Today we're joined by Michael Mindes, the grand poobah over at Tasty Minstrel Games. Michael is here to chat about all things TMG. Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat with us today!Read More
Hey everyone! We're super excited about everything that's moving and shaking here at Theology of Games. We're happy to announce that our third episode of the Theology of Games Podcast is up and running and available for download on iTunes!
We were joined this month by the effervescent (Jeremiah wrote that. Weird.) Jason Tagmire, designer of Pixel Lincoln, Maximum Throwdown, and more! He was kind enough to chat with us about his games, and a little bit of what is coming down the road for Pixel Lincoln.
But wait! There's so much more! During this episode of the podcast, we give you all the details on how you—yes YOU—can win a free copy of Pixel Lincoln of your very own! Want to win? Listen to the podcast, or, check out the Web for clues about the contest! I know...super mysterious, right?
You can click this link to download your own copy of the podcast; we would love it if you subscribed and shared it with your friends!
Thanks for reading, watching, and listening!
"Four score and seven years ago, I kicked some serious butt with a sausage link whip...." ~Abraham Lincoln Deck-builders and retro 8-bit graphics—two big gaming trends that have been smooshed together in Pixel Lincoln. What did we think of it? Keep reading and find out!
Pixel Lincoln is a side-scrolling deck-building game designed by Jason Tagmire. It's for 1-4 players, and takes between 30 and 60 minutes to play, depending on the number of players. The goal is to score the most VPs.
4 player tableaus
4 wooden Lincoln meeples
Cards—including Characters, Enemies, Items, and Player cards.
Double-sided player board
A HUGE sturdy box
As with most deck-builders, you start with a starting deck of cards—5 Beardarangs, which give you one Power, 5 Jumps, which also give you one Coin. You set the board out to whichever side you'd like (there's no functional difference; it's just different scenes depicted on each side). You also have one Player card and two Life cards that you place on your tableau.
Then you create the two Level Decks. You combine three Enemies, three Items, three Characters, and a Special Item. You shuffle that all up, divide the deck into three small decks, shuffle three Checkpoint cards into each of them, and then stack the three decks on top of each other.
Finally, you set a facedown Mini Boss and Boss card off to the side for each of the two decks.
On a player's first turn, he or she chooses a Level to engage. So you take your Lincolneeple and put him in front of one of the Levels and start to make your way through it—just like an old-school side-scroller. There's no restriction on how many people can be in one Level—though there are certainly strategic reasons to pick one over the other.
You have five of your initial 10 cards in your hand. Beardarangs (and later weapons you purchase) let you fight the Enemies. If you meet or beat their toughness, you defeat them and you place the card in your scoring pile on the tableau. Unlike many deck-builders, cards you defeat don't go into your hand to clog it up.
Jump cards let you Jump one card in front of you—maybe you can't fight an Enemy, or don't want an Item, so you just pass it. You can also use the Coin on the card to buy the Item in front of you. If you do, it's added to your discard pile, like a normal deck-builder. If you start your turn in front of an Enemy, it 'ambushes" you, so you have to deal with it in some way—either defeating it or Jumping over it.
If you can't defeat or jump over an enemy when it ambushes you, it hits you, and you remove one Life card. You start with two of them, and your Player card is your third one. If you lose all of your lives, you're eliminated, and wait until the game is over, or everyone else dies, to add up VPs. Life cards are worth 5 VPs at the end of the game, so you want to stay healthy!
Most cards in the game have a small symbol in the bottom corner—an X or a Key or a Clock and so on. Character cards task you with collecting certain symbols by the end of the game, and if you do, you'll get VPs. The Character cards also cost you to buy, but they go to your score rather than your discard pile. Speaking of those symbols, if you discard a card with a symbol on it during your turn, you get to either score a card from your hand, look at and rearrange the top cards of the Level Deck, exit the current level and enter the other, or cancel the effect of an Enemy or Item card—either on your turn or on an opponent's turn to keep them from doing something cool.
If your Lincolneeple gets through the current "screen" and makes it to the Level Deck, everything behind him is wiped away, he moves back to the front of the Level, and you draw five new cards—so it's like a side-scroller, in that anything you pass is gone and you can't go back and get it again.
There are three Checkpoint cards in each Level Deck. The first time someone hits the Checkpoint everyone in that level gets to do one special action: either exit the level, draw a card, or put a card from your hand into your scoring pile (basically culling a card). The person who actually reaches the Checkpoint gets to do one of those things twice.
The second time you reach a Checkpoint, you still get to do one of those things, but now you place the Mini Boss card where the Checkpoint card was. Mini Bosses are just that: stronger than regular Enemies, but not as strong as Bosses. They're worth VPs, depending on which Mini Boss it is. They can't be jumped over or bypassed—you have to defeat them to continue in the level. When you reach the third Checkpoint card, you get the bonus, and then replace it with the Boss card. It's tougher, and worth more VPs.
Once both Bosses from both Levels have been defeated, the game is over, and you count up VPs.
Firestone—First of all, I really love the artwork in the game. I vividly remember the Christmas I got my NES—I spent the WHOLE day playing Super Mario Brothers. It was the start something big and influential in my life. The artwork definitely takes me back to that, and is fun.
Jeremiah— Yep! The artwork is amazing; I remember when I saved up a bunch of money and my parents drove me to Gold Circle and I bought an NES, which came with Super Mario Bros. and I bought a copy of Kung Fu. So legit...
Firestone—The theme is fun, and way more interesting than Dominion. Zzzzz... So getting my kids, or teenagers, or whomever to play this will be easier. Probably. Because let's face it: My kids don't care about retro, 8-bit graphics. In fact, to their eyes, they look junky and old. But still, the theme is is unique
Jeremiah— The theme is what drew me into the game. It's wacky and out there, but lots of fun. Dominion is a great game, but you'll never find a mutton-star in your Dominion deck, nor will you have to face down a Puking Turtle.
Firestone—The components are hit-and-miss for me. If there's one iconic aspect of Abraham Lincoln, it's his stovepipe hat. Unfortunately, the Lincolneeples look like they're wearing Afros, rather than stovepipe hats. The cards are fine, but kind of thin. The tableaus are nice, thick cardboard, with a good finish on them—though I did find it weird that there's no place for your deck or discards. I really like the Level Deck boxes that come with the game. Setup is time-consuming (as with most deck-builders), but you can create the Level Deck ahead of time and put them into these nifty boxes, which look like old school NES boxes.
Jeremiah— I think the one component that fell shortest to me, is the meeples, Lincoln meeples would have been awesome; these are just weird looking meeples. I agree that the player boards are laid out oddly, but for the most part I'm good with all the components. In fact, the level board is great, a friend of mine always says that card games need boards—well, in this game, you've got them!
Editor's Note: Jason emailed us to let us know that the reason he doesn't have a hat is that Booth stole it, which started this whole affair! So we just missed that, and are dorks. Sorry, Jason!
Firestone—The weird thing to me is that when I play a game that calls itself a deck-builder, I expect to...build my deck. You're kinda doing that here, but there's nothing to clog up your deck, so defeating enemies is a no-brainer. And there are few opportunities to cull you deck. You can do it three times if you are in the Level when someone hits the Checkpoint, and if you choose that as your bonus, and if you have something you want to cull in your hand at that time. That's a lot of ifs. You can also discard the cards with the star "suit," but again, that's only if you've picked up that card during the game at some point, and if when you draw it again, you have one in your hand that you want to cull. So it's less a deck-builder and more a deck-adder. Kind of. At any rate, I still felt that I had super-clogged-up hands at the end.
Jeremiah— Yeah, it's more of an 8-bit adventure simulation game, and in my opinion it does that creatively and well; "deck builder" is sort of a misnomer with this one, but I don't mind it at all, because I think the game itself—which has deck building elements to it—is fun and a nice trip down memory lane. I've thought more about the not being able to cull cards as often aspect of it, and it makes a little more sense to me, seeing as how half of the cards in the level don't go into your deck, they get scored, if you could cull cards often you'd not have much of a deck left... Just an observation.
Firestone—This also seems to have a player-number problem. When I played with four, there's so little control that it's easy to find yourself in front of an enemy (or worse, a Mini Boss or Boss) at the start of your turn. Hope you can deal with it. One guy got seven turns during the game: four turns of doing something, two turns where he couldn't do anything—anything, and one turn of being able to do nothing but his hit by a Mini Boss he'd started his turn next to. On those four turns where he did something, he bought two one-coin-cost cards for his deck, and those were the only Item cards he ever had the opportunity to buy. That's a problem.
Jeremiah and I played a 2-player game, and there was much more control, and it just "felt" better.
Jeremiah— When we played with 4 players we didn't run into the issues you described, but I could see the game changing, especially in the later stages of it, as players are burning through cards in the level before your turn gets back. I'm guessing 2-3 might be the sweet spot to keep it balanced.
Firestone Final Thoughts—I'm really not happy about becoming the Grumpy Old Man of the blog, but this game just didn't do it for me—at all. It's thematic and has fun enemies and items, but it's mechanically mediocre. If I didn't already have the DC Comics Deckbuilding Game, I could see using Pixel Lincoln to introduce my kids (or nongamers) to deck-builders. But I do have it, and it's just better, so I'm going to use that. Maybe I'm taking it too seriously. And I'm sure there are groups out there who will LOVE the art and theme and humor, and this game is just perfect for them. But my group and I didn't like it, so for me, Keep This on the Shelf.
Jeremiah Final Thoughts—Yep, I disagree. If you go into this one expecting a deep deck-building experience, you will likely be let down. However that doesn't make the game any less fun; it's just a different type of fun. Let's have some real talk for a second. You're a pixelated version of our 16th president, who is going through levels of a game fighting absurd enemies, using -possibly- even more absurd weaponry to defeat "bosses." I'm pretty sure you might be taking this one too seriously if you take it seriously at all. This is a fun, light-hearted game that will amuse the younger crowd, and delight those old enough to appreciate the nostalgia. Grab your Chicken Cannon, strap on your Beardarang, and Put This on Your Table!
We'd like to thank Game Salute and Island Officials for providing review copies of Pixel Lincoln. This in no way affected our opinions of the game.
Thanks for joining us for the review! And check out the video review down below!!
Hey gang! We apologize that we haven't been bringing our usual steady flow of content the past 10 days or so, but life has been a little topsy-turvy for us—but we're getting our ducks back in their rows. In the meantime here's a look at some projects over on Kickstarter we think you should take a look at!
Star Realms is a pet project of Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, two highly acclaimed MTG tournament winners. Star Realms is a 2-player deck-builder that is expandable to multi-player just by adding another deck for each 2 players who want to join the game. Unlike most deck-builders this one is a head-to-head combat style of game: less purchasing of Duchies, and more slugging it out.
It's way easy to get into at $15 for one deck (2-player version) but for an extra $10 you get a bunch of cool promos and freebies thrown at you! You can check out the full campaign, right here, and you have until Nov. 2 to get in on this one!
A very slick-looking strategic and economic board game. Players will seek to create the most prosperous kingdom, by building structures, training units, and gathering resources. The funding goal is pretty low on this one and they're already over half way there!
It's a little pricey to get in on this one if you're in the US because they're shipping from the UK; a pledge of $66 USD gets you the game, and you have until Oct. 26 to check out the campaign here.
Gambling - Lying - Pandas. In this amalgamation of poker and liar's dice, players play a poker-type game in which everyone lies about their hand. If no one calls them out on it, their hand is what they say it is.
A pledge of $35 gets you the basic version, and there is a deluxe version that runs $250! The campaign ends Nov. 7, and you can check it out here.
In a game for players 8 and up, this dice-rolling press-your-luck game looks like dicey fun for the family!
A pledge of $15 will score you a copy of the game, and the campaign (although not yet live) can be found right here!
Are you backing any of these games? Are there any out there we're missing out on!?
By Firestone This is seriously good news, folks. Back in 2004, designer Reiner Knizia came out with what was really the first LCG: Blue Moon. It and the expansion decks slowly went out of print, and they were recently fetching big bucks on the secondary market. That's all about to change...
Fantasy Flight has announced Blue Moon Legends, which will collect both the original game and the expansions into one package. There are numerous races in the land, and each is vying for control. They all have different strengths, characters, abilities, weapons, and control of the planet's main resources: Fire and Earth. Each race genuinely feels unique, and they're all a joy to play.
The game comes with nine preconstructed decks, and while you can play with those just fine on their own, you can also construct decks. There are rules for adding a few people from other races to any other race's deck.
The cards all look slightly different than they did in the original game—and the cards have gone from tall, "tarot" sized cards to regular-sized ones. My concern is that FF will look to expand this, which will mean if I want to play with the new decks, I'll have to re-buy the game I already own. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Which will be Q1 of next year.
There will be a TON of replayability and fun in this box. But there is one important thing to note. One of the races in the Mimex, which are sort of Amazons who wear almost no clothes. The game doesn't actually show nudity, but it comes quite close. I have every deck from this except the Mimex; I made the conscious decision never to buy it, and if I ever pick this game up, I'll be pulling them out.
Did you ever play the original? Are you excited about this announcement?
Thanks for having me!
So first, tell us a little about yourself.
I like to take long walks on the beach... I mean >.>
I'm currently 28, married for 10 years with 2 daughters who are both in middle school now. I love technology and Japanese culture, so my hobbies usually revolve around some combination of those two. The company I work for now doesn't have an official IT department, but I basically spend my time doing IT-related things with a large focus on developing in-house Web-based systems. Lately I've been training to run 5K's and have also gotten into racquetball at my local YMCA. We recently moved to a larger home as we plan to foster-to-adopt in the near future, but also want the space now as we started participating in the foreign exchange student program as of last year. I used to be big into MMO's and other video games, but wanted to increase my time spent with the family, so have swapped over to board gaming (with the occasional computer-based game tossed in).
Your bio says, “Having kids brought me to Christ.” Would you mind sharing that story?
My parents never got along as I grew up, and I had developed a strong dislike for my father’s personality. Entering my teens I had decided that whenever I had kids of my own that I would vow to be a better man. (Sorry for the dark story, but you asked, lol...) Anywho, when my girlfriend and I found out we were pregnant, I knew I had to figure out how to be a good dad and assumed I’d find some good pointers in the Bible. Ended up finding much, much more than I had bargained for, reading the whole thing through that year.
How did you get involved with Euro-type games?
I had played your standard Wal-Mart fare of games for years, especially classic card games and chess. Late in high school I got heavily into Magic: The Gathering as well as the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG. Having kids, however, made those too expensive for me. Fortunately someone had the genius to create Dominion AND I was lucky enough to find it. The fact that such a great game existed outside of Wal-Mart got me hunting for where else I mind find great games like that, which led me to BoardGameGeek.
What are your five favorite games right now?
That’s a hard one. I keep a tight rein on my collection—only keeping games that both my family and I enjoy, ensuring they all get played. As for my personal favorites? Guildhall and The Resistance are easily the top 2 right now, with 7 Wonders, King of Tokyo, and Go probably being the ones to round out my top 5.
Does your family play games, or is this just “Dad’s weird hobby...”?
Oh they’re thoroughly converted—well, most of them anyways. My youngest daughter has entered full-on geek-mode, frequently requesting game time. The wife also really enjoys all the family time that gets generated, though prefers lighter games. My eldest daughter is probably the least interested in games, but still humors us from time to time.
Neither actually. I’m a huge fan of fantasy, especially magic, dwarves, elves, etc., and had originally designed the game around that, with the chain mechanic being the way that the players weave their spells. AEG was really wanting to capitalize on the whole vampire/werewolf trend in general media however, so we swapped out the theme.
As a Christian, have you received any flack for the “ghoulish” theme and “sexy vampires” in the game?
Very little actually. Most of my family is too proud that they know a game designer to really fuss over the little details like that, though I have encountered the occasional person who dislikes the theme.
Yours is still one of the only direct-conflict deck-builders out there. What made you decide to go that route?
Even though I really enjoyed the deck-building mechanic introduced by Dominion, I sorely missed all the interaction from my Magic: The Gathering days. That’s when I decided to try my hand at mixing the two.
You and AEG recently announced an Eastern Skies expansion. What can you tell us about that one? What unique thing does it bring to the table?
This is a new base set and will likely be the set I begin recommending as the new starting point. Its complexity is somewhere between Martial Law and Coldest War, so shouldn’t be too hard for new players who have some deckbuilding background. As for the new stuff, this one introduces a new Link mechanic that ties into the existing Chain mechanic as well as new starter minion and a new wound effect. This set also continues the Summon mechanic introduced in Crimson Siege, though the Combat mechanic didn’t make the cut in any of the 24 new order cards.
Are there any other designs kicking around in your head—or even upcoming! Or are you mostly focused on NIghtfall expansions?
I’ve not begun work on any more Nightfall expansions, but have kept busy with new stuff. I have a time-travel-themed co-op I've titled Just In Time, which is mostly ready for publishing and just collecting dust as I wait to hear back from publishers. I’ve posted several images, as well as most of my process of creating it, over on BGG. I’m also working on another card-based game I’m calling Emerging Mystics, where the players are student mages who are learning how to harness magic and learn their first spells. The game uses a Mastermind-like deduction mechanic to generate mana, a puzzle for converting mana to what you need (racing the other players for purchasing priority), and then a scoring system similar to the science cards in 7 Wonders based on how highly you manage to level up the various spells you learn.
Favorite Nightfall card?
Favorite short story?
What is your “guilty pleasure” band—the one you’d be embarrassed for the world to know you listen to...?
OMG <3 Deadmau5 (or dubstep in general)
Twist: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom
Thanks for taking time to answer our questions, David! And thank you for reading!
Make sure you sign up to follow the blog, as we're giving away a copy of Boss Monster this week—all you have to do to be eligible is sign up to Follow the blog over on the right----->
(Sorry,the contest is only open to those living in the US and Canada.)
We've definitely had a lot of fun the first two weeks of this month, giving away some great games to our great readers. It's like Christmas in July here on TOG, and we're loving it! This week is no different, and we are beyond excited about the game we're giving away! Well, what is it?
This week we're partying, like a boss.
A Boss Monster that is!!
That's right: This week's giveaway is a free copy of the Kickstarter smash hit Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game!
In December we interviewed the guys of Brotherwise, creators of Boss Monster, and they have joined in the party this month and generously supplied us with this copy to give away as a part of our month-long blogiversary celebration! So, how do you enter to win this prestigious award? It's simple: Just subscribe to the blog, and you're in! Already subscribed to the blog? Well, you're in!
While it's not required, we would appreciate it if you shared this post with your friends, family and all those folks you have contact with via social media! We're super excited to be able to give away all of these great games this month, and the more you share our contests with your social circles, the more prizes we'll be able to give away!
There is a little bit of fine print: Once again we can not offer this to folks who live outside of the US or Canada. All of our funds are going towards producing the new podcast, and can't squeeze the extra funds to ship the boss too far.
You can order a copy of Boss Monster right now, right here. And it will be on store shelves the week of July 29. Or you can enter here to win it a few days early from us right here at TOG! You can find out all things Brotherwise at bwisegames.com
Thanks so much for reading our blog; it truly is awesome that you read, and we hope you understand that giving away a few games every now and then is just a very small way of showing how much we appreciate your readership!!
In Princes of the Dragon Throne players assume the role of one of the overlooked princes of the recently deceased Dragon King in the land of Lo'en. Beginning with a small amount of loyal followers you'll attempt to gather resources, persuade prospects to join your forces, and earn favor of the guilds throughout the kingdoms. Which prince among you and your siblings will rise to power and take the throne? Only time will tell.
The game comes with oodles of game bits, cards, and a huge game board. To be more specific there are:
216 custom miniatures - 80 Supporters - 60 Dragon Lords - 4 Dragon Princes - 72 King's Guards
179 Punchboard Chips - 84 Guild and Score Markers - 95 Resource Chips
157 Cards - 36 Dragon Prospects - 36 Citizen Prospects - 40 Starter Deck cards (4 decks of 10) - 36 Guild Favors - 6 Clan Favors - 2 Deck Title Cards - 1 Bargain With the Giant card
4 Player Aid Sheets
2 Custom Sorcery Dice
1- 22" x 33" Game Board
And of course the Rule Book
There is no apparent sign of either a partridge or a pear tree.
Setup and Overview
The board is separated into 6 kingdoms (Humans, Elves, Sorcerers, etc.); each kingdom is made up of 6 guilds (Merchants, Shepherds, Warriors, etc.). There is also a space for a prospect card (either dragon or citizen) in each kingdom. Surrounding each guild in every kingdom are 5 slots for Supporters or King's Guards. To setup the game: - Place 2 King's Guards in every guild (this will use all of them). - Give each player their starting deck of 10 cards. - Take 3 Dragon and 3 Citizen prospect cards, shuffle them, and place one in each kingdom. - Give each player three of each resource type (Gold, Sheep and Influence). - Each player then takes 5 of their Supporters (placing the rest to the side for now),all of their Dragon Lords, and their Dragon Prince.
Players shuffle their starting deck, draw five cards, and the game begins.
There are lots of stacks of cards, and resources, and so forth, so the bigger the table the better!
Game Play On a player's turn he or she can perform one of a possible four main actions, and a number of additional "King's Guard Actions," provided they have a King's Guard to use.
The four main actions are as follows:
Gather Resources—All the cards have two main functions, and gathering resources is one of those. On their turn players can play up to three cards from their hand and gather the amount of resources listed on them from the pool. If there are none left in the pool, you start pillaging them from other players, taking one at a time from each player moving counter-clockwise.
Recruit a Prospect—Once you've gathered enough resources, you can then begin to recruit prospects from the game board, by paying the value listed at the very bottom of the cards available. When you recruit that card, you snag another Supporter from your reserve pile; you also potentially score points (if there is a claw icon next to the cost). And if that wasn't enough, you get to remove a card from your hand or discard pile from the game!
Deploy Supporters—You can deploy up to 2 Supporters a turn, using two different cards from your hand. A Citizen card will give you two icons, which offers more flexibility; you can play a Supporter either in the matching Kingdom, on any guild, or on any matching guild in any Kingdom. Dragon supporters are locked into one Kingdom, on any guild, but they remove a King's Guard from the guild they are placed in (which goes into your reserve for later). Dragons also require you to feed them a number of sheep from your resources when you deploy them. You also can't deploy them where there are no King's Guards...
Maneuver Supporters—Finally if you choose to maneuver Supporters, you can move up to two of your Supporters from anywhere on the board to anywhere else on the board. This is great for taking over guilds, but also leaves guilds open for being taken over by other players... Speaking of taking over guilds...
If at any time you have more Supporters than any other player (or King's Guard) in a guild, you gain control of that guild. You get to place a spiffy token on it, score two points, and gain a guild favor card into your deck to use one time (and then it goes back into the general supply of guild favor cards). And you get to place one of your Dragon Lords into one of the houses around the Dragon Throne (either matching the color of the kingdom or guild that you just took control of).
After (or before) you've done one of those four main actions you can also use a King's Guard action (as many times as you like... provided you have a King's Guard to use).
The King's Guards that you gain by deploying Dragon Supporters allow you to do a few things. - Place 2 new prospects (if you don't like any that are out there). - Place 1 prospect card back on the top of a stack (if someone covered up one that you like). - Discard any number of cards (you still don't get to draw back up until the end of your turn, but it gets you through your deck faster).
You may also play one, and only one, Guild Favor card during your turn.
When your turn is over, draw back up to five cards (if you've played any) and the next player begins their turn by placing new prospects from either the Dragon deck, or the Citizen deck (their choice) if there are any empty slots, and then they proceed to take their turn.
Parliament—One last feature of the game is Parliament. Whenever a player's scorekeeper passes a red spot on the score track (at 6, 13, 21 etc.) parliament is held and players take turns placing their Dragon Prince in a house (starting with the player in last place). Each house has its own house bonus, which will give the player a special edge, or action, on their turn. When the next number is reached you do it all again.
The Goal and Game End—The goal is simply to score more points than everyone else; the game ends when all the spots in the Houses around the Dragon Throne are filled.
Family/Party Game? Uhmmm about that. No. The game isn't hard to learn, but there are tons of aspects to grasp before even beginning to strategize. This one is not for the kids.
Youth Group Game? Not really. The setup is lengthy, the gameplay is lengthier (about 2 hours, once you've learned the game), and it doesn't lend itself to a big group setting.
Gamer's Game? Absolutely! This may be the very definition of a Gamer's Game! Intricately woven mechanics, rich back-story, and tons of pieces-parts—the more I learned about the game the more I loved it!
Components—I can't really speak to the final quality of the components; I was sent a prototype of the game with good ol' fashioned wooden meeples. But I will say this: Even the "rough draft" style of the meeples was pretty fantastic, and the renderings of the finished minis look splendid! Clever Mojo is going all out for this one, folks!
Gameplay—There's a lot to take in. I've played with 2 players and with 4 players, and if you're in a 4-player game it can get a little sluggish if folks don't plan ahead. That being said, there are a ton of different decisions to make on each turn; just choosing which of the four main actions you're going to take can be a painstaking process! "Do I buy up that card before someone else does, or do I deploy Supporters while I've got this dragon in my hand, or do I save up resources so I can get that awesome dragon??" There's a ton of planning and a ton of decisions to make on each turn, so be ready to make threats of bodily harm to those who are lagging behind.
If I had any small complaint about the way the game plays, I'd have to say I don't know how well I like the Maneuver Supporters action. It seemed a little too free, with being able to (in a Risk-like fashion) move your Supporters around and conquer guilds. Yes, there was a risk (pun intended) to getting that reward, but I felt it could have used a little tweaking.
Artwork—Again, what I had my hands on was a prototype, and I don't know how close to final everything was. But the cards already looked fantastic—lots of great detailed illustrations, and not one was like the other. Each Dragon and Citizen featured a name and a bit of flavor text; a lot of work went into the thematic realm the game is placed in. Beautifully done.
Overall—With elements of deck-building, worker-placement, and area-control—and finding a great balance and synergy between the three, while throwing in a pinch of resource management—Princes of the Dragon Throne combines the best of your favorite game genres into a large-scale board game. Simply put: It's epic!
We'd like to thank Clever Mojo Games and Game Salute for loaning Jeremiah a prototype of the game; this had no effect on the content of this review.
If you'd like to back Princes of the Dragon Throne on Kickstarter, you can do so here.
Have you backed it already? Let us know!
We get ever-so-excited when folks sign up to get our posts via email, right over there, on the right!
Also you can find all kinds of Theology of Games goodness on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Check back soon as we interview Fred Mackenzie and his brother David Mackenzie, the brains behind Clever Mojo, Game Salute, and Princes of the Dragon Throne! Coming tomorrow! (June 5, 2013!)
Comic books are a beloved part of Geekdom. And with the release of the DC Comics Deck-Building Game, both major publishing houses have a player in the deck-building genre of board games.
So how does Cryptozoic Entertainment's DC game stack up? Let's find out!
214 cards—Standard-sized cards.
7 Super Hero Cards—These are oversized cards
A word about the insert. They tried really hard to make it useful, but it falls short. The space for the Hero Cards has grooves in it for you to slide your fingers down and get the cards out easily. Yay! Except the grooves don't go all the way down to where the cards are, so it's not helpful at all in actually getting the cards out. Also, the slots for the regular cards are so tight that once I (Firestone) had sleeved the cards, they didn't fit in there anymore. I was able to move some things around and make it all work. I do appreciate them trying to make a not-terrible insert, though...
One of my complaints about Legendary is how stinking long it takes to set it up. It's the same reason I'm mostly lukewarm about playing Dominion anymore: I'm just not sure it's worth the hassle. The setup here is easy breezy. You shuffle up the Super Hero Cards and give one to each player (or you can allow people to choose their own). Then you give each person their starting hand of crappy cards—7 Punch cards (each gives you 1 Power [the game's lone currency]), and 3 Vulnerability cards (which give you jack squat, and gum up your hand). You set out the Kick cards (1 Power and 1 VP), Weakness cards (-1 VP), and then set up the Super-villians deck (this will vary depending on the number of players). Finally, you shuffle up the giant stack of regular cards, deal out five into a row, and you're ready to go.
The game has one currency: Power. You draw five cards, add up the Power, and buy stuff...err...defeat stuff...err...it depends. There are Villain cards, Hero cards, Superpower cards, Equipment cards, and Location cards. These all function the same way (giving you Power and sometimes letting you do other cool things), despite the different names. So you're buying Equipment or defeating Villains, all with the same Power. It's not the strongest thematic tie-in, but it's fine. You can buy as many cards as you want on your turn, but the cards in the line-up aren't replenished until the end of the turn. You also have the option to defeat the top Super-villain. Ra's Al Ghul always starts on top, but beyond that, they're random, from a set of 12.
You start the game with one Super Hero identity, and each has a different special ability that is available to use each turn. So Batman's ability gives you +1 Power for each Equipment card you play on a turn—Superman's similar, but substitute Super Power card for Equipment. Wonder Woman lets you draw an extra card at the end of any turn you buy or gain a Villain card. And Aquaman lets you put any cards with a cost of 5 or less that you gain on a turn on top of our deck rather than in your discard. They're fun, and they tried to be thematic with them.
Just like most deck-builders, everything you buy goes into your discard, and you draw five new cards. Then you replenish any cards you bought from the lineup, and if you defeated a Super-villain, you reveal the next one. Every one besides Ra's has a First Appearance attack, which means that as soon as you flip that Super-Villain over, it will attack each player. Parallax makes you discard all cards in your hand with a cost less than 2. Captain Cold makes you flip your Super Hero card facedown until he's defeated. And so forth. Once these guys are defeated, they go into your deck and they have powers they add just like any other card.
Many of the Villain cards will just give you some sort of Power boost once they're in your deck. Some of them also have an Attack, so when you play them, every other player is attacked, unless they have a card that says Defense. For some of the Villains they tried to do some thematically cool things—for instance, Scarecrow's Attack gives other players a Weakness card. Two-Face lets you choose even or odd, draw the top card of your draw deck, and if its cost matches your guess, you get to draw it—if not, you discard it. I think they could have tried to make a few more tie-ins—like having Solomon Grundy have one power if you're playing on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday, and a whole other power if it's a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. But that's a small thing.
Hero, Equipment, and Super Power cards are straightforward, and usually there are combos that work well together. So Batman and Wonder Woman and Robin usually work better with Equipment cards, and Superman with Super Powers. Cards with Flash on them let you draw cards and run through your deck faster. The thematic tie-ins make sense.
One last card is the Location. You play this down in front of you and it has an ongoing effect—usually it lets you draw a card the first time you play a [Villain, Super Power, Equipment, etc] card, depending on which Location it is.
The game ends when either:
- You can't refill all five slots in the lineup—I've never seen this happen.
- You defeat all of the Super-Villains.
Count up VPs, and declare a winner!
Youth group game? Maybe! it's certainly accessible enough, but it's not a large-group game.
Family game? Possibly! Older kids (probably 8 and up) will enjoy it, but it leaves the younger ones in the dust. And there's no way our wives are playing this one!
Gamers' game? Yes! Provided they're open to another deckbuilder—and one that's lighter than most. There's some good gaming to be had with this one.
Firestone—I have to get this out of the way: Why wouldn't they try to come up a with a better name?! That's like naming Village, The Medieval-Times Worker-Placement Game.
Jeremiah—I agree, the name is pretty utilitarian. If it was a horrible game, it would be one more thing to pile on, but the game is good so I'm willing to overlook it.
Jeremiah—The components are great; in all reality it's pretty hard to screw up a bunch of cards. I haven't sleeved mine yet, so I don't have any problems with the tray insert, except the Super Hero cards do slide all the way down into the abyss.
Firestone—I used this to teach my 8-year-old how to play deck-builders, and it's PERFECT for that. It's straightforward, easy to understand, thematically fun, and just...perfect. He loves it, and it's his go-to game right now.
Jeremiah—I thought the gameplay was great! It's really quite easy to learn, and after you've played it once or twice you start to see the synergy between many of the cards and can really combo up. I love that it supports up to 5 players as well.
Jeremiah—I really like how there's a competitive edge to the game, and I think that comes from how the "line-up" works. Instead of the standard format of many deck-builders (cough, cough Dominion) you only have access to cards for a brief period of time, so I found myself trying to not show much interest in cards in hopes it wouldn't get bought up before my turn came around.
Firestone—Yeah, and unlike some other games with line-ups, things don't stall out in this one—you always have something to do. It was fun playing with my son, because I could always tell when he really wanted a certain card. Super cute...but a terrible poker player.
Jeremiah—There are a few thematic elements that don't make complete sense. Such why the other heroes (players) are referred to as "foes" on the cards, and as mentioned above, Superman wouldn't drive the Batmobile. But for me, they were minor hurdles to overcome on the way to enjoying a really fun game. The fact is, when you shuffle up a couple hundred cards together, wacky stuff is going to happen. Just roll with it.
Firestone—There are a couple of things I found slightly problematic. A few of the cards seem very, very strong. The Super-Villain Parallax lets you double your Power on the turn you play him. And the Man Of Steel card gives you +3 Power and lets you put all Super Powers from your discard pile into your hand—depending on when that comes up, you'll be able to destroy just about anything. Those cards are expensive, but in my experience, if you get Parallax—especially early—you'll just roll. Given the weight of the game, though, I'm generally okay with it.
My other small complaint is that the game usually rushes toward the end. People get such powerful decks by the end that someone on each turn is defeating a Super-Villain. But that means the Super-Villains on the bottom of that deck won't ever get played because the game will end before they can cycle through. The designer recently addressed this by offering a variant where the Super-Villains are shuffled into the main deck, you have six cards in the line-up instead of five, and the game's not over until you go through the whole deck. I can't wait to try that out—seems fun!
We should probably also mention the women in the game. Almost all of them are showing a fair amount of cleavage. This is standard comic-book fare, but if my son has a hand filled with Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, and the Suicide Squad, he's going to be staring at a lot of cartoon cleavage. It's not a deal-breaker but it is disappointing.
Firestone Final Thoughts—The combos are cool. The theme is well-integrated. I can't think of a better intro to deck-builders. The art is terrific. And above all, it's FUN. If you have kids who like superheroes and dislike being bored (Dominion...Zzzzz....), get this game!
Jeremiah Final Thoughts— This game is working its way into a pretty regular rotation among my gamer friends. One of them referred to it as "my jam" a week ago. It's a really fun game, and at its core it's pretty easy to learn—but offers plenty of depth for strategies and card combos. I'm giving this one a big thumbs up!
Theology Of Games would like to thank Cryptozoic Entertainment for providing a review copy of the DC Comics Deck-Building Game. This in no way affected our opinion of the game.
Today’s interview is with Robert K. Gabhart (but he goes by Kyle), designer of Arctic Scavengers—the very first deck-building game to come out after that...other...mildly popular one. We’re super excited he agreed to answer some questions from us. And awaaaaay we go! Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m a Pisces; I enjoy candlelight dinners, and long walks on the beach.
You’re from Texas. My (Firestone) wife is, too. Why are you people so stinking obnoxious about being Texans?
Never ask a man if he’s from Texas, because if he is, then he’ll come right out and tell you. And if he’s not…well, why embarrass him?
The truth is that Texans are a proud bunch because we have just a little bit more awesome inside of us than anyone else seems to have. We have our own electric grid, we are the only state that gets to fly our flag at the same height as the US flag, and we only remain in the union out of pity for the rest of you.
So, Arctic Scavengers: Were you working on a deck-building game before Dominion came out? Or was it designed after you played Dominion? Tell us the design story of Arctic Scavengers.
So Dominion was only the 5th designer board game that was even introduced to me. A buddy introduced me to the hobby in November of 2008. My initial games included: San Juan, Ra, Pandemic, Manila, and Dominion. Dominion particularly piqued my interest.
The truth is that the winter of 2008 / 2009 was a very difficult one for me. For years I struggled with chronic, severe back pain and then in December of 2009 I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS, a rare form of arthritis that is similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis). That led to a bit of depression and an intense need to pour myself into something. So I poured myself into creating a euro-ish game set in Feudal Japan. That was in January 2009. Then in February, after several games of back-to-back Dominion, it dawned on me that Dominion could really benefit from a more tightly woven theme and more direct player interaction. Starting at 11:00pm one night, I proceeded to work on the core mechanics and structure of Arctic Scavengers (AS) in a marathon design session consisting of pencil and note cards. By 7:00am the next morning I had the bulk of what became the base game. Roughly 70% of what went into the base AS game was designed during that initial night of crazed inspiration.
What made you decide to self-publish the 1st edition?
I wanted to see the game come to light sooner rather than later and I didn’t have any existing connections in the industry. I looked around at a few publishers and no one really seemed very eager to accept design submissions, so I figured I would just go ahead and do it myself.
The HQ expansion really opens up the play possibilities. There are Tribal Leaders, which grant unique player powers (The Cannibal eats tribe members for food, The Mentor can use a Refugee to modify any action, and The Organizer has a special draw action), Buildings (Bunker, Hydroponic Garden, Armory, and Pharmacy) that the Engineer mercenary can construct back at your base to enable hand management, A Medic mercenary that enables you to acquire medicine through hunting and serves as a counter to Sniper Team attacks, and there are gangs that bestow end-game points based upon accumulating certain resources.
How has your faith affected your journey as a game designer?
Interesting question. Game design is a creative activity driven by passion, and it borders on being a spiritual experience for me. I have been blessed with an immense passion for games and with a spark of creativity and wonder. As for the game design journey itself, my faith has helped me to not sweat the small stuff and leave the process of how and when things unfold in the far more capable hands of my Lord and savior. His timing is perfect and his perspective is far broader and more informed than my own. Things will happen when they need to happen, and in a way that is far more awesome than they would if it were all up to me. This awareness frees me from a lot of the stress and anxiety that could potentially exist as a game designer and publisher.
Do you have a game group you play with regularly? (Besides your wife and 6(!) kids, of course.) Which recent game has come out of left field and surprised you with how good it is?
I try to get over to the Dallas Games Marathon as often as I can. Usually that is once every couple of months. I also have a couple of guys that I collaborate with on game designs. Finally, my wife and I host a game night at our house several times a year. So I wouldn’t say that I have a regular group, but I do find lots of opportunities to play games. That having been said, it is true that I have probably logged more games of Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, San Juan, and Pandemic than most of the designers of those games. These are favorites of my family and so we play them an inordinate amount of time.
What are your five favorite games—and what do you love about them?
The Resistance – Bluffing, acting, and shifting alliances
Galaxy Trucker – Controlled chaos
Agricola – Farming and making babies
Tichu – Wishes, Dragons, and Bombs
Arctic Scavengers – They put my name on the box!!!
So do you have any upcoming designs you can share with us?
I have a game that I designed a month BEFORE Arctic Scavengers that is just waiting to see the light of day. It has a euro-style economic engine and victory point system with an American-style combat system. It’s set in Feudal Japan and manages to fit into the 60-90 minute window. It’s called Kingdoms of Rice, has absolutely STUNNING artwork, and will be Kickstarted (Lord willing) this summer.
One-Word Answer Questions! (Short phrases are allowed if necessary)
Favorite Pixar movie? KnickKnack
Favorite Dr. Who episode? When?
Favorite comedian? Louis CK
If you were one of the Three Amigos, which one would you be? Martin
Favorite Proverb? Proverbs 27:14