Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Custom Heroes

Product-Custom Heroes

Producer– AEG

Price– $25.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Alderac-Entertainment-Group-Custom-Heroes/dp/B07117V56Q

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 45 minutes (3-6 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Build a hero!  89%

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Basics- Cards!  Assemble!  Custom heroes is another in the card crafting games lineup from AEG.  This game is a trick taking game where one player will play any number of cards of one number, and every player after them will play cards of the same number or higher numbers until no one can play any more cards, and the last player wins the round.  Then, the player who went last starts again. An example would be starting with three 4s, and then play continues to 3 10s. You can also skip other players by playing the exact same cards as the previous player, so even if that player has an awesome play, they might not get a chance get it out there!  Players continue until they have no more cards in hand earning various rewards. The first player out in a round then earns victor points, power chips, and inserts, while the last player left in a round loses a point, but gains many more chips and inserts.

And here is where the game really takes off!  Each insert will give you a new base number, add, subtract, or provide a new power.  When the round comes to you, you can insert as many inserts as you want into a card, as long as they don’t cover ones already there, and then play these new custom heroes.  The game starts with base cards numbering 1 to 10, but I have seen three 18s played on a turn! Powers have to be activated with power chips, but if you don’t use the power, you gain back a chip.  While you modified that heroe, they are part of a common deck, so you might watch as the hero you made one turn is played by a different player a turn later

The game continues until a player has 10 victory points and wins.  So you might be over the 10 victory point top, but unless you are the first one out with that many, play keeps going.  Three way battles between players with 14 or more victory points make for some tense games!

Mechanics-I have a lot of trick taking games, but the custom nature of this one is really fun.  You get a bit more choice in the game. Lots of games like this just screw you on the flop, but now you get the ability to build your own numbers should the ones you are dealt suck.  But, what’s really fun is how much this little game will make you think. You really do send your time thinking about the different math combinations you can pull to make your next play.  This is a simple game that hides a much deeper one! 5/5

Theme- Here is where this game gets screwed by my love of theme.  Hearts is a fun game, but it has absolutely no theme. This game has some good art and the nature of how the inserts customize what the heroes are doing is fun, but there really isn’t a story.  It feels like some anime world, but beyond that, there isn’t much here. This game has a fun, but not deep, theme. It tries! There are descriptions of things in the book, but again, this is like asking for a custom, story based, version of poker that doesn’t change the cards in any fundamental way.  3/5

Instructions–  Did you see the instructions up above?  That’s the rules! The book says it nicer, shows pictures, and reads quick.  This game isn’t hard to get into, and the rules make that transition quick. 5/5

Execution-Overall, i really like this game!  The art is cool with a nice anime vibe.  The inserts are great quality, as they build awesome heroes.  The one things I don’t like are the card sleeves. AEG has to walk a hard line here.  The card sleeves are the game, so they have to be rough and tumble enough to be used over and over.  BUT, they are a bit too tough. They stick to each other way too much! Often when I’m about to hand out the 10th card for the round, I have everybody count to see if I have given them 10 already because the cards are stuck together.  It’s not game ending, but it’s a slight annoyance that will drive you a bit mad. You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3TAXTdlFGWA   4.75/5

Summary-Custom Heroes is just fun.  It’s a small box game that teaches quick, plays fast, and isn’t bogged down in being too much.  The art is great, the rules read easy, and the inserts are a fun addition to a simple game concept.  I’d like to see more of this. I wish there was a story that we could build upon here to make more theme, but this is a simple game that any card player knows what to do next.  Overall, it’s a blast that you will want to replay as soon as you finish your last game. 89%

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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder 2.0 Playtest

Product– Pathfinder Playtest

System– Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Producer– Paizo

Price– Free! here http://www.paizo.com

TL; DR– Great Crunch, Decent Fluff, Horrible Layout. 89%

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Basics-Is this the 4th edition players wanted years ago?  Pathfinder Playtest is the newest playtest from Paizo.  It is an update to the 3.5 rules Pathfinder that is based on modern design design, Starfinder, 4e DnD, and other systems to make something new the players might want and the old vanguard will love.  Let’s check out a few of the key differences.

Basics of the D20 System-Pathfinder Playtest isn’t honestly that far removed from 3.5 DnD.  It’s still just d20 + ability modifier + ranks/proficiency/attack bonus + bonuses + penalties.  Thats 90+% of the game, and that hasn’t changed. What the big differences are in how the ranks/proficiency/attack bonus is calculated.  Level is now used to determine what your bonus/ranks are. During character generation your class, race, and background will tell you what skills you are trained in.  That uses your full level for a bonus. As you advance, you can become further trained gaining up to a +3 to your ranks/proficiency. This goes for attacks as you will be trained in some weapons and not others.  You take a -2 penalty to anything you are not trained in, be it weapons or skills. Modifiers are also cleaned up with most modifiers being called “conditional modifiers”. Just like the heart of the D20 system, you apply the biggest penalty and the biggest bonus.  That’s it! Attacks, spells, and skills all fit nicely in one package to the point that when you attempt an action that requires a skill, the attempt will be against a certain level, and the GM will decide if the activity is hard or easy to check a simple DC chart. VERY SLICK!  Defences is also figured out the same way as you can be proficient to various degrees in defending yourself.

Action Economy–  The second biggest change in my opinion is the action economy.  Characters get three actions per turn. One attack is free, but you can make two more attacks at a -5 and a -10 penalty, so a level one character can swing for the fences by attacking three times!  There are no longer any full round actions. Some spells require three actions, while raising a shield uses an action instead of a swift action. Every action has a nice stat block laying out what it does.  This feels very 4e DnD, but it feels like it’s more using the better parts of layout and design and avoiding oversimplification of 4e DnD system. Again, this is a great way to get all the over complicated pieces of that grew in Pathfinder into a much more simple system.

Feats or options-Starfinder provided lots of options for characters, so no two characters, even at level one, might be quite the same.  The Pathfinder Playtest goes further with that idea. When you build your character you choose a background and then several feats.  These feats are for your race and your class. As you advance you choose more feats for race and class, so you custom build your characters as a member of the race and as a member of the class.  So, while 3.5 grognards might think of feats as a sometimes thing that provides a bit of differentiation to your character, this modern design really focuses on options. Feat really just replaces the word option in this edition.

Mixed Shenanigans-There as also several other small changes to the game.  ITEMS STILL HAVE LEVELS! That always makes me happy as I know exactly when I should give each toy to the players, and quite honestly the best thing brought over from Starfinder.  Hero Points are a fun way characters get to control the world by providing rerolls, death saves, and extra actions in combat much like edge or luck in other systems. And, the list goes on, but most of these are smaller changes that you can dig deeper into.  These are not major ways Pathfinder changes, but do reward careful digging into the rules to see new options like throwing damage into a shield instead of your face or limiting magic item usage by a new statistic. It won’t keep you from enjoying the game, but all these small things don’t really break the game you might know and love.

Alright, let’s get to my thoughts on the system and book.

Theme or Fluff-Huh, this is a playtest book for a system, why is there fluff to this book?  I’m not complaining. Honestly, I’m impressed! It uses the base Golarian world, but does include fluff on the world and its people.  It’s not a ton, but it’s enough to get a game going. I like what’s here! What does and will always piss me right off is WHY DOES EVERY NEW EDITION OF A GAME HAVE TO CHANGE NAMES FOR BASIC SPELLS!?!  The basic healing spell in Pathfinder was cure BLANK wounds. Now, it’s heal. That’s just confuses players coming from previous editions as heal was a ultra-powerful spell. Nows is level 1 necessity for a cleric.  DnD 5e called their basic spell cure wounds, just do the same. Nobody owns those words! Good fluff, but some unnecessary changes. 4.9/5

Mechanics or Crunch– This really isn’t an edition change as it is a rules clean up toward a more modern game design.  People called the previous edition of the game Mathfinder, and now I am seeing the term Featfinder thrown around. Those are fair criticisms of the game, but I don’t think those are bad by any stretch.  Paizo uses the world feat here to mean option. This game gives you a lot more options! OSR games have one path for each character. More modern design likes options, so Pathfinder 2.0 uses Starfinder ideas to really give you more options per level so you don’t have a bunch of human fighters who are basically carbon copies.   The new skill system is good as we lost the overspecialized characters being the only ones who can play in any situation. Characters can still specialize, but if I didn’t spend 10 levels working on diplomacy, I can still talk to people without sounds completely stupid or being absolutely useless when we talk to anybody. I’m just slightly worse having at most an increased 25% chance of failure compared to most other characters by skill alone.  This involves more of the party and that is always a good thing! Action economy threw me for a loop. When I first skimmed the rules I missed that you get three actions a round, so actions like readying a shield really caught me off guard. Seeing that you get three actions a turn really makes that a much better option as well as being able to multiattack at first level with increasing penalties reminiscent of full attack in Starfinder. You can see lots of lessons learned from Starfinder in this game.  Magic is still magic, but the addition of spells taking more or less actions and all spells being able to be cast at higher levels for better effects really brings in some 5e and other RPG design ideas to Pathfinder. These are great additions to the system as now players can choose to just whip a small spell quickly or to really burn a whole turn gathering eldritch might to destroy their enemies. 4.75/5

Execution-Overall, this is a well laid out book.  First, Paizo PLEASE HYPERLINK! Heck, if you send me the PDF a day early and a coupon for a 10 piece of McNuggets, I’ll hyperlink your PDF for you!  This book is hundreds of pages full of new contect, so it’s a monster PDF. A hyperlink makes that not a pain to read and move through. Second, why did you change the layout to match the DnD Essential line for character development?  Do people fondly remember those books as a giant mush table that was hard to read but kind of looked like a broken comma delimited file? DON’T DO THAT! Aside from those major issues, the book isn’t bad. It reads well, and the new layouts for spells and actions look great.  It feels like 4e design layout principles, and if you didn’t love the mechanics of 4e, you have to agree the basic layout was well done. The book could use more art, but then again, it’s free and a playtest, so the fact it’s not 400 pages of word docs means this is way above what can be expected.  I would not buy the leather bound edition of PLAYTEST RULES(!!!) with recycled art, but for a basic softcover or PDF, this works well. 3.75/5

Summary-The kids are alright!  Honestly, if this is the new system as written, I’d be happy.  I like options! If you are an OSR guy/gal, then the number of options here will be a killer.  There will be quick builds, but the point of this version is if you want to do the thing, there is a way to build the thing!  Classes, races, and backgrounds all add to the crunch and fluff mix, and the options you have will help you customize your character to your heart’s content.  The basic math feels good. I like systems where I know how hard a skill will be at each level. It’s much less hand wave-y! The mix of attack, skill, saves, and defense do make life that much easier.  And that is where the rubber will meet the road for you. That is a clear carry over from 4e DnD. I LOVED 4e DnD. It wasn’t the d20 we knew and loved, but it tried. Low level characters could not do high level things.  Your growth as a character mattered much more than your starting abilities. If you think a level 1 dude should be able to hit the Demogorgon in the eye with only slight more difficulty than a level 20 guy, then this won’t be your version of DnD/Pathfinder.  I’m honestly down for the changes! The fluff here is good. It’s WAY more than you should expect for a playtest, but it’s a fun thing that they spent some time on. What NEEDS to change is the layout of classes and abilities. Please take that from 3.5. Give me columns that say what I gain each levels, what level I gain each different feat type at, and how many spells, if any, I can cast per day.  What you have here hurts me. Its text-file vomit that is hard to read. I can do it, but it makes life hard and reading not fun. If Paizo tightens up a few things, retools the class layouts, and builds a bit more theme in to the next book, I’d be down for the leather edition of the real rules! 89%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Wrath and Glory

Product– Wrath and Glory Warhammer 40K Roleplay Core Book

System– Wrath and Glory Warhammer 40K Roleplay

Producer– Ulisses Spiele

Price– $ 40.00 here https://www.gamenerdz.com/warhammer-40k-wrath-glory-rpg-starter-set-preorder?gclid=Cj0KCQjw77TbBRDtARIsAC4l83noBu-k1Ixh3su554S-3-k3nQS8VplfBm-A82w6EaBzdBMWaEWEzWIaAsxYEALw_wcB

TL; DR– In the Grim Dark Future there is only a surprisingly indie RPG!  93%

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Basics-For the God Emperor!  Wrath and Glory is a new RPG from Ulisses Spiele that covers the  world of 40K, a grim, gothic world of alien threats to mankind and the equally horrible men and women who fight the xeno threat while burning heretics by the score.  Let’s bust up how to play.

Core rules- Wrath and glory uses a modified d6 system like Shadowrun.  Every action taken by the character is done by adding up the character’s attribute plus their skill for that action and rolling that many six-sided dice.  One die is kept a separate color and is called the wrath dice, and is important later. Players then count all the dice that roll 4s and 5s for single successes.  Each 6 counts as two successes. Most tests require 3 successes to succeed, with some harder things requiring up to 11 almost impossible to get successes while easy things that always succeed might only require 1 success.  Players have access to a number of different pools to alter these rolls.

Icons and Exalted Icons-Each 4 and 5 counts as an icon.  This means successes, but it opens up design space.  Not only do sixes count as two success, but sixes also count as exalted icons.  All players share an icon pool that extra exalted icons can be shifted into or take from called glory.  Exalted icons provide extra dice on damage, making tests go fasters, getting better results, or moved into the glory pool. Glory give you extra dice, extra damage, increase critical hit severity, and mess with initiative.

Wrath-Wrath is the last pool players can play with.  Wrath allows players to reroll failures on a test, gain back shock (think stamina points from Starfinder), gain bonuses on some checks, and add elements to a scene.  This is the most powerful pool a player can use, so they only gain more points by role playing well, completing objectives, and some out of combat campaign goals.

Ruin-Ruin is the last pool that players can generate, but this is a GM toy.  Ruin operates like a combination of wrath and glory but for NPCs. Players generate ruin when the roll a 6 on the one separate wrath die.

Combat-Combat is interesting because combat has much more indie vibe to is.  Players take turns nominating characters then NPCs to act leading to a much more narrative structure.  Attacks work just like all other rolls with an attacker rolling attribute + skill vs. targets defence value.  On a success, the attacker rolls a number of dice equal to the exalted icons shifted from the attack or glory pool plus any from the weapon itself plus the weapons base damage value.  Success on the extra dice add to the base damage. If damage is equal to or lower then the targets resistance, then it takes some shock (again, it’s kind of like stamina points from Starfinder, they come back quickly on a quick rest but you can be knocked out when you lose them all).  If the damage if more than the resistance, you take wounds. When wounds equal your total, you’re dead! If you roll a 6 on the wrath die,not only does ruin generate, but you do critical hit damage.

In addition to the narrative structure of combat, players can spend glory to further mess with initiative.  Instead of nominating an NPC to go after a player, the players can spend glory to force another player to go after another player.  When the story demands awesome, the pools of player toys provide!

Also in combat are mobs of creatures.  It would not be Warhammer if you didn’t fight 40 orcs at a time!  When more then one unnamed creatures is present, they can fight as one giant mob with each extra creature beyond the first adding extra dice to the attack pool.

Psionics- Warhammer 40K doesn’t have magic, it’s got psionics or psykers!  Psionics fit in simply like any other skill roll. You make willpower + psychic mastery roll and need to hit a number of success based on the power to activate it.  In addition, each power also has a number of extra abilities called potency that can be activated if a character hit enough exalted icons.

Those are the major parts of the game.  Attribute + skill for rolls looking for 4s, 5s, and hopefully 6s to do cool stuff and move the story forward.  Let’s see what I think.

Theme or Fluff-Well done RPGs that introduce a new world fall into two major camps-story first or crunch first.  This game starts story first. Overall, it’s well done. I don’t know a lot about the imperium of mankind and the horrors of the warp, but I know there is A LOT.  This book CANNOT teach you all that you can learn about 40K. That is just impossible as there are entire youtube channels that release videos daily and still find 40K content to cover months later!  The book is more human centered, but later the book give lots of rules for non-human characters. It makes me want to know more about these xeno races. That’s not bad, but a bit more would make me feel like I could run a xeno game without needing other books.  However, as your first introduction to the world of Warhammer 40K, this is a great place to start from. 4.5/5

Mechanics or Crunch–   I really like the mechanics of this game.  Warhammer 40K is a game where you throw buckets of d6s at problems until they die.  This game uses the same mechanic, but slimmed down. Unlike the wargame, you do not compare defense values before rolling and checking charts to find what the numbers on the dice need to be to hit a creature.  This games uses a Shadowrun inspired d6 system that is amazingly slick. Shadowrun isn’t the perfect example, but its the system that comes to mind when I roll d6s and look for specific numbers. The comparison brakes down further when you add in glory, wrath, and ruin.  I love everything I see here as Wrath and Glory has carved out its own mechanics from other games. What’s more, the narrative nature of the game really draws you in. You can’t sit on the sideline waiting for your initiative. Every player has to be engaged to really survive as a team.  The tier system of character development and determining appropriate challenges will help the games running smoothly and let players know if that orc is just another nob loser to kill in a hit or a major problem that will kill the entire crew! Nothing here feels like it will just slow down the game.  I can’t say how much I love everything that I see here. 5/5

Execution-I like this book.  I was reading a PDF, so I can’t comment on if its hyperlinked, but it looks great.  It’s also over 400 pages so that’s amazing for the price. However, the one thing I wish the book had was more pictures.  I know enough 40K to hum a few bars, but I can’t keep up with the deep lore. I never got into the miniature game because models had to be accurate to play in a tournament, and I don’t know a bolter from a lascanon.  I’d like more pictures in the book to show me what all the weapons, armors, and toys are. Wanting more is a great place to leave your customers, and I can tell this one will have several more splat books. It’s a great book, but more fluff would help follow what all the action is about as well as break up the text in the book. 4.5/5

Summary-This game had a tall order to follow.  Wrath and Glory needed to deliver an RPG that let players throw a buckets of d6s, play quick, and let bloody glory for the god emperor rage across the galaxy.  And I think it does it! The system need more books to cover everything as ANY 40K RPG can’t be complete in one book. Just the 30+ years of lore means that any one book that is made can’t come close to explaining all of what is going on here.  But this tome does start the RPG at a good place. The mechanics are slick and play fast. The pools of different tokens make me feel like I have control of the action. The narrative nature of combat further brings in players to a visceral RPG where story comes first.  The fluf of the world feels good, and even a novice like myself feels like I’ve learned enough to at least start. The book is laid out well, but needs more pictures to help break up text and show not tell me more about the world. None of these complaints are game ending bad though.  I love what I’m seeing, and I just can’t wait for more! 93%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Duhr: the Lesser Houses

Product-Duhr: the Lesser Houses

Producer– Devious Weasel Games

Price– $25.00 here https://www.miniaturemarket.com/dwe4000.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&adpos=1o1&scid=scplpDWE4000&sc_intid=DWE4000&gclid=CjwKCAjwkYDbBRB6EiwAR0T_-hBpzyMP4YvWog65j9suM5TGfDH83ZBpJP8u00fsGxLE0pZEMCN1UBoCfUoQAvD_BwE

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (3-6 players)

Type- American

Depth-Medium

TL; DR-I don’t have to win for you to lose!  91%

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Basics- Why waste knives when words will do.  In Duhr: the Lesser houses, each player plays a minor, lesser house vying for power as the king will advance one, and only one, house to a major house, so it’s time to get dirty!  During set-up each player is dealt a secret goal that targets one or two players. Then, players take turns doing one or two actions. Houses that are favored (their house card upright) can take up to two actions, and disfavored or vilified houses can take only one.  The actions favored and disfavored houses can do are to put a card matching a house’s color onto the house face down, play a scandal face down on any house, discard a card of your color to use your house ability, play an event card, or discard two matching cards to do a masterstroke.  Masterstrokes are how you win the game. These reveal a card on any house, remove a scandal from any house, put scandals from the center on a favored house, or negate ANYTHING! This leads into house standing. When a house gets cards in front of it, it begins to lose reputation as unsavory things about the house come to light.  If a house has five cards in front of it it becomes disfavored. And when a disfavored house has three of the five card in front of it turned face up, it becomes vilified. Disfavored houses can only do one action per turn, have to shuffle their hands, draw two for the turn, and hope those cards let them do something good! After a disfavored house takes its one action, it draws cards, shuffles them with its other cards, draws two of that pile, and plays its next turn with two cards.  You now have less options but some effects can not target you. Vilified houses are hated by all, but they gain some awesome powers. A vilified house flips its house card over to a black and white side so everyone sees your status. Vilified houses no longer have a hand of cards. Villivied houses can just change a card in front of a house to a scandal, flip face up a card on a house, or play a scandal card face down on any favored house.

House powers radically change the game.  These powers range from moving cards between players, flipping cards face down, or even removing cards from in front of players.  This leads to people making friends quickly or you die even faster! Each player has an agent in another house. This person is a secret.  On your turn, you can flip this over, gain a card in front of you and can now play cards of that house’s color to use their power. But, if you ever become disfavored, you instantly reveal your agent, and that house gains a card in front of it.  That feels like it should as webs of secrets come to life and hit EVERYBODY!

Play continues like this until only one house or fewer remains favored, and then players add up points.  Favored houses start with 10, then lose one point for each face up card of their color and two for each face up scandal.  Disfavored houses start at nine and lose points like favored houses. Vilified houses start at 2 points and gain two points for each other vilified house!  Finally, players add points for their secret objective. Player with the most points wins!

Mechanics-I really like the mechanics of this one, but you need to know exactly what you are doing!  This game isn’t very forgiving, as social combat usually is. If you pick the wrong fight and do something stupid, you will lose quick!  The advice most people will give you is you need to play maybe three times to have the rules down. I don’t agree. I honestly think you can learn the rules in about five minutes, but that’s kind of like saying you can learn chess in about five minutes.  Now, you have to develop strategy. That takes time. But, I think that is time you will enjoy putting in. 4.75/5

Theme- This game does feel like noble houses knifing each other in the back.  You get agents in another player’s house, and sometimes getting that hated appointment causes him to flip his agent and screw you in the process.   That is a blast when it happens! I do feel like I am a Lord of a house fighting it out in the dark and in the streets to show that my house has its crap together and keeps our secrets safe.  Half the players in my games walk away exhausted because this game isn’t your standard DnD knife fight, but social combat. The other half want to reshuffle the cards and start up as soon as the winner is declared.  I’m in the reshuffle up and play again group! 5/5

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Instructions–  The instructions work, but you will need a few passes at it.  One major issue is you really need to pay attention to how cards are played.  Cards are played face down. That took me a few too many passes reading to get.  But, once you get the flow of the rules, you can easily play the game. 4/5

Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS!  This game only has small cards, and I only have fat fingers!  That said, my only other complaint is the action guide cards. They are awesome!  They tell you what you can do what you can do on your turn, explain all the symbols, and are really well put together!  The bad part is they are rare. You get about ½ the player count. It’s not bad, but you often have to share. And, I don’t want to share with people I want want to die!  The other parts are great. I like nice chunky cardboard for the houses and secret agent cards. Even the dreaded ¼ cards are nice. I also like the symbols. There is no confusion on what each symbol is on the cards.  You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3B7ECFtGU8I  4.5/5

Summary-I don’t own too many games where you play noble houses and knife each other in the back.  But, this game scratches an itch. It’s fun, it’s mean, and it’s quick. But it’s also not too mean.  I don’t have too many feel-bads. If several people vilify your house in a turn, then you just start wrecking other people with abandon!  Most games I’ve played, it’s not the favored house that wins! This game teaches you some fun lessons about politics. It’s not without its faults.  I’d like bigger cards, more pages to the rule book, and some extra explanation cards. But, overall, this is a blast to play, and one that when you finish, you’ll want to start up right away.  And, at its playtime, you can get this one back to the table easily. 91%

 

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Bitten

Product-Bitten

Producer– Cat Dragon Games

Price– $14.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Redshift-Games-Bitten-Board-Game/dp/B071Y7MVCY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1532962819&sr=8-3&keywords=Bitten+Card+Game

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 minutes to 1 hour (3-6 players)

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Three way monster mash! 92%

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Basics- There can only be one!  In Bitten, players take the roles of Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves as they attempt to take over a city by working together and against each other.  Each player is handed a lair card. This is a secret role that indicates if you are a vampire, zombie, or werewolf. From here, players are given five cards, and then in turn order, each player will either choose to play a card from their lair or from their hand.  If they choose a card from their lair, the randomly discard a card from the hand of cards they were given. Then, a player chooses to play that card either to a location or to another player’s lair. This leads to the two ways players can win. Each card has one to three symbols indicating zombie, vampire, werewolf.  Locations have a card number on them as well as a possible power. When the number of cards on a location equals the number written on the location, then you count the number of symbols on each card, and the most symbols wins the location (ties are possible). If at the end of any turn, a player has control of three of the five locations, they win!  For lairs, a player may never look at the cards in their lair unless they spend their turn getting a card from their lair. But, after a player plays a card and they have at least three cards in their lair and they have the most symbols of their type in the lair, they alone win! If no one won the round, then players pass their hand to the left, and players continue to draft cards until they pass one card.  If a player only has one card to draft from, then they draw four more, and play continues until one creature has control of the city and the night!

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Mechanics-Overall, the mechanics of this game are really smooth!  It’s a mix of a hidden roll and drafting game that almost always give you something to do.  Have cards of your symbol? Play to locations! Don’t have cards of your symbol? Screw with players’ lairs, but be careful!  There are also other action cards that remove cards and destroy locations, so that is a good mix for the game as the start locations are not what the game boils down to.  That said, this game slightly suffers from a player balance issue as play is really great at 3 and 6, but 4 and 5 can get a bit lopsided for the person without a partner. Actions cards are maybe a bit overpowered as several turns can be blown away by one action card.  It’s not horrible as this is a lighter game, but something to keep in mind. That said, this is a great game to get to the table, teaches quickly (honestly the quick run down above is 90% of the rules), and is a blast to play. 4.75/5

Theme- I feel like I’m gathering territory in this game!  Do I sent my werewolf agents to take over the dance club or the park?  Should the Vampires fight in the sewers? I do feel like an underworld fight for dominance is emerging.  Zombies are a bit of a tougher sell as I’m wondering how hordes of zombies are not noticed in a city? But, that is me being pedantic.  I do like the three sided nature of this fight. Locations where the undead would be get things that help undead like free symbols, and each race gets a place where two would do well alongside other locations where the race does well by sites.  The lairs all have fun names for the different people using the monster from voodoo master to mad scientist for zombie and others for the other two sides of this midnight beatdown. There is not combat between the monsters, so that takes away a bit as the zombies basically wave at werewolves who move in next door.  But that doesn’t break the game. The art also fills the theme as this feels like Sin City with a black and white noir style that feels like midnight. It’s a grim and dirty monster mash. 4.5/5

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Instructions-The instructions to this game are short and easy to read.  However, the instructions need a few more examples. In my first game, we ended up with a three way tie for our first location.  You can tie, but can you triple tie? The rules did not cover that. We said yes and rolled with it. That said, the rules work. If you have an especially punctilious player, then you may end up going to board game geek to fight over rules clarifications, but honestly for about 90% of the players and games, the rules are fine.  They could use a few more pages to describe things, but as written, you can play this game in about 5 minutes. 4.25/5

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Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS!  This game has them, so that always makes me mad.  But, once I learn to deal with my own, internal, mental issues, the rest of the game is really well put together.  Nice sturdy box that fits the cards. The little cards are there to help players see who controls each area, and I’ll admit, even grudgingly, they work well.  The art on the cards is really well done even for just being two tones. I can tell who is what from far away. The card stock feels great. It’s also a small game that you can play on a bar table with friends, and I think this is the place for it as this might not be a weekend killer.  But, Bitten is a great game that is a fun fill between your four hours games or at the end of the night when you don’t want the fun to end. Finally, this game is less than 15 bucks! You can’t go wrong at this price. 4.9/5

Summary-I usually don’t like hidden role games.  I’ve never gotten into bang, and Battlestar Galactica is still on my shelf in the shrink.  But, this game is fun. You can manipulate the others or you can just get work done. I don’t feel bored by this game.  I always have something to do, the cards feel great, and the art makes me happy. It’s just dark enough even though it’s mostly just black and white.  The mechanics flow well, and the theme fits, even if you dig too deep into this one. I also like the portable nature of this game. This isn’t a perfect game as randomness can absolutely screw you and the hidden roles might not be fair, but if you need a game that goes up to six, plays quick, and is fun, then Bitten is a great game to get to the table.  92%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Product– Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Wizards of the Coast

Price– $33 here https://www.amazon.com/MORDENKAINENS-FOES-Accessory-Wizards-Team/dp/0786966246/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531451731&sr=8-1&keywords=mordenkainen%27s+tome+of+foes

TL; DR-It’s not plagiarism if it’s from you!  83%%

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Basics-It’s not Monster Manual II, IT’S MONSTER MANUAL II!  Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes builds out the world of Dungeons and Dragons, focusing less on any one particular world and more on the higher and lower planes.  It provides players with some new options, race options, and even story to build out the characters they want to be. DMs get new monsters, focusing on higher power, extra planar monsters as well as building the universe around the normal material plane players are used to.

Theme or Fluff-This book is by the same people who made the planes in the first place, so its top notch.  The story is amazing, not just for a monster manual, but for any book honestly. You get a ton of options to really make well rounded characters from backstory to new hooks to get the characters really involved in the world.  There are multiple versions of tieflings depending on your devil parents. Those little touches really draw you in. DMs get monsters that have story as well as world-building that will really make higher level play much more interesting.  This is a great resource for any DnD 5e player that wants some planar spice in their game or character. .5/5

Mechanics or Crunch-Again, this book was written by the people who made the system, so they know their math.  The monsters feel right. There are new monsters as well as old favorites. Get ready for heavy hitters though.  This book has low level monsters, but it brings a ton of big boys to the fray. If you need high level monsters, then this is the book for you.  5/5

Execution– Is there a PDF since this book came out in 2018?  Nope, well we’re down to at most ⅘. Then, this is where I get personally angry.  This book copy/pastes the high level monsters from Out of the Abyss. I’m not just talking monsters, but art and even whole written backgrounds for monsters.  We’re talking about ⅕ of the monsters from the book, and almost all the high level monsters. And that is where I draw the line. Need big monsters to make the fight happen?  Great! Use some but not all. The highest level monsters are all the demon princes/princesses of the abyss. NO DEVIL LORDS ARE IN THIS BOOK. That means the DnD team decided to phone in ⅕ of this book by just copying another book they put out a few years ago.  So even though the book’s layout is good, art is good, and event tables of contents and appendices are great, you get a crap rating because you want me to pay full price for phoning in effort. 2.5/5

Summary– I want to like this book.  It’s got a ton of great qualities.  Players and DMs both get excellent resources to use to build up their stories with new characters options and monsters.  And honestly, the book is put together well. I like what they did here with all the different end tables and even the layout of the monsters.  However, this book breaks two important rules for me. First, I can’t get a digital version without have to buy it separately through an app. I already have a number of apps, and when that company folds, I will lose my purchase.  So the lack of PDFs really hurts this book. Second, large parts of this book are just copies of an earlier book. So, why should I reward any company for just selling the same thing to me twice? This is a great book, IF you can get past the fact that if you already own Out of the Abyss, you are buying the monsters again.  If that doesn’t bother you, or you don’t own that book, then this is going to be a great book for your DnD collection, both as a player and as a DM. 83%

 

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Cthulhu: The Horror in Dunwich

Product-Cthulhu: The Horror in Dunwich

Producer– Wyvern Gaming

Price– Kickstarter October 3rd

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (1-6 players)

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR– Not perfect, but really fun!  85%

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Basics-  Do you got the Moxie to take on Cthulhu?  Cthulhu: the Horror in Dunwich is a stand alone expansion to the Cthulhu: the Deck Building Game.  Players take the roles of different investigators fighting the old gods as they return. Each character has a different amount of health and sanity as well as a backstory, powers, and post death abilities. Characters choose what elder gods to fight, depending on the player count, choosing to fight one to two different gods.  In the Horror in Dunwich expansion, new elder gods are available as well as new Mythic Location cards. These random locations drastically alter the game by changing how much moxie you get, spawning new creatures, or putting other effects into the game. Players then receive seven cards giving them one resource called moxie and three cards that when played deal damage to the player.  With the god(s), mythic locations, and investigators chosen and the characters drawing five cards, you are ready to play.

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Each turn is broken down into roughly two phases: preparation and fighting.   During preparation, each player places cards on the table up to all the cards in their hand for Moxie.  Moxie is the generic resource in this game functioning for both attack and currency for cards. Players might also have some initial damage dealing cards in their hands.  You may choose to play those or just discard them at the end of turn, but some cards provide extra effects depending on the number of cards played. So, taking the extra damage might be beneficial to your characters depending on what you get!  After choosing to play as many cards as they wish, they spend their moxie to get new cards directly into their hands from the cards available in the library or central purchasing area. Once this is completed, all played cards are removed, and new cards are placed in the library to buy next turn signaling the end of the preparation phase.

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Fighting is straightforward.  First the elder god goes, doing whatever it says on the card.  Then a card is drawn from the mythos deck. The mythos cards are interesting effects that usually harm the players.  After the mythos card is drawn and its effects done, a monster(s) is drawn and then each monster attacks the players, doing whatever it says to players, from  attacking only one character to doing damage to all characters. Finally, the players can respond by playing cards to use more moxie to hurt the monsters, so moxie functions both as your money and as your attack power.  Players then discard all played cards, can discard library cards to draw more and cycle the deck, and lastly draw five new cards to start the next round. Play continues like this until the elder gods are dispatched or the players have all gone insane or been killed.

Mechanics– I like the mechanics on this one.  It’s simple enough to be quick, but not too simple to be dumbed down.  It’s an interesting mix of using the same currency for both attack and defense.  That might drive some players away as you can cast spells to buy stuff which feels strange, but the division of card types means you can focus your character in one way or another.  The library of cards feels like Ascension and Dominion had a baby. It does have it fault as it can get a little simple at times, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you want a challenge at all, you NEED to play this on the hard difficulty.  The easy difficulty might be a bit too easy for some gamers who crave a little more pain in their games. 4.25/5

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Theme- Theme in deck building games is a tough one.  It’s hard to keep monsters in the right place and all kind of other issues that are just random in nature.  This game has the problem, but deals with it admirably. Mythos cards work regardless of the elder god involved, but each elder god has its own chosen set of monsters.  If you draw mythos cards related to the elder god in play, more bad things happen. If you draw creatures with no relation to the elder gods in play, then only slightly bad things happen.  It’s a simple way to focus on the gods in play. It’s still completely random, but it does add bits of story in to the game. I also appreciate the detail for each investigator as their story, power, and background will really bring you in at the start.  It’s an uphill batter to put story in a deck builder, but this game does it well. 4.25/5

Instructions– Overall, the instruction work well for this game, but they do have a few issues.  You will have to reread the instructions a few times. Overall, the rules are extremely simple, which is appreciated, but I feel they need a bit more polish in the final product.  The pieces are all there, but some things like how the mythic locations are placed are not as explained as well as they should be. Once you know the rules from the base game, then you know how to play the expansion easily.  But, the new elements need more explanation. Everything here works, but its something that will require a few passes for you to really work through to see how all the pieces work. That said, the rules are about three pages, so reading through the rules again won’t be a several hour endeavor.  4.25/5

Execution–  Oh execution … this game will drive you to one of two camps.  I was immediately drawn to the art, the card stock, text fonts, and even the box itself.  All those things feel like Hellboy or Darkest Dungeon. I loved everything I saw with this one and really enjoyed the life counters as little slide on the card indicators.  Really cool! I even love the box itself. It’s awesome thick cardboard that harkens back to the old Fantasy Flight coffin boxes. HOWEVER, my wife….she is an English an English as a Second Language teacher…she was IMMEDIATELY drawn to the errors in English grammar and spelling.  And THERE ARE A LOT OF THOSE SMALL ERRORS. So, if you just love to see awesome art on nice cards this game will be an amazing addition to your collection. If you can’t stand a card that has a few grammar and/or spelling errors on it, then this will drive you up a wall. I live and die by spellcheck, so this didn’t bother me, but your mileage will vary! You can check out our unboxing video of both the base and expansion here:https://youtu.be/3PvRMR7MwPo 4.25/5

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Summary–  This game reminds me of a B movie that you love, even though it has a few faults.  My family watches Flash Gordon each year. I watch Flash when it comes on TV when I’m looking to see what’s on.  I play the fight scenes in the background when I write random stuff for my blog. The music is on my youtube work mix cue, so I’ve graded quite a few student papers to Hawkmen fighting on Warship Ajax in the background.  Flash Gordon is not an Oscar worthy movie, but it’s fun, it’s campy, and it feels right. It has flaws, but that doesn’t make it bad. This game is the equivalent of that. Are there other Cthulhu games that might have more polish?  Yes. Will those get to my table as often? Probably not! This stand alone expansion plays shorter than the box time says. I have to sort fewer cards than other deckbuilders. My favorite mythos god is Yog-Sothoth. All the stars align for this one.  My wife and my favorite game to play together is Eldritch Horror. But, even the lightest set up for that game is 20 minutes if you are lucky, and play time can easily be three hours. This game gets an Eldritch Horror experience into about 20 minutes. Is it a perfect match?  NO! Is it enough that on a weeknight when we have half an hour and just want to fight some horrors from beyond time this is going to come out? Absolutely! 85%

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