Kickstarter Focus—Ultimate Werewolf: Deluxe Edition

UltimateWerewolfDeluxeCoverBy Firestone With less than a week to go, Ted Alspach's Ultimate Werewolf Deluxe Edition is crushing it on Kickstarter. For fans of deduction games, Werewolf games, and things with the words ultimate and deluxe in the SAME TITLE, you should check it out before it's gone.

Yes, it's another Werewolf game. But this one supports 75 people! That sounds like the most insane thing in the history of time to me, but you know someone will get a 75-player game going at GenCon, or something...

Anyway, the game comes with 75 base cards, and thanks to stretch goals, they've unlocked a Classic Movie Monsters expansion, Night Terrors expansion, Urban Legends expansion, and the Wolfpack expansion. And some others are close to getting unlocked too.

In addition, a bunch of board game artists signed on to create artwork for some of the game's cards, and you can add those artpacks onto your pledge.

You get the whole shebang for $25--which includes a shipped copy of the game--with the expansions--along with a Getting Started Guide, a Moderator Guide, a Team-Building Guide, scenarios, a Moderator scorecard, and one of the artpacks of your choice. You can, of course, up your pledge to get more stuff.

The campaign ends Monday night. And you might be too delirious from the Broncos' Super Bowl victory to remember to back it. So go check it out now!

Thanks for reading!

Suburbia—A Review

suburbiacoverBy Firestone Confession time: I've never been a big fan of Civ games. Not board games. Not video games. Not any games. They're...boring. So Suburbia comes out, and lots of people call it a SimCity board game. This fills me with dread, and a desire to take a long nap... Could this be the first civ/city-building game I like? Or will I build a Landfill and then put this game into it? Let's find out!

The Overview

You're going to be taking, paying for, and placing tiles into your city. Doing so will affect your income and population. When the game ends, whoever has the most population wins.

suburbiaTilesThe Components

1 Population board

1 Stacks board

1 Supply board

1 Real Estate board

4 Burrough boards in the player colors (black, red, purple, yellow)

144 hexagonal City tiles

20 Goal tiles

4 Player aid cards

1 Start player marker

1 Giant pile of money tokens

4 Reputation markers

4 Population markers

4 Income markers

12 Investment markers

The Setup

The City tiles are divided into four groups: Basic tiles, A, B, and C tiles. Separate the A, B, and C tiles (they have the letter on the back side), and then you'll place a number of them on the Stack board. (This number varies depending on the number of players.) In the C pile you'll also be mixing in the One More Round tile, which will trigger the end of the game.

Place money on the Supply board, and give each player $15 million. Place the basic City tiles (Suburbs, Community Park, and Heavy Factory) onto their spaces on the Real Estate Market board. Then place the top seven tiles from the A stack out onto the Real Estate Market. These spaces range in price from $10 on the top end, and free on the bottom.

Then shuffle the Goal tiles, and place a number of them out, faceup, depending on the number of players in the game. Then give each player two Goal tiles facedown, and each player chooses one to keep and places the other back in the box with out showing the other players.

Each player takes a Borough Board, places the Income marker on the 0, and the Reputation marker on the 1. Each board is flat across the top and has three "notches" for tiles to fit (see the picture). Each player takes one Suburb, one Community Park, and one Heavy Factory from the basic City tiles, and places them in that order, from top to bottom, in the middle notch of the Borough Board.

Finally, (whew!), each player grabs his or her set of three Investment markers, and places their Population square on the 2 space of the Population board. You're finally ready to play! It seems like a lot of prep, but it's intuitive, and goes fairly quickly.

suburbiaThe Gameplay

Randomly choose a start player. You can do one of two things on your turn: take and place a tile into your Borough, or place an Investment marker.

If you choose a tile from the Real Estate Market, you pay the cost on the tile and the cost of the tile's "position" in the Market. So as tiles are in the Market longer, they become cheaper. But, of course, the tile might be gone by the time it rolls around to your turn. So do you pay more now, or wait and hope it's still there? That's one of the interesting decision-points in the game.

You can also choose to buy one of the basic City tiles, and you just pay the cost on the tile.

Once you have a tile, you place it into your Borough. The only real restriction on placement is that the new tile has to touch at least one side of an already placed tile. Then you'll often have some adjustments to make based on the tile. So it might increase or decrease Income, or Reputation, or just give you some quick cash. You placing a tile might also trigger someone else's tile already in play. So the Homeowner's Association tile, for instance, gives its owner $2 every time any player plays a green Residential tile.

One other option for placing a tile is to make a Lake. You have to pick a tile from the Real Estate Market, and you pay the position cost only. Then you place it in your Borough, and get $2 for each adjacent tile that's not another Lake. It's a way to get some quick cash—and swipe a tile from the Market that you know someone wants.

The other option is to place one of your three Investment Markers. Instead of taking and placing a tile, you pay the tile cost of your chosen tile again, and then place a Marker on it. Now the effects of the tile are doubled for the rest of the game.

At the end of your turn you'll now receive (or pay) money, based on the position of the Income Cylinder. If you can't pay when you need to, you have to move the Population Square down one spot for each dollar you can't pay.

Now you adjust the Population Square up or down based on the position of the Reputation Cube. As your Borough and Population grow, you'll have to pay more to maintain it. There are red lines on the population track, and whenever you cross one, you reduce your Income Cylinder and Reputation Cube down one spot. If you ever end up going back below a red line (due to negative Reputation, for instance), you'll put the Income and Reputation back up one spot.

If you bought a basic City tile, or placed an Investment Marker, you must remove any tile from the Real Estate Market—paying the position cost only. So one tile will be removed from the Market on each player's turn. Now you slide all of the remaining tiles down—making them cheaper—and place a new tile on the leftmost position.

When the "1 More Round" tile comes up, you finish the current round and then more round. Now you look at Goals, and then turn money into Population—you ignore the red lines from this point forward.

First you check the faceup Goal tiles, and award the points to one player. If there's a tie, no one gets any points. Now each player reveals his or her secret Goal, and scores the points if they've achieved the goal themselves. Again, if you've tied, you don't get the points, and only the owner of the secret Goal gets a chance to get those points. Finally, you'll turn money into Population at the rate of 1 point for every $5, rounded down. (Keep any leftover money, as that's the third-level tiebreaker.)

Some of the Goals include "+10 for the most airports," or "+20 for the fewest Residential tiles," or "+20 for the lowest Reputation."

Whichever player has the most Population wins. If there's a tie, it's the person with the highest Reputation, and then the highest Income, and finally most leftover money.

There's also a Solo Version, where you're playing the 2-player version against a "bot" player.

SuburbiaGoalsThe Verdict

I love this game. It hits all of the right buttons for me: It's thematic, full of interesting decisions, has an auction with more meaningful decisions, includes Goals you're working toward, and just...yeah!

Let's get this out of the way: There are a couple of things I don't like. First, with so many tile interactions going on each turn, it's easy to feel that someone at the table has missed a bonus somewhere—but that's a small complaint.

The larger issue is the Goal tiles. Those are a lot of points, and it's fairly easy for someone to unintentionally interfere with your Goal. For instance, in a recent 2-player game my opponent had a hidden Goal of "+20 for the most lakes." Unfortunately for him, I seemed to be constantly broke, so I kept buying lakes for some quick cash. So those were 20 points I "stole" from him, and I had no idea I was doing it. Even worse are tiles like "+15 for the fewest played Investor Markers." There is nothing you can do to control whether other players play their Investment Markers, so if even one person chooses not to play one, you're just out those points. It's kind of a big deal, but this is one of those games where the other parts are so good that I overlook this flaw.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's go back to the good stuff.

I've played this with every number of players, and it scales well. I especially like the 2-player game, because as you add players, you increase the chances of someone messing with your hidden Goals—although I do like having more people trying to win the public Goals. Okay, I like every number! I also like that it's on the lighter end of the spectrum, while still creating meaningful and interesting decisions. One reason I dislike Civ games is that there's just so much going on. This isn't a light game, but it also doesn't overwhelm you with minutia. I played with my 9-year-old, and he did just fine. It's a good next-level game for him. And though I have yet to test this, I think this would actually be a pretty good nongamer game.

The theme is really strong here, and it comes through in small touches. For instance, if you build a Landfill, you'll increase your Income, but for every building you build it next to, your Reputation will decrease. And every single tile has these thematic touches that make sense and make the game fun and interesting. And because you're not using every tile in every game—and there are different Goals in every game—no two games will feel the same.

I like laying tiles. This might be because one of my first Euros was Carcassonne, but I just like laying tiles, and deciding where the best place to put a tile is. But it's not just laying tiles, because there's also that wonderful Market. "That's a great tile, but it's expensive. Will it still be there when it gets to my turn again—and when it's cheaper?" "Should I turn that tile into a lake to keep it away from her?" Every turn has these sorts of decisions to make, and I enjoy doing that.

Another good thing? Combos!!

The game plays quickly, even with the full complement of players. And a 2-player game can be played in 30-45 minutes, so it's really a meaty filler. I love that.

The Final Verdict

I know I seem to be gushing over this, but I'm completely taken with it. I LIKE playing this game. There are a lot of great games that I wouldn't personally say are "fun" (Dominion springs to mind), but this one is fun for me. It's hasn't even come close to getting old, and I don't think I'd ever turn down a game. Bezier Games just came out with a expansion, and I can't wait to see what they do to expand this. It's one of my favorite games I played this year. Put this on the table!!

Theology Of Games would like to thank Bezier Games for providing a review copy of Suburbia. This in no way affected our opinion of the game.

Thanks for reading! Have you played Suburbia? Did you agree with my review, or do you think I should build a lake and then jump in it...? Let us know in the comments.

Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition—A Review

WerewolfCoverBy Firestone I've never been a big Mafia/Werewolf fan. It can be an incredibly fun time, but the player elimination means some people are always sitting on the sidelines waiting. And the bigger the game, the longer you're waiting... So when The Resistance came out—and there was no player elimination—I jumped at it. And it's now my favorite game.

Ted Alspach and Bezier Games recently released Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition, which promises some of the hidden roles and gameplay of Werewolf, with no player elimination. I'm intrigued. Will it knock The Resistance off the throne? Let's see...

The Overview

Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition is part of the line of Ultimate Werewolf games that are coming out under Ted Alspach's Bezier Games. It plays 3-12 players, and is for ages 8 and up. It takes 30-60 minutes to play. One "side" will win—either the werewolves, or the good guys.

The Components

1 Rulebook

12 Inquisitor cards, with either a Werewolf or a Villager on them.

19 Hut cards, which are the "houses" that belong to the Residents in the game. Each one imparts some special action.

19 Resident cards, which match up with the Huts—there's one person card for every Hut card.

1 Grand Inquisitor meeple

50 wooden voting cubes

There's a distinction between Residents and Villagers. All Villagers are Residents, but not all Residents are Villagers—some are Werewolves...

WerewolfVotesThe Setup

First you'll hand out Inquisitor cards; this will vary depending on the number of players. A 3-player game has 1 Werewolf and 2 Villagers, up to a 12-player game, which has 5 Werewolves and 7 Villagers.

Then you decide which set of Resident/Hut cards you'll use. There's a whole section in the rulebook that recommends sets based on number of players, or if this one of your first games. The Resident cards also have positive or negative numbers on them, which allow you to try and find a good balance of cards (in which case the numbers will add up close to zero), or to skew things one way or the other if you find one side winning too often—higher numbers to help Villagers and lower numbers to help the Werewolves.

You'll set up two areas of your chosen sets. One grid of four across and three down with the Huts—faceup so the Huts and their powers are visible. Then you shuffle the Resident cards and create another four across and three down grid—facedown, so you have no idea which Resident is under that card. The important thing here is that there is one Resident for every Hut card, but their orientation in the grids is NOT identical.

Choose a random player to get the Grand Inquisitor meeple, and then give each player two voting cubes to start the game.

WerewolfHutsThe Gameplay

On the First Night, whoever the Grand Inquisitor tells everyone to close their eyes, and has the Werewolves open their eyes so they know who the other Werewolves are—this is skipped in a 3- or 4-player game since there's only one Werewolf.

For the Day Phase, each player, starting with the Grand Inquisitor, chooses a hut and either does the action on the hut, or takes two voting cubes. Either way, that hut is no longer available to choose that turn. As the game progresses there will be fewer and fewer huts, thanks to people being killed, so if there are no huts available, you just take two voting cubes. After everyone has chosen a hut, everyone gets a chance to vote on which Resident to kill. Starting with the Grand inquisitor, everyone who has a voting cube has to place one on a Resident; if you don't have a cube, you don't vote. Whichever Resident has the most votes is killed—remove the Resident and the associated Hut from the game. If there's a tie on votes, the Grand Inquisitor breaks ties.

If two columns have a single Resident left in them, they're combined without changing their orientation. (Some actions on Huts will change the orientation from vertical to horizontal.)

Now come the Night Phase. The Grand Inquisitor chooses a column that has two or more cards in it, and removes any votes on them. He picks them up and puts them in a stack keeping them in a strict order—we always have them stack the top card of the column on the one below it, and then those on the one below that (if there are three). This is important because now everyone closes their eyes and passes this stack around the circle. The person to the left of the Grand Inquisitor starts with the stack. If she's a Villager, she keeps her eyes closed and just makes some shuffling noises with the cards but doesn't change the order in any way. If she's a Werewolf, she can open her eyes and change the order of the cards. Each person will say the name of the person they're passing to—or just say "Passing," or whatever—and for a brief moment those two can open their eyes just to make the exchange, but then Villagers have to close their eyes, lest they see a Werewolf turn the cards over and start rearranging. The cards will eventually make their way back to the Grand Inquisitor, who will shuffle or rearrange or not, and then everyone opens their eyes. The Inquisitor then places them back facedown in the column in the same order they were taken: bottom card on the bottom of the column, then the next above that, and the next at the top.

All of this keeping-things-in-order stuff is important because whatever Resident is at the bottom of that column is killed. The Werewolves set it up.

The actions here are admittedly very clunky. This phase shouldn't be a way for Villagers to figure out who the Werewolves are, which is why everyone makes noises and shuffles the cards around as though they were rearranging them. In essence, everyone should "act" like a Werewolf so that no one is outed as a Werewolf because they made noises or took longer than anyone else or whatever. Clunky.

If a Werewolf is killed in this phase, remove votes from all vertical Residents and shuffle them together and deal out a new grid. This is because if a Werewolf is killed at Night, then it's because that column had nothing but Werewolves and they had no choice but to kill one of their own. So the shuffling evens things out again.

A new day starts with the Grand Inquisitor getting passed to the left, and columns with only one Resident getting combined. The game ends when either all of the Werewolves are dead (the Villlagers win), or of there are more Werewolves in the village at any time than there are Villagers—in which case the Werewolves win.

WerewolfResidentsThe Huts

I'll go over the Huts and their special abilities. The number in parentheses is the number you use when you're trying to balance (or not unbalance) your choice of Residents in the game—high numbers help Villagers, and low ones help the Werewolves.

Villager/Werewolf (+0)—Take two voting cubes from the supply, and place one of them on any Resident.

Seer (+8)—Look at any vertically oriented Resident, and place it back in the same spot, but oriented horizontally. Neither the Seer (in subsequent turns) nor the Apprentice Seer may look at this card until something changes its orientation back to vertical.

Apprentice Seer (+5)—Pay one voting cube to look at any vertically oriented Resident, and place it back in the same spot, but oriented horizontally. Neither the Apprentice Seer (in subsequent turns) nor the Seer may look at this card until something changes its orientation back to vertical.

Bodyguard (+2)—Protect one Resident by removing all voting cubes from it, and placing the Bodyguard Hut on that Resident. No more votes can be placed on it this round. Remove the Bodyguard at the start of the Night Phase before a column is chosen to pass around.

Hunter (+1)—Take three votes from the supply and place them on one Resident.

Mason (+3—Pay two voting cubes to look at the Inquisitor card of another player. You can't show the card, but you can say whatever you want about it. (This role shouldn't be used in games with fewer than 5 players.)

Minion (+3)—Take two votes from the supply and place both of them on a Resident card that already has at least one vote on it.

Mayor (+1)—Immediately give the Grand Inquisitor to any player (including yourself). This changes who will start voting, and who picks a column of cards to pass around. The Inquisitor gets passed to the left at the end of the turn, as usual.

Prince (+3)—Take four votes from the supply.

Sorcerer (+5)—Look at any horizontally oriented Resident, place it back in the same orientation, take two votes from the supply, and place them on the card you just looked at.

Witch (+1)—Move all votes from Resident card to any other Resident card.

Cursed (-1)—Take four votes from the supply. If someone uses the Cursed Hut during the day, and that Resident is killed that night, it becomes a Werewolf. That column's cards (and the Cursed) are shuffled and placed back in the column. The Cursed acts as a Werewolf from that point forward—including determining numbers of Werewolves for victory.

Troublemaker (-5)—Pay one vote to shuffle a row or column of Resident cards. First, set aside votes on those cards, but keep them near the spot they were on. Shuffle the cards, place them back vertically, and then place the votes back onto the card that is now in the spot.

Wolf Cub (-2)—Take three votes from the supply. If the Wolf Cub is lynched on the day someone uses the Hut, the Werewolves get to kill two Residents that night. You do one round of picking a column, passing it, and killing the bottom Resident. And then you do that all over again. The Wolf Cub is not considered a Werewolf.

WerewolfWomenThe Verdict—I like this game—probably more than I should, honestly. The game plays any number between 3 and 12; I've played with as few as 4 and as many as 10, and there are upsides and downsides with those extremes. It actually plays surprisingly well with the low number; you can't play Resistance with 3 or 4, but you can play this. With the higher numbers, it's cool because there are more Werewolves, and more interesting Residents, but it also has its own problems. In our game, one player was a player or two to the right of the starting Grand Inquisitor. And then, because of where we'd figured some Werewolves were, we kept taking the Mayor and keeping the Inquisitor in that area. It worked well for the Villagers, but over the course of the game that guy had very little to do on his turn. Early in the game, the only Residents left were the generic Villager/Werewolf Huts, so he was forced to take those. Then as the game progressed and people died, when it would finally get around to him there wouldn't be any Huts left, so he just took two voting cubes. He was pretty dang bored, and it wasn't the group trying to keep him out, it was the game's mechanisms creating that for him. It could have happened to anyone, and it probably won't happen every game, but it happened that game, and his experience was poor.

It's very interesting that—unlike a game such as The Resistance, where getting outed means you're essentially done—getting outed as a Werewolf here (or even outing yourself!) isn't the end of the world. There are times where revealing yourself is necessary to save one of your Werewolf residents. But you're still in the game, and there are still things to do and ways to mess with the Villagers. They can't shut you down, but now they have to adjust their play to keep you away from certain powerful Huts, such as the Mayor. It feels weird that being revealed isn't bad, but I think it's interesting.

I've noticed that every single game seems to come down to the wire, and I think the game sort of forces the game to even out and stay close until the end. I'm not sure how it does it, or even if its intentional, but we haven't had a blowout in any of the half-dozen games we've played. The downside of this is that a couple of times the win has come down to mostly blind luck and guessing. That hasn't always happened, but when it does, it feels a little unsatisfying.

As I said, the Night Phase is clunky. Having to have everyone shuffle the cards around, and spend extra time doing it, and making noise just feels weird, but I have no idea what else they could have done. So while it's not great, it's fine in the end.

I do feel I should make mention of the artwork. Most of it is fine and completely innocuous, but the Witch and Sorcerer look more like two ladies who just went shopping for Halloween and decided to grab the "Sexy Witch" and "Sexy Sorcerer" costumes. The Sorcerer especially looks like Kate Upton in a black wig. They're not terrible, but it's just something to consider, and I felt I needed to point out. It's disappointing to see a publisher going that route on what should be a family friendly game. And if they bother you that much you can always choose not to include those roles in your game.

So who would I play this with? Well, it often goes as long as a game of The Resistance, and I would always choose The Resistance over this. If I only had 3 or 4 players, I could see pulling this out with my game group, but we're big-time Resistance fans, so that wins. I would bring this out with nongamers, though—in a heartbeat. The Resistance is very different, and takes some time to understand what you're doing and how much you should be talking and voting and just so much... But this would be a GREAT game to ease people into that sort of game. There are hidden roles, but it's not a disaster if you play it "wrong" and out yourself. And the gameplay is fairly straightforward. And it's short. All of this means that this is going onto my short-list of games to play with nongamers, newbies, and youth groups.

And if your group really likes to play Werewolf, they'll probably like this! It's maybe not as purely social as traditional Werewolf is, but it has some of the feel, and there's no elimination.

The Final Verdict—Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition isn't perfect, and it will never replace The Resistance for me or my game group. But I like it. I like what it tries to do, and I like what it accomplishes, and I have a fun time while I'm playing it. It's at a perfect level for nongamers, and it will be the game I use to ease my family into this style of game before I eventually spring The Resistance on them... And since there are only 4 of us in the family, we may never get to The Resistance, so this may be it. And that's okay, because it's a solid game.

We'd like to thank Ted Alspach at Bezier Games for providing a review copy of Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition. This in no way affected our opinion of the game.