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One of Raine's biggest hobbies has always been gaming. It all started with an Atari and spread out to Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic: the Gathering, and Dungeons & Dragons. As an artist, Raine takes pride in painting models for games as well as making his own terrain. He's also been a writer for many years, working both in the journalism industry and writing pieces of fiction. He decided to create Initiative : Tabletop as a platform to talk about all things gaming that he simply thought were cool, and reviewing games became a part of it!

Guest Post: The Plan – Part 17: Mechanically Speaking!

No cooperative games to talk about this week. Yep – that’s right, I played three games off the list and not any of them were cooperative. It turns out that I didn’t win a single one of them either, but what can you do? Sometimes when you own the game, you get to play it a bunch of times with multiple gaming groups, so the owner of the board game gets more plays than anyone else. That doesn’t matter much in some games, but with most of the strategy ones your ability gets better with multiple plays giving the owner an advantage. On an unrelated note, I can say that I have played 50% of my current game collection (if I buy no additional games this year and none of the games I’m waiting on from Kickstarter show up). I’m ahead of the curve to be sure.

The first game was Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – I have to preface this that I still own most of the first edition stuff (with the idea to use it for the second edition – I have no plans to play the first edition of the game, it’s a bit too bulky and long for my current tastes). Honestly, I own all the main box expansions for second edition as well (all five to date). It’s definitely something to do with my obsession with the dungeon crawl, but we have talked about that already. With the exception of my miniature games (and probably only Warmachine/Hordes really), it’s the single most expensive (board) game I own!

This game puts one player as the Overlord with all the other players playing against them. Play is pretty simple with the heroes getting two actions (move, fight, and search to name a few). Once all the heroes have taken their turns, the overlord draws a card and then activates all their monsters (and bosses). Play continues until one side wins the scenario (heroes can’t truly die; they can get back into the game the following turn). The second edition game really helps with game flow and game length and I kept all the first edition stuff only because there was an upgrade kit for all the heroes and monsters (although I haven’t actually used any of them).

Descent: Journeys in the Dark – The heroes are in a bad spot here surrounded by monsters!

Descent: Journeys in the Dark – The heroes are in a bad spot here surrounded by monsters!

I have been playing this game using the campaign rules with a few modifications. Each scenario all players (heroes and overlord alike) get to spend their accumulated experience points to purchase cards and such (we don’t keep track of purchases game to game). The heroes chosen aren’t static either with players deciding each game which hero will be played. The current campaign has two heroes against the overlord. So far the overlord is 3 for 3 in Act 1 and won the interlude and prologue. I can’t say if it is just that the heroes have had tremendous bad luck, if the game isn’t a balance with 2 heroes or if the way that we are re-buying the skills and cards make a difference.

The second game was Dominion – this game brought the deck building as an in-game mechanic. Magic: the Gathering players have been working on building the perfect deck for years, but the idea of using that as a game mechanic was a big leap. Dominion has more than 7 expansions at the moment so they must have gotten something right! It also spawned a bunch of games that used that same mechanic – some of them add an additional mechanic or some such, but there are many that do not. I’m not sure if I should waste your time on the explanation of game play. I mean, you have played Dominion right? I only have 3 of the early expansions. It’s probably due to the fact that with the number of action cards I have available, I haven’t felt that I needed any additional ones (that and Dominion: Alchemy was not well received when I was in the market for dominion cards). Simple mechanics and game play makes for an enjoyable game. Be wary of the dreaded 7 gold in your hand – that happened about 4 times in a row and I can safely say it cost me the win.

Dominion – A wonderful deck building game; still one of the best!

Dominion – A wonderful deck building game; still one of the best!

The last was Hordes: High Command – I’ve played the Warmachine side of this one before so I wasn’t going to bring much up about it – plus there is already a review of it on this site. I think it’s a decent game and definitely adds a couple of novel ideas to a deck building game (the idea of ‘rushing’ to a battlefield instead of the just purchased card going to your discard pile or the fact that you have a bit of say of how you construct your deck based on the warcasters/warlocks you take). To date, I haven’t won a single game of this one, but I think that has to do with my abilities as opposed to any issues with the game. I haven’t bought any of the expansions so I don’t know if those help or hurt the game, but the idea of being able to tailor the detachments that you take sounds intriguing.

Hordes: High Command – A deck builder with a couple of novel mechanics

Hordes: High Command – A deck builder with a couple of novel mechanics

I’ll also mention that I demoed Level 7: Omega Protocol a couple of times this weekend. The more I get to play this one (even if it is a small demo), the more I enjoy it. If you haven’t had a chance to play this one, it’s really good (I talked about it in a previous column – part 6 to be exact). Sadly, I haven’t played past the first scenario and only as the alien player, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it. My only issue is the plastic used for the alien miniatures is a bit soft and mine have some interesting bends and twists. I’m told I just need to heat them up in hot water to correct the issues, but I feel that it was an oversight for an otherwise great game.

Level 7: Omega Protocol – Two Commandos are in the facility looking for the elevator having wiped out all the roaming aliens in the first couple of rooms.

Level 7: Omega Protocol – Two Commandos are in the facility looking for the elevator having wiped out all the roaming aliens in the first couple of rooms.

Two of the games this week have the “one verses many” mechanic. It allows an otherwise cooperative game concept (like a dungeon crawl, exploring a spooky house or sweeping aliens from a facility) not to be co-operative at the expense that one person wins or loses against the rest. Normally that doesn’t bother me, but that mechanic has some negative points. Most times, the person with the most experience is suppose to play the single player which can cause issues if the games are with different groups or that person is teaching the game and fails to help the newbie players. Also, the mechanic takes me back to my RPG days when the single player is controlling the game and trying to make it fun for everyone and not actually “win”. Don’t be fooled, these games aren’t made to be that way – the Overlord/Consol/Alien is suppose to be trying their hardest to actually win which can be a sore spot to the group. In the end, I think they work just fine though I am curious about the Descent expansion that converts it to a completely co-operative game. It might be a nice change of pace!

Until next time – Play a game!

Brendan Mayhugh


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