Boardgaming in 2020: the year of the, uh, post-minis era? We can only hope!

In addition to Apocrypha, which I’ve played every day this week, I’ve also been spending some time with Arkham Noir and Race for the Galaxy.

The more time I spend with Arkham Noir the more I realize it’s a little too puzzley for my tastes. Sure, maybe that’s because it actually is a puzzle game comprised of trying to locate and assemble specific type of clues in certain sequences when solving cases, but I’m finding out I don’t like having to dedicate so much brain power to a matching game.

And while some cards do have effects that give me a little more room to steer the next few turns of the game in one direction or another, I still find that most options available to me from turn to turn are more decided by where my cards can be played rather than could or should be played. Too often I don’t often feel like I have as much say in my success as the card order of my draw deck.

As for Race for the Galaxy, I’m sort of cheating by putting this one in the board gaming thread. While I do actually own the physical game and a few expansions, I’ve instead been playing the digital version of the game vs AI. I’ve tried the solo AI on the physical version, but the app is so slick, and its “Hard” mode so perfectly tuned to my skill level, that it’s a vastly better experience for me. But I’m still putting this one here because I plan to get my wife back into this game over the next couple days, and I’ll be doing that with our physical copy for now.

We used to play the game together ten years ago, but stopped when we bought a house and all my physical board gaming more or less came to halt halt in favor of video games for years and years. But I’ve been talking with her about how much fun I’ve been having with this game lately and she recalled how much she enjoyed playing me way in the way back, so the plans sort of made themselves. It’s a date, and we won’t even have to wear COVID masks.

Because I’ll be re-introducing my wife to RFTG this weekend I might not have time to get around to playing Ghost Stories with her, but I’m hoping to do that as well. The more I play the base game solo the more I realize how much I enjoy it. but I don’t want to spend too much time teaching new game after new game before we settle into a groove with any one of them. So this might be put off for another week or so, we shall see.

Race for the Galaxy is so incredibly well designed. I love how the game allows for diverse strategies for victory. Many games like that induce a lot of AP and playing them can sometimes feel almost painful as you wring your hands trying to decide which one you’ll have to cut off, but in RFTG the flow of game play is so quick and light that I never feel this way.

As you mentioned, the app is wonderfully well done. I own it on iOS and have bought and gifted several copies for Steam to play with friends during the pandemic.

I’ve played 5000 games of Race for the Galaxy now, all two-player games against the Hard AI. I’ve won about 1/4 of the games.

Last night saw us down a player for Imperial Assault’s final mission of the campaign, and the other two players were not up for anything new and complicated, so we broke out Sentinels of the Multiverse - some would argue that that’s a fairly complicated game but to me it isn’t, they’d both played at least once before, and I’ve played dozens of times and can track virtually the entire game in my head so handled all the math and turn-processing type stuff. My girlfriend played Chrono-Ranger, my friend Liz took out Haka again (a fairly uncomplicated starter, for sure), and I lived life dangerously and randomized my pick from the fan Cauldron expansion, ending up with The Stranger. We fought Plague Rat (muuuuch easier than Kaargra Warfang, who I made the mistake of trying with this group last time.) inside the Freedom Tower.

The Stranger is an interesting character that I ended up quite liking. Heavy support, very little offense. The gimmick is that it has Runes and Glyphs. Runes are ongoings you play next to other things - heroes, non-character cards, non-hero targets - to buff or debuff them, including allowing extra card plays, redirecting damage dealt to them to the highest HP hero, dealing toxic damage to a target when they take damage (once per turn), dealing extra damage, healing when they deal damage (once per turn), doing less damage, taking more damage, and the weirdest card in the Stranger’s arsenal - Mark of Destruction, which goes next to a non-character card with five HP and when one is destroyed, the other is also. But if it takes damage from non-heroes, that redirects the damage to the heroes instead. So it’s basically an explosive you attach to cards like villain ongoings or environment cards or whatever, and then you whack it until it goes off. The drawback to most of these runes is that every time you start your turn, you have to choose whether to destroy the rune or deal one irreducible toxic damage to yourself. So your buffs are either very temporary, or hurt you to maintain. Which is where the four Glyph cards come in. Each Glyph lets you ignore one instance of self-damage on your turn. Which, baseline, lets you maintain one Rune indefinitely. But it can also, e.g. shield against Plague Rat’s Infection cards making you hurt yourself. But that’s not all they do. Two of them give additional powers (the default character card power is playing a Rune). One lets you play a Rune and do a toxic damage, the other draw a card. A third lets you react to villain and environment targets entering play (IIRC by playing a Rune). And a fourth lets you do fire damage whenever your Runes or Glyphs are destroyed, so there’s some percentage in swapping out the buffs or debuffs. Plague Rat doesn’t do a lot of ongoing destruction, but The Stranger seems well positioned to deal with villains that do. The final piece of the Stranger’s toolkit are one-shots, which give additional card draw, fish Runes or Glyphs out of the trash or deck respectively, shuffle runes back in, chain additional Rune or Glyph play and heal, generally a combination of two of the above.

Unfortunately, one of Plague Rat’s big things is that he can become immune to toxic damage and I only got the Glyph that does fire damage on the last turn of the game, so I contributed almost no damage to the process. Making Chrono-Ranger able to play two, then three with hat cards per turn was surely a big help, though, as was later buffing his damage, and then buffing damage against the Rat. And I was quite happy to blow up a couple of his obnoxious ongoings with Marks of Destruction, though the toxin immunity popped up again later. Sigh

Chrono-Ranger and the Plague Rat are nemeses, so between that and the Ranger’s card that buffs damage from and to him based on his bounties he did the vast majority (probably 50-odd HP worth) of damage to the Rat, but was our first and only casualty, Thankfully Haka was able to pick up the slack, especially once Chrono-Ranger could give him another power use on Chrono-Ranger’s turn. We won with a reasonably comfortable margin, without the Rat ever flipping.

PS: Though I of course have my giant collector’s box of Sentinels on a shelf and the app version is the way to go for official play, the handy thing about playing on TTS is being able to play with fan-made content like Cauldron without a lot of printing and faffing.

Not quite 5k, but a pretty decent number

Yeah, I am under 50%. Against actual people? 24-10-1.

Yeah, the AI is hard

Less strategic than most games discussed in this thread, we got to try a game by Eric M. Lang today. No, not Rising Sun, Chaos in the Old World or Cthulhu: Death May Die. It was Munchkin Dungeon by CMON. Being CMON, it come with minis.

It’s an interesting take on the Munchkin formula. It turns Munchkin into a lightweight dungeon delve which smoothes out a lot of (not all) the runaway winner issues. It also allows each player to mitigate how much risk they take by deciding how fast to move down the mostly randomly generated dungeon (each room you enter generates threat for that turn only. Other players will get to use the threat later in the turn to pay for cards used against you).

As shown on the picture, it certainly reduces portability, but adds table presence to the game.

When you die, you don’t lose anything. You are simply sent back to the entrance with all your gear and gold. But you also get a shame token (-1 VP at the end)… So setbacks are limited. My poor dwarf was dying so much I started a “shame” gear build. :D

My daughter won handily. My wife and I fighting to not be last. It still a very lightweight game. But I like it better than Munchkin for sure (low bar, I know). We will likely play again this week-end.

Did a bit more (virtual) Sentinels of the Multiverse, this time with the other three player configuration of my social group as my friend Liz had a migraine. My friend Ed has played in most of the dozens of physical games of Sentinels that I’ve done, so we both picked random Cauldron heroes (Baccarat for Ed, Necro for me), while my girlfriend tried out Stuntman. We went up against Cauldron’s Screamachine, a villainous metal band, performing a concert in the Ruins of Atlantis, like you do.

Screamachine’s gimmick is pretty interesting - basically, there are four villain characters. A guitarist, who does single target damage by default; a vocalist, who does wider but lesser damage by default; a bassist, who heals the other villains by default; and a drummer who shields the others by default. But unlike almost any other villain in the game, these characters do not, at the start, do their abilities on the basis of start or end of the villain turn (unless they’re heavily outnumbered). Instead, at the start of the turn, one of the musicians will get an additional powerup card (it is possible for this to be one that’s defeated, but if so they’ll trigger another powerup coming out). If a musician gets all three, they then flip over and have an every turn ability instead of their base power. Meanwhile, each turn there’s still a card played from the villain deck. These will do something themselves (prompt for ongoing/equipment destruction or take damage; amp a villain’s damage, protect the villains, etc) and also prompt two of the musicians to do each of their current suite of powers. As they ramp up, things can get pretty hairy. But, conversely, if you take out individual musicians, that’ll potentially reduce the pain substantially. And we got lucky in that the drummer never triggered after she got her powerups. Whole lotta damage reduction in that suite. Ultimately the Ruins’ defenses took them out after we’d gotten the last two (vocalist and drummer) down to 1 HP each in a combo between Stuntman’s Hidden Mine and my rituals and undead.

Baccarat I didn’t get too deep a sense of, but he seems to be about recurring Trick cards out of his trash. Necro is…interesting, but prone to getting a terrible first hand, as I did. Basically, his default gimmick is that he puts out Ritual ongoings that cause stuff to happen when undead targets die. Then he summons undead who attack the heroes in various ways if they survive to the end of his turn, but they have pretty low health (mostly), more with each ritual that’s out, and he does extra damage to them if he targets them with his own power. The Rituals include one that does toxic damage to all the villain targets, one that does a slightly higher amount of single target infernal damage, one that heals all the heroes for 2 HP a piece, and one that draws a card (and can put undead back into play from the trash as a power). Unfortunately…you have to draw them. Or a card that searches for them, which he does have. And my opening hand was undead (which do nothing for you on their own), and two cards that pull undead back out of the trash, injured, but also hurt you. I did get Corpse Explosion (the one that does mass damage) the second turn and then…never got another ritual or ritual search all game. But still, detonating zombies, ghouls and imps made for pretty good damage, and the Imp (who instead of attacking, destroys an ongoing or equipment card, but allows a card play when killed) had some silly synergies with Stuntman’s very destructible ongoings and equipment. He also has a character card with a power that swaps the text on all his cards from hero to villain and vice versa. Which means that version doesn’t want rituals (which mostly specify that heroes heal or villains take damage), but can build up an undead army that will automatically wreak havoc on the villains. (Which, TBH, I had assumed was how the character worked before I actually played with him.)

Oops I forgot to do this last week, so here are 2 weeks of new titles:

Huh. Seems like a bit late in the game to do a licensed Coraline boardgame.

Well, we live in the era of Top Gun and Bob Ross board games. And the next Unmatched expansion is going to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Top Gun just got a new movie, Bob Ross was all over Twitch, and Buffy’s got a reboot coming…soonish? and I still hear way more people talking about it than Coraline (plus, of course, adding licensed characters to a mashup game like Unmatched is a bit different than making a new Buffy boardgame). Not that I’m complaining, it’s just surprising.

Spirit Island was recommended to me last month as a great 2-player coop experience.

Well, I know I’m years late to the game here, but those folks were right. This game is a masterpiece! I can’t believe I haven’t played it before.

People talked about it be really heavy and complicated, but I actually didn’t find that to be true. I mean, yes, the decision making is super-complicated as you try to calculate all the permutations of your hands and what is going to happen in 2 or 3 turns… but the game itself really isn’t too bad. Provides me the same satisfaction and analysis lock as Mage Knight does when trying to figure out your optimal hand to prevent a complete disaster. My biggest fear was that it was going to be fiddly… but I was pleased that it really wasn’t fiddly either.

Anyway, I am completely hooked and have played 3 solo games in a row with no sign of taking it off the table.

Amazon Prime members: some daily boardgame deals for the rest of today (Tuesday):

FFG wants to sell you Elder Sign again but this time with X-Men and they ride around on a little cardboard blackbird:

Joke’s on them. I didn’t like it the first time.

Been saying for years that what Elder Sign really needed was a jet.

It has also just come out of Early Access on Steam and is 15% off. No online play though.

And no content from Branch and Claw, which makes it feel really anemic if you’ve been playing the boardgame with Branch and Claw.


I’m sure they’ll be laughing about it all the way to the bank.

Besides, Elder Sign isn’t about the first time. It’s about the second time, after they added Gates of Arkham.

I might be tempted by this latest Marvel boondoggle, but it looks like it doesn’t take advantage of any of the cool stuff from Gates of Arkham. In fact, it looks really scaled down. I’m sure they’re leaving plenty of room for the inevitable add-ons.

One of the big hassles in Elder Sign is managing all the teensy character tokens, given how many characters are in the game. I was mistakenly sent some little binders with clear plastic pages that are apparently used to store and display stamp collections. The booklets are about the size of a passport and each page has pockets for 12 stamps. I didn’t throw them out because I was sure I could find a use for them one day. Which I did, when I arranged the Elder Sign character tokens alphabetically in the booklet. Now I can randomly draw an Elder Sign character card, and then just look up the token in the stamp book! You’re a genius, Tom!


Lone Shark Games just put their entire game catalog on sale for 50% off. This includes games like Apocrypha, Sausage Party, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t remember the names of.

For Gen Con Online we are putting our entire store on sale for 50% off!

Use the code GenConOnline at checkout to receive your discount.

The sale ends on August 2nd, 2020 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time.