Qt3 Boardgames Podcast: Doppelt So Clever, Valeria Card Kingdoms, Brook City

Title Qt3 Boardgames Podcast: Doppelt So Clever, Valeria Card Kingdoms, Brook City
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Games podcasts
When July 26, 2019

Mike Pollmann speaks German, Tom Chick continues his search for a way to keep people from checking their phones, and Hassan Lopez is getting too old for this shit.

Doppelt So Clever at 2:07, Valeria Card Kingdoms at 16:33, and Brook City at 28:05…

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Got a bunch of different replies to various parts of the cast, so, here goes:
I never got on that well with Elder Sign in significant part because I don’t feel the Cthulhu theme is more than a thin layer of paint over a basic Yahtzee variant. (The digital version at least thickens the layer of paint.) Of course, my other complaint is that it’s set up such that you rarely have more than one die’s wiggle room on getting what a quest is looking for, if that, so you can’t really afford to reroll unless you have items to provide the extra dice. And those only come from winning at quests and are consumable. So the instant you start losing, you enter a death spiral. I guess that’s thematic for Cthulhu stories, but I didn’t find it very enjoyable as a game.

Valeria: Card Kingdoms is the first Valeria game, the others are spinoffs. And I honestly can’t tell why I would want to get or play anything else in the franchise. As a smarter, better designed Machi Koro it has little competition and is a lovely little game. But it’s not such a compelling setting I’d be into other games for that angle, and while they’re probably decent designs, they’re in more crowded genres.

I’m just as glad to be saved trying to hunt down Brook City. I do love the modular deck approach in Sentinels of the Multiverse and I think it’s a bit silly that they conspicuously fail to acknowledge their clear debt to that design, so I’ve been jazzed about their other games. (Street Masters Aftershock should be shipping soon). I didn’t really know what Brook City was, much less that it was a modular deck game, until Altar Quest’s KS. And so it did sound like another one I was gonna have to grab, but…they do seem to be leaving a big element on the table by having a map with no sense of place, and I can definitely see how the concept could end up being hard to vary. Not sure why progression would be needed, though. There’s none in Sentinels and it’s still great. For what it’s worth, Street Masters’ maps are actually relevant and place-specific (they’re the equivalent of Sentinels’ Environments and have a bunch of map-specific events and such.), so they clearly know how to do that kind of thing. No idea why they didn’t for Brook City.

You say that like it’s a bad thing. :) I actually only know the videogame version, but I’ve toyed with hunting down a used copy of the boardgame, just for the tactile dice-chucking. Unlike Mike with Doppelt So Clever, I need a layer of paint, no matter how thin, over my Yahtzee variants.

I can only speak to Villages of Valeria, but it’s not at all redundant with Card Kingdoms. It’s a really tight resource management game with a closed economy that forces a lot of interaction among the players. It uses the same artwork and villager/building conceit as Card Kingdoms, but it’s a completely different design. It’s a bit like the differences among the Tiny Epic series; just because they’ve got the same branding doesn’t mean they play the same.

Yeah, I owe Hassan a beer/beverage of his choice for that one! Brook City is exactly the sort of thing I’d get suckered into buying.


I need much more than that. Especially when I was sold on it as “Arkham Horror but shorter”, which it isn’t.
That said, if someone wants a competitive Yahtzee variant that actually has some decent theme and mechanical complexity, I’ve really been digging Dice Throne. And I look forward to its coop dungeon crawling expansion currently being Kickstarted.

I wasn’t suggesting that they play the same as Card Kingdoms, but rather that they seem to be entries in much more crowded genres where they struggle to stand out at a glance. It’s entirely possible that they do, when actually played, but nobody I know has them.

Off to listen to the podcast, especially since it sounds like you guys saved me a pile of money on Brook City.

If you’re going to track down a physical copy of Elder Sign, be aware there are some slight rule variations between the digital and physical version (locked dice and helping other investigators for instance) that I think make the physical version more annoying to play, but it’s essentially the same game…

…until you add the Gates of Arkham expansion, which changes the setting from the Museum to Arkham proper and adds in a nice veneer of decision making in the fact that locations now have abilities you can use. GoA really turns Elder Sign into the “shorter, faster version of Arkham Horror” it wants to be, albeit harder than just the base Elder Sign game. I will say since GoA I haven’t once had the desire to go back and play without it.

Right, yes! I have heard that you need this expansion in particular. Thanks for the reminder. @malkav11, have you tried it with Gates of Arkham? I wonder how well that would address your criticisms.

By the way, Gates of Arkham is the second expansion. Is there anything in the first expansion, Unseen Forces, that has any meaningful impact?


I haven’t. I don’t think the expansions were out at all when I played it. And I don’t know if the person whose copy I played ever picked them up. But if he did I’d also be curious to know if it fixes my issue(s) with the game.

Unseen Forces has the usual More Stuff (all the card decks), replaces the Museum entrance card with some other purchasing options, and adds Blessings and Curses, both of which feel… a bit gimmicky to me (and you might never use in a particular game).

Getting Blessed adds a white die to your dice pool, which is basically another green die to use! Hooray!
Getting Cursed adds a black die to your dice pool, which is basically another die to use… that will force you to remove any of your other dice that match whatever you rolled on the black one. Sucks!

It’s… OK, but not essential. Good for bulking up the decks in the base set, primarily.

That’s too bad to hear about Brook City. I haven’t really looked into the game at all, but had parsed through street masters discussions and ultimately decided that if I was going to get a mess of miniatures, it would be with Altar Quest…

I was sold on Altar Quest being the “Dungeon Crawler that I’d actually want to play”, which would ideally strike that perfect balance between puzzly and thematic, while being quick to setup and take down…I kept getting the impression with alot of dungeon crawls that the choices weren’t as interesting, more a “move a dude and attack a dude” as opposed to something were you’re really going through a collaborative thought process of lining up sweet combos and the like.

Some of the elements of Altar quest that have me more confident in the design are probably the features and the altar dice. Alongside the modular deck business, the features seem to want to add some geography to the game in a way that helps players figure out what’s going on in each room. There’s a big chunky mini that sits in a room when you open it and a card that sits off to the side of the board (with a prominent illustration, for ease of reference), were other events get attached to.

Otherwise, the altar dice seem like a nabbing from mageknight, as they work very similarly (roll em at the end of each round and act as resources for the round), but were it differs is that the enemies and quest decks, features, etc. seem to utilize these dice as resources as well, which seems like a cool randomizer that is both thematic and mechanically right (though it depends on what they end up doing with them)

I’ve been pretty smitten with the Heroes of Terrinoth game that they made, to the extent that I’ve started working on my own fan expansions to try and get more from the amazing foundation of a system that they made. Very great package of a base game though, making a really good case for a cheap card driven dungeon crawl alternative.

The thing that really bothers me about all their games in partnership with Blacklist is they’re so proud of the Modular Deck System, and I love that and it is their big selling point for me for sure…and then these fundamentally card-oriented designs are saddled with a great big pile of minis. I mean, it’s not that having a board adds nothing - the introduction of a spatial component to the basic Sentinels approach to gameplay could easily make for interesting design space. But you don’t need a pile of expensive plastic to take advantage of that board.

RE: Brook City. To be clear, there’s a lot to like about this game and I’m certain that plenty of people are going to enjoy it. But after watching gameplay of Street Masters and Altar Quest, I do have the strong feeling that Brook City is the weakest of the 3. Street Masters appears fiddly and bloated, but has strong tactical components and the satisfaction of pulling off clever combos. Altar Quest of course remains to be seen, but there does seem to be some high-level card & dice-play here reminiscent of Mage Knight.

…these fundamentally card-oriented designs are saddled with a great big pile of minis

I kind of see what you mean, in the sense that their design strength seems to be in making clever card-games with modular potential. The tactical-fight elements that require map + minis may not always jive perfectly with this design priority, leading to a sense of over-complexity, too many tokens and such, and a (periodically) sluggish pace.

Regardless, I think these guys definitely know what they’re doing and it’s worth seeing how each of their games comes out. I love that their focus is on deep, thematic, highly replayable solo/coop games.

Literally the only thing keeping me from Altar Quest is the fact that I’m sick of orcs n’ elves. It’s a personal thing, but I really wish every game designer out there designing a fantasy-themed game would just take a minute and ask themselves, “Hey! Would this work just as well with a sci-fi/contemporary/non-zombie/unexplored theme?” It’s entirely possible I’m just whining at this point.

Regardless, thanks for the clarifying point, Hassan, and I agree with you - I think the Sadler Boys know them some game design, as I thought their Warhammer Quest/Heroes of Terrinoth dice games were great, and I’m the target demo for their solo/co-op deep, heavily thematic sensibilities.

Then you’ll be glad to know that the vast majority of the enemies in Altar Quest are some sort of animal person - frog people, pig people, werewolves, rat people, corvid people. And one of the heroes is a horseman.

(I doubt this actually substantially addresses your complaint.)

It made me go back and revisit the KS page, so it’s not for nothing. :)

I also really like Heroes of Terrinoth and backed Altar Quest based on that. One of my favorite parts of HoT is how quick setup and teardown is. For a simple but slightly crunchy dice-chucker, it’s just easy enough to setup that I play it solo (running two characters) pretty often. I saw the designers talking about how important setup and teardown time is to them when asked why Altar Quest has a single board (in comparison to build-a-board most games in the genre had) and that’s what got me to pull the trigger.

It’s too bad Brook City wasn’t a hit, though I’m not too fond of the theme. I want to pick up Street Masters as some point all the same, if only for the silly nostalgia of that theme.

Yeah Gates of Arkham is mandatory for Elder Sign.

I would say skip Unseen Forces. Doesn’t add much of anything other than curse/blessing, and the new museum entrance…which makes the game FAR too easy.

The biggest contributor to not being able to climb out of a death spiral in the base game was the fact that the Lost & Found (roll a die to maybe get an item/clue for free, but with a 50/50 of losing health/sanity) took up your entire turn to roll one die. The new entrance lets you roll up to 3. It’s supposed to be higher risk/reward but it doesn’t really work because it’s the same odds per die but saves you a ton of time which was the most pressing factor. I think they tried to make it harder by not letting you outright buy elder signs anymore, but overall it’s incredibly easy. Not only have we never lost an Unseen Forces game, but it’s never even been close (I think getting one-third down an ancient one’s doom track was the worst we did).

My lord, you weren’t kidding!

So I got Elder Sign and Gates of Arkham, and I sat down and played vanilla Elder Sign a couple of times to refresh my memory. I know the rules pretty well from the digital version and, yep, sure enough, this is Elder Sign. Not nearly as snappy as I expected and as @malkav11 recalled, prone to some ugly death spirals. I guess there’s a reason I never picked up the tabletop version. My interest started fading quickly.

So then I folded in Gates of Arkham just to see how much of a difference it made. I could not have been more surprised. I can’t think of another tabletop game that changed this dramatically with an add-on. To be fair, it doesn’t make much sense to call Gates of Arkham an add-on. It’s a complete overhaul. You actually replace the fundamental parts of Elder Sign when you play the Gates of Arkham version. It’s like dropping a new engine into a car. And I really like how this car runs!

@malkav11, I can’t say whether you’d actually like Elder Sign with core bits stripped out and the Gates of Arkham engine dropped in. But I can say Elder Sign without Gates of Arkham isn’t an Elder Sign worth playing.

@Marlowespade or @Infested_terran, do you guys know if the Pacific and Arctic adventures build on Gates of Arkham, or are they throwbacks to vanilla Elder Sign?


Haven’t played those expansions.

I’ve played Omens and the Arctic scenario there. No clue if that’s anything like Arctic Adventure. If it is, it was a way too long multi-stage affair that felt like a rogue-like where you might as well abort if you don’t do great early on.

I completely understand the complaints about Brook City. I picked up a kickstarter bundle from the Sadler brothers themselves at the booth they shared with another game company at Origins back in June. I’d already backed Street Masters for pretty much everything based on word of mouth, and I planned on backing Altar Quest as well due to the same. So when I saw the rapidly dwindling stack of BC boxes sitting behind them at the convention, my willpower collapsed and I bought it.

My first attempt at a game was a disaster. You really need to play a case/criminal for a few turns before you start to grasp the mechanics behind them. It’s actually a plus how they all work so differently. But it is a struggle to get to that “a ha!” moment where you understand what the game wants you to do to win. Eventually I realized that the criminal deck is essentially the loss condition, while the case deck is the win condition.

But once you grasp that, the game can be fun…until you realize that it can be EXTREMELY long and very easy to win most of the time. Our last game went on for about 4 hours with 3 players. And about 2 hours in, we realized we were just treading water, waiting for the win conditions to appear in the deck.

You can add rivals and syndicate cards to make the game harder, but they just end up extending the game length rather than making the game actually harder. Sometimes that additional length will result in a loss as a criminal deck card or combo that causes you to lose will inevitably appear if it has a “time out” behind it.

Still, I find myself enjoying it nonetheless when playing. I think it’s the “beer and pretzel” effect…minus the “pretzel”. At some point we’re slightly buzzed and the idea of my tough, street wise detective commandeering a moped and riding through the hospital to question a money launderer amuses us enough that we find ourselves laughing over the absurdity and overlooking the weaknesses of the game.

But once you grasp that, the game can be fun…until you realize that it can be EXTREMELY long and very easy to win most of the time. Our last game went on for about 4 hours with 3 players. And about 2 hours in, we realized we were just treading water, waiting for the win conditions to appear in the deck.

I’m glad you said this, because that was my experience as well - each time I played. It’s not hard enough, which is tied to the lack of escalation in the loss condition, and it drags for far too long. I think if the cases/suspects had been tuned to ramp up much faster and put greater and greater pressure on the players so that an average game took 2 hours, this would have been much more fun.