Boardgaming 2021: minis are back, baby!

Finished my first solo two-handed session of Dice Throne Adventures earlier tonight. For those who aren’t familiar, Dice Throne itself is a game where you play a fantasy adventurer of some description, competing with the other adventurers for the Mad King’s Throne in combat to the death. This combat is achieved primarily by rolling dice and matching them against abilities on your character board, which can do a variety of things but primarily inflict damage and status effects. You also have a deck of cards - some of which do instant effects (most generic for everyone, affecting die rolls somehow), and some of which permanently upgrade abilities on your character board. The statuses, the abilities, the dice, the upgrades and some instant cards, are all unique to your character. (Or occasionally, mostly unique, for some of the statuses.)

Dice Throne Adventures turns it into a cooperative dungeon crawl campaign. Each player picks one of the previous seasons’ characters (there are sixteen in all, sold in season sets of 8 or packs of 2) and they begin operating almost entirely the same way they do in the original dueling gameplay. The campaign alternates randomized Portal Crawl scenarios, and boss fights. The portal crawls are the really new bit. You get a random scenario card for that scenario, and lay out a series of facedown tiles of various levels, then put certain specified goodies on them. The goal is to gather three portal shards, and summon forth the boss minion from the portal tile. Defeating it wins that scenario. In the meantime, each turn you must either move to a new tile and explore it, receiving any rewards and (often harmful) effects associated with it and usually encountering a minion to battle, move into a tile with an ongoing minion fight, or continue a minion fight you are already engaged in. Importantly, your hand, CP for buying cards with, statuses both positive and negative (unless they expire on their own), current health total, and ability upgrades all persist between turns and indeed fights, right up until the end of the scenario.

Minion fights are, on your end, one turn at a time of regular Dice Throne - you have your standard upkeep, get to play cards, do your offensive roll against the minion, can play cards again, and wrap up. Minions are considered players for any relevant effect, and while they rarely use CP (and never upgrade mid-fight), they do have some in case you have effects that care. Minions are simpler than full characters, though, usually consisting of one offensive ability, one defensive ability, health and CP values, a reward for killing them, a goal they roll towards when you roll for their offensive roll, and maybe a passive ability. I found that for the most part, they went down in a turn or two, but because you start with less health than a regular Dice Throne duel and it lasts between fights, you really want to eliminate them as quickly as possible, ideally before they can inflict damage. (Having built in healing is also strong.) I haven’t fought one yet, but I believe bosses have a bit more going on and it’s closer to a standard duel, except against an AI.

So what about loot, you say? There’s a couple forms: healing salves - you start with some and they heal the character that has them for a scenario-based amount, usable at the start of a turn, the start of a fight, or I believe one other time I forget (I didn’t use it, turn or fight was plenty for me), or can revive another player’s dead character to 1 HP. (No healing salve and someone goes down? Scenario over, you lose.). Gold: it totals up over the scenario on a counter and every player gets that much to spend in a shop at the end. Treasure chests: there’s a table each player rolls a d20 on whenever you get a chest, which is better the higher rarity the treasure chest. This can range from damage buff statuses to CP to healing to gold to unidentified loot cards of different rarities. (You can then identify and gain them properly at the shop, for a modest fee, or buy known cards from a scenario-based random draw per character, potentially selling unidentified items for 5 gold a pop.). And what form do loot cards take? Why, you add them to your deck, of course. Some of them upgrade dice modification cards you already have (replacing them). Some of them do something new. And some of them are gear cards you can pay CP to equip (two slots worth) during scenarios if you’ve drawn them. Any of them might have more powerful loot cards that replace them in higher rarities.

In conclusion: I lost, literally on the finish line. My Paladin was actually over starting HP and had a one time death save (Blessing of Divinity), plus a Crit, Retribution, and a couple damage bonus status effects from treasures. He was fighting a Corrupt Rogue boss minion who had been very sneaky but not managed to land a hit so far. Sadly, while my Ninja fought hard and took down a bunch of minions along the way, she burned not only her two salves for healing, but three of the Paladin’s bringing her back from defeat (you can’t trade salves unless a card specifies, unfortunately), and her final encounter had been with a Vicious Viper that stuck her with ongoing poison that would drop her again every upkeep. So, she killed the Viper and before she could join the Rogue fight, dropped unconscious from the poison. Scenario loss. It was a lucrative loss, though. 55 gold each, and while the Paladin got two Common loots and an Epic during the scenario, the Rogue got an Common, a Rare and an Epic. They both identified the lot (the Paladin got two pretty nice gear pieces, the Rogue just instant cards) and bought a couple extra cards from the shop - the Paladin a rare mule (for trading CP and salves) and a healing potion (for healing the Ninja, but himself in a pinch), the Ninja a couple die modifier card upgrades that made them cheaper. And next time I get to start with five salves instead.

Is it good? So far, fuck yes. Quick, fun bursts of action, nail-biting tension as those HP dwindle, and the siren song of phat lewts. Is it balanced? I dunno. Obviously, a game with this much dicing and this many cards is going to be subject to chance, so some swinginess is inevitable. I do feel like characters with good access to high direct damage, damage prevention tools, or self-healing have an advantage in the bite-sized fight context of the portal crawl, so the Paladin was doing quite well and the Ninja was having real trouble. But there are other factors - e.g. most minions have too much health to regularly kill them before they act, so the character that’s first into a fight is going to get hit more than the character that’s second. Unfortunately the turn order meant I frequently had to lead with the Ninja - remember, exploration is mandatory, as is joining battles if you would have to move through that space to go to an exploration. Secondly, I just wasn’t rolling very well for her, and annoyingly well for the minions. And thirdly, the Ninja is the first time professional printing of a previously print-and-play only character and could just suck in comparison. Anyway. S’neat.

Then played a fairly short introductory game of Maximum Apocalypse with two of my three regulars (the fourth tried it with me last week), doing the first proper scenario of saving the Scientist. It was a bit anticlimactic. We had some trouble fighting the initial monsters as my Surgeon didn’t draw any weapons all game and the Gunslinger took the other ability where she gets a damage buff for the rest of the round instead of the guaranteed gun and then…didn’t draw a gun, while drawing the toughest zombie in the deck (the Stalker). Fortunately the Mechanic had her Blowtorch and torched the other two starting zombies for us. But after getting over that hump, we hit a red supply point (the Hospital) and then our objective (the Police Station) in the first two tiles. Took some wrangling to down the Zombie Horde and the couple more spawns we got before there was a chance to rescue the scientist, but then the Gunslinger rode back to the van on her horse (with some fuel) and the Mechanic and I drained the red deck of fuel and skedaddled as well. Boom. Short and surgical. Everyone had fun though, and we’re probably playing it again on Thursday. (Maximum Apocalypse was on a TTS mod, by the way. It may still be in the workshop.)

Oh, and regarding Hexplore It, remember that if you ordered SoS from them, you have access to the VotDK choose-your-own-adventure campaign thing in the pledge manager. They just updated it a week or two ago, so there’s a prequel to teach you how it all works, and Chapters 1 & 2 now (of 4). According to them, Chapter 3 is done and being illustrated now, Chapter 4 is being worked on.

It’s apparently turned into something crazy sprawling. I’m gonna wait until it’s done/I can play it with others/possibly a print option if they ever offer one. But I’m excited.

Yeah, it’s gotten huge- their latest update says “this is now the size of two full novels- the book is near 350 pages and some chapters weigh in at 80,000 words”. I haven’t tried it yet, either, but perhaps soon. I’m super happy that it’s all pdf, though. I’ve moved as much of my TTRPG books as I can to digital, and I think this counts in that category. I don’t need a bunch of books taking up space when I have a tablet handy.

Makes me wonder, perhaps permature top consider it, but in the UK all adults are to have ahd the vaccine by September…

one assumes the EU and USA wouldn’t be far off that timescale either, in other words…

Is SpielEssen a possibility (or other convention), and if so, who here would like to go?

Board game communities and publishers are reacting over offensive statements by game designers Phil Eklund (Pax Porfiriana, Pax Renaissance, High Frontier) and Daniele Tascini (Teotihuican, Tzolk’in).

I posted about it in the “serious business” thread.

Eklund’s been infamous for that sort of thing for years - interesting to see him finally getting in trouble for it. Possibly COVID denialism was the step too far.

Eklund is a certified loony, but I can’t imagine one of his games without the footnotes / designer notes. They’re generally no good as games to start with [0], and as simulations they’d be incoherent without the notes explaining just what worldview the simulation is based on.

It is hard to see Eklund accepting a restriction like this either, so this has the makings of a messy divorce.

[0] I wish somebody else here had played Lords of the Sierra Madre, just so I could point at them and say “Ha, ha, you played Lords of the Sierra Madre!”

Ha, ha, you played Lords of the Sierra Madre.

I’ve played it. And Lords of the Spanish Main, and BiosMegafauna, and, and, and. I had a friend years ago that loved his games- and I can say I totally agree with you that they are all no good as actual games. In fact, it’s a running joke in my group nowadays that everyone knows that I think Eklund is a shit designer- a couple of the guys were trying to do the whole evolutuon saga thing (pre-covid, of course), and they would make a point to ask if I wanted to join just to hear me rant.

What I imagine will happen is that his games will unfortunately continue to waste paper by being printed, and he’ll publish the footnotes on his blog or something.

Ha, ha, you played Lords of the Sierra Madre!

Whew, thanks.

So I don’t think Eklund would be happy with just posting the notes on a blog, or similar. One of the things I used to do every year at Spiel in Essen was go listen in to him demo games at the Sierra Madre stand. He is a really engaging showman, who clearly loves nothing more than to explain the backstory of the games to an audience.

E.g. he was demoing High Frontier, and somebody asked a question about whether the they could do such and such an action that one could do in the real world. “No”, he said. “But it would fit right into the framework of the game”. And then he went into explaining how analogous things were represented in the game, how this action was different from those, started drafting a new variant rule live, went one table over to steal some components from a different game to use as proxies, etc.

Similar when a player asked about what some card meant in Pax Porfiriana. Not just “it does X”, but explaining the real-life event the card was based on, re-contextualizing that event into what had happened in the game, and role-playing the effect of the card.

Utter shit explanations for learning how to play the game, but almost invariably entertaining.

The rulebooks create a captive audience someone like that won’t want to give up on :) So I’m thinking it’ll be back to self-publishing.

Anyone on East Coast looking to unload games I highly recommend Congress of Gamers when the pandemic ends. Their community sale is amazing for both buyers and sellers.

I totally agree that Eklund is a loony who has sort of dived into a conspiracy-theory persecution complex over the last few years. That said, Pax Porfiriana is, I think, actually a good game. And many of his other games (e.g. High Frontier, Bios: Megafauna) function so well as narrative generators and simulations that it doesn’t matter if they’re good games–they’re still an absolute blast to play.

When I think of Eklund as designer I’ll always think fondly of discovering High Frontier years and years ago and that will always be special. But, the man is crazy and not necessarily benignly so. I remember some throwaway lines about the Bicameral Mind in Westworld and how it wasn’t actually good science when applied to humans but hey it might work for androids. I had just read about that in Eklund’s Neanderthal article and catching right away how utterly bizarre and nonsensical that was there.

When it comes to game design I turn to the Pax series as an example. When Cole Wehrle did Pax Pamir and applied good graphic design and an elegant ruleset it’s a night and day difference from the Eklund branch of the series. I recently got the second edition of Pax Pamir and wow did Cole take advantage of that opportunity to hone his craft. I can’t wait to see what Cole’s second edition of John Company is going to be.

The good and bad thing about getting back into boardgaming after a long hiatus is the sheer wealth of games to get into.

My secret Santa sent me Spirit Island…which was…and is…simply amazing.

I’ve even played it solo.

Anyway, I’m right now in the middle of a wargaming serial on zoom, where I am part of a team, and the wargaming controller (WGC) has the board set up in his house, and we communicate with our officers to coordinate orders, then each team sends the WGC the orders, and he adjudicates what happens, if a team is suppressed etc.

He gives each team a time limit, e.g. 10 minutes to forumate their plan,. and at the same time the opposing enemy are doing the same thing.

And then after each turn he sends us a picture of the updated gameboard.

So, using zoom and whatsapp (the latter for “secret” or team specific communication) we are, in effect, playing a boardgame (albeit with fairly dry, wargamey rules) and it made me think that such a thing could infact be done quite well, by us, here.

I think a cooperative game would work best.

E.G. someone hosts, has the game displayed, for Spirit Island.

Player 1-4 discuss, agree, Host moves the pieces, updates the gamestate (Dahan etc dead)

It wouldn’t necessarily take much longer than an actual (real life) game.

The advantage of this are that it would be free (only the host needs the game) whereas something like TTS requires buying it, each, I believe.

Also, minis are definitely back:

and rules are available to download. I can’t upload them here (pdf.)

Dave Long is running some stuff like that, I think. Personally it sounds way more complicated and fussy than playing with a regular online solution to me.

I have been stacking up hours at work for the last 3 weeks so…

…man do I hope those West Kingdom games are pretty good. I’m in.

So anyone playing Aliens: AGDIC?
I’ve ordered a copy, but now I’m feeling like I made a mistake.

I guess it depends on what you are looking for. It’s gone out of stock and been snapped up very quickly in local FLGS and discussed with excitement in the FB boardgame group I joined.

The first hurdle for those who got it was all the assembly required. Also, be prepared to use hot water to reshape some of the xenomorphs, or they can’t stand side by side on the board.

The second hurdle is the gameplay which might either be exactly your tactical cup of tea or not. I’ve seen several copies come up for second hand sale in the past week in that group. But that one is obviously subjective. So might be worth giving the game a chance.

This might also be of interest: