two resources or get popularity).  The bottom actions are upgrade, deploy, build structures, or enlist.  These actions require a bit more description.  The action board has a number of spots filled in with squares.  When you spend the upgrade resources, you move one cube from the top (revealing a new option when you take that action) and cover up a bottom cost (making that action that much easier in the future).  Deploy is how you place mechs on the field.  Each mech you deploy unlocks new powers for your character as well as all other mechs such as moving across rivers or having bonuses to combat.  Build allows you to move a structure from your board to the main game board.  Once removed from your board, the space uncovered unlocks new options on your turn like allowing you to move across the board or harvest extra resources.  The final action, enlist, allows you to get extra materials off-turn when opponents to your right and left take bottom row actions.

With the basics, the game starts off with you having two workers on the main game board next to your base and your character mini on your home base.  Players then take actions as described above.  A player selects an action space, then takes the top action, if he/she wants to, of that spaces and then takes the bottom action, if he/she wants to, of the same space.  What makes this interesting is the next time a player selects an action, that player cannot take that same action space!

Two of the things I mentioned above are combat cards/points and popularity.  Popularity is used in scoring at the end of the game.  Popularity measures how well the common man thinks of you.  Depending on your popularity, you receive more points at the end of the game for each area you control, each thing you accomplish, and how many resources you control.  Lower popularity means you earn fewer points, so this is an extremely important number!  Combat is also a simple and fast.  When you move a mech or a character onto a space of another player, combat might happen.  If there are only workers on that space, those workers flee back to their home base and you lose one popularity.  If a mech or a character is on that space, then combat happens after the move action.  Each player selects how much combat power they want to spend on the fight, from 0 to seven, and may select one combat card to add to the fight.  Combat cards range from one to five.  Each side selects what they will spend, (power is spent regardless of whether they win or lose), and reveal to their opponent.  The loser moves back to their home base, the winner gets the tile and all the delicious resources on the tile.

There are a few other minor things as well.  Your character can have encounters which are random cards that describe fun, extra events in the game such as finding a herd of cows that you can kill, buy, or steal causing you to lose or gain resources in the game.  Your character can also move to the center tile of the game and encounter the factory, an old relic of the last war.  The factory has a deck of cards that provide you with an extra action you can take with new exciting options like double moves and bonus resources.  The final thing of note is your goal.  Every player starts the game with two goal cards.  Goal cards state an action you must have accomplished on your turn for you to unlock a bonus way to score in the game.

This game follows a very similar end game mechanic to Euphoria-each player has six stars.  When a player completes a goal such as deploying all his/her mechs or winning a combat, that player places a star on the board in that spot.  When a player places his/her last star, the game is instantly over.  At this point, every player scores points based popularity and tiles they control, stars placed, and each pair of resources as well as the extra structure bonus tile.  The player with the most money/points at the end of the game wins!

IMG_20160710_181756044.jpg
Mechanics– I liked this game’s mechanics, but I didn’t love this games mechanics.  I had fun and built an empire, but I don’t think it’s much of a combat game.  Your actions are quick and easy to do, but the concept of fighting feels slightly added on.  Overall, the game is sleek and works well, but it feels like a cog missing one tooth-the machine hums along well, but every once in awhile, you get a bit of a clunk.  However, the two pieces of the player’s boards do make for an awesome mix as you get vastly different empires attempting vastly different strategies with warlike nations having to focus on farming  while peaceful nations might end up with a manufacturing center.  That variety really makes the game fun.  Also the indents in the board make all the actions that much more fun.  I love the upgrade action so much as I can see and even feel my nation getting better!  I have my minor gripes, but it is a fun game.  4.5/5

Theme-Much like the mechanics, I liked this part of the game, but didn’t love this part of the game.  Combat sticks for me.  We’re post-world war, but the fighting feels simple.  That is good as you resolve combat quickly, but it also means that combat doesn’t have much depth.  I do feel like I’m building and reclaiming pieces of after a war.  The instructions build on the nation’s providing each with their own background, story, and life.  I do feel like each nation when I play and the differences in player boards emphasise the theme each nation is taking. 4.5/5

IMG_20160710_181807308

Instructions-This game has a ton of instructions, but they do a good job explaining the game.  The rules are not complex with the bulk being chose action, maybe do top action, and maybe do bottom action.  The thickness of the rulebook is to build story (awesome) and to clarify all the working pieces.  I like what I see here.  It does have a few things I’d like clarified like how the submerge powers work, but overall it’s a well done and well laid out rule book that you can learn on the fly, if maybe a tad too long.  4.8/5

Execution– HOLY COW!  Stonemaier games is known for their parts, and it shows in this one!  Players get nice wooden pieces, the resources are all beautiful, even in the more simple price ranges, and the mechs/characters all look beautiful and different.  The details go so far as the worker meeples all have different hats.  It’s just a little detail, but it’s a beautiful one that really shows how much the creators loved this game.  I have an unboxing video showing all the pieces of the game here https://youtu.be/3g9vUQYz-pY .  5/5

Summary-This is an interesting one for me.  I like this game, a lot actually, but I don’t think this is my new favorite.  The mechanics are sleek, the gameplay is fast yet deep, and the execution is amazing.  If have a few issues with the theme and mechanics, mostly dealing with combat.  I do feel like I’m building or maybe rebuilding an empire, but there are just a few things that feel a tiny bit off.  These things don’t derail the game by any means, but it did take me out of the zone a bit.  Also, this game’s experience might rely heavily on the player count.  I have had more fun playing with five players than I did in a head to head match. This might not be the game I ask to bring to the table, but if someone asked if I wanted to play again, I would be happy to any time!  95%