Game Design · Monster Hunters

Design Notes: Monster Hunters

Over on BGG I have a thread for my current (and first) WIP board game. If you’ve followed along for a while, you might have heard that I had several ideas kicking around and that I was planning on going with a smaller and simpler design as my first game. But I decided, in the end, to go after the one I was most passionate about and so Monster Hunters earned my focus.

You can follow along on the BGG thread here: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/2011918/wip-monster-hunters-2018-solitaire-print-and-play

But I will also occasionally make updates here as well for those not following on BGG.

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Monster Hunters is a deckbuilding and worker placement game where monsters are threatening to destroy a town and, as a Monster Hunter, you have been hired to help take care of the threat. Unluckily for you, there is more than one monster descending upon the town and, making it even more unlikely that you can vanquish the beasts and make sure the town doesn’t get destroyed…too much, at least.

Components required: TBD, but will primarily consist of cards, a main board, a player board or two, and some small cubes/discs.

Playing time: TBD

# of players: 1 (eventually may scale up to 1-4, but right now focusing solely on it as a solo game and building up from there!)

Categories in which this game is competing:

d10-1 Best Overall Game
d10-2 Best Rule Book
d10-3 Best Regular PNP Build
d10-4 Most Thematic Game
d10-5 Best Game Designed in Contest Timeframe
d10-6 Best Game by a New Designer
d10-7 Best Deckbuilder, should the category be created
d10-8 Best Worker Placement

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Want to know a little more about Monster Hunters? Here are some initial ideas:

1) The deckbuilding adapts the mechanic from Aeon’s End where you select the order in which you place your cards in your discard pile and do not shuffle the deck. Any cards not played on a turn can either be discarded or remain in your hand and you draw back up to 5 cards. This allows you to save up for those important combos, but also slows down how fast you’re cycling the deck. Some cards are one-time play cards that go to the discard after use, while others are equipment that you can add to your character to gain permanent boosts until forced to discard.

2) Every game you begin facing the 1st tier enemy, which has its own deck of cards that it will play against you to add monsters to deal with, boost its own effects, or drop one-time actions that threaten the village. Tier 2 enemies are progressively more challenging, and the Tier 3 enemies are equivalent to boss fights. So while you might be powering up your own deck as you go, the enemies are getting stronger to compensate and challenge you.

3) Each tier of enemy also comes with two different “quest cards”, one demonstrating what you need to accomplish to eliminate that enemy from play and the other containing the monster’s timer objective. If you complete your objective first, the enemy is removed from the game and you advance to the 2nd enemy with a small advantage going into the next encounter as well as a card from your hunter-specific Feat deck that provides a powerful one-time-use ability. However, if the enemy’s timer triggers first the next enemy deck comes into play, effectively forcing you to face two monsters and both of the nasty things in their decks at the same time. If you get REALLY unlucky, you could be forced to face all three of the monsters chosen for the game.

4) The ultimate idea is for there to be multiple “stages” to play through, where you get to add in special upgrades into your character’s deck after facing down the trio of monsters and then you thin your deck back down to a preset number of cards in each category (Weapon, Armor, Spell, Item, Ally, & Character-Specific). Each hunter or huntress has a different distribution among those cards to where one might be able to stack their deck full of weapons but not get to keep many allies or save any spells.

5) The worker placement board, in the solo game, will have three token that travel clockwise in a set path around the board and block certain worker placement spaces. You have one worker (representing your hunter or huntress) to move throughout the town in order to shore up the town’s defenses, find items, recruit allies, draw more cards, trash cards from your deck, and interact with the monsters in various ways such as sneak attacks, shooting from a distance, or facing it head-on. Each space you move around on the board advances the small time track in the center and, when it circles around, the monsters act and wreck havoc as well as place a token to advance their progress card. So depending on how well you plan, you might get to do several things before they act or just one or two actions. Your final action before it triggers can make it go past that trigger space, making your next batch of actions have even less time you can spend before they act again.

6) You’ll need to consider your position and the state of the town as it gets closer to the time when the monsters act. Your current position on the board could make it so you take all of the damage of their actions, or it could make it so they hit the town with all of their damage. If your hunter/huntress, or the town, ever runs out of life then you instantly lose the game. Additionally, if the 3rd tier monster’s track ever reaches its completion you will lose the game.

7) Certain cards in the monster decks, as well as a few that can enter your own decks, may get boosted effects if certain cards are currently in play when they are used. For instance, there could be a card titled something like Marksman that doubles your damage dealt this turn if you have a Bow equipped and otherwise might simply add +1 or +2 to an attack. There will be a lot of them in the monster decks, especially in the higher tier monsters.

8) Certain cards and actions will gain you Glory, which is the victory point currency of the game. When the game gets to a point in the future where more players can be added, this will be the way of determining the winner of the game regardless of the outcome of the town’s defense. Certain scores, however, may unlock extra bonuses for your character between scenarios in order to help them progress to even greater levels of strength so that it remains a relevant factor even in a solitaire game. However, this is likely to be among the last things to be tuned and implemented in a meaningful fashion and may serve, in early playtests, as a way for me to gauge the range of scores so I can tweak values and determine where those bonus thresholds should reside.

9) My goal, for this contest, is to get at least one huntress and a trio of monsters to face. Once that is in a state of playability, I will focus on creating 2-3 more hunters/huntresses, and then new monster decks. If I progress far enough, I’d like to have 4 characters, 3 sets of monsters per tier, and the cards to progress through everything in a mini-campaign where the monsters, your character, and the decks to purchase from all get slightly stronger after each set of encounters. Long-term goals include making a narrative campaign to tie in with the progression of the game.

Hopefully this all sounds interesting to you! So far this is 100% idea and concept, and I will be spending the weekend working on some very small decks to use for the cards during the first encounter, both for the initial monster and for the town’s decks that can be purchased from. These are likely to be small in number and mostly to test the initial mechanics and see how that flow goes. Next will come adding in the other two monsters and initial attempts at determining the progress cards, etc. before fleshing out all of the decks with a full range of cards (I’m thinking 40 town cards and 20 monster cards per monster as the ultimate goal). I’ll be sketching the board, as well, and sharing pictures of that and some cards over the weekend! All hand-made, so be kind!!!

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Okay, first off a sneak peek at the first huntress: Ava. She’s modeled after the protagonist from my first book, Monster Huntress, which is the obvious inspiration for the game. I may give each character card a one-time-use ability that can trigger and then flip the card, but I haven’t decided yet. Also shown are her two initial ideas for the character-specific cards in her starting deck. Note the double usage cards – that will likely be a feature on the majority of cards outside of the starting deck.

Most of the remaining cards in the starter deck will be simple ones such as +1-2 Atk, +1-2 Def, +1-2 Infl (Infl = Influence, which is your purchasing power)

And now for the board! The dimes represent the shifting spaces that are blocked each turn, and the penny represents the Huntress character of Ava. For her first turn, she visited The Forge (market of cards containing weapons & armor).

Her turn ends and the dimes all shift one space clockwise, following the arrow pattern shown on the board regarding where they move to next.

Next she chooses to move over to the space temporarily titled Refresh Markets, which lets her wipe the display of one, or both, of the markets of cards (The Forge has weapons & armor, The Council has allies and items). That space is 3 away from The Force, so the Time Marker moves ahead three spaces (shown by the eraser).

At the end of the round the dimes all move another space, but one of them was slated to go onto Refresh Markets next. Since Ava was there, it skipped that space and shifted to the next one in line. Thematically, you can think of these tokens as representing pockets of chaos or conflict created by the monsters. They seek opportunity at wrecking havoc on the town and try to avoid the huntress, but are a minor threat to where the townsfolk should be able to fend them off for a bit while she deals with the larger threat of the main enemy forces.

Finally, Ava decides to go to the Scrap action to remove a card in her hand from the game. Is that a likely choice this early? Not really, but it is a good demonstration here. That space is six away clockwise, but only four going counter-clockwise. So the timer moves up four spaces since she wouldn’t likely go the long way through town in order to get to this area. Her time is nearly halfway through before the monsters attack, so hopefully she’s getting set up to drop some major damage soon!

***

And as of today (6/29) over the lunch hour here’s the component progress for me to be able to run my first tests of the first monster in the game:

Game board: Done
Huntress player board: Done
Huntress starter cards: 10/10 Done
1st Monster cards: 16/20 done
Equiment cards: 0/12 done
Item/Ally cards: 0/12 done
Feat cards: 0/3 done
Setup card: 0/1 done
Progress Cards: 0/2 done

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Board Gaming · Top Ten List

Top 25 Games: #5-1

At last we’ve come to the portion of the list everyone’s been waiting for: the best of the best in my opinion. These five games are the five I would choose if I could only have five games in my collection, as they all hit on very different aspects in gaming. Each provides a different experience from the other and demonstrates some of my varied taste in board games. The true positioning could be shifted on a daily basis from 3-5, and even 1-2 could flip-flop on a given day. I’m pretty happy with this ranking right now as going down as the official ranking, though.

So if you’re ever wanting to play one of these, let’s make it happen! I don’t know that I could play any of these “enough” times!

#25-21

#20-16

#15-11

#10-6

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#5 – Kingdom Builder, published by Queen Games. Designed by Donald X. Vaccarino. 2-4 Players.

I’m going to say something controversial. Moreso than stating that Caverna is better than Agricola, or that Century: Spice Road is better than Splendor. You ready for this? Kingdom Builder is the best game Donald X. Vaccarino has designed. Period. I’m not trying to ruffle your feathers, Dominion fans. That is a fine game, and worthy of all the praise and acclaim it receives. But you’ll never convince me that it is a better game, and this is coming from a self-proclaimed lover of the deckbuilding genre.

What I love about Kingdom Builder is the variability and the simplicity. It is variable with the four boards and powers that will be available each play and with the three scoring conditions that will be present. It is simple mechanically in that you’ll place three settlements on the board on the terrain type matching your card. But that settlement must be placed adjacent to one of your existing settlements on the board, if able. That right there is the crux that makes this game shine.

Why? Because you can feasibly lose the game on Turn 1. That first placement matters. It matters so very much, both in terms of potential powers you gain and in terms of your options in future rounds. A really poor placement can leave you floundering in the same area of the board until the game ends, and don’t even try claiming it is because of the restriction of the card draw. That 1 card is what makes this game hum. If you add in a 2nd card, or a hand of cards to play from, the game loses its excellence and allows for sloppy planning. As Edward from Heavy Cardboard would say, “Plan better. Play better.” For such a light and simple game, there are so many excellent and meaningful decisions to be found with those early placements.

Every time you can place in a new part of the board, you’re faced with a similar challenge: find the optimal placement that will keep future options open while maximizing the point potential. It isn’t always easy. It sure as heck isn’t always obvious. I lose way more than I win in Kingdom Builder, but I always want to play it again. The game is the perfect time for setup and gameplay. The shifting of just those scoring objectives makes the same board play out in a completely different way. Seriously. Change those three cards but keep the same board and don’t shuffle those land cards and you’d see different decisions happening along the way.

Maybe I’m the biggest advocate for this game. Maybe no one else thinks it is as absolutely brilliant as I do. But I am yet to teach it and have someone dislike the game. In fact, the majority of new players are wildly enthusiastic about the experience when it is over and immediately want to dive back in for a second play.

And 50+ plays into this game, I’m still loving it. I don’t see that changing over the next 50 plays and beyond.

#4 – Lignum, republished by Capstone Games. Designed by Alexander Huemer. 2-4 players.

Every other game in the Top 5 gave me a strong reason to believe I would like the game before playing it. Lignum, on the other hand, came out of no where. I expected a fun game based on the description and my previous history of success with a Capstone Games title (Haspelknecht). But this game blew past each and every expectation I had going into the game and then some.

What is it about Lignum that I love? It is that perfect Euro game with management of resources, balance of short-term and long-term planning, and a feeling that you’re never doing enough to succeed. You need to plan the path you take each season, as many spaces can only go to one person. So if you really need that Sled, you’re faced with the decision of how fast should you jump to where that is located. Everyone you hire costs money, and they last only for the season, so you need to account for gaining enough cash flow to pay those seasonal costs. Winter seasons are tough to plan for, as there is so little you can do that season, yet that one decision can have waves of impact.

You can plan seasons ahead to execute a stronger action, but you need to really make sure that action is what you need and when you need it, while also ensuring that doesn’t prevent you from adding in another action on the next season when you travel around. Food and saws can be scarce resources, unless you’re willing to pay for them. Collecting sets of tokens can be ways to cash in for some much-needed funds or turned in for some powerful extra actions.

There is so much in this game that I love. It burns my brain in the right ways, and is that one Euro game I’ll want to grab off the shelf first if someone wants to play a Euro game. There may be ones that come along later that do it better, and ones like Lisboa might claim that crown with more plays. But right now, I love what Lignum manages to accomplish over the course of a session. It is far, far from that BGG Hotness and deserving of your immediate attention.

#3 – Mystic Vale, published by Alderac Entertainment Group. Designed by John D. Clair. 2-4 Players.

I love deckbuilding games. If I had to choose a mechanic that is mine, this would probably be the one I would claim. The improvement of a deck over time, combined with generating an efficient engine, is something that I really enjoy. My wife, on the other hand, has never been a big fan of them. Back in the day we owned Dominion and her tactic was, without fail, to simply buy money until she could buy a Province. Sure, she might buy 1-2 cards from the market on occasion, but she never crafted engines. And it was frustrating because I was spending my time trying to hone an engine that would run effectively based on the changing market of cards that could compete with that Big Money strategy. Too often I was 1-2 turns too slow, and her repetitive tactic combined with my disappointment against that tactic saw us sell off Dominion.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered that she actually enjoyed playing Mystic Vale. What followed was a solid week of playing this time and again while it was being borrowed. It was the first game I reviewed that I didn’t own (yet). And it is one of my favorite games in my collection to this day.

What she appreciates is a static deck in terms of cards. You’re not making a small deck bigger. You don’t need to trash cards in order to make things efficient. You start and stay at that same number of cards. But the strategies to pursue outside of that are where this game shines. This is very much a game of adapting to what appears. Tier 1 cards are cheap, but in a 2-player game only a dozen will ever appear. Worst case scenario, that is 4 unique cards (in the 3 different slots). Best case scenario there are 12 unique cards. But whether or not that card you need is in the place you need is never a guarantee. And you can’t just place it over something already existing, either, meaning every purchase and placement of an advancement is important in the long term. And you can’t always plan for what will show up in the game.

The game has a limited timer that is wholly dependent upon the purchases players make and how risky they choose to play. I’ve seen games go long and scores hit the 50-60 range. I’ve seen fast games where everyone is in the low-to-mid 20’s. Even though you are building your own engine, the game really rewards paying attention to what else is purchased and how fast those VP chips are being taken. Some of the best cards come with either greater risk of spoilage or less reward in end-game VP.

And those Vale cards are absolutely a viable strategy to win the game, even if they are frequently overlooked and can be difficult to obtain consistently. Early in the game, I’ll usually take an advancement with 1-2 of those symbols over one that generates more mana. Many times that pays off with those Vale Cards.

This is a game that is innovative in the realm of deckbuilders and a lot of fun to play. I’m always excited to see what direction the game takes as I begin to look at the cards flipping out for purchase. If you dislike deckbuilders but haven’t tried this, take my wife’s enjoyment of this as a hint that there is something a little different about Mystic Vale. You might just find yourself loving this game. And if you enjoy building engines or deckbuilding, this is very much the game for you.

#2 – Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, published by Fantasy Flight Games. Designed by Nate French. 1-2 Players.

In terms of number of plays, this game is king of the mountain. I logged about 50 solo plays of this one in about 5 months last year, and it is still my #1 played game of 2018. I have a feeling it will always be my most-played game, and it is my most-expanded game (and I’ve hardly scratched the surface on my collection). But the #1 overall spot isn’t necessarily the game you play the most, but rather the best and your favorite overall game. And this one falls just a little short in that race.

But let’s focus on what this does so freaking well: diversity in playthrough. Allow me to define that for you, because it is what makes this game shine for me, although it is dependent upon expanding a collection. Even by just picking up a single cycle, you gain 8 more heroes to use. A wealth of new player cards. And 9 scenarios to play through. Add that to the 12 heroes and 3 scenarios in the base game, and suddenly you have a ton of variability right there. You use 3 of the 20 heroes to run through a scenario. There are many combinations you could try and run through an individual scenario. Or all of the scenarios. Now take this and multiply by half a dozen cycles, two saga series, and some print on demand scenarios. Almost a hundred heroes. Almost a hundred scenarios. Hundreds of player cards to construct decks to play with. And the ability to play 1-4 players…and this game is a blast at all four player counts.

Some people dislike the deck construction aspect. I personally don’t understand that, as I think that is the best thing about this game. Building something and running it against a known (or unknown) quest to see how it fares over repeated plays. Swapping out a few cards to see how that affects the effectiveness of the deck. Getting slaughtered by the game and then trying to puzzle out how to overcome the obstacle. That high of making it past after banging your head in frustration for several plays.

Filling roles in a group setting, allowing you to diversify the content of the decks so everyone can contribute without needing everyone to do everything.

And when a quest gets too easy, there are Nightmare decks to go around and crank the difficulty to 11. They present new and interesting challenges as you work your way through the familiar quests!

This game is one I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing. I’m working to build a local community of gamers on this one, and that is going to be something I’ll continue to do. It isn’t cheap to get into this game, but it also doesn’t require you to collect everything, or punish you for not getting things in order or not having everything. I can play and succeed against the newest cycle without needing to purchase everything up to that cycle.

This game is my type of game. Long live the LCG, but even if it died today I could easily play the content that exists for a lifetime and not have it grow stale for me.

#1 – War of the Ring, Published by Ares Games. Designed by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello. 2-4 Players (but really 2 players…)

If you look at the number of plays a year that a game receives, this one would fall short of the top billing. However, as Joel Eddy has mentioned in defense of Caylus being his #1 game, your top game doesn’t have to be one you’re playing all the time. It is rather what game do you enjoy the most when it hits the table, and for me it is easily War of the Ring by Ares Games. This has it all for any Tolkien fan (or any Tolkien super fan like me): two sides vying with different goals, hidden movement of the Fellowship to destroy the ring, active hunting for the ring by the shadow player, endless hordes of enemies for the shadow player, a feeling of dread and despair for the free peoples…

It feels like I am playing Lord of the Rings out on the board when this game hits the table. Sure, the rules are complex and I’m still not 100% certain I am playing everything perfectly. I’d have to dive back into that rulebook, now that I am better at learning and teaching games, to see what little things I may have missed. I’ve missed a lot of things over the years and have corrected them along the way, and every correction makes the game more and more interesting.

The sides are as close to balanced as you could hope for in a game like this. Seriously, there are discussions on BGG where it demonstrates that both sides have a win rate that is remarkably close to 50% overall. Will a skilled player win more times against a new player? Absolutely. But it isn’t a guaranteed thing.

The cards in here are outstanding, with thematic and fun effects at times. The dual use of the cards really shines, making you decide what manner you want to utilize them. Sometimes it is needed short-term to help win a key battle. Other times you know this card is going to be played for the main effect using one of your dice.

I’ve rolled my eyes at the complaint about the political system. It is thematic. The Free Peoples nations were resistant to the idea of a real threat, unwilling to believe that the land was being overrun by Sauron and his armies. You need to spend time and resources to convince those nations that there is a real threat before they are willing to grow their armies and march to war. Sending someone from the Fellowship can speed up that process, just like a battle or two within a territory can convince them that the threat is there and impacting their nation. This isn’t tacked on to add a funky mechanic for complexity’s sake. Read the books. The nations all dragged their feet at first regarding Sauron and his forces. This mechanic is thematic. Period. End of discussion.

There are interesting decisions on both sides throughout the game. Can a string of bad rolls ruin your plans? Sure, it happens. I’ve had all of my progress as a Shadow player wiped in a matter of a few battles gone wrong and had to backpedal and reevaluate where to strike and when. I’ve had to abandon conquests because it would take too long and too many dice to reach the previous conquest site with reinforcements (or a new force). I’ve seen the Free People win by conquering Shadow Strongholds and win by Dunking the One Ring. I’ve seen the Shadow armies win by conquering Free People Cities and Strongholds and seen them win by corrupting the Ring Bearer. I’ve seen Minas Tirith and the rest of Gondor be a crucial battle site and I’ve seen it ignored for the entirety of a game.

While each game follows the same overarching narrative path, the route taken to victory on both sides will change from game to game based upon opening moves and the cards being dealt. And that is what is wonderful about this: I’m witnessing my favorite story being played out on a board, where I can make unique and interesting decisions that alter the narrative.

Add in the two expansions and the experience only gets better for me. I’m saddened that I didn’t get the Special Edition of the game when it was being run, but my standard version of the game is still the perfect game. If you want the best experience in board games, I’d argue it can be found at the table with this game and one other player, vying for the fate of Middle-Earth. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I think it is time for Second Breakfast.

Board Gaming · Expansion Review

Review – Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic

I’m setting a personal goal to try and get to more expansion reviews, as there are some excellent expansions out there that add some wonderful content to a base game. I’m hoping to hit on a few to close out the month, covering a little bit about what comes in the box, how they impact the game, and my overall thoughts on the expansion and what it provides.

Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic is the 1st expansion for Mystic Vale. The expansion was released in 2016 by AEG, and has a MSRP of around $29.99.

What the expansion adds

9x Level 1 Vale Cards (Aether Tree x 2, Amberwood, Direwolf Burrow, Manadew Meadow x 2, Roost x 2, Shimmercliff Rookery)

9x Level 2 Vale Cards (Fauna Hollow x 2, Earth Cradle, Sunshard Savanna, Sunwell Temple x 2, Vale of Magic, Wood Sprite Hoard x 2)

18x Level 1 Advancement Cards (Arbor Overseer x 3, Canopy Explorer x 3, Giant Toad x 3, Limbthresher x 3, Sentry x 3, Wood Sprite x 3)

21x Level 2 Advancement Cards (Goldenwing Gryphon x 3, Hatchery x 3, Heartwood Healer x 3, Ley Line Overflow x 3, Lifetap Oracle x 3, Sunshard Custodian x 3, Water Weaver x 3)

15x Level 3 Advancement Cards (Chromatic Wyvern x 3, Creeping Mold x 3, Grove Guardian x 3, Overgrowth x 3, Sporeling Reclaimer x 3)

Rule Changes

None to speak of. There are new timing abilities, such as what can be found on the Hatchery advancement, but they add no new complexity to the game. This expansion can integrate easily in with Mystic Vale, and could definitely be used without any issues when teaching new players.

Standout Cards

Amberwood, Shimmercliff Rookery, & Direwolf Burrow (Level 1 Vale Cards) – These three cards all do the same thing upon purchase: they let you flip your mana token to its active side. I like these because they allow you to regain that extra mana without a need to spoil, allowing you to be more efficient and effective with your turns. This is especially impactful early-mid game as you’re getting your engine churning to snag Level 2 & 3 advancements.

Earth Cradle (Level 2 Vale Card) – This one is powerful for those who like comboing the Vale Cards. It is definitely a viable strategy as long as the right Advancement cards show up early. This one scores you 1 VP for each Vale Card you own at the time of purchase. I’ve had games where this could have gained me 8-10 points, and that potential makes this worth mentioning. It reinforces the viability of this strategy.

Canopy Explorer (Level 1 Advancement Card) – I love the Guardian symbol synergy and this might be my new favorite in there. After you set up your field, during harvest you can add more cards from your deck (not the on-deck card) into your field. The special thing here is that those extra cards are added in the Harvest phase, which means they cannot cause you to spoil. Even adding 1 extra card into your field can be really, really strong.

Goldenwing Gryphon (Level 2 Advancement Card) – See above comments on flipping your mana token. This lets you do it every time this card is played, which is awesome. I can’t tell you how many times 1 mana could affect how a turn plays out, and being able to regain that without spoiling is huge.

Hatchery (Level 2 Advancement Card) – This is one that is easy to overlook. By itself, the card is just okay. But the potential it adds is massive. Put this with 2 really strong advancements and suddenly you’ve got a strong card that stays out for two turns. Get two cards with Hatchery out there and suddenly one of those cards will be in play for three turns in a row. Just think on that potential and you’ll see why this can easily be an MVP advancement for your deck.

Overgrowth (Level 3 Advancement Card) – Forget everything else about the card and focus on the stat here that made me do a double-take: the VP. 5 end-game VP. Say, what? For a game where the normal score falls in the 25-35 range and where end-game VP ranges from 0-2…let’s just say this stood out from the crowd when I played last. I picked up two of these cards in my last game, which was just enough to secure a win for me. Without that 10 VP on these cards (as in, if they had been 2 each), I would have lost.

Final Thoughts

This is an expansion that integrates seamlessly with the base game. If you want something that simply adds more of the same that you get in the base game, this is a perfect expansion. It adds variety to a game where, after 5-6 plays, things started to repeat often. The same cards would show up at least once per game and you could gear a strategy around that coming up. Thickening the decks makes for more variance from play to play, something I absolutely applaud.

This is the type of expansion that my wife enjoys, as it changes nothing about how the game is played. Even expansions that are heralded as must-haves (Like the Farmers of the Moor for Agricola) are ones she actively dislikes because they change X about how the game is played. Her seal of approval on this should speak volumes.

I’m also coming to realize that I would rather have 5-10 games with good cycles of expansions that expand the game rather than 100 unique base games without any expansion content. And so this is a great first step on Mystic Vale’s expansion cycle. I know that other expansions add things like Leaders, and I am eager to see what that offers to the game while also expanding the card pool.

For the $30 MSRP, I know people will refuse to get the expansion. I can’t blame you for not wanting to pay that for “more of the same” if you want something that shakes up a game. But really, this is a great expansion that rounds out the core set of cards that comes in the base game. And if you can get 20-25% off that price and pick it up for around $25 instead, you really can’t go wrong with this expansion, because it is one you can easily keep integrated with the game permanently. I’d definitely buy it again, if I had to do it all over again.

 

Board Gaming · Top Ten List

Top 25 Games: #10-6

We’re into the territory where the best of the best begin to reside. These are, 100%, games I would always say “yes” to playing if the opportunity were to arise. Including this surprise appearance by the #10 game here, which got a small bump last month when I got in another play of it as a 2-player game and was reminded of how much I liked the game and got to see how differently it can play based on player count and familiarity with the game.

Previous installments:

#25-21

#20-16

#15-11

***

#10 – Nations, published by Lautapelit.fi. Designed by Rustan Hakansson, Nina Hakensson, Einar Rosen,  and Robert Rosen. 1-5 players.

This game was lower on the list, and then I played the game once again right before I ran my rankings one last time. And boy, did this game benefit from that recent play, which served to remind me just how much I enjoyed this one. While I could lament about the MSRP of this game ($100), the honest truth is that the gameplay probably is worth that price tag even if the components themselves are not. And now I can confirm that this one plays solidly as a 2-player game, which was yet another reason for the gentle nudge up the list.

I played a LOT of Civilization II on the PC in my younger years. One of my earlier purchases was the Fantasy Flight version of Sid Meier’s Civilization which, while good, was never able to deliver the experience I was looking for in a civ-like board game. Combat was uninteresting and most of the early game was exploring the map while the rest was just spamming up whichever track could lock in a faster victory. This game is far more interesting, with a diverse range of cards that you’ll see a fraction of in a 2-player game (yay replay value and inability to depend on Card X to appear, forcing you to adapt your strategy to what is there rather than what you know is coming).

It also happens to have a mild worker placement aspect on your own board, and I use the term loosely. But you still assign those workers there and reap the benefits and penalties of said spot. You have to manage a few spaces for upgrades on your board while also juggling your resources efficiently. This is a Euro gamer’s Civ game, and I absolutely love it after a handful of plays. I can’t wait to dive into the solo mode on this one, and to get this to the table with my wife. I think this would be one she’d enjoy and completely dominate at, much like she did with Sid Meier’s Civilization.

#9 – Argent: The Consortium, published by Level 99 Games. Designed by Trey Chambers. 2-5 Players.

Fun fact: I’ve been writing this list backwards (#6-#10) and a theme for #7-9 could easily be “games I absolutely love but my wife does not”. And that is best exemplified in this game right here, a game she should absolutely love but does not. Yet. I’m still holding out hope that she can be converted if she gives it another chance now that I have some 2nd Edition upgrades in the box. Everything about this game should be right for her: worker placement, its like Harry Potter, ability to interfere with your opponent directly. And, truthfully, I know the one hangup that killed it for her: the end game scoring.

But that is what sets this game apart. You have 10 voters, only 2 of which are common knowledge. Over the course of the game you’ll hopefully be placing down marks, which let you see the voter card underneath that mark and will provide you information about one of the scoring conditions in the current game (such as most Mana at the end of the game, or most Knowledge tokens, etc.). There is an Influence Track which looks like it should be victory points, but it isn’t. It is used to gain Merits, but also importantly to serve as a tiebreaker if you both have the same number of X on a voter. First edition rules it was simply the higher influence wins the tie. I think she’ll enjoy 2nd edition a little more, which makes the 1st tiebreaker go to whoever put down a mark on the voter’s card and the influence be the 2nd tiebreaker if necessary.

This game is big. And long. It ramps up and become ridiculous as you gain better spells and max them out. Yet a round could end in a few turns, because it ends when all of the belltower cards are taken. The game has replay value, as each mage character has two sides, and there are six different ones to choose from. Every generic spell power has two sides. Every tile for the board has two sides. You can mix and match and play this game dozens of times and never have the same experience. And I absolutely love it. Easy enough to teach how to play it in 15 minutes, deep enough to take a full game to truly understand the game’s scoring and how to maximize your progress toward objectives. This game can appeal to both the Euro and Ameri-gamer camps in equal measure. Play this game. It is worthy of at least that. One play. That may be all it takes to hook you like it did for me.

#8 – Race for the Galaxy, published by Rio Grande Games. Designed by Tom Lehmann. 2-4 Players.

There was a moment in time when this was probably my #1 game. You have to rewind back to 2014, a very early time still in my gaming growth. My wife and I played this probably 20-30 times in the first few months we owned the game. This game was what got me into solo gaming, as I wanted more…more…more. It remains a game I love dearly, even though it rarely hits the table anymore, as I’ve found a new solo love that consumes that attention and my solo gaming on this one made it so my playstyle ruined the game for my wife. You see, in order to beat the Robot in solo you have to get an engine going fast. Really fast. So you start to see combos that are not overpowered, but are efficient enough to end the game before a larger engine can take off.

Part of me still regrets playing this one solo, as she used to love the game. She’s won the last few times we’ve played, but I still see that reflexive cringe if I mention the game. This game offers a lot of fun, synergistic combos, some interesting action selection mechanics (especially with 2-players!), and a great multi-use card system. I haven’t expanded beyond the first expansion, and that was primarily for solo mode. And, to be honest, the game hasn’t really needed anything beyond that. I will probably pick up the new Start Worlds promo at some point, but this is a gem of a game right out of the base box. Don’t let that iconography scare you away from experiencing an outstanding game and a true classic.

#7 – Oh My Goods, published by Mayfair Games. Designed by Alexander Pfister. 2-4 Players.

This game came out of nowhere and swept its way up my list. The game reinforces everything that I already suspected: I like engine builders which is something you can see repeated on this part of my Top 25 list. This game simply clicks for me in ways I still don’t understand. I can see those combinations and what I need to keep and build in order to use those production chains. I tend to fall behind in the early game and then roar back to life for a strong end of the game. Unfortunately, I think this game is destined to follow the same cycle as Race for the Galaxy and become a game my wife won’t willingly play very often.

I like the press-your-luck aspect in this one, which is only as big as you want it to be on some rounds. You set your worker, and how well they will work, after seeing just half of the market. That half can be as small as 2 cards or as many as 10+. Every card is multi-purpose, which is another thing I love. This game has all of the delightful heaviness and brain burn of a medium Euro game, but it compacted into a deck of cards which makes the setup and teardown fast. The game is easy to explain, apart from the production chains, and can go from on the shelf to playing in 15-20 minutes with a teach included. And it will often finish in under an hour per play. This game put Alexander Pfister on my radar, even moreso than Isle of Skye, as a designer to watch. It is utterly delightful and a game I absolutely love to play and need to get the expansion to add solo play into the mix.

#6 – Hanamikoji, published by Emperor S4 and Deep Water Games. Designed by Kota Nakayama. 2 Players.

It isn’t easy to put this one at this spot. The game is deserving of more, of making that final cut into the top 5. But the games ahead of this one simply cannot move. If I could make a 5a. and a 5b., this one would slip right into that slot.

But I can’t and therefore I will not.

It amazes me how many agonizing decisions you are given every time I play this game. you have four actions per round. They are the same four actions, and each can only be done once. You’re never going to have perfect information. Four of the cards you see in your hand over the course of the round will finish on your side of the board. Three will go to your opponent’s side. Two will be removed from the game, and your opponent won’t know which cards they are. One will come out at the very end and be on your side, but your opponent won’t know which card you selected until the end of the round. So much imperfect information that provides incredibly challenging decisions throughout the entire game. I love this game so much and the challenge it packs into a small footprint and a simple decision space. I get delighted when I teach a new person and I realize the game has clicked because they are letting out agonized sounds while trying to determine which action to choose and which cards to play. The game is as graceful and elegant as a geisha, and deserves to be in every collection. Unless you never play games with 2 players. For a 15-minute experience, this is always going to be my #1 go-to game.

Worker Placement Month

Coming Soon: Worker Placement Months

Back in May I tried something new when I ran Solo Month. I had everything posted that month tie in 100% to solo gaming, which was a lot of fun and some of you reading now probably discovered me during that month. But I tried the insanity of posting a new post every single day, and fell spectacularly short. I flamed out at the end, but everything important was posted during that month.

In the midst of my excitement, I started planning ahead and reaching out to some publishers about my next themed month: Worker Placement. I got a small number of review copies. I received some promos to give away. I lined a few interviews up. And I’ve played a few new Worker Placement games in anticipation.

The thought was July or August to run the featured month, but I don’t want to burn out again. So I am going to spread things across both months, making a 61-day period where the majority (but not all) of the content I produce will focus on Worker Placement games. I think it will be a lot of fun, and I hope to introduce you to some games that might not be on your radar yet. Some of the games are only on my radar, but haven’t been played. Those will be overviews, where I share what I can dig up on the game and provide full disclosure that it isn’t a game I have played…yet.

100% of the posts are being generated due to my own interests and pursuits. I’m not getting paid to promote a single one of these, this is simply a labor of love that will be repeated again in September/October for 2-player only games and in November/December for Deck Building Games (sneak preview!). There are going to be some fun giveaways.

Reviews for Worker Placement month will definitely include:

  • Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia
  • Raiders of the North Sea
  • Keyper
  • Argent: The Consortium
  • Coal Baron: The Great Card Game
  • Ex Libris

Giveaways will include (but are not limited to):

  • Promos for Keyflower
  • NIS Copy of Raiders of the North Sea
  • NIS Copy of Ex Libris
  • Digital Codes for Galaxy Trucker or Through the Ages apps

All of those Giveaways are going to be open to everyone. However, if I get to my first goal on my Patreon page ($30/month) I’ll come up with a special giveaway exclusive to my Patrons that ties in with Worker Placement. It might be a promo. It might be a small game. Who knows?

And, finally, I plan to also review one of the two massive-box Rosenberg games on our shelf. Here’s your chance to vote: Caverna or A Feast for Odin? Comment below and let me know which you’d prefer to see a review about!

Board Gaming · Digital Review

Digital Review: BattleCON Online

Today I’m going to do something a little different than usual. There is no denying that we’re seeing a boom in the amount of board games that are going digital. While I don’t prefer to play games in a digital format (I’d much rather have the human opponent at the table and touch/feel the components), there are a few that I do play more often than others. And when Brad from Level 99 Games mentioned I could review BattleCON Online, I wasn’t sure how that might fit in with my personal playing preferences.

Let’s start by saying this won’t be in the format of my typical review in the sense that I won’t be giving an overview of the game or how to set up/play it. Instead I’m going to dive right into some pros & cons for the Online version of the game and wrap up with my final thoughts. And look for at least one digital review to appear each month (hopefully) as I tinker around in the realm of apps or Steam-based versions for your games.

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+++Note: You can look at my review of Trials and apply many of the comments on that game to the Online version. Rather than rehash those same things, I’ll focus on what applies exclusively to the Online version.

+ The game has built-in timers, both on number of rounds and some countdowns associated with how much time you get to make decisions. These both help the game move along and fall into that 20-30 minute range without overstepping to the 45-ish mark. I really enjoy the speed of the match itself when playing because it never feels like it runs too long.

+ The AI opponent option is a great thing to use when you just have a brief amount of time or if there isn’t an available opponent. Or to get better with a character (or even just familiarize yourself with them before using against someone else). This was a recent addition, and one I really like having in there. I just wish you earned coins by facing the AI, apart from getting those small achievement goals for bonus coins.

+ There are a good number of characters available, and a host of them that could still be added. I’m not sure how many are planned to be unlocked at the start, or which ones might be the first characters you can use (it recently changed to a new set of 4, which surprised me in a good way). But you gain the currency to unlock by playing matches against other people and/or accomplishing one of three current objectives (such as Spend 30 force, or Deal 60 Damage, or use a Specialist 3 times, etc.) to get bonus currency. As long as the characters remain “free” to unlock, this isn’t a bad thing. It’d be nice to be able to use any of them against something like a Training Dummy, just to know before unlocking a character whether you like their style, but you can see info about the character and their cards and draw some conclusions that way.

+ This game helps with some visual elements, showing you the combined stats of your cards being played and showing the spaces your attack could hit. This takes some of that guesswork out and helps you make sure you make better plays. It doesn’t always help me – I still make mistakes – but I believe I make fewer mistakes on that front. Most of the time. It also takes care of any upkeep you may have, which helps progress the game right along.

+ The music, the voices and sound effects, and the animations all make this game come alive. It feels even more like a fighting video game, but without the button-mashing or combo memorizing. This has a toe in both worlds, tabletop and video game, and will hopefully help unite players in both of those realms. Some of those themes will stick in your mind, and it is fun to hear how some of the characters sound.

+ The best thing about the Online version of BattleCON is the community associated with it. There is a really strong, dedicated core of players who are willing to play and, in many cases, provide some feedback afterwards on how to more effectively use that character. I recently got obliterated with my first play as Marmelee and got a significant set of recommendations on how to more effectively use her, which turned out to be much better when I put it into practice. If you have any interest at all in playing BattleCON Online (BCO), joining its Discord community is the best move you can make.

+/- Tying in with that, the most effective way to get a match is to hop on Discord and mention you’re looking for a match. This may change when it gets a wider official release, but just idly waiting for a match could take over half an hour. Pinging the Discord, though, could get you paired within minutes.

+/- But beware: finding a match could get you paired with someone about 100 tiers above your current skill level. There is nothing wrong with that – I am a firm believer in you learn through losing at games – but some people might get frustrated and/or put off from that experience. Especially when a match becomes one-sided. Add in the fact that certain characters do better or worse in specific matchups, and this could easily snowball if you are on the wrong end of the character matchup AND playing against someone with a lot more experience.

– A big thing I noticed with this is that it runs a little on the slow side. It might be completely on my own machine as the cause here, as I have a computer that isn’t designed for online gaming, but I suspect that at least the initial opening/loading screens and the Victory screen after a match are both slow outside of my own computer. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but the delay is quite noticeable. I also get random pauses during a match when selecting/revealing cards but it is brief and I suspect more a result of my own machine for those. Just know that it won’t be lightning-fast through everything like you’d expect from a PS4 game or anything.

Final Thoughts

I love BattleCON so much. I actually played this before I got a review copy of Trials, and the learning game and a match against the Training Dummy were enough to raise my excitement. So when I had a chance to also get a physical copy of the game, I had to pounce on that! The game does a great job of teaching the basics and managing those small details that are easy to be confused by or overlook in person for those first games. I like the speed of the individual matches, and as long as I plan in advance I can get the game loading early so it is ready when I want to find a match.

I’ll probably still always prefer the cardboard version of the game, but that is more of a “me” thing than anything. When I don’t have someone to play against in person, I have a really fun way to get some matches played. It lets me try characters I don’t own, which can help me decide upon the next set I want to try and pick up. And, since I believe this is still in Beta form and getting updated regularly, everything about this will continue to get even better.

Yet if BCO didn’t change at all from the form it is in today, it would still be something I would recommend to anyone who love BattleCON or is interested in the game. The music, the voices, and some of the animations really make a great game come alive in a new way that provides a fun and fresh experience. And the availability of playing with others around the world, of a variety of skill levels, makes this even better.

There is organized play for this which can help you to earn points. There is a sheet in the Discord for filling it out – I haven’t used it myself yet because I need to know my opponent’s number to submit the form. It hasn’t been important enough for me to try and figure that out yet, and some people won’t care at all about the organized play and possible rewards. I mention this to point out that it exists, and it sounds like a great thing to get excited about. I plan to figure it out on my own eventually, hopefully before the current season ends on June 30th, so I can possibly get the first tier of rewards between my plays of this and my teaching players the physical game…

 

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two: BattleCON: Trials of the Indines

Thank you for checking review #59 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**A copy of the game was sent for review purposes. Opinions remain our own.

An Overview of BattleCON: Trials of the Indines

BattleCON: Trials of the Indines is a game designed by D. Brad Talton Jr. and was published by Level 99 Games. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 10-45 minute play time.

BattleCON is a board game that brings the tactics, strategy, and ferocity of 2D fighting games like Street Fighter to your tabletop. Each BattleCON Fighter features a Unique Ability–a combat subsystem designed specifically for them, giving them a never-before-seen fighting style that you will have to master, and that your opponents will have to play around.

Trials is a new medium-sized box in the BattleCON series, containing 10 new fighters, each with a complete range of all-new skills and abilities.

Trials is the fourth box in the BattleCON series.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Each player selects one of the 10 fighters in the set and takes their tuckbox which will have their specific cards (including the base cards universal to all characters), the character’s standee, a reference card (which is given to the opponent), and any special token or card powers that might be unique to that character. Place the standee for each character on the board on the spaces marked with the red/blue dots. Players will then select a base and a style to go into their first discard pile and select another pair to go in their second discard pile (the cards have recommended ones marked for these!). Each player takes 20 life and 2 force and are ready to begin.

During a turn each player will secretly select a base and a style card and place them face-down in front of them. Once both players have made this decision, it moves to an ante phase where (in turn order), the players can ante in some temporary boosts to power, priority (speed), or stun guard (and some characters also have their own unique special tokens or cards that can be anted at this point). Once both players pass consecutively, the players reveal their combinations and compare priority. The player with the higher value becomes the first player for the beat. If there is a tie, the players CLASH and have to select a new base to replace the current base card. If it is still a tie after that, the process is repeated until they are either out of base cards to play or until one player wins priority. In the case of the former case, the beat ends and they move to the end of the beat without taking their turns.

Starting with the first player, each player resolves any Start of Beat effects. Then the active player does any Before Activating effects, makes their attack (factoring in range), resolves any Hit effects, and then resolves any After Activating effects. Then the reactive player does the same thing so long as they did not get stunned. If you take damage greater than your Stun Guard for the round, then the reactive player loses their actions and does nothing for the beat.

Finally both players (in turn order) resolve any End of Beat effects. Then they cycle their discards, bringing the leftmost pair into their hand, shifting the remaining pair on the board over one space, and putting the cards they just played into the right-most space on the board. Each player will gain one force token (two if they have 7 or less life) and play proceeds to a new beat. The game continues until one player is out of life.

My Thoughts

 The mechanics of this are simple yet the depth within the game makes it complex as well. You’re choosing two cards to pair together to try and damage your opponent, avoid their attacks, or boost power for a future beat. However, the dynamics within all of that space is mind blowing. Not only does that apply to the game in general, but every single character in this box is unique in ways that makes it so a one-size-fits-all tactic is difficult to execute.

 Which is why there is a point here regarding the characters themselves. They are 100% unique in their gameplay. I have played, or played against, all ten of them in the box and it never felt same-y. The best feeling is, of course, finding that character that is YOUR character. I enjoyed seeing a buddy of mine find it when playing Burgundy XIII. I felt it myself when playing as Amon, which happened to be the same exact match.

 The artwork on the characters is outstanding. I’ve instantly become a fan of Nokomento’s art, which happens to be featured in a good number of Level 99 Games titles out there.

 The ante phase can be interesting, even though a decent number of times it might just be both of you “passing” to get to the reveal. You ante to boost your Priority, which tells me you really want to go first. Or that you feel like your number is a hair too low and so I could probably ante back to maintain my order. But you might also be trying to get me to waste my own force. This becomes even more interesting if you have two characters who have special things they can ante into play. This phase is just a step in the process some of the time, but I love the times when you feel like that decision to ante or pass really matters. And few things are worse than anteing up a ton of power and priority only to have them gleefully reveal that Dodge card…

 The lore in the whole Indines universe wants to sweep my imagination away. There are nuggets to be found in the game, particularly the Character Guide book, but I really wish there was more. I would 100% read a novella about pretty much any one of these characters, or anything placed in that Indines world. There are tidbits dropped in the Level Cap podcast, but it’d be better if they did something similar to Greater Than Games’ The Letters Page, at least for delivering lore content. But this solidifies to me that I really want to write for Brad and his Indines world.

 All characters have the same set of bases, plus one character-specific base. While the flavor shines through in the styles, I want to take a moment to appreciate those base cards. Even the long range characters have some smaller range attacks. Even the short range characters have long range attacks. They can all dodge. They all have ways to get Stun Guard, to play something with decent power, or decent priority. It prevents them from being forced into a sour situation where they simply can’t accomplish anything – so long as you account for the two beats where the cards are cycling.

 And that card cycling system is perfect for this game. I can’t spam an attack over and over. I can’t dodge endlessly until I get enough force to drop my finisher. I can’t just sit back and blast you from across the board. I have to not only adapt to what I don’t have, but also plan for what I might want or need in a beat or two. The fact that a fighting game has long-term strategy that you can employ still baffles me in a good way. I love it, and having to account for it when trying to choose my cards.

 Overall the rules for the game are fine and functional. However, there are omissions that could lead to some frustration. My first few games, I thought that the Character’s special powers that could be ante’d had to be paid for just like the tokens. It wasn’t until I played BattleCON Online that I started to question this and, eventually, learned the right answer. The component listing was also a little iffy, as I struggled to place a few of the tokens in the right place because nowhere in the book did it mention that the staff went with Kimbhe or that these four tokens I had leftover went to Lucida. And what about resolving a Clash? Do the cards you replace go back to your hand or do they cycle in the discards? 97% of what you need to know is covered, but it is those few instances, some of them not even specific to a single character, that are missing in here.

 There can be quite the steep learning curve for the game, as you will benefit from knowing the character you are playing as and the one you’re playing against. This is a game, since there is no luck, where a skilled opponent should win the vast majority of the time over an unskilled one. If you dislike a game where there is a steep learning curve, and where you might get thoroughly thrashed for your first dozen learning plays, then you might be turned off by this aspect of the game. But if you can find at least one person of a similar skill level who is willing to play with you, both of you will benefit from that practice.

 One player with Analysis Paralysis might make this game drag. Two players with it definitely will make it drag. The decision of the combination to play can feel so overwhelmingly critical, especially late in the game when both players are jockeying to finish off the other. The other thing that can make a match run long? Stupidity and/or miscalculations. I’ve been guilty of them both. I’ve made dumb plays that, as soon as I flipped the cards, I realized were really bad decisions. I’ve flipped cards thinking I’ll be in range and find out that I’m 1 space too close or far to pull off my attack. A few rounds of whiffing is funny at first, but it can make it feel like the game drags on a little too long. 20-30 minutes per match is the sweet spot, but far too often I’ve been involved in ones that creep up to that 45 minute mark.

Final Thoughts

I was never very good at the arcade-style fighting games. I was a button masher, because I simply had no patience to try and learn all the special combinations to execute the right moves at the right times. I could usually luck my way through some tough match-ups, but I would never get progressively better at the games.

Thankfully, there is no button mashing necessary in BattleCON. You get all of the wonderful elegance of those fighting games in tabletop format, and all of your moves are unlocked and available for use…apart from that brilliant “cool down” system in here. It levels the playing field, so to speak, and makes it more about being able to read and adapt to the board state as well as learning how best to function with each different fighter in the box.

This game is 100% fun right out of the box. Seriously, some of my best board game memories in the past month have come from this game and the laughter that can ensue. It is increasingly hilarious to state the names of your chosen combination in a fun voice, especially if you’re both getting into that aspect. It is fun to see both of your carefully-laid plans get foiled as you reveal cards and both move out of range so your attacks fail. It is epic to be beaten down to 1-2 life and come back to drop that last 10-12 off your foe to “steal” the victory when on the brink of defeat. Fun. Fun. Fun.

There is definitely a skill curve in this game, as you simply won’t know how to effectively pilot a character until you’ve played them a few times. Additionally, you won’t know how to counter a character until you’ve played them, or against them, a few times. And even then, you have to account for a person’s personal playing style. They might make choices you don’t expect because you’d play Combination X and they put out Y instead. This is a game of playing your opponent as much as it is playing your own game, and that makes it a brilliant design.

Had I played this game before my Top 25 was created, this would definitely have made an appearance on the list. It is in there right now, although I couldn’t tell you where or what game dropped off to make a place for this one. But this is a fantastic addition to my collection. Nearly everyone I’ve taught the game has expressed both a desire to play again and a desire to pick this game up for themselves. And with four boxes out, and a big release coming in July on Kickstarter, this is definitely a game to consider putting on your own radar.

Players who dislike direct conflict and the process of tearing down your opponent will not really enjoy this game. Nothing against Rahdo, but this is a game I don’t think he would play and that is a shame. Because as much as I like playing in a sandbox to build my own engine while my wife does the same in her sandbox, there is definitely a time and a place for a fun, beat-’em-up style of game. I can’t speak to others out there, but I played Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur growing up and this is everything I could want out of a game inspired by those. I’m beyond happy with the contents in this box, although I highly doubt it’ll be the only BattleCON title that will enter into my collection. Because while I don’t need more characters, I need more characters.

And that is a good sign for the game. I could play this box alone a hundred times and still enjoy using these ten fighters. But since they all play so differently, I really want to see who else is out there and find that one character that is so my style that I’ll play them like I play Fanatic when I bust out a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse.

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Hopefully you found this review to be a useful look at BattleCON: Trials of the Indines. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas