Boardgaming 2021: minis are back, baby!

There is a global shipping crunch - too much demand for goods to be shipped, not enough containers. Also there was a COVID outbreak at China’s #2 shipping port - Shenzen - delays for getting a container out of that port went from an average of 12 hours to two weeks. So a lot of capacity stuck in the South China Sea, which is trashing schedules. Its just a total cluster basically.

That makes a lot of sense.

I wonder if there is any way to push more production to local industry, or even mass use of 3d printing. Obviously, that would take a lot of time and effort and won’t help people currently being ruined by global shipping, and it probably will mean that prices will be very high.

Yeah, I have a friend that works for Skybound Games and he has to book containers in addition to all of his other duties. He was excited last week to find one for $19,000 while many were going for $25K. He said they were $4-$5K pre-pandemic. Sounds pretty miserable.

Frosthaven will be arriving in dribs and drabs apparently according to Isaac.

I know I keep giving you vague warnings about this, but freight shipping is real bad . I don’t want to commit to telling you exactly how bad it is because we don’t know how things will change by October. But by all projections, what I can tell you is that doing a swift fulfillment where all 80,000 of you get your games at the same time is not in the cards. We’re looking at only being able to get a limited number of containers out of China each week, which means that fulfillment could be a very prolonged process. Exactly what that looks like and the processes involved will have to wait for a future update when we are closer to seeing what we’re actually dealing with.

For now, we’ll just have to settle for more vague warnings from Isaac and the fact that, at this point, I can’t give you concrete answer on when you will receive your game. With the way freight shipping is going, I wouldn’t expect it until early next year , unfortunately. If that doesn’t work for you, I totally understand , and, as always, you are welcome to request a refund

I feel for him and everyone else that does Kickstarters or make boardgames in general. People bitch and moan even if it is out of their control and these delays are more agonizing for them than the impatient players.

Played Dune Imperium for the first time on TTS today and although a host crash and autosave mishap prevented us from finishing, I was very favorably impressed with the game. The mix of deck building (which felt very Clank! in Space! style) plus worker placement and a Conflict Zone that reminded me of the War in France from Lancaster , plus the faction diplomacy tracks, made for some solid and interesting mechanics. The game also involves some limited but occasionally brutal elbow-throwing, in keeping with it’s ancestor game, and evoked the theme reasonably well.

Despite being unable to finish the game, all 4 of us liked it and said we would play again.

Tried all the new scenarios in the Arkham Horror 3ed expansion: Secrets of the Order

They’ve definitely bumped up the difficulty. Game was way too easy before. Came close to losing in one scenario, got slaughtered in another. “The Dead Cry Out” might be insanely difficult, as it starts out with monsters hunting innocent civilians on the board, with an instant doom on the scenario sheet whenever one gets caught. New bystanders are constantly spawning and every new monster is set to prioritize hunting them. We still lost even though we were doing damn good at keeping the monsters away with only 2 getting caught and only 3 doom occurring due to Outbreaks.

So that’s an improvement that they’re trying to do different stuff with the scenarios. The above example feels like an outside the box setup you’d expect to find in the card game.

There weren’t any shakeups to the core mechanics that I remember. A new board connector that inflicts damage if you don’t halt after reaching it. A new monster where each copy has random stats and effects that you’re not allowed to look at until you actually engage it. That’s pretty much it. Other than that, just new investigators and the new scenario setups.

I did notice that they just went back to the old anomaly/outbreak systems for doom tokens, and have abandoned the terror system they tried with Under Dark Waves. That’s probably for the best. Terror was completely toothless and it would have been too cumbersome to fix.

My one solid complaint is that they still haven’t made an effort to expand the spell deck to make magic viable. You get 2 new spells and that’s it. There’s only like 1-2 investigators who can become great with magic, and even then you need 3 times the cards to get the same effectiveness as a single decent item (and then you still have the chance to fail and sanity cost on top of that). It seems like they realized this shortcoming, as one of the new spells is “roll 5 dice for combat - ignoring all other bonuses or penalties”. It’s like they just said fuck it to trying at balancing out the old combat spells.

just ordered Imperium: Classics, a civilization deckbuilding game with a solo mode by David Turci.

What I read about it, sounds really great. Rising and waning empires with a deep strategy layer. So you can play Romans against Carthage, or Egypt against the Persians (it also supposed to have a fantastic solo mode).

There is a second standalone box, called Imperium: Legends with Arthurian, Atlantian, Qin decks…

It is fairly new, quite excited for it to arrive at my doorstep.

Hey, I ordered this as well! And the Legends one, I read you can mix and match them. Probably a couple weeks off in the post still.

Looks pretty cool. Some of the written reviews seemed a little lukewarm though, in particular one said it has quite a lengthy setup time, given the play time of each game.

Did someone say “minis are back, baby”? Holy crap are they!

So I’ve got my 3rd impressions from having played Destinies. That’s the newish app-driven tabletop game from the folks at Lucky Duck. I’ve seen it described as a sort of mashup of 7th Continent and Lucky Duck’s Chronicles of Crime, and that’s probably within the ballpark. You interact with the app a lot. You scan stuff. You put out map tiles to explore, a la 7th Continent (or Tainted Grail, etc.) The skills of your characters can improve or be depreciated as things go. Most importantly, the game prominently bills itself as a competitive fantasy RPG. That’s worth noting and coming back to.

So. My third impression says I. I should probably start at the beginning with my first impression.

My first impression was “Holy shit, this might be the worst thing I’ve ever played.” Let me explain.

Destinies says that it’s a game for 1-3 players. When you start a game, you have to select whether you’re playing in solo mode or with 2 or 3 players. Unless you’re playing solo, this game is NOT co-op! It’s a competitive app-driven game, and that’s important to remember.

A buddy and I had talked about playing this over the weekend, so I wanted to make sure I knew how to play fully before that. The rules are really simple, honestly, and you kind of let the app do a lot of the heavy lifting. But…super-easy game to learn to play.

But my I decided to play the introductory learning scenario solo, just to be sure. And when you choose to play a game of Destinies solo, you choose Challenger or Explorer mode. Challenger mode is a timed mode. It’s a challenge, get it? Explorer mode is for exploring and experiencing the story and world.

Me, thinking I didn’t want to expose myself to too much story before playing with a friend chose Challenger mode for my first ever game of Destinies in solo mode. And my goodness, that was a bad decision. I expected Challenger mode to be something that prodded me along to make interesting decisions and sacrifices in my choices. That’s not what Challenger mode is, though. Instead, Challenger mode is this mis-begotten notion that seems to be someone at Lucky Duck saying “Hey, what if we combined all the enjoyableness of video game speed runs and punishing roguelikes?” Because that’s what Challenger mode – at least on the tutorial scenario – is. The challenge, as far as I can tell, is “Play a perfect game” mode. No superfluous decisions. No wasted actions in your turns. No bad die rolls. Go.

Now, maybe there are players who’ll enjoy that kind of thing. But boy do I hate it. My first game ended in about 20 minutes, ended with me feeling like I’d accomplished nothing, and that was that. I’ve seen other people play in challenger mode and lose and say “Well, I’ll note this location or this thing or this story clue for the next time I play.” And I’m thinking “What I’d be noting is that there’s no way in hell I’d willingly play challenger mode again.”

So…2nd impression. I give that same scenario a shot in Explorer mode. And that was a much more enjoyable and engaging experience. I actually explored, felt like I legitimately improved my character a ton from the beginning of the scenario to the end, and won the scenario. I’m not sure – barring some disastrous die rolling at the end – that you can lose in Explorer mode. I hope you can.

This experience raised my opinions somewhat of Destinies.

And so my 3rd impressions. Played against a friend in the competitive 2-player mode. “Competitive” is maybe more hostile-sounding than it is. Players in competitive mode in Destinies can’t really do adversarial things to the other players in the game. Instead, each player has two hidden character “Destinies” that they don’t reveal to the other players. Which ever player can fulfill one of their two character destinies first, wins the game. And though you and the other player(s) may be off doing completely separate things in the game world, you’re listening and paying attention to stuff each of you do, because each of you is likely to find some possible help or clues on fulfilling one of your respective destinies from seeing encounters and exploration from the other player. (Importantly, nothing another player does can foreclose a destiny path completely for another player. It may inadvertently create a longer path, but there’s – supposedly – no way to block a destiny path.)

And playing this mode was really enjoyable and engaging. It felt less “competitive”, and more like a co-op game where one of you still wins. The limited inventory means that your character is likely by mid-game to have to discard things that have been found. And that also means another player can pick those things up, if they’re in the vicinity and it’s a good item to have.

Crap. This got wordy. More impressions in a bit. Some are favorable. Some are decidedly not. ;)

OK, so overall what do I think after playing three games of Destinies?

First, I think I want to keep playing it. So…there’s that, right? My first impression after playing solo challenger was “This is going into the FLGS used game auction for charity this year.”

But if you sample around Youtube a bit, you’ll see widely divergent opinions on Destinies. I’ve seen some that call it the best app-driven tabletop game out there. Is it?

Well, when I think about app-driven games (and I’m fundamentally on the side of thinking that it’s a fascinating idea that I’m OK with seeing if it iterates over generations into something really good) I have two questions:

  1. Is the app even necessary here? and
  2. Could this app-driven boardgame be a better computer game without the tabletop accoutrements?

On question one, absolutely the app is essential to Destinies. It does more than handle narrative beats. It remembers and tracks previous decisions and builds out the game based on those. That includes noting player behavior and how that can affect later stages of the game. In other words, the app is doing a ton of tracking of game situations, player decisions, and even hidden “stats” that the player may accrue from taking noble – or craven – decisions throughout. Which is very cool. And there would be a ton of very complex tracking and effects and rules spelling out those tracks and effects and contingencies that would need to be written and absorbed that the app handles on its own. So, nice. :) Point to Destinies.

On the second question, things get a little less cut-and-dried.

First, the minis in this game are very well done. They’re also very small (in general, though some aren’t) and unless you invest some time in painting them (I haven’t; I have the painting skills of a toddler on a triple espresso in the middle of a 7.4 Richter scale earthquake) a lot of them look the same on the developing game board/map. So there’s a lot of fishing around the game box for “Is this the right fig?” squinting excitement. And since the app keeps track of the minis and who they are for you…it’s tempting to just leave them in the box and trust the game map on the app when playing solo mode.

The minis and “points of interest” chits that go on the map are more useful in 2- and 3-player games, for sure. It lets everyone see the game board/map and plan out their turns accordingly. So that’s good! But…you also get a lot of “Hey, what’s that point of interest there on tile 11” or “Is that the priest or the doctor on tile 3” action going. Which involves consulting the app, or passing the iPad around so that another player can consult the app themselves.

The app also handles “tests”, where a player’s stats and available dice determine what he or she rolls on the test…and then also the number of successes. You put the number of successes into the app, and it tells you what happens. And that’s cool and all…but dice rolling is an RNG that any app should handle just fine.

There’s also a ton of combing through both item cards and map tile cards. Pulling the necessary cards out is pretty easy – no shuffling here, you keep the cards for map tiles and items in numerical order. But both those cards jump around a lot in the order the game brings them into play. It’s easy to find them when you keep them in order, but the end-of-game reboxing can be a chore after a 90-120 minute scenario with two players. Just putting the cards in order back in the stack for next time makes reboxing this game more time-consuming than boxing. And again…shhh, but you could do all this without physical components if you wanted to.

(I found myself really wishing for a 7th Continent-style organizer for easily finding map tiles or item cards in the 1-6 range, 7-11 range, etc.)

So right now what do I think? I think this game plays best as a competitive game with 2 or 3 players. It seems to be the mode the game was “built” around, frankly, and the most interesting game decisions you have happen in the multiplayer competitive games. We did indeed really have a blast with the first campaign scenario, and we’re already finding a time to play the second scenario next weekend.

Solo explorer mode seems decent enough. I hope there are actual failure conditions to this mode (I think there have to be, and I’ll report back on that.) It’s definitely in solo explorer mode where the feeling of “Couldn’t this have been a really neat, narrative computer game” is most prominent though.

For Solo challenger mode, the less said the better. :)

One variant that I think seems pretty interesting is a solo “competitive” mode where you control two characters but don’t look at their destinies (you can still ask other NPCs in the game about your character’s Destiny … but you have to work off those clues to know what to do next.)

What does seem cool to me is that Lucky Duck apparently have a “Make your own scenarios/campaigns” thing in beta right now. I can imagine that there are folks in the community who’ll be able to make some really interesting stuff with those tools. I hope so. The framework of the game using the app seems super conducive to good player-made content appearing perhaps.

There are not that I can see.

You can fail checks, but all that does is waste your time and knock one of your skill markers back a point - which is usually undercut by it giving you XP, which can be turned into two skill advancements. And time progression doesn’t really matter in solo explorer mode. There are timed events but as far as I can tell there’s not one that will trigger you actually losing or being blocked from an avenue of progression.

As far as I can tell there’s just no reason for this to be a boardgame and especially no reason for it to use minis. I do like the writing, but it’s tough to recommend at $50 or so for a largely vestigial boardgame implementation when it could just be a CYOA app and be like, $10, and lose basically nothing. And while I like how it handles skills and skill checks and the items can be kinda interesting, it just doesn’t really do very much with them. Maybe they’ll roll those ideas into a more…gamey? game sometime. I can only hope.

Played Cartographers for the first time last night and everyone seemed to like it. It’s definitely a pleasant, low-pressure game. There were some subtleties to the mechanics<>theme relationship that I didn’t appreciate when I read the rules (the kinds of goals you go for in each season have a thematic logic, for example). I was hoping the maps would turn out looking more legible. Almost makes me want to give everyone a full set of colored pencils next time… (No, I don’t own that many colored pencils.)

Then we played Sakura, by little-known rookie designer Reiner Knizia. This. was. A DELIGHT. I totally didn’t expect such a charming and appropriate theme in a Knizia game! The concept is that you are all artists, following the Emperor of Japan as he takes a leisurely walk through a garden to behold the season’s cherry blossoms. You get the best paintings of the emperor (and gain honor/points) if you’re closest to him at the right time. But don’t ever bump INTO the Emperor! Then you lose honor. On every turn, everyone in the game plays a card that typically moves the emperor and themself (sometimes another player instead of the emperor). The cards have unique priority values that determine the order of play once they’re all revealed. So it’s a pretty chaotic game where a good move can quickly turn into a disaster when the Emperor decides to step back up the path to catch that delightful bird’s song once again. (At one point the Emperor moved back WAY more than anyone expected; we decided he’d invented the moonwalk.) The cards have some wonderful artwork of artists holding brushes and canvases clambering over each other, yanking on each others’ tunics, and scrambling at the sight of the Emperor. It was a pretty great for a game with a few pawns, a deck of cards, and a board that’s just a linear row of about thirty spaces or so. It’s nothing deep, but it has the right kind of chaotic energy–the kind that I always expect to get out of Colt Express, but that seems to rarely pay off in fun and unexpected situations.

Yeah, I thought the skill test mechanic with the effort dice was a really great idea for a core gameplay mechanic. But I totally agree that it feels a bit undercooked. There’s potential here to maybe do some really interesting things with branching stories and whatnot and for that reason I think I’ll finish playing through the base campaign and then let this sit on the shelf for a year and see what (if anything) future scenarios/campaigns do with the system.

Can I ask where you ordered it? I cant find anyplace in stock.

You can get all the Osprey stuff, including this, from Book Depository. Free shipping from the UK.

Thanks…I think I ordered from them before.

Classics is sold out but got legends…we’ll see how it plays.

I got it from BGG, Sheepgames from Belgium.

I’ve had Legends and Classics for a couple weeks now and I’m kind of obsessed with them. Haven’t played many deck builders in solo mode but so far this is my favorite.

One thing you really need to know, especially if you’re going to learn the game solo. The rulebook (which is exactly the same in both boxes) unfortunately contains a few errors. There is an official errata, but even if you ignore the rest of it this one bit is huge:

Make sure you come back and read that after you’ve read the rulebook.

The rest of it can be found here.

Looking forward to some Imperium talk once you’ve all got your copies.

that sounds great! Can’t wait … I guess I will read the manual online in advance.