There were two standouts for me at Origins this year: Guildhall from AEG, and Line of Fire by Jason Tagmire. The latter of the two had a limited release through Kickstarter but is probably one of the best quick-plays out there! I ended up snagging Guild Hall because I thought it was so good—and hope to get my hands on Line of Fire sometime soon!
Lets start with Guildhall. It's a strategy card game, with set-collection and hand-management mechanics, set in the medieval time period. Players vie for victory points by completing various sets, comprised of different character cards, each of which has five colors. Once all the colors of one card are completed, the player can use that (and at times multiple sets) to purchase a victory point(s) card. Players start with seven cards, three of which are placed in front of them, starting their guild. The other four can be used in a series of two actions on each player’s turn, or can be discarded (alone or together) to draw more cards. Each character card, when played, allows a different action, or power—stealing from another player’s guild, drawing cards, extra actions, and so on...sometimes even combined! As more of a single character card is played the effect grows, so two or four Assassins or Scholars allow for greater and greater advantages for the player (this is true for all character cards).
So now that I gave you all a rough explanation...my impressions!
Well...I bought it! It reminded me some of Carnival by Dice Hate Me Games, in the way you're completing sets in order to achieve a greater goal, however the game is much deeper! The variety of effects the cards have can dramatically change your, or your opponents', game. In theory, all 2-4 players could do their own thing, rarely taking jabs at one another, and only when they must—based on their hand. But it's much more fun to steal another players guild card that would have gained them a victory point! To get the most out of the game, plan on going after one another and chatting it up to get each other a little aggressive—it makes for a more interesting game. Another separation from Carnival is that there are no dice, making for a more uniform experience with just the card element; we all picked it up and were going strong after about 10-15 minutes. I believe it would be great for family play, but the theme also allows for some more hardcore gamers to appreciate it, especially in between play of two more-intense games. The victory points needed to win are set at 20, but you can shorten or lengthen your game by shrinking or increasing that. We played the expansion, Job Faire, at Origins, which can be integrated or played as a separate game. I bought the original but plan on buying the expansions after some of us get to play this one a few times.
Okay...maybe the best for last. I LOVED LINE OF FIRE! Jason Tagmire should receive high praise for this game; it was amazing. The game is a strategy card game, with some hand-management elements. Each player has a castle they're trying to defend—its hit points counted on a 20-sided die. Players play down their hand (five cards), which is comprised of defenders and attack cards. The cards are perfectly square, and four will match the length of the castle. Players play various unit types of varying strengths, indicated by a number of arrows at the top of the card. When an attack card is played, simple math (arrows versus arrows) decides the victors across the board. If the lines of defense are broken down and the castle is hit, it removes hit points from the die. Once both players play through their hands, then they draw back up to five, starting each round alternately. Players play cards one at a time in turn, and attack cards can be played in place of a unit card; I found this to be both advantageous and maddening! There were times Jason and I would play an attack card just as our defenses were going up, causing damage to one of our castles or the loss of several units due to the strength of ours. It also made for quick play and constant thrill, knowing that at any moment your opponent could attack. This was probably one of the best game mechanics I have seen in a while. Too often I'm sitting with superior forces, cards, waiting to attack in a game, but end up waiting for the end of the round allowing my opponent to gather enough forces or some special something to kill me. It was great feeling like I was in control. It also made for quick play—some forces would be played, and before you know it we're at each others throats! The simplicity was bliss! I loved the design. Jason had an interesting story on how the game was made, and I hope that it is picked up or invested in further to make a game with a little more polish. The only mechanism that Jason and I both thought might use a little work is the fact that both players are drawing from the same deck, but that's still not terrible. I was getting a ton of cool unit cards and was able to smash Jason one game. We discussed having a bag of the unit card/tiles to draw from, or even each player having their own equal deck. I loved this game—perfect for a 20-30-minute brawl with a buddy, and I look forward to playing it again!
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