There are few games these days that make it to the nickel club in less than a week. Some games can get the needed number of plays due to the game’s length really fast – for example, Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age, Escape: The Curse of the Temple or Dungeon Roll are fun and only take about 20 minutes per play. With that short of a play time, one can easily get through 5 to 10 games without batting an eye. It’s another matter for a monster of a game like Shadows of Brimstone, but after a single scenario played on Wednesday and another 4 on Sunday (in a monumental seven hour gaming spree) and just like that I have played through 5 games! The games on Sunday included three different experienced players being taken aback with just how good the game was. Heck, I believe that it is on the schedule to be played again this week and I welcome it!
To the list –
At Gen Con, I was able to play and then pick up a copy of Level 7: Invasion. It’s the third title in the Level 7 series and a nice take on a ‘semi-cooperative’ board game. Players take the role of one of the five coalitions of Earth attempting to hold back the alien Hydra from taking over the world. Unlike the other two Level 7 games, you are working with Dr. Cronos to stop humanity’s fall to the Hydra by completing a long technological project before the world is doomed. The turns order and rules are pretty easy to get a handle on and after a couple of turns one is worrying more about what to do next for your coalition and not bogged down in rules. Even with 4 individual tech trees for each coalition to manage, fighting the Hydra forces on the board and completing the massive technological project, it all fits and has a logical progression. After a couple of plays, we have fallen to the alien onslaught pretty handily. Keeping a handle on the alien ground war without letting them adapt might be the key to hold back the Hydra – only time will tell. There only issue with this game is it best with exactly 5 players. You can play with less, but I feel like it is less of an experience since you have to double up on the coalitions which take away some of the bickering that might show up with more players. Still, I’d love to try it again real soon to see if we can keep the red tide back (the Hydra minis are red – what can I say)!
As I noted above as a bit of a spoil here, I managed to play Shadows of Brimstone: Swamps of Death twice this week and got to play 5 scenarios with six different people. I admit that it might be a bit early to say that I have found my dungeon crawl game, but it is definitely taken the lead of recent tries. Merge the Wild West with the unspeakable horror of Cthulhu and you have the premise behind the game. I jokingly noted that the designers spread out a bunch of genres on index cards and tossed a coin and got “Cthulhu” and threw a second one and got “Wild West” to get this game, but after playing, it works and works great! Add to the fact that you keep your character and gain experience, gold and gear along with madness, injuries and mutations (one of the characters already has a tentacle arm being mutated by the amount of Darkstone he’s carrying) throughout that character’s career and you have a nice game in a massive box (or two since there are two core set allowing between 1 and 6 players).
Each turn, you must “Hold back the darkness” which is a sort of timer for the missions (with a bad effect if you let the horrors escape the mines). On certain spots of the track, the game gets stronger as the darkness spreads and your own growing dread affect the game. Then, in initiative order, models activate. For Heroes, they get a d6 for movement which they can move about the mine tiles. After movement, they get to perform an action. If there are no monsters on the board, that can be a scavenge action (if the tile hasn’t be previously scavenged) or look through the doorway to explore and place a new tile. After all models have moved and activated, the turn ends with any unrevealed exploration counters. Exploration counters contain the number of doors in the newly placed tile, the number of encounters, whether any monsters attack and if a clue has been found (important for most scenarios). After that, a new turn starts. If there are any monsters on the board, they stop the ability to scavenge or look through the door, but the turn order itself doesn’t change – you just use your action to fight! Combat is simple, decide if you are going to use a melee or ranged weapon and either add up your combat value (plus cards and abilities) or the number of shots your gun allows. Roll that number of dice looking at your melee or ranged combat ability (normally between 3+ and 5+). For every die roll that is equal or greater than your combat ability, you deal a hit. Each Hero’s hit equals d6 damage to which you subtract the monster’s defense to determine the number of wounds it suffers. Some monsters only have 1 wound, but most often the monster had multiple wounds to deal with. A roll of a six for heroes is a critical hit and ignores the monster’s defense all together. Combat against heroes is similar with just a couple of tweaks. First, for every hit, a hero has a defense save to block the hit and monsters have a damage value per hit that for most things is static (for example, the hungry dead roll a single die for combat needing a 4+ and cause three wounds if not blocked). After the adventure (win or lose), the heroes head back to the nearby town to rest and resupply. My only regret for the Kickstarter is that I didn’t pledge at the Mine Cart level that would have given me every add-on as well as all the stretch goals. Granted that would have been about 475 dollars, but with all the additional hero classes, monster or other worlds that it would have offered it might have been worth it! I hope that Flying Frog Productions has some kind of last minute purchase for some or all the add-on stuff. I would at least like to pick up a couple additional hero classes and other world locations to beef up an already fantastic game.
Lastly I played a game of Scrabble. I have been playing this game since I was a young boy. It’s a simple game that has been around a long time. Most people these days play Words with Friends which is exactly the same thing, but I digress. I will note two of my favorite Scrabble moments – both revolving around a triple word score. The first is when I was a kid (probably around 10 years old) and I was playing against my sister. She had played dam in the top right corner a single space away from the triple word score. So I played net on the triple word score heading down. She got up and told my parents of my ‘uttered’ curse word to which my parents replied: “Perfectly legal word”. The second was playing Quizzes (with a blank of course) with the Q on a triple letter and the word tripled. Since that’s a 50 bonus point word, it netted me around 200 points! My opponent quit after that play and didn’t play for years after the fact. Still a great game after all these years.
I still want to mention that there will be a small convention being done at the Indiana University Union on the weekend of September 27. There will be a Magic: the Gathering tournament on Friday and a bunch of Pathfinder on Saturday. I don’t know exactly what I will be doing, but probably demoing some game. Stop by and say hello, roll some dice and… play a game!
Until next time – Play a Game!