Spreading Like Wildfire - Sylvion Review

And it's finally done! Three Omniverse games for December and this is the final one on the list, Sylvion. Again the plot is similar to before. Big nasty thing threatens the dream world and you need to stop it. OK, maybe that's not quite the same as Onirim as you're technically facing multiple nightmares, but it's pretty much identical to Castellion.

The style of this game though is similar to those "lane defence" games that you see on cheap PC Steam sales where you basically just defend multiple lanes from enemies with what resources you have. I usually call these "lame defence" games because for me they generally suck like crazy. People have pasted all kinds of themes on these games to essentially cash in on the licenses. Now I feel that this genre can be better represented in a card game and so Sylvion is my hope for this to be true.

As before I'm not concerning myself with the two player option. It may be a good way to play this game, but it's hard enough for me to get two player games to the table as it is and I already know of plenty of other options, two of which have already had reviews in the last month, check those out!



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Episode 39 - Reflecting On 2015

Well it's the end of another year and what a year it has been for board gaming. So many good titles this year to talk about and on top of this podcast you can also hear me comment on various games on the Dice Tower 2015 Special.

Four first impressions to start things off including Coup G54, Between Two Cities & 504. Then a discussion segment on 2015 as a whole including news stories, trends I've noticed and a few general facts. And then of course, what everyone wants to hear at this time of year, my Top 10 of 2015!

Have a happy Xmas and a great New Year and I will catch you all again in 2016!


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Love Thy Neighbour! - 7 Wonders: Duel Review

First this month, there was Raptor and now here's the other new 2 player game that I was talking about. Once upon a time, there was a terrific drafting game called 7 Wonders. Highly popular, full of iconography and able to cater for a large group of players in a relatively short space of time, at least when you didn't throw in every expansion that is as awesome as they all were. It's in my Top 20 of all time and remains a treasured game in my collection, though I wish more people were willing to try all the expansions as I'm getting bored with just playing the base game all the time! Seriously people play a game with Leaders, Cities and Babel all included, it is a joy to play even if the learning curve does get a little steeper.

Rarely was it ever played with less than 4 players though and I NEVER wanted to play it with only two people as given in this weird variant where a dummy city player was used. I admit I never tried it, but it just looked so odd and detracted from the experience of playing with multiple players. And I know next to no-one who ever liked it anyway. So Antoine and Bruno have teamed up to give us a new 7 Wonders game made solely for 2 players pretty much emphasising that the old variant should be discarded from existence. At first glance it looks solid and who can knock these two as designers when they're currently on fire these days with their releases? But half the fun of 7 Wonders was having to take into account what your neighbours and even the players further afield were up to. Can that be recreated in a 2 player game or will this give me a new twist so that I'll leave that aside and enjoy the new experience?


Designer: Bruno Cathala & Antoine Bauza (2015)
Publisher: Asmodee
Age: 10+
Players: 2
Time: 30 Minutes
Rank / Rating:


Re-Writing 7 Wonders History


Much like the original 7 Wonders you will be competing for the most points and to do so you will draft cards to add to your tableau that are based various aspects of building a civilization including military, science, culture and commerce. There are 3 Ages in the game and in each age a selection of these cards will be laid out in a specified format, some face up, some face down. Players will then take it in turns to draft these cards, utilising any resources they have and paying any costs. If they are lacking the pre-requisites then they can buy from the bank, however the cost of this increases depending on whether their opponent owns any themselves. Some buildings will chain into others in later Ages meaning that you can draft them for free if you've already built the previous one. If money is running low, which it will do on a regular basis, then cards drafted can be discarded for money depending on how many Commerce (yellow) cards a player has.

Prior to the game starting, players will also choose 4 separate Wonders that they can build by discarding an unwanted card, with the only restriction being that of course, only 7 can be built in total. As well as the final calculation of victory points there are also two additional victory conditions that can be met during the course of the game by gaining an overwhelming lead on military strength or scientific advances. The former is maintained on a track where a counter is moved back and forth depending on the Military (red) cards taken by each player. If one reaches the very end, they win automatically regardless of points. The latter involves the collection of 6 out of 7 Science (green) symbols printed on the cards, of which achieving this will result in an automatic victory as well.

Play continues over 3 Ages until either all cards have been drafted and the winner is the player with the most points assuming that one of them has not already won by means of one of the two automatic victory conditions mentioned.


Very Pretty, If Very Small Bricks


Being a 2 player game only, the box attempts to maintain as small a footprint on your shelf as possible, but it's no stocking stuffer. Inside the insert holds everything fine, though I wonder if everything could have been squeezed together a bit more. That being said, the majority of reports show that sleeved cards will fit in the box and I highly recommend you do so as you'll be doing a lot of card flipping, shuffling and handling in each game. However the reason they can keep the box as small as they can is because the building cards are very small, basically Mini-Euro sized to put it into perspective. Thankfully you don't have any text to read on them, only the classic 7 Wonders style of iconography, artwork and colours so even though they can be fiddly to handle, they're not tricky to read and still pretty durable as well.

Speaking of the artwork, well it's 7 Wonders, did you expect it to be bad? It's still as crisp and clean as before, perhaps maybe not as detailed, but they've got to fit the image on a much smaller card than before so let's be fair and despite that limitation it's still gorgeous especially on the Wonder cards. The Military track board is standard though it utilises a fairly cheap looking plastic miniature to record your progress. I was fortunate enough to grab this at Essen so I got the metal version which is 10 times better.


Choose Your Victory


Once you've gotten through the tedious part of setting up the cards in their prescribed layout, you need to switch on your brain. This isn't a brain burner by any means, but you need to pay attention to your opponent's plans. Firstly you've got the two automatic winning conditions. If you ignore one entirely, then there's a good chance that your opponent will attempt to use this to his advantage and possibly steal the win from under you.

And secondly there's the way that the cards are laid out in each age. Taking a card frees up the cards above it and on every turn you have to consider not only how much it helps you, but how much the other cards will help your opponent. A fine balance has to be struck between gaining points and denying points and yet the decision isn't so tough that you'll hit analysis paralysis levels.

It's definitely worth noting that you will finish the game and tally up points much more often than you will finish by way of an automatic victory condition. But it's simply the threat of those conditions that make you want to invest in some military and science buildings. After all, no civilization ever did well without diving into both of those two aspects to some degree. But they're not just blank slates, taking the military buildings can drain your opponent of money on the track and pairing up the science symbols can gain you useful bonuses that are randomised each game. So they have more uses than simply just stopping (or achieving) another victory condition.


Which One First?


This is a lot simpler to teach someone than the original 7 Wonders in my opinion. You don't have to explain the multi-layered scoring mechanism of Science, you don't have the extra Military phase of attacking each other, the trading rule is simplified and you only have to concentrate on one opponent at a time. Therefore for me it's no contest that this is the best way to get someone into 7 Wonders and how it works. Yes, both games are different, but if you know how to play one, it makes adapting to the other a lot easier. Learning this game for myself was a breeze and I've yet to have someone stare at horror at the cards unsure of what to do.

As you will no doubt have guessed therefore, this isn't a replacement for 7 Wonders. The original is a whole different beast especially with all of the cool expansions that it has right up to the awesome Babel. This is almost like a variant, allowing two players to enjoy the feel of 7 Wonders in a unique way and can happily sit on top of the 7 Wonders box on your shelf. However I don't think if you disliked the original that this is going to convert you over.


Verdict


Now that we have 7 Wonders Duel, we can safely remove all knowledge of the old variant from our minds. It uses enough of the old mechanics to make the game familiar to 7 Wonder players, but introduces new twists to make it fresh and different from it's father. Most of that is achieved through the multiple victory conditions. Granted most games will end by counting up points, but you cannot ignore the Military and Science cards entirely because your opponent will take advantage of this. Couple this with the revised draft system of choosing the cards and the result is an experience that has you engaged on every turn, but also making important decisions throughout and adapting as you play.

In no way should this be treated as a replacement of the original 7 Wonders however as it feels different enough in its mechanics, though I'd probably argue that if you didn't like the orignal 7 Wonders, this won't sway you back. Faults with the game that I can think of are nitpicks at best. The setup of each age is a little fiddly and time consuming and it would be cool to see the alternate victory conditions come into play more often. The replay value might also depend heavily on whether this will get the same expansion love as the original as it will need a boost in variety for the cards at some point. But for the time being, this an excellent means of bringing 7 Wonders down to two players. If you like the original, this a no-brainer and in my opinion the best 2 player game to come out this year.



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You enjoyed 7 Wonders, but want a smaller version - it condenses the orignal game down and adds some new tweaks.


You want an engaging two player game - this is not a time where you can just sit back and let things play out for you.


You like the idea of multiple victory conditions.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You weren't a fan of 7 Wonders to begin with - it's not different enough from the original to change your mind.


You enjoy 7 Wonders because of the multiplayer aspect of watching your neighbours actions.


You hate having to wield tiny cards.




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There Is No Game. . . Only Zuul! - Ghostbusters Review

Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Yeah, who doesn't like that awesome theme song when it's either blaring from your TV or the DJ at your work's Xmas do? OK, the cartoon wasn't the best ever, but the films were light-hearted and creative and good for some nostalgic entertainment. I'm not the biggest fan of Ghostbusters, but it has its good moments and despite this I was still very keen on the idea of a co-operative game using the license and using miniatures.

However a few things started to concern me upon its initial broadcast. Firstly the Kickstarter project was a bit ambiguous to say the least and not entirely convincing. Secondly the art scheme looked incredibly cartoon-y and I was hoping for a closer tie to the movies. Thirdly and probably most importantly of all, it was going to be published by Cryptozoic.

Now looking at their line up, it's a big list of licenses, but in all those cases they've not been games that were particularly high on my list to try. Does anyone these days play the Lord of the Rings deck-building games? And from what I've heard, the DC Deck-Builder puts theme aside and even then I don't see anyone playing it - remember that one of the reasons I love Sentinels of the Multiverse so much is because of the theme so you can imagine it's not likely going to sit well with me. Aside from Spyfall, I don't think I own any game on their list. Now remember that's just a personal view, I'm sure many gamers out there love their work and that's a good thing!

Will "busting make me feel good" or will I be terrified beyond the capacity of rational thought?


Designer: Matt Hyra, Adam Sblendorio & Mataio Wilson (2015)
Publisher: Cryptozoic
Age: 15+
Players: 1-4
Time: 30-60 Minutes per scenario
Rank / Rating: 4,786 / 6.65
RRP: £69.99


Go Get Her Ray!

If you know what Ghostbusters is, you already know what the jist of this game is about. Players take on the roles of the iconic team and will play through multiple campaign scenarios zapping ghosts of various types and attempting to close all the gates to the "other world" before the ghosts overrun the city.

Each player has a fixed number of actions to perform moves, shooting and removing slime from other Ghostbusters, a side effect of getting hit by all the ghosts in this game, which reduces your actions in a turn. All ghosts/gates have a minimum number to roll to capture and some require multiple hits. At the end of each round, a die is rolled which triggers bad effects from gates both open and closed and occasionally sending the ghosts on the field into a random movement frenzy. The game can be played as a single scenario or by using one of the pre-built campaigns, each focusing on a specific boss such as Slimer and the ever classic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

During each mission, players will earn XP for their Ghostbuster which unlock some extra abilities and carry over from one campaign scenario to the next. This works in a very similar way to Zombicide, but consider this the lighter version of that mechanic. Typically once all of the gates in the area have been closed, the scenario is a success, eventually ending with the inevitable capture of the main ghost protagonist.


This Job Is Not Worth $11,500 A Year!


That statement may be true, but change "Job" & "$11,500" to "Game" and "£50-£70" and it still rings pretty true. Ghostbusters demands a high price tag indeed and yet the component quality doesn't seem to warrant it. The map tiles are decent quality, if a little basic and too similar to each other and the dice are pretty basic. But Cryptozoic are not known for publishing miniature games and this is a classic case of why. The moulds are rough, quite spiky and each ghost figure resembles a translucent colour which makes it incredibly hard to pick out any detail. I guess that this was done to make them appear more like ghosts, but it makes the miniatures look so "toy-ish" that I'd half expect to see these given away for free as part of a McDonald's happy meal. I'm actually convinced that even I with my lack of art skills could come up with a more convincing looking Ecto-1 car.

The only model that looks even reasonably cool is Stay Puft himself and let's face it, he's a giant blob of white marshmallow so you can only do so much to ruin that. Plus his cool appeal is more in the giant size of the model than the detail on it. I get on Cool Mini or Not's back for their games sometimes, but no-one can deny they are the king of miniatures. You compare something from Zombicide (which is a similar price point and actually a similar game in general when you think about it) against this and tell me which you prefer. Now as evidence has proven, these can be vastly improved with a good paint job, but if you're someone like me who can't paint for toffee, you're stuck with what you get.

The artwork itself is fine though, I can take or leave the cartoon approach, but it works well for the character and ghost crib sheets. I just wish some more variation was done on the map. I said they were too similar to each other and that's an understatement. They are double sided but you essentially have a choice of roads or parks and as they're going with a post-apocalyptic style of city terrain it looks very generic and I guarantee you won't be able to tell one scenario from another.


Why Worry? Each Of Us Is Carrying An Unlicensed Nuclear Accelerator On His Back!


So obviously the big appeal for going for a game like this is for the fun of zapping ghosts with your proton pack. So naturally the combat has to be done well for this to work. And for every ghost in this set you simply roll a die and try to beat a number. That's it, really no, that is it. If you hit it, great, but if not, each ghost performs some randomised movement or the gate has a negative effect, typically spewing a new ghost onto the field. And you will repeat this method over and over and over again throughout a scenario and then of course rinsing and repeating in future scenarios. As simplistic as it is, it gets repetitive very quickly and with almost no way to mitigate the die rolls, the game boils down to a giant roll off and trusting to luck.

The ghosts themselves are pretty similar also. They look different, but basically they only differentiate by requiring more hits to trap and having a slightly different randomised movement or "sliming" ability. And they'll barely move at all unless you start missing your shots at them or if you roll that one symbol on the event die to cause the ghost frenzy. So the board remains very static for the most part - yeah, exactly the first word that comes to mind when I think of the chaos that goes on in the movies. I kid you not, their ability in which low class ghosts can combine with others and evolve to the next class if they collide into each other, that's happened to me ONCE in all my plays so far. And even then I just ignored the ghost anyway and shot at the gate for the win. There's no incentive for clearing the ghosts off the map except for XP grinding.


You're Not Sleeping With It Are You Ray?


I can describe Ghostbusters very accurately as a baby version of Zombicide. The way the game plays and more to the point, the XP levelling system is pretty much a carbon copy. You gain XP for trapping ghosts and closing gates and if you're playing a scenario these will carry over to the next mission. The problem is that every mission feels the same each time, but with a couple of rule tweaks to how the gates operate. You will barely notice the difference between the first three scenarios of a campaign before you get to the final one that again, feels the same except for a unique twist in how you trap the main protagonist. You can play one of the stand-alone missions which start you at a higher amount of XP, but again these aren't particularly different in how they feel.

How difficult the scenario is will depend on how well you can roll dice. In the Slimer campaign it is actually possible to simply ignore the ghosts for the most part and just rush the gates. It's that easy. Essentially the ghosts sit there as floating bags of easy XP so at least there is some incentive to zapping them. The fail condition of each mission is for the "other world" to run out of ghosts to put on the map, but considering you commonly start with 12-15 of the things on there to begin with, you'd have to be rolling pretty badly or actively trying in order to fail a mission. It's simply a case of how long it will take you to finish based on the number of turns it takes. And as cool as having to constantly be in line of sight of your enemy to keep your "hits" active is, it's very frustrating when some random movement puts it behind a wall forcing you to start from scratch again.

Clearly as you can probably tell, Ghostbusters isn't a game for the older generation of gamers. However I don't think it's a bad game overall, it plays very smoothly and is very easy to learn and teach and therefore I can see a potential market for this. That of course would be for younger players, particularly if a parent wants to teach their children a fairly simple miniatures game that teaches the concept of levelling a character (and of course they have a special nostalgia for Ghostbusters). The problem with that though is that another highly popular game already exists which does it so much better, that being Mice & Mystics, which has a better story, better miniatures and is still accessible to younger children. I even recommended it to a friend for his 7 year old.



Verdict


Oh dear. What happened? Somewhere between the initial brainstorming on this project and the final execution some streams got crossed and the result was a bit of a mess. Ghostbusters isn't a bad game per say, but it's not a good one either. Instead it manages to somehow commit a crime that's worse - making the art of busting ghosts dull!

The gameplay is smooth and the rules are easy to learn and teach for the most part. But it's so horribly repetitive with scenarios and ghosts that barely differentiate from each other except for a couple of rule tweaks. Essentially the whole game is move and shoot, rolling dice more times than you can stand and trusting to luck with the difficulty being pretty easy throughout until the later scenarios. It doesn't even feel like Ghostbusters as I think you could paste a different theme on here pretty easily.

Maybe I'm not the intended audience, who knows? I like Ghostbusters, but this is far from what I would expect in this license and certainly far from what I would expect in the box for such a high price tag. I can see this working for younger players so it could make for a nice, light family game, but for most people, this is a definite pass.


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You love Ghostbusters and just want to indulge your nostalgic theme over anything else.


You intend to play this more with your kids than with other hardcore gamers.


You only want something light-hearted and simple.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You wanted an engrossing co-operative game with plenty of choices.


You are picky about your miniature quality - what you get here is far from the usual norm.


You hate dice rolling and repetitive missions.







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Look Past The Munchkin Exterior - Smash Up: Munchkin Review

Smash Up is probably my favourite game that AEG have put out, basically taking just about every faction or race or concept you can get out of geekdom and allowing you to put them together in a big battle royal. The game isn't perfect and is best played with a max of 3 players, but I find it good, light hearted fun. I have the giant Geeky Box set and even with every single expansion in it sleeved fully in premium sleeves, there's still over half the box left. It's frankly crazy how much this game could expand and even taking this review into account, we know that another expansion is coming out soon with factions that we, the gamers, voted on (including my suggestion of Superheroes which made the cut, nyah nyah! :P)

This is the one that has me feeling a little bit tentative about. Munchkin is not a franchise I'm a fan of. I used to play and enjoy it back in my college days, but quickly I became desensitised to the humour it contained and now it frankly annoys me. So when I heard of this expansion I was not exactly jumping for joy, but I figured that maybe mixing everything together might still work so I decided to obtain it anyway. Not to mention I'd hate to have this giant gap in my Geeky Box, says the completionist in me!

So what do we have in this new box set? Does it work well on its own or when mixed and can it even be suggested as a starting point for new players? Or will the theme of Munchkin spoil it for me? Note: I've done a review of Smash Up already on my blog which you can find here - therefore I'm going to assume you already know how this game plays and only mention any new rule mechanics.



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Clever Girl! . . . CHOMP! - Raptor Review

2 player only games are a problem for me. I live alone (I know, change the record and all that) and thus the only time to get a decent 2 player game to the table is at a games club meeting. The problem is when you're at a games club you're usually playing in groups as you want to socialise with all your mates there. So I find it hard to get them played as often as I'd like and so some two players are starting to hit the cull pile, Dice Masters and Summoner Wars to name a couple. Most of the time I'll let my friends acquire such games and play their copies (I hope my buddy doesn't get bored of Pixel Tactics any time soon).

This is a shame, because one thing about 2 player games, a lot of them are actually good fun to play. Not all of them <cough cough Battle Line>, but on top of what I just mentioned you've got Android Netrunner, Hive, Star Realms, Innovation (yes it plays 3 & 4, but it's best with 2), X-Wing Miniatures and all sorts. That feeling of engaging in a duel with only one opponent, your mind against theirs, no other distractions or multiplayer chaos. It's very engaging and takes me back to my younger days where I had a 6 year period of being in Chess clubs and teams.

But with my issue of getting them played it means that any 2 player game that remains in my collection has to be REALLY good as in "this is a game I am willing to forgo multiplayer social activity for briefly because I enjoy it that much". Netrunner and Innovation succeeded and now I have two more contenders, the first of which is Raptor, one I wasn't even thinking about when I marched to Essen, but caught my eye on the demo table and slowly drew me in to find out more. . .



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A Dream Within A Dream - Onirim 2nd Edition Review

This is the second of 3 reviews I'm doing on the Ominverse games released by Z-Man. Castellion has already been uploaded and Sylvion will be next (Urbion doesn't get a lot of mention these days so I've chosen to ignore that one). In terms of popularity though, this one tends to be the hit among gamers, particularly Zee Garcia who I would say is the sole reason I even heard of this game in the first place, though I was in my early stages of gaming at the time. Solo games as I've mentioned do strike a chord with me given my current living situation so the Ominverse games were a perfect series to try out. Maybe one day there will be a time when I'm constantly playing two player games with Miss Right and I'll start looking more into those. . . hey come on, Onirim is about dreams so I'm allowed to express one!

As before I'm not concerning myself with the two player option. It may be a good way to play this game, but it's hard enough for me to get two player games to the table as it is and I already know of plenty of other options I'd recommend first, two of which have come out in 2015 and will no doubt get a review in the future - can you guess what they might be? Ooooooo teasers!



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