by Zac Beldan
Last night was the monthly board game night that one of my friends hosts in the south-west. As I didn’t have any other events scheduled for the weekend so I was happily able to go. The event starts after dinner and goes into the early morning and while I wasn’t able to stay the entire evening I did stay long enough to get in a few games. Since I work on Monday evenings I don’t get a chance to hang out at the Open Board Game night at the store so this was my first chance in a few months to play some new board games.
First off was a quick game of Heroes of Normandie. I was introducing the game to a new player so we tried one of the provided scenarios called Saving Private Rex. I played the Americans and my opponent picked the Germans. The goal of the scenario is for the Americans to find and rescue their General’s pet dog. The game was fun and it was easy to explain the rules but I was struck, yet again, that the true appeal of the game is in larger custom scenarios where you pick your own forces and have a larger number of available orders. The scenario we played was a quick win for the Americans as Private Rex randomly appeared in a space that was easy for me surround and keep away from the Germans.
Next up was a four player game of Marvel Legendary. I only have the core set plus the Fantastic Four expansion and I used the Legendary iPhone randomizer to create the game for us. We got Magneto as our mastermind and the Bath the Earth in Cosmic Rays scheme. Arrayed against this foe was Storm, Mr. Fantastic, Thor, Spiderman and Nick Fury. To say that we lost this game is an understatement. Not only did we get a large number of Scheme Twists early on but each time we did we were forced to KO a super hero and due to Spiderman being on the table were often unable to replace the KOed hero due to Spiderman’s low cost.
We managed to KO one of Magneto’s four cards and weren’t even close to winning before the earth was doomed by Cosmic Ray radiation. As usual, Legendary provided a fun time. Even with the odds stacked against you by a random selection of heroes you often get the feeling that you an pull out a win if only you manage to get a good hand. And then someone draws a Scheme Twist and your plans collapse around you.
I really enjoy using the randomizer app because it helps to stop you from creating inadvertent choices that help you in the game. Magento and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants frequently require you to have an X-Men character in your hand or suffer a Wound. Since we only had Storm that meant that many of the players were racking up Wounds with almost no way to avoid them in the game as Storm was the only X-Men character. To make matters worse she also didn’t show up in the HQ until the mid-point of our game.
After we cleared up Legendary a copy of Fidelitas from Green Couch Games was pulled out. In Fidelitas you are attempting to gain the favour of various Guilds in a medieval village. Gameplay involves placing Guild members in one of 12 locations matching the Guild affiliation of the card to the affiliation of the location. Each Guild member you place has a special ability that allows you to move cards from other locations or take cards into your hand. By placing and moving Guild members you seek to try to meet the conditions of your missions ( such as ‘Gather Members from four different guilds at the Bakery’) to gain victory points.
The game played quickly and was easy to learn. One nice touch in the game is that you and your opponents often have complimentary goals which makes trying to perform your missions often a tricky and double-edged sword. Do you go for your own mission even if you suspect that it will help your opponent? Making this an even more difficult decision is that each mission has varying victory point values so you may help yourself to a two point mission but inadvertently give your opponent three.
This is, in fact, what happened in our game. I inadvertently telegraphed my mission but one of my opponents was after a similar goal and so didn’t break up my collection of Guild members at the Bakery. The opponent after him couldn’t do anything based on the cards he had and so I was able to collect my mission.
Fidelitas was a quick play and was quite easy to learn. It also seems to be a game that will have expanded strategic options as you and your group become more familiar with the available missions and become more aware of the implications of each potential movement of a Guild member. Since the game starts with a random dealing of Guild members to each location it means that each replay of the game will start with different conditions and different potential opening moves.
I got to pick the next game and decided to try out King of New York by iello. I haven’t played King of Tokyo so I was unfamiliar with the system but after a few rounds I could see why the game is so popular. Richard Garfield has created a very simple game that gives you a very good Kaiju feel without complicated mechanics. Each monster is functionally identical but the art makes it feel as if you have a a giant T-Rex or saw-wielding mutant Grasshopper.
As with most good games, King of New York is about choices. As you roll your dice each turn you have to choose between attacking your opponents, healing yourself or destroying the city around you to gain victory points or crush the pesky humans that may inadvertently kill you. This system is given an additional tweak by a deck of power cards that you can buy during the game. There are only ever three visible at a time and each one gives you a new power or makes it easier for you to accomplish tasks in the game like destroying tanks.
In King of New York, each Monster can make a dash for Manhattan and try to use the “fame” of assaulting that pricey piece of real estate to generate more victory points. While my opponents were duking it out for control of Manhattan I spent most of my time in my corner of the city stomping buildings and destroying tanks to gain the 20 victory points required for a win.
Never lose sight of what the quiet guy is doing all off on his own 🙂
I can see why this game, and its predecessor, are so popular. It is a small game that fits into a slight space and yet makes you feel like you are a 30 storey tall monster wrecking a city. The number of strategic decisions you need to make isn’t that large but they are often critical and the game can end quickly if you make the correct ones and get good dice rolls. I suspect that I will be getting this for the twins once they are a bit older.
The final game of the evening, for me at least, was Red Dragon Inn by Slugfest Games. I have seen the game at The Sentry Box but haven’t had an opportunity to try it our before this. Red Dragon Inn is actually a series of four games that introduces a series of fantasy themed adventurers who are relaxing at a local tavern after a stressful day of dungeon delving. How best to relax? By drinking yourself stupid, fighting with your friends and gambling. The aim of Red Dragon Inn is to be the last person seating at the table. You can get kicked out if your run out of gold or you can pass out if you drink too much. Each player starts with 20 Fortitude and an Alcohol level of 0. If your Alcohol level ever passes or equals your Fortitude you pass out.
Each player picks a character, I played a Half-Ogre named Grog, that comes with a custom deck that has special abilities that can help ignore the effects of Drinks, make other players lose Fortitude or help when you gamble. The cards are very well illustrated and have the character in question on performing the action in question. No generic cards for this game 🙂
During your turn you get to play an Action from your hand, Buy a Drink for another player by taking the top card of the Drink Deck and putting it in their Drink Pile and then drinking one of your own Drinks. This simple order of action can be rapidly complicated by your opponents playing cards from their hands to do things like make you consume another Drink when you least expect it.
Gambling is another activity that can lead to quick and dramatic changes of the game state as you win and lose coins. Run out of cash and you sleep in the stables. Gambling is a multi-round mini-game that based on the cards you and your opponents have can either end quickly with little gain or run multiple rounds and end with some tricky opponent literally stealing the pot after the game ends.
Our game ended with the evening’s host pulling out an unexpected victory against me by stopping me from using a card to ignore the effects of a Drink that sadly put my Alcohol level over my Fortitude. I hadn’t taken a lot of Fortitude loses by my Alcohol level was wildly high making me susceptible to a single Drink.
I was impressed enough by this game that I will be getting the Red Dragon Inn Op kit and running some events to promote the title. It was an interesting title, a really fun game and an interesting change of pace from typical card-based games.