For anyone looking for a dungeon crawling adventure, look no further than the world of Gloomhaven by Isaac Childres. Published by Cephalofair, this is a game of epic proportions, set in a world which is affected by choices your party makes. A narrative is effected through missions and cards to help or thwart various denizens of Gloomhaven and its neighbouring areas. The choices made by the party are realised in permanent changes, affecting the prosperity of the town, opening up access to new dungeons and allies, with others becoming inaccessible. Through the completion of dungeon missions and interacting with road and city cards, the party reputation will change, affecting the potential outcomes of future events.
Initially, players can choose from six starting characters. The other eleven become available on completion of objectives or when a character completes their personal objective and retires. Each character is packaged in a sealed box with just a symbol to identify it.
There is a brief introduction to the starting characters in the manual, enabling players to take a character to suit their playstyle. Our party started with a scoundrel, mindthief, tinkerer and spellweaver.
Each character gets a personal objective, which is kept secret from other players. These are fairly long term goals, and will take a number of adventures to achieve. Once a character has completed their objective, a new character may be unlocked. (If there are other effects, we have not yet encountered these yet). The original character may then retire, and their details are entered into the town records book
Each character comes with a character reference sheet to keep track of experience, money, possessions, and perks gained. Perks are personal bonuses allowing players to improve combat modifier decks, or in some cases negate certain negative effects. Perks are gained through completing battle goals during adventures, (which give one or two ticks – three ticks earns a perk) and levelling (one perk).
As characters level up, more cards are unlocked, though hand size remains the same for the number of cards each character can use. This enables characters to become more specialised by selecting one card from the new level (or from one of the levels below the new level) each time a new level is achieved.
The game comes with a book of over 90 dungeon scenarios. Some of these are
quite simply kill all enemies in the dungeon, whereas some have more specific aims, for instance, may require the party to place an item in a certain position, or carry out an escort mission. The scenarios will gradually become unlocked as a result of party actions. Personal quests, or those to help various persons in Gloomhaven can sometimes carry over a number of scenarios before reaching the final quest goal.
Loot is available from killing enemies and is sometimes found randomly placed in the dungeon. Loot can be acquired by ending movement on a space with a loot marker, or using the “loot” action on a card. (The scoundrel has excellent looting ability through use of cards). Loot tokens convert to money at the end of a mission (the higher the level of dungeon means each token is worth more loot. Characters can use their money to help increase the prosperity of Gloomhaven, buy themselves items, or increase the abilities of their cards.
I really like the combat in this, partially due to the lack of dice. Each character has a unique deck of cards. The amount of cards any given character can take on an adventure is identified on the top of the character sheet. (For example, the Scoundrel can take 9 cards).
Card text is split into two. In each round, two cards will be played. The top ability of one card and the bottom ability the other is used. If the player does not wish to use the special abilities on the card, the top can always be used as a default attack 2 and the bottom as a default move 2. All movement and actions is controlled by cards for the duration of the mission.
The number in the middle of the card indicates initiative. Players can choose either a lower number, and go earlier in the round, or a higher number and go later in the round. Selection of cards is done without the other players knowing how early each will go. Some indication of whether early or late (e.g. “I’m going very early” or “I’ll be going late”) is permitted, but “I’m on number 27” is not. (Note that there is an option for players to play with open information, by increasing the difficulty). Once cards have been spent (discarded), players can take a long rest (initiative 99) to heal and recover most of their discarded cards. Short rests can also enable discarded cards to be recovered, but this involves discarding a random card, so may not always be ideal.
Some of the more powerful abilities the characters have require that the card is lost. Lost cards are not recovered except by special card ability which enables a character to recover a lost card.
Depending on the character type, the skills and abilities on the card will differ. Some may have ranged multi-target options, others more close combat, and the use of some cards will gain xp. The scoundrel, for instance, has a fairly high movement range, a mix of range and close combat skills, poisoning, and the ability to stealth (go invisible) which is ideal in a rogue-type character. (The scoundrel was my first character, and I grew rather fond of her. With the right combination of cards, she had been known to cause 27 damage to a single target. )
With something like 45 different enemy types in the game, you can be sure that,as your party travels and completes various missions,you will encounter many different foes. As the heroes, each enemy type has its own base abilities (these will be e.g. movement, basic damage, number of wounds, and attack range), and some special abilities (e.g. insert example) The base abilities scale up as the party levels up. Enemies can be normal, or elite, where the elite versions have a higher potential for damage, and can sustain more hits than their normal counterparts.
The Combat round
Each player chooses their cards, then all reveal. Any enemies in the room will then reveal their special card (which is in addition to their basic abilities).
Starting with the lowest, initiative, players and enemies will take their actions as directed by their cards. When attacking players, the enemies will first attack the closest player. If distance between two players is equal, they will attack the player with the lowest initiative. Enemies and heroes have a combat modifier deck , which adds a random element to the combat.
Example of combat: x is going on initiative number xx with Attack x? The top card of the combat modifier deck is turned over. This may range from -2 to +2 to the original value, or indicate double damage or a miss. Each player has their own combat modifier deck, which gets customised by the use of perks to optimise the cards in the deck (this may add e.g. poision, other negative effects, additional damage cards into the deck).
As the characters progress, level up and become more powerful, so do the enemies, gaining more hit points and higher damage. Traps cause more damage at higher levels, and loot tokens are worth more gold.
This game has been much hyped – has the hype been worth it? For our gaming group, this is a resounding Yes! We’ve played quite a few scenarios now, had a couple of characters complete their personal quests and unlock new characters. On the way we have fought many enemies, recovered artifacts, learned new information, and found a message carved in a secret runic script. We’ve managed a couple of global achievements and increased the prosperity of Gloomhaven a little, but there’s still a lot to do!
For decades we have followed the fortunes of intrepid adventurers in roleplay games and boardgames such as Talisman and Descent as they have undertaken perilous journeys, encountered a multitude of creatures and explored dungeons, sewers, castles and forgotten temples where many would fear to tread. Dungeon Lords enabled us to create dungeons complete with traps and monsters to test against adventuring parties, and Dungeon Petz let us breed, show and sell petz. All this is thirsty work, and what better way to relax, gloat over your loot and spend your hard earned gold than to enjoy a round of the troll drink “Black Knight” at Mr Nasty’s tavern.
The aim of this game is to complete orders and score points. An order is comprised of a number of ingredients, which are obtained from the cellar or by working for Mr Nasty. All players roll their dice at the beginning of the round. There are four dice per player except for the last player in the round, who rolls an extra (white) die. Each player also receives a card which gives extra points at the end for certain types of drinks completed.
A round starts by taking an open order from one of the tables, if you don’t already have one in front of you. Here it is useful to look at ingredients you already have, as the longer it takes to acquire ingredients and complete orders, the fewer points are granted. Each character has a special ability, such as taking another ingredient if another player uses the same cellar space, or ignoring one round of lateness for Elven orders (although we discovered in errata after playing, that there are actually two types of elves and the ability is only used for one of those types!)
Cellar spaces use numbers 1 – 6, and via these numbers, provide access to two types of ingredient per number. Above 6, odd numbers are used for working in the kitchen, and even numbers for doing chores. The spaces from 7 – 18 grant points, ingredients and another bonus, such as steal from another player, take the first player token etc. They also allow players to move down the kitchen and chores tracks, which give extra points after the first 3 spaces, and the ability to change a die roll up or down further down the tracks.
The wizards workshop allows dice to be placed to gain items, magic potions (a “wild card” ingredient) or get rid of an order and place it with a new one.
Players can also visit Mr Nasty, and gossip about their fellow workers. This brings the gossiping player’s reputation with Mr Nasty up, while moving another player’s marker down the nasty track. This gives negative points at the end of the game, and at spaces 3, 6, 9 the player receives a nasty card, which limits the available actions to that player until any objective on the card has been fulfilled.
At the end of the tenth round (marked on the round marker which also tracks lateness of orders), points are calculated, and any bonuses added on.
This was a fun and engaging game, like a lot of Euro style / worker placement games, it is not combative, but competitive, and the nasty reputation track is a nice touch to spice the competition up a bit. Most of the item cards worked well. There were a couple of cards which we house ruled at the time, and will seek more clarification on, as the text as we read it seemed to make it rather overpowered.
I wasn’t so keen on the dice design, they have a squiggly pattern on, and very angular numbers, which a couple of us found more difficult to read than regular d6. As far as the other components are concerned, the cards, tokens and markers are of good quality and look like they should wear well.
Aspects of this game remind me a little of Lords of the Waterdeep, which is a comment I’ve seen elsewhere. This is not a bad thing for me, as I enjoy Lords of the Waterdeep, but may be worth bearing in mind if you’re considering purchasing this game.
Cavern Tavern is created by Final Frontier Games. My copy is from the kickstarter campaign, but other stockists are available!
As winner of Spiel des Jahre in 2000, Metro was far from a newly released game when I picked it up at UKGE at the beginning of June. It’s designed by Dirk Henn (Ticket to Ride, Alhambra) so I thought it would be worth a look.
I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great game of connecting lines to make routes around the Paris Metro system. The object of the game is to score the most points by building the longest tracks.
The edge of the board is lined with metro stations, which are assigned colours on a
Players place tiles to form rail lines, with the object being to make the lines as long as possible to score points. Tiles must be placed with the arrow on the tile matching that on the board. When a line is connected with stations at each end, the line is scored for which ever colour has the originating station.
Strategy comes in by trying to connect lines which start further away together to make longer lines, and blocking opposing players lines, forcing them to be shorter by careful tile placement.
Lines which reach the central four stations score double points. Lines may cross over and form loops. If a line crosses a particular tiles more than once, each time it crosses scores again.
The game ends when all tiles have been placed.
The rules are simple, and this is quick and easy to pick up.
Designer: Dirk Henn
Published by: Queen Games
Retails for ~£25 from various online retailers.
Hosted at the Birmingham NEC, the UKGames Expo is the largest tabletop gaming convention in the UK.
Way back in January a good friend of mine, Victoria (http://www.randomnerdery.com/) asked if it would be something I’d be interested in. We share an interest in boardgaming, and so it was that on New Years day 2016 we were booking 3 day event tickets and rooms at the hotel (Hilton Metropole).
Soon enough, early June arrived and it was time for the big event! I arrived at the hotel around 11am, checked in, and took the short walk along the leafy path to head to hall 1 of the NEC. When I arrived there was no queue, so I went straight to the ticket desk to pick up my pre-ordered 3-day expo ticket before meeting up with Vicky and Jeppers.
First impressions were just of a busy random chaotic sprawl of games shops, stacked high with hours of cardboard based fun.
There was a playtest area, a games library, new games to play. So much to take in. The allure of new shinies to play with meant that it wasn’t long before I was looking at options for purchase. A visit to http://www.boardgameguru.co.uk/ proved fruitful. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable and helpful (exactly what you need when there are so many people to purchase your wares!)
It wasn’t long before we were drawn into a demonstration game of Tatsu from Gen42Games.
In this two player game, each person controls three sets of dragon pieces. Dragons move around the board according to a dice roll (think Backgammon, where pieces can move according to individual die values or a combined total), with the aim of knocking the opponents pieces off the board.
Green (vine) dragons ‘lock’ an opponents piece such that it cannot move unlesss the players highest die roll is disregarded.
Blue (water) dragons send an opponents piece back to their reserve.
Red (fire) dragons knock an opponents piece completely off the board. The aim is to knock off all of one type of dragon, or all of the opponents dragons off the board.
Not far away from Tatsu, we found Not Alone, from Geek Attitude Games.
Not Alone is an asymmetrical game , in a futuristic setting (25th century), on a planet inhabited by a strange and deadly alien creature. One player takes on the role of The Hunter and the others the Hunted. There are a number of locations on the planet which the hunted can occupy. Each location has a different effect. The hunted have a hand of cards designating locations, which are played face down. The hunter draws their own cards, and decides which location to target. Hunted reveal their locations and any effects are played out. A central marking zone tracks the progress of the hunter and hunted, and play became tense throughout the game as both sides race for the central spot on the track. I think this will certainly be worth a look when it comes out soon.
Esdevium games had a large presence, with several tables for game playing. Beyond Baker Street looked interesting, but what really caught my eye from them was the Reign of Chthulu Pandemic, though this area was very crowded with interested onlookers.
We braved the queue for the bring and buy, and shuffled around the rows and stacks of games contained within, in the hope of finding an elusive bargain. Shopping with friends is fun, but there are those moments when you need the reflexes of a sniper when you both catch sight of an interesting game. This happened a couple of times, and I came away with a couple more games for the collection!
After a couple of hours hard shopping, we departed the main hall to drop off our purchases at the hotel and relax with some refreshments, which we found at the food stalls outside the hotel. In the warm afternoon sun, the beer bus was too much to resist!
Re-energised, and re-charged, Friday round 2 saw some more exploring, watching of games, and attending the live podcast from Shut Up and Sit Down. This included reviews of games we’d seen, (and bought in the case of Vicky) followed by a quick q&a session in their own unique style.
Dinner came from the food fair, we ate al fresco, and broke out Deep Sea Adventure from Oink Games. This game is small enough to play on a pizza box, which Vicky has pictorial evidence of. This game sees a group of poverty stricken divers chancing their lives on bringing back treasures from the deep over a course of three rounds. The divers have one shared tank of air to accomplish this. Heading down to gather treasure doesn’t use any of this air, but it rapidly decreases on the way back to the submarine. Our shameless greed meant that we didn’t bring a single piece of treasure back successfully, with our divers perishing on the mission.
We moved inside for evening gaming, finding a table in the restaurant where we started with Beyond Baker Street.
This game is a little like Hanabi in that players cannot see their own hand of cards, but instead rely on information relaid to them from others. Players must work together to collect evidence and solve the mystery before Sherlock Holmes does.
Next up was Quadropolis (Days of Wonder). This was one of the big hits of the weekend for us, we played Vicky’s copy on Friday, and Jeppers and I both acquired it on the Saturday such was its charm.
This is a very pretty city building game, with meeple and barrels which look almost edible!
Players use numbered architect tokens (1-4) to select buildings which are then placed on their own player mat in a row or column corresponding to that number.
Selection of buildings becomes restricted, as a token called the urbanist takes the place of the last building taken. The urbanist blocks the row and column for buildings for the next player.
Points are scored for different buildings in different ways, with some, such as parks, scoring more from being next to residential buildings, factories score more for ports and shops, and shops get bonus points from the number of occupants. We played the classic version of the game, but there is an expert version which looks like it should bring another level of complexity into the game.
After all this excitement, and reeling from the extortionate price of a cup of tea, it was time for some rest, ready to continue play on Saturday!
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