Uncategorized

June PnP Game-a-Thon

June is my birthday month, and I wanted to do something somewhat interactive here to help celebrate. I enjoyed participating in a month-long “Con” over in this Geeklist back in April, and it is helping to inspire my own idea. However, instead of going based alphabetically, I wanted to explore more great Print and Play titles that are available.

My initial idea was to list four games per day in June, all available as Print and Play in some capacity, demo or full game. Some free, some might be paid. And I wanted to start this early enough that anyone interested can look into said games, print them out if desired, and have them ready to go for June.

However, it felt really restrictive to do things that way, both for participants and for myself. Ultimately, I want to have a reason to play all these PNP titles I have printed over the years and/or have been wanting to try. And I want to open things up to be as inclusive for playing together as possible, and if I want to play game X tomorrow, I want to be able to pull out the one I’m itching to try or replay at the moment rather than what a list dictates. So here’s what I’m doing instead! I am going to link to several places that I turn to in order to find Print and Play games, and let you join in with anything that strikes your fancy. If you play a PNP game, or one that is available as a PNP (for instance, I have a lot of the Button Shy titles on PNP Arcade in Wallet form, so I’m not going to print a new copy out, but I might play them in order to get them to the table), then comment onto the entry for that day with what you played and how it went. I’ll update the main entry for that day to record what folks played and how they did. As things get rolling along I’ll put together a master Geeklist with all of the games played, links to the PNP of that game, and a recording of how people scored. So if 50 different scores get recorded for Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician, that’ll be the point where we can compare what the “leaderboard” is for that particular game.

What I’d really love is for YOU to participate as well, playing some PNP titles and sharing your score in here. I’ll do my best to keep an up-to-date high score list. And if the game doesn’t have a score, tracking who won or lost in the game.

My only request, beyond participating? June 8th is my birthday, and I’d love to have folks try out The Honor of the Queen, which was my first design. It is a 9-card solitaire game, so it should be relatively easy to print and play out.

Places to find PNP Games:

PNP Arcade
Free Solo Print and Play Geeklist
FREE Print & Play Historical Wargames Geeklist
Best Print & Play Historical Wargames Geeklist
2020 9 Card Game Print and Play Design Contest (Has links to previous years, too, as should all/most of the below annual contests)
2020 Two Player PnP Game Design Contest
2020 54-Card Game Design Contest
2019 Solitaire Print and Play Contest
2019 Children’s Print and play Contest
2019 Wargame Print and Play Contest
2019 Single Page Solo Contest
2018 Mint Tin Design Contest
Postcard Design Contest
3rd Roll & Write Game Design Contest

Let’s open it all up to start as early as today! Why wait for June, right? I hope you’ll join me to play some great PNP games over the course of the next few weeks!

You can find the daily Geeklist here. 

I already have my first game played posted up there and the score I obtained.

Uncategorized

The End of an Era

That’s right, an era is coming to a close here at Cardboard Clash. I’ve been blogging about 1 and 2-player experiences in board games since the end of 2016, and have nearly 130 reviews that I’ve posted during that span of time. I’d like to think I’ve left a bit of a mark on the board gaming hobby, and as this year has marched forward I’ve found myself reanalyzing a lot of things. So there are a few reasons I am looking to bring Cardboard Clash to a close:

 

  1. Probably the biggest motivation is to rekindle the joy in games with my wife. I love playing games with her, and there are a ton of great games sitting on my shelf. I hate the feeling of wanting to play X, but needing to pick Y instead so I can review it eventually. That isn’t to say the games in said review queue are bad, but rather it forces me to sometimes choose a game I need to play rather than one I am wanting to play. And our gaming time together is too inconsistent since our daughter was born to keep up with reviews AND play the games I want to play.
  2. I’ve discovered a deep love for Wargames. Holy cow, I’ve fallen hard into that rabbit hole and I can’t get enough. I’ve been lucky enough to have a local gamer who has also fallen down this same path with me at the same time, providing a regular (well, prior to quarantines) opponent that I can game with weekly or bi-weekly and explore what this area of the board gaming hobby has to offer. The past few months have been an internal battle between reviewing the games in my queue or writing about my wargaming impressions and working on reviewing those. And I’ve learned which half brings more joy into my spare time.

 

Those aren’t the only things, but those are the primary driving forces for this change. So I am going to be shifting gears now, launching a wargame-focused blog called Swords and Chit. But don’t worry! Everything that is sitting in my review queue right now will still get a review, and that includes:

 

Pixel Tactics Legends

Exceed: A Robot Named Fight! Solo Fighter

Exceed: Shovel Knight Hope Box

Exceed: Shovel Knight Shadow Box

Exceed: The Beheaded Solo Fighter

Heroes Welcome

The One Hundred Torii

Sanctum

Shadows of Kilforth

Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends

Traveller Customizable Card Game

 

Along with the wargames I acquired as review copies up until now, which will be posted in both locations (although it will appear first on Swords and Chit) with my first impression/lessons learned posts appearing only on the new blog:

 

Arquebus: Men of Iron IV

Battle Ravens

Field Commander: Alexander

Julius Caesar

Root: Underworld

Root: Clockwork Expansion

 

In fact, two of those reviews above will go live this week (at the very least). I also will reveal my choice for top game of 2019 later this week, as previously promised, and in June I have one last hurrah planned for trying to play through some of the PNP games I’ve been collecting and hopefully encouraging some additional participation.

 

So while the book for Cardboard Clash is nearing its conclusion, there’s still a few pages remaining that are to be written. If you have any interest in Wargames, particularly Medieval or earlier and/or Fantasy/Science Fiction settings, then I hope you’ll join me in my new adventure as Swords and Chit. Here’s where you can find me:

 

Twitter: @Swordsandchit

WordPress: http://swordsandchit.wordpress.com

BGG: Same username, new blog! https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/10085/swords-and-chit 

Uncategorized

Insights and Impressions from my First Plays of Vikings: Scourge of the North

Another session report here in the format moreso of lessons learned from my first play than a blow-by-blow of the action. All in all, I think this approach provides more helpful insight than simply recanting what happened during the game, and it sure is a lot of fun to write. I am slowly catching up as well, entering into the March plays while still in March! Unfortunately, there are still 4 more to go after this one in order to get fully up-to-date with these session reports thanks to an excitement to try new games rather than replay the ones we already knew!

This time I’m taking a look at a smaller game from Decision Games, but don’t let the size of the package sell you short on it. There is still plenty contained inside this little folio! I’ve actually played two games of this, but the first ended so quickly that I reset it all and tried again with much better results thanks to friendlier placement of quest tiles and learning from a few of the things that became apparent as I had my first fast failure.

Insight #1: The clock is ticking faster than you would expect

Oh boy, this game is definitely a SHORT game in terms of the time you have to accomplish tasks. Your Voyage deck is variable, depending on the Saga Card you are playing. Mine had a 9 on there, which sounded like a lot. Except you realize that every turn one of those comes out and movement can be slow enough to get where you need to the point where 2-3 of those can vanish before you even get to do something meaningful. Movement by land can only go 1 space, and movement by sea can be from 1-3 spaces depending on your luck of the roll. Which makes choosing the right Homeland to launch from is really important, and having a key group of troops wipe can completely cost you the game if they had to travel far to reach an important area. Add into the mix that some of those Voyage cards can cause you to LOSE cards from that deck, you might see your game shortened by several turns unexpectedly as well. There is little room here for trial-and-error.

Insight #2: There is a high luck factor involved in the game

Darn near everything in this game involves luck. You randomly choose your starting Jarl. You randomly draw from a random number of Voyage cards, which may or may not have really bad things happen to you. You randomly roll to determine how far you can move that turn via sea – ranging from 1-3 spaces – and then randomly roll to see if you lost anyone during said sea voyage (and the further you went, the higher the risk of losing someone). You randomly place the Quest tiles, face-down, on the map at the start of each game and their locations are randomly determined by rolling and referencing a chart. You roll to determine how many enemies you face. You randomly roll a d6 during battle, and the opposing force does the same. You must potentially survive a second battle if you are attempting to claim a quest on your turn, too. Bottom line here is that if you dislike randomness in your game, this game will give you heartburn because it is relatively random-heavy. Given the playtime of the game (30-45 minutes) it isn’t a major issue but I was a little disappointed as to just how much random luck plays a factor (especially looking at you, die roll to move via the sea…in two plays I got to move more than one space only one time, and it cost me a crew member…)

Insight #3: The game is about minimizing risk while maximizing reward potential

It should seem obvious from the above two insights, but I’m spelling it out plainly here because I need that connection made myself. You don’t have time to waste on high-risk situations unless you are pressed for time/resources. You also want to be very aware of how long something might take – my first game I planned to cut across the land map toward the quests rather than sail around and, ultimately, I had to abandon that when I realized how many days it would take to get there. My second game nearly was lost when I took a small team (a Jarl and a ship) to knock out a quick quest/pillage combo nearby and then sail to settle a nearby location. Well, sure enough, I lost that ship during combat and so I had a stranded Jarl who couldn’t leave his location because he couldn’t pillage to get money to buy another ship – nor was there a place to bring that ship into play with him – or a route further inland to walk where he needed to go. I had to use another troop to get the needed gold to get a ship out there to pick him up, making the game a last-turn victory when I could have finished with several to spare. Choosing your targets carefully, planning out the most effective way to get there, and then making sure you have a sufficient force to get there AND do everything you need is important. And always, always look at the connections around said destinations to see if, worst case, you’ll be able to march somewhere else. I didn’t, and it nearly cost me the game.

Insight #4: Money is tight. Extremely tight.

It should come as little surprise, but money is really tight in this game. For instance, I started with 10 Gold from the Saga card and that feels like it should be a lot. Except each ship costs 3, and even the weakest land unit costs 2 gold. Pillaging as an action gains you 2 gold back, which means every 1.5 pillages gets you a ship, which are essential to leaving your homeland and for the fastest route to most places on the map. There’s a forced march action to move extra on land, but that costs 1 gold per unit to go an extra (i.e. a 2nd) space during your turn. Oh, and settlements also cost you 2 gold to make. So that 10 gold, or whatever the starting sum you obtain, happens to be, it will vanish quickly. The grand ideas of getting Berserker units vanish quickly. I’ve previously made 2 fleets of troops, holding one in reserve to either take a different route to a separate target, or to deploy should the first one suffer a terrible fate. However, I’m not completely convinced that it might be best to just get some stronger units in one group (max. Counter limit is 4, so with a Jarl and a ship that leaves just 2 more hires) or to have those for forced marching or settling. I’ve never hit a point where I felt like I had enough gold to do well, but I’ve had plenty of times where what I can do is limited by what gold I did have in my supply.

Insight #5: Battles provide plenty of room for meaningful decisions.

Okay, so you can’t control how the dice will roll in the game. Fact of life. But you can control a few things going into the battle. The order in which you “deploy” your guys onto a battle makes a difference, because the enemy force will go down the line in order of attacks, meaning you don’t want your game-ending Jarl at the front line leading the charge, even if he has decent odds to hit, because he might get one-shot after your first attack an it becomes game over. Furthermore, when you get to attack you choose which enemy unit you want to attack and can tactically go after a unit who hasn’t attacked yet, or after the one with the best odds of hitting your troops. Because the combat is simple, based on the attack value of the attacking unit and whether or not the roll is equal to or less than their value, it becomes easy to parse what unit poses the biggest threat…but also makes it so all units are equally vulnerable in battle (except the wonderful Berserkers, who get a nice ability to ignore the first hit during the first round of a battle).

Wrap-Up

This is a lovely little game in a compact package. It is higher on the random factor than what I would prefer, but there are enough meaningful decisions, and tough ones at that, to make me want to get this one back on the table soon and try to do better. Because it plays so quickly, now that I have a firm grasp on the rules, it is something I can easily pull out and play a few times in an evening. Shoot, I could probably squeeze in all four consecutive plays of the campaign (assuming I win each time) in a single evening if I was ambitious enough. That makes this a great entry point into solitaire-designed wargaming, as well as something I can play when I need something I can definitely finish in one sitting. Look for a review on this one sooner than later, as it won’t take long to get this played a few more times now that this session report has gone live! I definitely have thoughts on this game beyond these insights, and I look forward to sharing those soon.

Digital Review · Uncategorized

Digital Review: Epic Card Game

This review is going to be a little more freeform, acting more as the Final Thoughts section like you are used to in the bulk of my reviews. I was given a chance to access the Epic Card Game Digital version prior to its release this week, and I definitely have thoughts on the game itself (which will likely warrant a full-fledged review later) that are separate from the digitalized version of the game. And I want to focus more on the latter than the former because, well, I really do enjoy the Epic Card Game system and everything it offers to players. Some of those will be touched on, for sure, but not nearly as in-depth because I honestly still want to play it more times before formulating all of those thoughts into one lengthy review.

Let’s start off talking briefly about the game, because ultimately that matters more than anything else in any form of review. A perfect digital implementation of a bad game, after all, would still not be something I’d ever want to play or recommend. Thankfully, that doesn’t come close to applying here, as I absolutely love the Epic Card Game at its core. It has clear ties to games like Magic: The Gathering, but comes in fixed packs rather than any sort of randomized release schedules. There is a lot of content out there for it now, much of which in physical form will run around $5 per pack. The good news is that it sounds like everything will be free in the digital format, meaning you can play around with cards in decks before going out to buy the associated packs to build a physical deck.

The flow of the game is lightning-fast. You are simply trying to be the first to reduce your opponent to 0 health. There is no risk of being unable to play cards on your turn due to not having resources, as every card either costs 0 gold or 1 gold. Every turn you get 1 gold, meaning that on any given turn you can drop out a powerful card (but only one – although this also applies during your opponent’s turns!) and the only real limiting factor is how many 0-cost cards you get. This also means that Turn 1 it is possible to get out your strongest card in the game, which if your opponent cannot do the same it can definitely lead to one-sided affairs that are quickly over. Most games run around 10-20 minutes regardless of digital or physical format, meaning it is really easy to play multiple times in one session.

I love the feeling of power this game evokes in the players. Yes, even I can enjoy that feeling in spite of the indisputable fact that I have never, ever won a game of Epic Card Game apart from the digital tutorial. You play with big creatures, powerful spells, and a laundry list of might abilities. The plays to jockey for advantage are fast and furious, and even the slightest shift can tip the balance of power in a game to where it rumbles out of control. And even at its worst in the lopsided affairs, it plays so fast that it is easy to just start a new game again and settle in for a rematch.

The app itself has a host of menus available for players, allowing you to play against opponents online, challenge the AI opponents, run through a campaign (and anyone who has played the Star Realms campaign knows this is likely to be a treat for players!), and even a deckbuilder mode in there to allow you to customize to your heart’s desire. The fact that this is all, as far as I have been informed, free to players is a great reason to want to take a chance even if you aren’t sure you might like Epic. The game tutorial is broken into multiple sections, each of which introduces some new concepts to get you up to speed quickly and can be completed in a matter of minutes.

The digital format might even be the best-suited for a game like this which is notoriously obnoxious for having a host of keywords to wade through on the cards. Don’t know what Blitz means? When you click on the card, it has all of the keywords in a menu-style listing beside the card with a ? after each keyword, allowing you to get a reminder of what that particular keyword involves. No more flipping through a rulebook or anything of the sort! ALl of this provides a nice, intuitive interface to interact with when playing the Epic Card Game. The phases of a turn allow you to “Pass the actions” back to your opponent to proceed to the next phase, so you aren’t bound by a short-fused timer to make decisions while wading through your options. The app also does a good job of helping to indicate which cards can be played during said phase from your hand, assuming you have the Gold to spare. All of this is done extremely well, and you can tell a lot of time and development has gone into making this app as friendly for gamers of all experience as possible.

However.

The more I play digital implementations of board games, the more I come to realize how terrible I am at the digital implementations. The screens are small, and the need to constantly click on cards to bring up what they do, on both sides of the table, makes it a slog at times to process information. The in-play area has a hard limit on the cards shown on-screen, to where you need to cycle over to find the card you might be looking for, and during the panned-out view of the playing surface it can be difficult to tell what is what, or where, as you try to navigate through things. This isn’t something new to app-based games, especially involving cards and the such. I’m a horrible player of these games, as I tend to forget about things in-play, miss steps to kick things to my opponent before I was ready (and thus fail at doing important things, like blocking a big attack), and just get frustrated by not being able to monitor the entire sweep of things easily. These are all issues on me, not the game, yet they do factor into the overall game experience.

Which is why my ultimate recommendation here is to definitely try the game. You have very little to lose in doing so, after all, given the price you’re not paying. Some of the issues I have might be non-factors for you. Perhaps you can navigate these things just fine and aren’t a complete bonehead like I am. The game itself is really fun, and what this app can provide is phenomenal. These are the types of games I really enjoy playing and always find myself wishing I could get them played more often and right here is a gift-wrapped package to let me do just that, even if only against an AI, which is why I fully intend to continue to fight my way toward playing better at the game in its digital implementation.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get my first win before the snow has completely melted for the winter.

Journey Through the CCG Graveyard · Review for Two · Uncategorized

Journey Through the CCG Graveyard #5: A Game of Thrones CCG/LCG Review

Welcome to the second review as part of my Journey Through the CCG Graveyard! My first one covered the Tomb Raider CCG, which was a surprising amount of fun in spite of the PS1-era images on the cards. It held some interest as a solo game, and felt like it would be similarly good as a multiplayer game where you could interfere better with your opponents similar to mechanics found in classic CCGs like Middle-Earth and the Lord of the Rings TCG via playing negative cards on them. But this time we’re shifting our focus onto a game known as A Game of Thrones Collectible Card Game. Fear not, if you are interested in how it compares with the later LCG implementations, I’ve got you covered because I have played it in all three formats enough to be able to speak on them all!

The Goal of the Game

Regardless of the number of players involved, the objective for the A Game of Thrones Collectable Card Game is to be the first House to obtain 15 Power. This makes thematic sense for anyone who has read the books or watched the shows, as the central theme is a struggle for power and influence across Westeros, with the Iron Throne being a centerpiece representative of that power struggle. Power is obtained in several ways: via a Power challenge in the Challenge phase, making any challenge that goes undefended, winning Dominance in a round, and on some character or location effects. Once a player reaches 15 Power, the game immediately comes to an end.

Who you are

You are not an individual person in Westeros, but rather your deck represents the locations and forces behind your particular House. Famous Houses such as the Lannisters, Targaryens, and Starks are present alongside others such as Baratheon, Greyjoy, Martell, Tyrells, and the Night’s Watch – among other smaller forces represented as either neutral factions or as allies to a particular House. Most decks will consist of cards aligned with one House and any neutral cards desired, although rules are in existence to have a splash of forces from a second House present in a deck. It is also possible for multiple players to be using the same House during the same game.

The Flow of the Game

Turns follow the same flow through the following steps, some of which are done simultaneously while others are done one player at a time, beginning with the First Player for the round.

Plot – One of the unique things in this game is the Plot deck, which is a set of 7 cards in addition to your main deck. These cards usually have some sort of round-impacting text, tell you how much Gold your House has for the turn, the Initiative value for determining the first player in the round, and the Claim value to tell you how strong your victories will be in the Challenges phase. During this phase of the game, players simultaneously choose and reveal an unplayed Plot card from their deck. This means your Plot card used now cannot be chosen again until you’ve played all 7 Plots, and many plots are restricted in number that can be included in a deck and some are tied to specific houses. Upon reveal, compare the Initiative value and the higher value gets to choose who is the first player for the round – in case of a tie, the player with the most Power chooses. After determining first player, the effects of the Plot cards will resolve beginning with the Starting Player.

Draw – The most straight-forward of the phases is the Draw phase. Both players will draw 2 cards from their deck and place those cards into their hands. Easy, right?

Marshalling – This is the point where the Gold collected is put to use. In the CCG version of the game, nothing can be held over after this phase so there is strong incentive to spend as much as you can (the LCG allows you to save some until the end of the round, when it goes back to the pool if unspent). Starting with the first player, each side will have a chance to pay to recruit Characters, add Locations, put on Attachments, etc. onto the board. There are also event cards that can be played, although not exclusively during the Marshalling phase. Any cards that have text involving the Marshalling phase would also be open to trigger here.

Challenges – The bulk of the game seems to occur during the Challenge phase of the game, and with good reason! Each player has the opportunity to initiate up to three Challenges, one of each type. The challenges are issues in player order, and each player completes all of their desired challenges one-at-a-time before the next player gets to initiate their challenges. Military Challenges, when successful, force the defending player to kill characters from their forces. Intrigue Challenges, when successful, force the defending player to discard cards at random from their hand. And Power Challenges, when successful, steal Power tokens from the defending House card. Character cards can have 0-3 of these icons, and can only participate in a Challenge of the associated type if they possess that icon. Characters participating typically Kneel as a response, making it so they cannot participate in future challenges later this round. If a Challenge of any type is not defended, the attacking player also takes a Power token from the supply and puts it onto their House card in addition to any other effect of the Challenge. The impact of a Challenge is determined by the attacking player’s Plot card, as they have a Claim value (Usually 1, sometimes higher). So if my Claim value is 2, then a successful Military Challenge makes you kill 2 characters, a successful Intrigue Challenge makes you discard 2 random cards, and a successful Power Challenge makes you lose 2 Power from your House card onto mine. A well-timed 2-claim Plot can swing the tide of a game!

Dominance – After the Challenges are completed, players compare the combined strength of their remaining Standing characters – i.e. the ones not Kneeling from being used. The higher strength value wins Dominance, which gains them a Power from the supply onto their House card. Tied? No one wins Dominance for the round.

Standing – All Kneeling characters, locations, and attachments are returned to their Standing position. Yes, it makes sense with characters…not so much with using the Kneeling/Standing terms for the other cards. I mean, how exactly does Winterfell Keep kneel down?

Taxation (LCG Only) – Any money remaining in your pool is returned to the supply. This means you can’t be frugal with your funds to save for bigger board-swinging turns later on. The reason this was added into the LCG? They made some events and card actions cost Gold to trigger, so holding back a few Gold can play even more mind games with your opponent as they try to guess what you are holding up your sleeve.

On Death and Duplicates

It is pretty standard fare for a game to make it so there are unique characters and locations and limit you to just 1 copy in play of said character at a time on your side. What this does differently is makes it so that you have a discard pile and a dead pile. Discarded cards can come back. Dead piles are essentially eliminated from the game. If Robb Stack dies, he can’t come back 2 turns later. He’s dead, meaning that all copies of that card are essentially discard fodder going forward. However, the neat saving grace (and reason you may want to run multiples of characters) is that you can, during the Marshalling phase, put a duplicate of the same character beneath the current character for free. Get 3 copies of Robb Stark into play and suddenly he sticks around a little longer, even in the face of an effect causing him to die, as you simply discard the top copy when they need to die. This is especially important if you have a character with a keyword like Reknown, which has them getting Power tokens placed on the character where they can be removed by eliminating the character.

Plots and Intrigues

As alluded to above, the Plot cards are one of the most unique things the A Game of Thrones CCG/LCG brings to the table. The deck is exactly 7 cards for each player, and one comes into play each round. The power and effectiveness of these cards vary wildly, from having cards with blank text boxes but a higher Claim, Gold, or Initiative value to having effects such as wiping out characters, searching your deck for a card type, or even making it so you cannot defend (usually because you have a higher Initiative and Claim). A well-timed Plot card can alter the course of an entire game or, as I found out, bring things to a premature end (in the 2nd Ed LCG, thanks to my wife having a character who gains Power whenever a Lord or Lady character is killed. Her plot forced me to “save” three characters in play and the others are dead. All 5 of mine were Lords or Ladies, and so my wife went from 13 to 15 Power just from that well-timed Plot which prevented me from getting the few I needed even though I had a better Initiative and a 2 Claim on my Plot…didn’t matter!). Shaping the Plot deck to have ones best to play early (usually searching for cards and/or providing high Gold), ones that are good for mid-game, and a late-game push are the keys to an effective Plot deck, I think.

A Bountiful Start

One of the other things I like about the game is how it handles the opening board. What I mean is, you get to start the game with characters and/or locations in play. Depending on the version you are playing, you get either 5 Gold (CCG/1st Ed) or 8 Gold (2nd Ed LCG, because the cards cost MORE) to deploy secretly to begin the game from your opening hand. The one limitation is that only one of the cards can have the Limited keyword on there. This allows you the chance to get out either a strong unit, a few average ones, or a bunch of smaller things to drop down a numbers advantage. Either way, you get to draw back up to your starting hand size of 7 afterwards. This is a really neat aspect of the game which, while it is only as useful as the cards in your opening hand, definitely helps you to ramp up faster than some of the other CCGs out there.

Starting Experiences

There are three different starting experiences to discuss in passing here, because I’ve done starting experiences for all three versions of the game and found one to be vastly superior to the others. Let’s begin in the order of release. For the CCG side of things, I tried out the Fire & Ice Starter set, which had a deck for the Greyjoy House and one for the Targaryen House. They are completely constructed and run surprisingly well as standalone decks. For instance, the Greyjoy deck has a Plot card to search for a Maester card and put it into play.
Having played previous LCG versions, I was expecting to find 1-2 wimpy Maesters at best, but there were either 5 or 6 of them and one turned out to be a pretty decent Round 1 addition to my forces. Like any CCG, you wouldn’t expect the deck to be tournament-competitive, but it had a surprisingly strong synergy and both decks were capable of winning.
At the price I paid for the starter (a hair over $5), this was a really strong launching point into the game. The 1st Edition Core Set is, easily, the one I am most familiar with and also most disappointed by. Years ago, before I knew really how to shop for used games or even good places to get new games, I ran across that Core Set on Craigslist for $20. And for that price, what I got wasn’t bad. The cards in there were fine, although there was a glaring absence of several Houses. The game came with Starks, Lannisters, Targaryens, and Baratheons. Four houses, out of the six that were released with the 1st Edition, meaning you needed expansions – and likely a few of them – before you could build a viable deck with those other houses. It did come with interesting variants for a 3-4 player game but ultimately the decks were underwhelming and it felt like an incomplete package. The 2nd Edition fixed that. All 8 Houses (they added 2 more) have representation in the Core Set, and you can either just splash some neutral cards in to run a thin deck or it has recommendations on how to divide things into 4 decks, each having two Houses featured. Having played those decks, they are really fun to pilot and provide a great way to get a feel for each House, even in complement with another House, to get an idea of where you might want to explore via deck construction in the future. All in all, the $40 value of the 2nd Edition Core Set (and you can probably find it cheaper now) is a great bargain because it provides everything, tokens and all, needed to play the game. If you bought nothing else, it still has a ton of replay value and fun within the box. The CCG starters are a close second, providing strong decks to start with that are going to give you a foundation to expand upon – and most starters I’ve seen tend to run in the $5-20 range depending on the starter. If it included tokens for Power and Gold, or at least the Power, it would be close to equal with the 2nd Edition – but the Starter I got didn’t have any tokens included.

The Rulebook

The rules are extremely well-laid across all editions. One of the strengths, I think, of Fantasy Flight Games is their presentation of rules in a way that allows you to get going. There are some more complex concepts and keywords, but those are put toward the end of the CCG rulebook. And it is surprisingly short in length, considering the thick rulebooks I’ve pulled out from some of the other CCGs I’ve dropped into (I’m looking at you Mythos). Although perhaps my perspective is skewed, since the CCG was like a homecoming party for me since I had played both versions of the LCG years ago. The great thing is that many of the concepts remain the same, or close, across all versions of the game. This makes it easy to transition from one version of the A Game of Thrones game to another. I think the biggest things to pay attention to are the Claim Value idea, along with the multiple Challenges that can be initiated and how those flow. Noting keywords as they come up is also important, and don’t be afraid to ask your opponent to read off what a card says when they bring it into play. Too often have I seen one of us blindly stumbling into a mistake because we didn’t stop to ask what a card does until it is too late.

Expanding beyond the Starters, CCG Edition

There are a lot of expansions for the CCG, and unfortunately it doesn’t get any smaller when looking at either version of the LCG. This is both good and bad, of course. It is good because no matter where you go there are literally thousands of unique cards you can obtain for your collection. It is bad because, well, there are thousands of unique cards to peruse and try to determine what you want, or need, for the House-specific deck you are trying to build up. This can be most frustrating for a CCG player, as you are really at the mercy of random chance. Your booster pack might contain 5 cards for your House, but it could just as easily contain none. It could have a ton of Plot cards, or none. With 17 different sets, 4 Premium Starter Sets, and many standalone starter decks there is plenty of opportunity to dive into the game. This is probably a game where it would be best to choose a cycle, such as the Fire & Ice Edition, and start by expanding into that cycle of cards (so Fire & Ice, Wildling Assault, A Throne of Blades, A Crown of Suns, and the Premium Starter) because, at least theoretically, the cards within a cycle (there are 4 of them from the looks of it) should synergize well together. Boosters for the game seem to be reasonably priced, as do boxes, and I haven’t noticed any one set in particular being more expensive than the others. Admittedly, that might be because things are also easy to lose within the sea of LCG stuff for sale…

Expanding beyond the Starters, LCG Edition

This is the area where expansion is a little more straight-forward. Fans of the 1st Edition might be able to snag some Chapter Packs for cheap along the way, while others might be overpriced due to its out of print nature. Deluxe Boxes, for either edition, are the best path forward if you want House-specific cards in a hurry because each House has a Deluxe box with them as a focal point. For roughly $60 you can snag two Deluxes and really dig in on tailoring the favored House for you and your opponent. The 2nd Edition also has Intro Decks for each House around $15, making that an even easier first stepping stone along the path to boosting the deck construction options for a specific House. A lot of folks will likely preach the need for 3 Core Sets, and I call B.S. on that. I’ve played a handful of LCGs and I’ve never once felt like I was at a disadvantage because I couldn’t run 3 copies of card X. I’d rather put that $40 toward a Deluxe and a Chapter Pack, getting new cards to build around, than get extra copies of cards I can’t use only to get an extra of some I may use occasionally. The strongest selling point, of course, for the LCG is the non-random factor. You know exactly what cards are in the package before you buy it, and you get 3 copies of every card in those packs. No chases. No need to buy multiples of a pack unless you really want to have multiple decks all using the maximum number of a specific card – but at least in that situation you know what pack to buy to obtain said cards. The LCGs release following a format of a Deluxe with 6 Chapter Packs to expand the “cycle”, and like the above CCG recommendation it is never a bad idea to start with rounding out a cycle if you aren’t seeking specific cards to build around.

Deck Construction

Typical decks run exactly 7 Plot cards, and in most cases they are limited to 1 of each card in the Plot deck, and a 60 card standard deck for their House with a maximum of 3 copies of any single card. That 60 doesn’t appear to be a hard cap, so feel free to experiment with a little more in your deck, and 40 is a soft cap (usually for drafts) but functions just fine with something such as the 2nd Edition Core Set when trying to test out a single House on its own with a little splash of Neutral cards to hit that 40 number. So long as both sides hold to the same deck size, it shouldn’t be a negative thing to play with fewer cards as you slowly build up your card pool. For the LCG, you also choose a Faction (main House) and Agenda (oftentimes a Banner, which allows use of non-loyal cards from other Houses in your deck).

My Thoughts

Okay, enough preamble here. Let’s talk about the A Game of Thrones CCG/LCG experience. First things first, I’m personally going to stick to the 2nd Edition of the LCG for my A Game of Thrones Card Game of choice going forward. There isn’t anything inherently bad about the CCG (apart from chasing of cards, like any CCG out there) but it also isn’t inexpensive enough to make it able to offset the value provided by the LCG model and its 3x of the cards in the non-randomized package. And yes, this game is very much a keeper even though it has previously left our collection. You see, this game has sharp elbows. It will have moments where you’ll feel like everything sucks and there isn’t a darn thing you can do to stand a chance of winning. An early board advantage can lead to a game spiraling quickly out of control, and many of the games played never even reach the 7th round to go through an entire Plot deck (I’d say 5-6 is around the average turn of conclusion). Having even one glaring hole in your deck (such as a lack of characters with Intrigue) can lead to a constant loss of resources while your opponent happily plucks up a free Power for your defenseless nature. And the very real possibility of drawing nothing but dead cards – literally, cards in your dead pile and thus unplayable – can make it so that your deck even limits your chance of making a comeback. All of these things can, and will, happen. A few years ago, my wife and I weren’t able to get past that brutality and still find enough enjoyment in the game; when the games flowed well and were even, we loved the game, but when it was lopsided or a devious card’s ability shifted things unexpectedly, there could be bruised feelings.

We’re in a much better place now to where that might make us frustrated briefly in the moment, but we can separate the game experience from our relationship toward each other. And we found, really quickly, that we still enjoy this game a lot. Enough that we played the CCG several times in a day’s span and, the next day, picked up the 2nd Edition Core Set back into our collection and played that later that same night. I’ve also learned that my wife is really, really good at this game – something I should have remembered. There is no going easy, she doesn’t need it. I lose at this game often, and usually lose horribly. And yet I absolutely cannot get enough of the game because of its ties to an IP we both enjoyed watching together, books I’ve enjoyed reading, characters I’ve grown attached to. It has solid mechanics that separate it from any other game we play or own: the Plot deck, three three different Challenges, the gaining of Power to win rather than a need to deplete an opponent’s health, and the free deployment at the start of the game all combine together to make this game stand out in all of the best ways possible.

There is so much tension in your decisions each game, because there are so many limiting factors that affect you. The Plot deck can only have one of each card, and once that card is used you might as well expect to not be able to play it a second time because the game isn’t likely to last long enough. You are always needing more Gold than what you have available, whether because you need a large amount to play a strong character onto the board or because you have too many 2-3 cost units you want to get out and don’t want to spend forever getting them out. In the 2nd Edition of the LCG, there are also hand size limitations to consider based on your Plot card, and the balance of holding back some Gold to play events, trigger abilities, or make your opponent believe you might just have a nasty card to play if the circumstances are right. You cannot hold onto cards for too long, as a well-timed Intrigue Challenge can make you discard that card you hoped to play on the next turn. And then there is the decision of who to use for attacks, making sure you have enough Standing forces to weather a counter-attack when it is their turn to make Challenges as well as claim Dominance.

There are so many things to consider as you play, and yet at its core the game’s turns flow easily and the mechanics stay out of the way. It is a smooth system, with a fair number of Keywords to learn but not to the point where it impedes the enjoyment of the game. You quickly learn to pay special attention to anyone with Reknown or, perhaps worse, Stealth, because they can cause the game to shift if unchecked. The game punishes you for not defending attacks by giving your opponent free Power, and clearly wants both sides to try and be aggressive since ties in combat go to the attacking player. Which means that games are rarely spent “turtling up”, as you want to try and find a way to fire off three successful Challenges rather than holding back to ward off one or two.

All of this helps the game to move forward at a pace that is almost breakneck in speed at times, because you are trying to exploit every opportunity you can to strike knowing that the gap might be closed in the next round. You get the feel of being a general directing the deployment of forces to their maximum effect, rather than some magical wizard hiding behind a line of large units and hoping not to get hit. Games like this are all about tempo, and while it is possible to slow down the tempo of the game (such as the Wildfire Assault Plot, which has each side keep only three of their characters in play), usually the next round sees at least one side rebuilding quickly to begin their furious assault anew. Even the smallest of characters can make a big impact, whether because they have an icon your opponent cannot defend or because they have a keyword like Stealth which makes them hard to defend, and it isn’t about how hard you hit. Just that you hit hard enough to win the challenge – unless you happen to be holding a nice Event that lets you claim extra Power after winning a Challege by X or more.

And the Houses feel different. Yes, there are similarities among them but in general you will find a different playstyle is favored depending on the House you are using. The Lannisters have a lot of ways to generate more income and have sneaky ways of subverting the board state and possess a lot of Intrigue icons. The Starks have very little Intrigue, but have strong units that get even more fearsome when paired with their iconic weapons or direwolves. Baratheons have a multitude of ways to gain extra Power during their turns. Targaryens have dragons, and effects that kill off characters if their strength gets reduced to 0. Even if you know nothing about A Game of Thrones, the Houses offer such vibrant, different strengths that anyone can enjoy exploring what they each have to offer.

So here I am, returning to a game that I owned and sold many years ago. I’ve grown as a person and a player, and can enjoy the game whether in victory (rare as they are) or in crushing defeat. I love the characters and mustering my beloved Starks out to overrun the board with Military challenges that keep my opponent’s board as small as possible. I enjoy the game a lot, and my wife does as well so that makes this an easy keeper and a game I cannot help but recommend strongly to anyone who isn’t afraid of a fast-paced, aggressive gameplay approach. And we’re still waiting on The Winds of Winter to be published, just like we were back when I first found this game. Come on GRRM! I don’t need the final two books to enjoy this game, but enough is enough.

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January Gaming Recap

Let’s get back in the habit of talking about games played! Each month I’ll start by ranking the new-to-me games and January starts off with 10 new games! Flip a coin between the Top 3 of these, because they all impressed me greatly and could easily shift among each other at any time depending on the moment. I would be shocked if they didn’t make a very real push to make my Top 100 this summer, especially with a few more plays of each under my belt by then.

Stay tuned to the end of the post, too, for some mention of games I want to play, ones I intend to review in February, and ones I hope to teach my wife by the end of the month!

New-to-Me Ranked

#1 – Helionox: Deluxe Edition
#2 – On Mars
#3 – Age of Steam
#4 – Twilight Struggle
#5 – 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis
#6 – Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave
#7 – Century: Eastern Wonders
#8 – Why I Otter
#9 – World of Warcraft Trading Card Game
#10 – Tiny Tina’s Robot Tea Party

13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis

A friend and I learned this on a whim as a way to begin our gameday experience. It is always a good sign when, at the end of a shorter game, we want to immediately reset and play it again. That happened with this one and, eventually, led to us trying out Twilight Struggle about a week later to get that off his shelf of shame as well. I did enjoy this one a fair amount, although a 2-player title from Capstone that I tried this weekend might have supplanted this already on my “let’s play that again” list of shorter titles…

A Game of Thrones Collectible Card Game

This was the third version of the same game system we played, and it was like coming home to a very familiar game. It surprises me how little mechanically has changed from the game’s CCG roots to the modern 2nd edition of the LCG. However…all this ended up doing was making us long to play the LCG version of the game….

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition)

This is definitely our preferred version of the game, and we picked a core of it back up at the end of the month. The game is so smooth, even if it can feel really swingy and unfair at times. Yet it is A Game of Thrones, so that even fits properly with the theme of the game. I’m actively on the lookout for a chance to expand this core for cheap (i.e. hoping to find some used chapter packs or deluxe boxes) to let us deck construct and try out new strategies as we finally explore more than just what comes in a starting deck.

Age of Steam

This is what a train game should be: route optimization, adapting to a shrinking map of possibilities, and trying to economically maneuver yourself into an efficient engine. I’m still not convinced I will ever set a foot firmly into the 18XX world, and with a game like this out there I don’t see any need to do so. Age of Steam hit upon so many things I enjoy in games and integrated the train theme in a way that I think even my wife would enjoy playing. Having all of those maps available, and scaling based on player count (even solo!) makes this a game I will need to seriously consider adding to our collection if the next few plays are as enjoyable as my first one.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra

This is my preferred flavor of Azul by a lot, although I haven’t tried Summer Pavillion yet. I like the movement of the Glazier, and the specific “recipe fulfilment” in your columns. I thought I had the game strategy figured out, and then I got completely thrashed in the next game I played of it. We need to get this back to the table soon, as I do enjoy this one a fair amount.

Borderlands: Tiny Tina’s Robot Tea Party

I’ll admit, my expectations for this game were extremely low. A friend had it on his shelf and I thought it would be an interesting way to wind down the evening of gaming since I used to play Borderlands and have some fond memories of the game. It isn’t a bad game by any means, but definitely functions best in the role we placed it: as a way to finish an evening. I imagine this would be a lot more chaotic with 4-6 players than with 2.

Caverna: Cave vs Cave

If I am going to lose at a worker placement game, it might as well be a shortened version of it, right? That’s almost my mentality when it comes to this game, which we just reacquired at my wife’s request. I do prefer the original, mostly for the adventuring and the races added by the expansion, but I don’t dislike this version of the game. At least the agony of losing is over quickly so we can set it up and do it all a second or third time so my wife can grab a commanding lead in our annual head-to-head scorekeeping.

Century: Eastern Wonders

I think my wife was genuinely disappointed by how well I did in this game, as she hasn’t requested a rematch yet. I think she forgets sometimes that even though Century: Spice Road is one of “her” games (because she enjoys it more than I do), I have gotten much better at forming a strategy for the game. It felt oddly similar in this one, only with a spatial aspect to the game of exploration and delivering goods. It felt like the map was a little too wide open at 2, although we could easily shrink it down a little in size to solve that problem if it continues to feel too vast without other players.

Circle the Wagons

The wallet for this one is starting to wear out on the outside, which is a testament to how much we love this game. Neither one of us will ever turn down a chance to play Circle the Wagons, and we even saw a scoring objective for the first time ever and both proceeded to completely ignore it. This was the game that hooked us on Button Shy, and it belongs in every collection as far as I am concerned (unless you literally never play with fewer than 3 players)

Firefly: The Game

This game has an unfair reputation in our home of being unnaturally brutal toward me. I mean, I’ve gone from being so far in the lead to losing because I couldn’t succeed on the final objective for 7 turns in a row (and not from being extremely under-prepared, either). However, this time it hit the table and interfered with all three of us pretty equally, and I managed to string together a bit of luck in the final turns to sneak out a narrow victory right before my wife could finish the game. I still enjoy the game, even if I’ve found other pick up & deliver games I like more.

Helionox: Deluxe Edition

This is the solo deckbuilder experience I’ve been looking for. I’ve seen and heard good things about it for years and finally had a chance to try it out and came away really impressed. And absolutely destroyed by the solo opponent, which means I have a ton of room to try and improve. Although my FLGS has a demo copy on their shelf, I think this has entered my “Top 3” for games I want to add to my collection next. It provides the perfect blend between deckbuilding, spatial movement, and planning to overcome a flurry of events that can interfere with the best-laid plans.

Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave

I’m still not convinced about grabbing this one for myself. On the one hand, every play so far has been fun and I’ve felt like I held some measure of control with decisions. On the other, there is enough dice dependency to make it extremely swingy at inopportune times. I think my best plan is to explore something beyond the opening “recommended” experience to see how it plays in later negotiations as a good determining factor. Impulsively, I would probably pick it up for the right price. But if I had time to really think and consider, I’m not 100% sold on it as a long-term solo game for me. Here’s to a few more plays in February to find out!

Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game

This was a real blast to the past, as I hadn’t played this game since around 2016 when I sold it from my collection (my wife had realized she didn’t really like deckbuilders so I was only playing solo and I hated the setup/teardown time compared to the gameplay length and experience overall). It was a refreshing return to a game I loved so much back in my earlier years in the hobby, and reminded me that I do enjoy the game a fair amount – with others, at least. It won’t return to my collection, but I’ll gladly play it when offered.

Omen: A Reign of War

This is still a fantastic game. I love it to pieces and enjoy it more every time I play it. My wife, on the other hand, wasn’t as enamored after her first play of the game. Part of that was probably a “not the right mindset” for that sort of game that evening, and part because I just knew the game a lot better and was able to maneuver early to get a lead that I held onto, even as she closed in with some momentum late in the game.

On Mars

Oh Vital, how I love your designs. This one is no exception, hitting things in a fantastic blend of mechanics meets theme that is so signature of his games. This is the space colonization game I want to play, and what others about changing the surface of Mars fail to achieve. I love the dual aspect of the board and needing to travel back and forth between them. We played a pretty crucial rule wrong that shortened the game, but I was still quite happy to finish in 2nd by only a single point to the only one of us four who had played the game. It might be an early favorite to take the crown as my 2nd favorite Lacerda design and perhaps, just maybe, it could surpass Lisboa over time…

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set

I don’t want to spoil too much, as the review for this likely goes live tomorrow, but it is safe to say that this is staying in my collection for the foreseeable future. This is easily the best of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game sets out there.

The Rose King

This will also have a review coming soon, and so I won’t say much about it here either. This was a game I fully expected my wife to never want to play, much less enjoy and want to play multiple times. Consider me pleasantly surprised in a very good way by that.

Twilight Struggle

Ah, how I’ve been dancing around the idea of finally getting to play this holy grail of games. It was the first play for me and my friend, and he dominated as the Soviets from start to finish. It never felt like I could get a lasting foothold out on the map to make a difference, while he held a strong stranglehold on Europe that I simply had to abandon eventually to try and fight my way back toward victory. This will definitely reward those who play it often enough to learn the ins and outs of the game, the flow, strategy, etc. Will I ever play it that many times? Not likely. But I definitely would love to play it more.

Valley of the Kings: Last Rites

This one is completely the fault of the People’s Choice Top 100 Games with Two list. I am naturally drawn toward deckbuilders, much to my wife’s dismay. However, she enjoyed this one enough to be willing to give it another play soon. I like the unique approach of needing to Entomb your cards to have them score at the end of the game. There is a lot to consider when trying to build up your deck and learning when to shift from gaining cards to use and when to start aggressively Entombing is going to be a key thing to master.

Why I Otter

This little wallet game from Button Shy came as a winning from a contest on Twitter. I was likely to grab it anyway because, well, Button Shy, but I was glad to get it sooner than expected. The game is super simple and fast, and is definitely geared more toward playing with youngsters. However, there is a subtle layer of strategy that makes this worth pulling out on occasion if we want a 5-10 minute game to pass the time. At least until my 3-year-old is ready for this game.

World of Warcraft Trading Card Game

This old CCG was played with just starters from the Drums of War set, and it was my first taste of the game. I didn’t love it nor hate it, and can see its potential. Check out a recent post where I did cover a more complete first impressions on the game. I am excited to try out a Lair or Raid deck with my friend, but if those flop I don’t expect this one to remain in my possession far beyond that.

Upcoming Reviews

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set
The Rose King
Everdell

2020 Husband/Wife Record

Him: 8 Wins (+8)
Her: 5 Wins (+5)

Next 3 to Teach Her

Empyreal: Spells & Steam
Thunderstone Quest
Noria

Five Games I Want to Try

Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan
Maracaibo
Commands & Colors: Medieval
Mombasa
Leaving Earth

Next 3 Acquisitions

Mystic Vale: Nemesis expansion (Releasing 2/28!!!! Solo mode!!!!)
Helionox: Deluxe Edition
Tiny Epic Tactics

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Journey Through the CCG Graveyard #3: More Impressions

Welcome to the third installment of Journey Through the CCG Graveyard! Earlier this year I started out by recapping my CCG plays from September, and then I followed that with a detailed review of the Tomb Raider CCG. And today is going to be another recapping post, talking about first impressions of the games I’ve played since that first post.

In the past few months I have played six different CCGs, five of which were new-to-me dead CCGs: Anachronism, Harry Potter TCG, MegaMan NT Warrior, Mythos, Tomb Raider (which I have reviewed, but will still discuss briefly here!), and Vs System. Because of the lengthy list of games to cover this time, I will cut to the chase and dive right into my impressions based upon the plays I will opt to take the approach of discussing them in alphabetical order:

Anachronism

The first game discussed is also the one I’ve played most recently. I picked up a trio of starters on eBay at an incredible bargain, including the starter I was most excited to try: William Wallace vs. Joan of Arc. That was the starter my friend and I used during a trio of games this month to close out an evening of playing games. Between the small decks, the brief overhead of rules, and the quick gameplay we were able to get in more plays than expected. He chose Joan of Arc, leaving me with my preferred choice (thank you, Braveheart, for making me excited to play as William Wallace!) It quickly became apparent that this game will typically have two qualities in most games: you cannot count on the game lasting long enough to utilize all four cards, and the order in which you play said cards can make a world of difference.

Yes, dice play a big factor in the game. Rolling doubles can bring about a swift change in the momentum of the game. However, the fast pace of the game is actually somewhat of a strength for Anachronism. Like some of the other non-CCGs I have played and enjoyed this year, it provides a nice blend of tactical elements with one heavy strategic area (the order to place the cards) where you need to figure out not just what you want to accomplish, but also how to potentially counter your opponents’ decisions (assuming you can learn what they do which, by the 2nd game, we were trying to think one step ahead in that clever mind-game). Going first in the opening round feels like a very strong disadvantage, as most of the actions are spent on positioning rather than attacking. The biggest issue I have with the game doesn’t involve the randomness, but rather having a player take all of their actions and then the other person takes all of their actions. Surviving 3 consecutive attacks, even from half health, is never a guarantee based on die rolls. Nothing is worse than knowing you might not survive to take out that last point of health they had left, and there isn’t a thing you can do to change that apart from roll high on your defense. Our final game came down to my holding a 4-1 advantage on health, surviving his attack only to whiff on all three of my attacks and watch him get to go first in the final round based on having the higher Experience, finishing me off when I had him beat. Still, this is a game we’re pulling back out next week when we meet again, this time with other decks (I’m itching to play as Beowulf!) and to do some of the easy deck construction with the small pool of cards I have. There’s a really high chance this will see a review before the month closes out if we get those games in next week.

Harry Potter TCG

This game returned to the table after picking up a decent handful of cards for deck construction purposes. I threw together two new decks, one with Nearly Headless Nick and the other with Minvera McGonagall, and put them to the test with my wife. Well, let’s just say the first game went quite poorly as my wife’s McGonagall deck drew a few useless cards I put in there by mistake. About halfway through my wife stopped the game and told me to fix the decks before she would play it again. Fixing required a quick change of lessons, making the Nick deck a Potions-Transfiguration deck and the McGonagall a Charms-Magical Creatures deck. After that swap, there were only two cards that needed to be replaced in total, and those were adjusted. A few days later we had a rematch, and her deck completely trampled me. I couldn’t draw direct damage spells or healing items to save myself from her growing onslaught of creatures on the board. Every time I took damage, the discard was inevitably one of the needed cards. A last-ditch effort turn allowed me to drop her down under 10 cards in her deck, but it was still too little too late. Her deck was able to frustrate me at every turn, although I imagine a rematch might not play out quite the same for her. Writing about this has reminded me that we’re a little overdue for that rematch, too, and this is the other potential review that could turn up in the very near future now that I’ve had some dabbling in deck construction.

I still really enjoy this game. The Adventures add a lot of extra take-that interaction in there to slow the opponent down, something that worked brilliantly against me as I had to discard my precious item cards early in the game and never did get them back. I still need more Witch and Wizards to build around, as the only other non-starter we have is Madame Pomfrey, who I don’t think we can effectively build around with the card pool in our collection. It also seems like there is a distinct disadvantage to not include Care for Magical Creatures in a deck, as the consistent damage they provide appears to be a lot more dependable than hoping to draw into bursts of damaging spells. The creatures also present the conundrum of where to use said spell cards. Without those to absorb some damage, it all piles on even faster to where that deck depletes quickly even with only 1-2 damage coming per turn on a consistent basis. However, the forced inclusion of those Magical Creature cards and Lessons would severely hamper the construction of innovative decks because it would consume at least 15-20 card slots in a 50-card deck in most cases to be consistent enough to matter. Hopefully expanding the card pool will present more paths to consistent decks than just dumping out creatures!

MegaMan NT Warrior

This little gem of a game was bumped higher on my radar thanks to the eagerness of the admin on the game’s Facebook page. He was trying very hard to build a little community around this game, and I used to play Mega Man games on the NES growing up so I was already curious about the game. When they announced a tournament on Tabletop Simulator, I decided to jump in and give it a shot since it would be just using Starter Decks. Over the course of six weeks I played a grand total of four games. Some weeks I had to forfeit due to a hectic schedule, and other weeks my opponent forfeited on their end. I went 2-2 in my games played, and had a ton of fun when I did get to play. Having a NetNavi with a 2-2-2 statline was pretty helpful, as it provided a balanced character to learn the game around. Some games I found myself envying the stronger stat on an opponent’s character, but after reflection this was a nice way to learn. Every match came down to the wire, and by the final game I was picking up on important nuances of timing for my cards, when to hold things, when to maybe wait a turn or two instead of Blasting immediately when I could, and more. Like Anachronism and Harry Potter, this game has a relatively simple system to learn in order to get going on the game. Like Harry Potter, the objective is to deplete your opponent’s deck first, and any damage dropped causes them to discard the top card of the deck per point of damage.

And I really like the ebb and flow of this game. It has a fine nuance of timing, where you build up as best you can for a powerful turn – or hold onto things in preparation of trying to thwart an opponent’s big turn. It feels really good to drop 8-10 damage in one massive blow, and the decks are large enough that you’re going to have several opportunities for those splashes of spike damage. Since all I have played with, and all I own right now, are starters I can’t speak to the deck construction yet but I am excited to get some cards in the future in order to modify my MegaMan and Torchman decks and try them out here locally with some friends. Heck, I’d love to be at Gen Con to participate in some of the events being planned for the game. This one is high on the fun meter so far, and with the cards being relatively affordable for the game that should make this an easy one to at least try out some more in the future. Also, my hope is to get my series of videos created on this one by the end of the weekend, so check out my YouTube Channel for a teaching and a gameplay video on the MegaMan NT Warrior TCG!

Mythos

This game came to me as part of a bundle from Card Game Geek and his eBay store. I was interested mostly in the Spellfire and Tomb Raider cards and this was thrown in along with some X-Files cards. Since this had a solitaire mode written into the rules, I decided to give it a go one evening when my wife was in bed. There seemed to be some incomplete explanations in the rules for some areas of the gameplay, or at least things open to interpretation to where I’m not 100% certain that I played it correctly (part of why I am working to make videos to teach some of these CCGs!) I tackled a lengthy adventure, pulling cards from both decks in the starter to make sure I had all of the necessary keywords to discover. And sure enough, the first play that was finishable (I restarted about halfway through to adjust the deck once I had a clearer idea of what I was trying to do and how to accomplish it) ended with a run of lucky draws to bring out all of the keywords necessary after about half the deck.

This one is a game I’m not completely sold on yet. The artwork isn’t my favorite, the mechanics feel a little on the clunky side compared with something like Middle-earth (another CCG where you are exploring various locations) and I’m not exactly thrilled about the “find the keywords before you go insane” concept of the gameplay. It might be more interesting with an opponent on the other side of the table, where someone intelligent can play cards to try and thwart my attempts rather than random chance for the card flip, and I do have a friend that enjoys the Lovecraftian setting. I fear this will be an inferior game compared to another Lovecraftian CCG out there (which later became an LCG), but I’m willing to give it another attempt or two before making a video to showcase how the game works. I genuinely hope the multiplayer version of this elevates the experience.

Tomb Raider

There isn’t much to state here that I haven’t already said in my review of the game, so this will be brief. Tomb Raider is a fun CCG with a unique approach toward things with the exploration of a map made from cards. My biggest disappointments remain with the near-impossibility of losing and with the inconsistent way in which trap or monster cards are going to enter play to interfere with the solo player – playing with another person (like Mythos) would likely improve that a little bit. For more thoughts on this one, check out that recent review here.

Vs System

It was a perfect opportunity to try the game with a friend. We had Marvel Champions on deck to play that afternoon, but he was open to begin with something different. So I pulled out my Batman vs. Joker starter decks and he took Batman, leaving me with the clown. Overall, the rules for this one seemed pretty simple and straight-forward on the surface, although he had some excellent questions prior to jumping into the game. Once the game got underway, it became quite apparent that things were going to be interesting yet oddly balanced. Each round we would likely increase the number of resources available by 1, allowing us to either play more cards or stronger cards, so the game would follow a relatively straight path toward more powerful cards. And ultimately it felt just like that, with slight bumps in power from turn-to-turn until it peaked around Turn 6. Neither of us could maintain a strong advantage for long, although his healing ability when drawing definitely helped him keep the advantage enough to secure a closer-than-I-expected victory.

This game does some clever things, such as letting you play a card face-down as a resource and having two types of cards that want to be used as resources in order to be played later. The almost guaranteed increase in spending power each round helps to reduce the chance of getting screwed by not drawing the right resource cards a la land cards in Magic, and I really enjoyed that. Being able to deploy characters in a front or back row, with the front-line being your primary attack/defense units is really cool. And I love the concept of Stunning characters combined with the loss of Reputation (i.e. the player’s “health”) based on their cost as they get stunned. It felt, at times, like a clever chess match because it was difficult to maintain an advantage. Which might have been a fault of starter decks as much as anything…although these starters were really quite solid overall. This is one I really want to explore further, and my friend is now curious in the relaunch of the game. I am too, to be perfectly honest, as I’ve seen the market price on some of the cards for the game. For the cost of some of those sets of 4 cards I could probably get most of the 2PCG version that has been released. Regardless, I’ll be tinkering with this one and playing it some more with what I have and, perhaps, if I do get to try the 2PCG version in the future I can make a post with some comparisons between the games.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading this. I know I am loving this so far, and it feels good to have time to invest again in focusing on some of these games. In addition to this post series, I’ve made a series of videos on Spellfire and the Final Fantasy TCG over on my YouTube channel to teach the game – find me as Cardboard Clash on YouTube and subscribe! And I’m already jumping in on the next set of videos covering the MegaMan NT Warrior TCG. And so tell me, are there specific CCGs you’d love to read or watch more about?

Notes on the Journey
Total plays (plays since last report).

Tomb Raider = 4
MegaMan NT Warrior = 4
Harry Potter = 4 (+1)
Anachronism = 3 (+3)
Final Fantasy = 2
Spellfire = 2
Mythos = 1 (+1)
Vs System = 1 (+1)

Ranking based on preference so far:

Anachronism
Harry Potter
Final Fantasy
Tomb Raider
MegaMan NT Warrior
Vs System
Spellfire
Mythos