Spreading Like Wildfire - Sylvion Review

And it's finally done! Three Omniverse games for December and this is the final one on the list, Sylvion. Again the plot is similar to before. Big nasty thing threatens the dream world and you need to stop it. OK, maybe that's not quite the same as Onirim as you're technically facing multiple nightmares, but it's pretty much identical to Castellion.

The style of this game though is similar to those "lane defence" games that you see on cheap PC Steam sales where you basically just defend multiple lanes from enemies with what resources you have. I usually call these "lame defence" games because for me they generally suck like crazy. People have pasted all kinds of themes on these games to essentially cash in on the licenses. Now I feel that this genre can be better represented in a card game and so Sylvion is my hope for this to be true.

As before I'm not concerning myself with the two player option. It may be a good way to play this game, but it's hard enough for me to get two player games to the table as it is and I already know of plenty of other options, two of which have already had reviews in the last month, check those out!



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Episode 39 - Reflecting On 2015

Well it's the end of another year and what a year it has been for board gaming. So many good titles this year to talk about and on top of this podcast you can also hear me comment on various games on the Dice Tower 2015 Special.

Four first impressions to start things off including Coup G54, Between Two Cities & 504. Then a discussion segment on 2015 as a whole including news stories, trends I've noticed and a few general facts. And then of course, what everyone wants to hear at this time of year, my Top 10 of 2015!

Have a happy Xmas and a great New Year and I will catch you all again in 2016!


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Love Thy Neighbour! - 7 Wonders: Duel Review

First this month, there was Raptor and now here's the other new 2 player game that I was talking about. Once upon a time, there was a terrific drafting game called 7 Wonders. Highly popular, full of iconography and able to cater for a large group of players in a relatively short space of time, at least when you didn't throw in every expansion that is as awesome as they all were. It's in my Top 20 of all time and remains a treasured game in my collection, though I wish more people were willing to try all the expansions as I'm getting bored with just playing the base game all the time! Seriously people play a game with Leaders, Cities and Babel all included, it is a joy to play even if the learning curve does get a little steeper.

Rarely was it ever played with less than 4 players though and I NEVER wanted to play it with only two people as given in this weird variant where a dummy city player was used. I admit I never tried it, but it just looked so odd and detracted from the experience of playing with multiple players. And I know next to no-one who ever liked it anyway. So Antoine and Bruno have teamed up to give us a new 7 Wonders game made solely for 2 players pretty much emphasising that the old variant should be discarded from existence. At first glance it looks solid and who can knock these two as designers when they're currently on fire these days with their releases? But half the fun of 7 Wonders was having to take into account what your neighbours and even the players further afield were up to. Can that be recreated in a 2 player game or will this give me a new twist so that I'll leave that aside and enjoy the new experience?


Designer: Bruno Cathala & Antoine Bauza (2015)
Publisher: Asmodee
Age: 10+
Players: 2
Time: 30 Minutes
Rank / Rating:


Re-Writing 7 Wonders History


Much like the original 7 Wonders you will be competing for the most points and to do so you will draft cards to add to your tableau that are based various aspects of building a civilization including military, science, culture and commerce. There are 3 Ages in the game and in each age a selection of these cards will be laid out in a specified format, some face up, some face down. Players will then take it in turns to draft these cards, utilising any resources they have and paying any costs. If they are lacking the pre-requisites then they can buy from the bank, however the cost of this increases depending on whether their opponent owns any themselves. Some buildings will chain into others in later Ages meaning that you can draft them for free if you've already built the previous one. If money is running low, which it will do on a regular basis, then cards drafted can be discarded for money depending on how many Commerce (yellow) cards a player has.

Prior to the game starting, players will also choose 4 separate Wonders that they can build by discarding an unwanted card, with the only restriction being that of course, only 7 can be built in total. As well as the final calculation of victory points there are also two additional victory conditions that can be met during the course of the game by gaining an overwhelming lead on military strength or scientific advances. The former is maintained on a track where a counter is moved back and forth depending on the Military (red) cards taken by each player. If one reaches the very end, they win automatically regardless of points. The latter involves the collection of 6 out of 7 Science (green) symbols printed on the cards, of which achieving this will result in an automatic victory as well.

Play continues over 3 Ages until either all cards have been drafted and the winner is the player with the most points assuming that one of them has not already won by means of one of the two automatic victory conditions mentioned.


Very Pretty, If Very Small Bricks


Being a 2 player game only, the box attempts to maintain as small a footprint on your shelf as possible, but it's no stocking stuffer. Inside the insert holds everything fine, though I wonder if everything could have been squeezed together a bit more. That being said, the majority of reports show that sleeved cards will fit in the box and I highly recommend you do so as you'll be doing a lot of card flipping, shuffling and handling in each game. However the reason they can keep the box as small as they can is because the building cards are very small, basically Mini-Euro sized to put it into perspective. Thankfully you don't have any text to read on them, only the classic 7 Wonders style of iconography, artwork and colours so even though they can be fiddly to handle, they're not tricky to read and still pretty durable as well.

Speaking of the artwork, well it's 7 Wonders, did you expect it to be bad? It's still as crisp and clean as before, perhaps maybe not as detailed, but they've got to fit the image on a much smaller card than before so let's be fair and despite that limitation it's still gorgeous especially on the Wonder cards. The Military track board is standard though it utilises a fairly cheap looking plastic miniature to record your progress. I was fortunate enough to grab this at Essen so I got the metal version which is 10 times better.


Choose Your Victory


Once you've gotten through the tedious part of setting up the cards in their prescribed layout, you need to switch on your brain. This isn't a brain burner by any means, but you need to pay attention to your opponent's plans. Firstly you've got the two automatic winning conditions. If you ignore one entirely, then there's a good chance that your opponent will attempt to use this to his advantage and possibly steal the win from under you.

And secondly there's the way that the cards are laid out in each age. Taking a card frees up the cards above it and on every turn you have to consider not only how much it helps you, but how much the other cards will help your opponent. A fine balance has to be struck between gaining points and denying points and yet the decision isn't so tough that you'll hit analysis paralysis levels.

It's definitely worth noting that you will finish the game and tally up points much more often than you will finish by way of an automatic victory condition. But it's simply the threat of those conditions that make you want to invest in some military and science buildings. After all, no civilization ever did well without diving into both of those two aspects to some degree. But they're not just blank slates, taking the military buildings can drain your opponent of money on the track and pairing up the science symbols can gain you useful bonuses that are randomised each game. So they have more uses than simply just stopping (or achieving) another victory condition.


Which One First?


This is a lot simpler to teach someone than the original 7 Wonders in my opinion. You don't have to explain the multi-layered scoring mechanism of Science, you don't have the extra Military phase of attacking each other, the trading rule is simplified and you only have to concentrate on one opponent at a time. Therefore for me it's no contest that this is the best way to get someone into 7 Wonders and how it works. Yes, both games are different, but if you know how to play one, it makes adapting to the other a lot easier. Learning this game for myself was a breeze and I've yet to have someone stare at horror at the cards unsure of what to do.

As you will no doubt have guessed therefore, this isn't a replacement for 7 Wonders. The original is a whole different beast especially with all of the cool expansions that it has right up to the awesome Babel. This is almost like a variant, allowing two players to enjoy the feel of 7 Wonders in a unique way and can happily sit on top of the 7 Wonders box on your shelf. However I don't think if you disliked the original that this is going to convert you over.


Verdict


Now that we have 7 Wonders Duel, we can safely remove all knowledge of the old variant from our minds. It uses enough of the old mechanics to make the game familiar to 7 Wonder players, but introduces new twists to make it fresh and different from it's father. Most of that is achieved through the multiple victory conditions. Granted most games will end by counting up points, but you cannot ignore the Military and Science cards entirely because your opponent will take advantage of this. Couple this with the revised draft system of choosing the cards and the result is an experience that has you engaged on every turn, but also making important decisions throughout and adapting as you play.

In no way should this be treated as a replacement of the original 7 Wonders however as it feels different enough in its mechanics, though I'd probably argue that if you didn't like the orignal 7 Wonders, this won't sway you back. Faults with the game that I can think of are nitpicks at best. The setup of each age is a little fiddly and time consuming and it would be cool to see the alternate victory conditions come into play more often. The replay value might also depend heavily on whether this will get the same expansion love as the original as it will need a boost in variety for the cards at some point. But for the time being, this an excellent means of bringing 7 Wonders down to two players. If you like the original, this a no-brainer and in my opinion the best 2 player game to come out this year.



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You enjoyed 7 Wonders, but want a smaller version - it condenses the orignal game down and adds some new tweaks.


You want an engaging two player game - this is not a time where you can just sit back and let things play out for you.


You like the idea of multiple victory conditions.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You weren't a fan of 7 Wonders to begin with - it's not different enough from the original to change your mind.


You enjoy 7 Wonders because of the multiplayer aspect of watching your neighbours actions.


You hate having to wield tiny cards.




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There Is No Game. . . Only Zuul! - Ghostbusters Review

Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Dun Dun DunDunDun Duuun Dunnn! Yeah, who doesn't like that awesome theme song when it's either blaring from your TV or the DJ at your work's Xmas do? OK, the cartoon wasn't the best ever, but the films were light-hearted and creative and good for some nostalgic entertainment. I'm not the biggest fan of Ghostbusters, but it has its good moments and despite this I was still very keen on the idea of a co-operative game using the license and using miniatures.

However a few things started to concern me upon its initial broadcast. Firstly the Kickstarter project was a bit ambiguous to say the least and not entirely convincing. Secondly the art scheme looked incredibly cartoon-y and I was hoping for a closer tie to the movies. Thirdly and probably most importantly of all, it was going to be published by Cryptozoic.

Now looking at their line up, it's a big list of licenses, but in all those cases they've not been games that were particularly high on my list to try. Does anyone these days play the Lord of the Rings deck-building games? And from what I've heard, the DC Deck-Builder puts theme aside and even then I don't see anyone playing it - remember that one of the reasons I love Sentinels of the Multiverse so much is because of the theme so you can imagine it's not likely going to sit well with me. Aside from Spyfall, I don't think I own any game on their list. Now remember that's just a personal view, I'm sure many gamers out there love their work and that's a good thing!

Will "busting make me feel good" or will I be terrified beyond the capacity of rational thought?


Designer: Matt Hyra, Adam Sblendorio & Mataio Wilson (2015)
Publisher: Cryptozoic
Age: 15+
Players: 1-4
Time: 30-60 Minutes per scenario
Rank / Rating: 4,786 / 6.65
RRP: £69.99


Go Get Her Ray!

If you know what Ghostbusters is, you already know what the jist of this game is about. Players take on the roles of the iconic team and will play through multiple campaign scenarios zapping ghosts of various types and attempting to close all the gates to the "other world" before the ghosts overrun the city.

Each player has a fixed number of actions to perform moves, shooting and removing slime from other Ghostbusters, a side effect of getting hit by all the ghosts in this game, which reduces your actions in a turn. All ghosts/gates have a minimum number to roll to capture and some require multiple hits. At the end of each round, a die is rolled which triggers bad effects from gates both open and closed and occasionally sending the ghosts on the field into a random movement frenzy. The game can be played as a single scenario or by using one of the pre-built campaigns, each focusing on a specific boss such as Slimer and the ever classic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

During each mission, players will earn XP for their Ghostbuster which unlock some extra abilities and carry over from one campaign scenario to the next. This works in a very similar way to Zombicide, but consider this the lighter version of that mechanic. Typically once all of the gates in the area have been closed, the scenario is a success, eventually ending with the inevitable capture of the main ghost protagonist.


This Job Is Not Worth $11,500 A Year!


That statement may be true, but change "Job" & "$11,500" to "Game" and "£50-£70" and it still rings pretty true. Ghostbusters demands a high price tag indeed and yet the component quality doesn't seem to warrant it. The map tiles are decent quality, if a little basic and too similar to each other and the dice are pretty basic. But Cryptozoic are not known for publishing miniature games and this is a classic case of why. The moulds are rough, quite spiky and each ghost figure resembles a translucent colour which makes it incredibly hard to pick out any detail. I guess that this was done to make them appear more like ghosts, but it makes the miniatures look so "toy-ish" that I'd half expect to see these given away for free as part of a McDonald's happy meal. I'm actually convinced that even I with my lack of art skills could come up with a more convincing looking Ecto-1 car.

The only model that looks even reasonably cool is Stay Puft himself and let's face it, he's a giant blob of white marshmallow so you can only do so much to ruin that. Plus his cool appeal is more in the giant size of the model than the detail on it. I get on Cool Mini or Not's back for their games sometimes, but no-one can deny they are the king of miniatures. You compare something from Zombicide (which is a similar price point and actually a similar game in general when you think about it) against this and tell me which you prefer. Now as evidence has proven, these can be vastly improved with a good paint job, but if you're someone like me who can't paint for toffee, you're stuck with what you get.

The artwork itself is fine though, I can take or leave the cartoon approach, but it works well for the character and ghost crib sheets. I just wish some more variation was done on the map. I said they were too similar to each other and that's an understatement. They are double sided but you essentially have a choice of roads or parks and as they're going with a post-apocalyptic style of city terrain it looks very generic and I guarantee you won't be able to tell one scenario from another.


Why Worry? Each Of Us Is Carrying An Unlicensed Nuclear Accelerator On His Back!


So obviously the big appeal for going for a game like this is for the fun of zapping ghosts with your proton pack. So naturally the combat has to be done well for this to work. And for every ghost in this set you simply roll a die and try to beat a number. That's it, really no, that is it. If you hit it, great, but if not, each ghost performs some randomised movement or the gate has a negative effect, typically spewing a new ghost onto the field. And you will repeat this method over and over and over again throughout a scenario and then of course rinsing and repeating in future scenarios. As simplistic as it is, it gets repetitive very quickly and with almost no way to mitigate the die rolls, the game boils down to a giant roll off and trusting to luck.

The ghosts themselves are pretty similar also. They look different, but basically they only differentiate by requiring more hits to trap and having a slightly different randomised movement or "sliming" ability. And they'll barely move at all unless you start missing your shots at them or if you roll that one symbol on the event die to cause the ghost frenzy. So the board remains very static for the most part - yeah, exactly the first word that comes to mind when I think of the chaos that goes on in the movies. I kid you not, their ability in which low class ghosts can combine with others and evolve to the next class if they collide into each other, that's happened to me ONCE in all my plays so far. And even then I just ignored the ghost anyway and shot at the gate for the win. There's no incentive for clearing the ghosts off the map except for XP grinding.


You're Not Sleeping With It Are You Ray?


I can describe Ghostbusters very accurately as a baby version of Zombicide. The way the game plays and more to the point, the XP levelling system is pretty much a carbon copy. You gain XP for trapping ghosts and closing gates and if you're playing a scenario these will carry over to the next mission. The problem is that every mission feels the same each time, but with a couple of rule tweaks to how the gates operate. You will barely notice the difference between the first three scenarios of a campaign before you get to the final one that again, feels the same except for a unique twist in how you trap the main protagonist. You can play one of the stand-alone missions which start you at a higher amount of XP, but again these aren't particularly different in how they feel.

How difficult the scenario is will depend on how well you can roll dice. In the Slimer campaign it is actually possible to simply ignore the ghosts for the most part and just rush the gates. It's that easy. Essentially the ghosts sit there as floating bags of easy XP so at least there is some incentive to zapping them. The fail condition of each mission is for the "other world" to run out of ghosts to put on the map, but considering you commonly start with 12-15 of the things on there to begin with, you'd have to be rolling pretty badly or actively trying in order to fail a mission. It's simply a case of how long it will take you to finish based on the number of turns it takes. And as cool as having to constantly be in line of sight of your enemy to keep your "hits" active is, it's very frustrating when some random movement puts it behind a wall forcing you to start from scratch again.

Clearly as you can probably tell, Ghostbusters isn't a game for the older generation of gamers. However I don't think it's a bad game overall, it plays very smoothly and is very easy to learn and teach and therefore I can see a potential market for this. That of course would be for younger players, particularly if a parent wants to teach their children a fairly simple miniatures game that teaches the concept of levelling a character (and of course they have a special nostalgia for Ghostbusters). The problem with that though is that another highly popular game already exists which does it so much better, that being Mice & Mystics, which has a better story, better miniatures and is still accessible to younger children. I even recommended it to a friend for his 7 year old.



Verdict


Oh dear. What happened? Somewhere between the initial brainstorming on this project and the final execution some streams got crossed and the result was a bit of a mess. Ghostbusters isn't a bad game per say, but it's not a good one either. Instead it manages to somehow commit a crime that's worse - making the art of busting ghosts dull!

The gameplay is smooth and the rules are easy to learn and teach for the most part. But it's so horribly repetitive with scenarios and ghosts that barely differentiate from each other except for a couple of rule tweaks. Essentially the whole game is move and shoot, rolling dice more times than you can stand and trusting to luck with the difficulty being pretty easy throughout until the later scenarios. It doesn't even feel like Ghostbusters as I think you could paste a different theme on here pretty easily.

Maybe I'm not the intended audience, who knows? I like Ghostbusters, but this is far from what I would expect in this license and certainly far from what I would expect in the box for such a high price tag. I can see this working for younger players so it could make for a nice, light family game, but for most people, this is a definite pass.


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You love Ghostbusters and just want to indulge your nostalgic theme over anything else.


You intend to play this more with your kids than with other hardcore gamers.


You only want something light-hearted and simple.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You wanted an engrossing co-operative game with plenty of choices.


You are picky about your miniature quality - what you get here is far from the usual norm.


You hate dice rolling and repetitive missions.







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Look Past The Munchkin Exterior - Smash Up: Munchkin Review

Smash Up is probably my favourite game that AEG have put out, basically taking just about every faction or race or concept you can get out of geekdom and allowing you to put them together in a big battle royal. The game isn't perfect and is best played with a max of 3 players, but I find it good, light hearted fun. I have the giant Geeky Box set and even with every single expansion in it sleeved fully in premium sleeves, there's still over half the box left. It's frankly crazy how much this game could expand and even taking this review into account, we know that another expansion is coming out soon with factions that we, the gamers, voted on (including my suggestion of Superheroes which made the cut, nyah nyah! :P)

This is the one that has me feeling a little bit tentative about. Munchkin is not a franchise I'm a fan of. I used to play and enjoy it back in my college days, but quickly I became desensitised to the humour it contained and now it frankly annoys me. So when I heard of this expansion I was not exactly jumping for joy, but I figured that maybe mixing everything together might still work so I decided to obtain it anyway. Not to mention I'd hate to have this giant gap in my Geeky Box, says the completionist in me!

So what do we have in this new box set? Does it work well on its own or when mixed and can it even be suggested as a starting point for new players? Or will the theme of Munchkin spoil it for me? Note: I've done a review of Smash Up already on my blog which you can find here - therefore I'm going to assume you already know how this game plays and only mention any new rule mechanics.



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Clever Girl! . . . CHOMP! - Raptor Review

2 player only games are a problem for me. I live alone (I know, change the record and all that) and thus the only time to get a decent 2 player game to the table is at a games club meeting. The problem is when you're at a games club you're usually playing in groups as you want to socialise with all your mates there. So I find it hard to get them played as often as I'd like and so some two players are starting to hit the cull pile, Dice Masters and Summoner Wars to name a couple. Most of the time I'll let my friends acquire such games and play their copies (I hope my buddy doesn't get bored of Pixel Tactics any time soon).

This is a shame, because one thing about 2 player games, a lot of them are actually good fun to play. Not all of them <cough cough Battle Line>, but on top of what I just mentioned you've got Android Netrunner, Hive, Star Realms, Innovation (yes it plays 3 & 4, but it's best with 2), X-Wing Miniatures and all sorts. That feeling of engaging in a duel with only one opponent, your mind against theirs, no other distractions or multiplayer chaos. It's very engaging and takes me back to my younger days where I had a 6 year period of being in Chess clubs and teams.

But with my issue of getting them played it means that any 2 player game that remains in my collection has to be REALLY good as in "this is a game I am willing to forgo multiplayer social activity for briefly because I enjoy it that much". Netrunner and Innovation succeeded and now I have two more contenders, the first of which is Raptor, one I wasn't even thinking about when I marched to Essen, but caught my eye on the demo table and slowly drew me in to find out more. . .



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A Dream Within A Dream - Onirim 2nd Edition Review

This is the second of 3 reviews I'm doing on the Ominverse games released by Z-Man. Castellion has already been uploaded and Sylvion will be next (Urbion doesn't get a lot of mention these days so I've chosen to ignore that one). In terms of popularity though, this one tends to be the hit among gamers, particularly Zee Garcia who I would say is the sole reason I even heard of this game in the first place, though I was in my early stages of gaming at the time. Solo games as I've mentioned do strike a chord with me given my current living situation so the Ominverse games were a perfect series to try out. Maybe one day there will be a time when I'm constantly playing two player games with Miss Right and I'll start looking more into those. . . hey come on, Onirim is about dreams so I'm allowed to express one!

As before I'm not concerning myself with the two player option. It may be a good way to play this game, but it's hard enough for me to get two player games to the table as it is and I already know of plenty of other options I'd recommend first, two of which have come out in 2015 and will no doubt get a review in the future - can you guess what they might be? Ooooooo teasers!



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Episode 38 - MidCon 2015 & Xmas!

Sorry it's taken a while, been a busy month, but here it is! Episode 38! This is an episode of two halves. After returning from MidCon 2015 in Derby where I had a great time, I get to go over all the new games I played during the convention including what went on at the Kniziathon!

After that I move on to the upcoming Xmas season and I figured you all want to know what little games you can buy your loved ones. Well here's my personal answer for you represented in my Top Ten Stocking Stuffers - all of them can fit inside a traditional Xmas stocking and all are priced below £15. . . . .hopefully!




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Renewed For Another Season - Game of Thrones LCG 2nd Edition Review

One of the most highly rated fantasy series on HBO...or Sky Atlantic...or the Internet, depends where you get them from, has for a long time running had a very successful Living Card Game (LCG) associated with it by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). I was introduced to the game locally by some new card players I'd met at one of my Portsmouth venues and suffice to say I really enjoyed it. Going against my better judgement as I already play two other LCG's (Netrunner and Lord of the Rings) I was tempted to get involved with this as well. One snag (and it was a biggy) was that Game of Thrones had been out for a considerable length of time and the sheer volume of expansions and cards was overwhelming - one of the problems that affects all LCG's once they reach a certain point. Needless to say I got my rear end handed to me many a time in the games I played using borrowed decks.

So FFG brought in their new methodology for cycling out older cards for LCG's and for the most part I think it's a good idea. But to compound that even further they went the next mile and revamped Game of Thrones entirely, stating the rules were a little outdated and the barrier to entry for new players was far too high, both truthful statements in my opinion. So we now have the 2nd Edition starting fresh with a brand new core set and streamlining the ruleset. But most of all this allows people like me to dive in at an early point, when everyone's deck is on the same playing field. Of course this won't be the case for much longer as the US have already had the first expansion chapter pack released and we're due it any day now in the UK.

Now I've barely touched on the first edition of Game of Thrones LCG so I'm not going to make comparisons between the two as I'm not qualified to do so. I'm going to rate this from the perspective of an almost total noob to the game, so let's see whether my wallet is going to have another heart attack or not and check it out.




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Chaos In The Norse World - Blood Rage Review

Oh boy have I been looking forward to writing this review! The Broken Meeple taking on the hype head on and finding out the truth within the glossy pictures. Blood Rage has been one of those games where I can't flick past a podcast or video or Top Ten list and not see it there. Even at MidCon I saw at least two other copies being played other than my own. And the Dice Tower crew (well certainly Tom and Sam) have been praising this from the mountains of . . . . . Florida, ok that doesn't work out too well, but you get the point. It seems to certainly have taken the American market by storm and many people have been loving their Kickstarter packages here in the UK. . . well, those who aren't simply selling their Kickstarters for profit which I can't stand as a practise in the gaming industry but I digress.

In this case though it's double trouble. Not only am I battling against the hype (a concept which I believe can destroy someones first impressions of a game if not taken the right way), but it's also Cool Mini or Not and you hopefully know my history with them by now when it comes to their games. However, I'm here to be objective. Previous games don't impact the quality of a new one and I never get suckered by hype. Blood Rage to me looked like a decent game from the description and instantly I could tell that this was almost going to be a lighter version of Chaos in the Old World, which has a nice shelf spot in the top left hole of my IKEA unit.

So can Blood Rage match the only other CMON title I've praised greatly, Arcadia Quest and measure up to the hype it's received?



Designer: Eric Lang (2015)
Publisher: Cool Mini Or Not
# of Players: 2-4
Age: 13+
Time: 60-90 Minutes
Rank/Rating: 296 / 8.43
RRP: £64.99


Brave. . . But Stupid! 


The cataclysm of Ragnarok is coming to the world and for Norse warriors that's a good thing! You live for fighting and dying in battle and reaching Valhalla in the most glorious way possible. Players control a clan of mighty warriors and attempt to control and pillage areas on the map for rewards and glory points. During the course of the game they may upgrade their clan and unit abilities as well as recruit additional monster units to their cause ranging from the nimble Valkyrie to the colossal Fire Giant.

Of course, everyone else is doing the same thing and there's only so much land to go around. Battle other players using simultaneous card play and win glory for your side. Or lose a battle valiantly and still win points for your side! In Blood Rage, the idea is to get glory one way or the other and death can be glorious in its own right. Take on Ragnarok itself and die gloriously there also, remember I said you were proud Norse warriors, I never said you were particularly bright!



As the game progresses over 3 rounds, various areas of the world will fall victim to Ragnarok destruction reducing the space left for players to fight over. At the end of 3 rounds, whoever has the most glory points is the rightful winner of the game.


Say Hello To My Gi-Normous Friend!


OK, let's get the easy part out of the way. This is a Cool Mini or Not production and so you already know that 9 times out of 10, the component quality is high (I say 9, because let's not forget Xenoshyft). The miniatures in Blood Rage are as gorgeous as ever and at least here they're a fundamental requirement of bringing out the theme of this game (cough cough SMOG). The monsters are especially good, with the larger models being some of their best ever. Grabbing one of those giants or the colossal sea serpent is just such a good feeling, you don't even care if it's part of your strategy, you just want that piece on the board with your clan's base underneath it.

The clan models are different sculpts for each player which is neat, although it makes remembering how to store the things in those boxes when packing up a bit of a mission. One nitpick I have though is the inherent flaw of kitting most of them out with spears, javelins and banners. Long spindly bits sticking out of models means a lot of bent weapons all over the place. So after barely a couple of games, you're already going to see some odd looking warriors on the field, try as you will to keep them in pristine condition.

The board is a colourful and decent spectacle and the cards are adequate despite the slight glossy feel to them. Be warned however that this is a big box, getting up to the levels of Imperial Assault and Forbidden Stars. And if you use the boxes provided inside for the miniatures then everything will fit snugly, but woe betide you if you were one of those Kickstarter folk with all the extra parts because you're going to have to come up with a new system to get those puppies in. I dread to think what will happen if an expansion comes out for this.


Norse Mythology Comes To Life


Cool Mini Or Not don't usually have a problem injecting theme into their games and Blood Rage is no exception. Many games have come out in the past that give us vikings or Norse mythology as a theme and then turn it into an abstract game or fail to really give us that scratch for our blood thirst itch. Blood Rage however is probably one of the most, if not the most thematic game for this subject area, even though I grant that there really isn't many out there. Each clan is generic at the start, but have their own unique sculpts and look and the gods that associate with the various battle cards make sense when considering what that respective god is known for in Norse lore. Of course when I use Loki, Thor and Odin cards, it's impossible for me not to imagine them personified as the Marvel representations, but that's the superhero fanboy inside me getting in the way!

The game play is also quite smooth, borrowing heavily from Chaos in the Old World, which is probably the best comparison I can make to Blood Rage. You spend your Rage one action at a time keeping downtime to a minimum and it's not usually difficult to make your choice so analysis paralysis doesn't turn up very often either. That being said, the game will take you a good 90 minutes probably with a full complement of players, but any longer and you'll be pointing the finger at the slow player. 2-3 player games can finish in an hour if people know what they are doing although I don't see Blood Rage ever being played with two players, this is most certainly best played in multiplayer mode when the chance of 3 way battles increases.

Of course it's not just a carbon copy of Chaos - there are some unique elements such as the drafting of God cards when starting each round. Very few gamers don't enjoy the art of drafting, although I don't feel it was essential to have here. When teaching this game I typically follow their variant to just deal the cards out in Age I anyway. I think what I would have preferred is for each God to have their own respective deck and then players would take it in turns to pick from whichever deck they chose. That way they couldn't tell exactly what they were going to get, but would have an idea based on the workings of each God (i.e. Loki losing battles, etc).


We're Not So Different After All!


The big selling point for Blood Rage in my expectations was the ability to evolve your clan over time as you see fit with cool upgrades and special abilities. Now for whatever reason the clans at the beginning are all generic which seemed like a missed opportunity, but that's a minor quibble. But there are plenty of ways to diverse your clan by way of upgrading your leader, warriors and ships, but also gaining clan-wide abilities and recruiting monsters big and small into your forces. You've certainly no shortage of cool choices to make in this regard, however there aren't as many different types of upgrades as I would have liked. There's barely any individual unit upgrades at all and many of the cards in general as you progress to the later ages are just improved rehashes of earlier cards. For example you can pick up an upgrade that rewards you with 4 points for losing a ship. Then you can pick up one that rewards you with 8 and then eventually one that says 12. That's 3 separate cards for one unit that do exactly the same thing, just with a higher figure. Loki's set has a similar deal with the upgrades for gaining points for deaths in Valhalla. I found this a bit disappointing and would argue that the variety could have been improved. That's not to say they're all bad, some upgrades are sweet and let's face it I'm making a beeline for those monsters every game as they feel like so much more of a reward than anything else.

The quests have a similar problem. All of the quests are either "control this region" or "get 4 figures in Valhalla". That's it. They quickly become repetitive and the rules allow for multiple copies of the same quest to be attempted and scored independently, which is a bit odd. Drafting multiples in this way will certainly reward you better than diversification. But couldn't there have been some more options here? How about "kill X warrior models" or "kill a large monster figure this round" or "lose X figures to Ragnarok", just something! I've just come up with 3 suitable choices right there! The battle cards fare a little better though with the different god sets offering some very different ways of approaching combat. Loki rewards you for losing, Thor fits a "high risk, high reward" style, Tyr just straight up wants to win battles and Heimdall has some cool tricks to fool your opponents plans with. Being able to keep the cards if you lose reduces the impact on the defeated player though I found that Loki could abuse this concept a little too well.


Stats are also a little too easy to level up. Most pillage rewards, every single quest and even some battle/upgrade cards will level up your three stats on your clan sheet. There's only a few levels on each and you'll generally find that getting them maxed out is not very hard at all. Of course this may be influenced by your strategy, but unless you're playing pretty badly you should at the very least have all 3 within the +10 scoring bonus and likely one at least at the +20 bonus without even trying for it. As such they lose a bit of the flavour of having a unique clan


Verdict


Well well well! Throughout this review I've considered three things. Does Blood Rage deserve all the hype, does it replace Chaos In The Old World and is it a good game in general? Well the straight up answer is "No - No - Yes" in that order. `

Blood Rage is definitely a solid game underneath all the usual high quality miniature dressing that Cool Mini Or Not use. The theme of Norse combat and monster bashing is handled very well and the twist that winning a battle doesn't always result in the most points is an innovative and cool idea. Now it's certainly lighter than Chaos In The Old World and it does borrow some of the mechanics, but it's in no way a replacement. Chaos has more meat to it and the asymmetrical game play in that is predominant from the beginning and in how to win, whereas here you're starting off the same and slowly changing over the course of the game. But if you like one, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the other as I have.

The variety in the quests and upgrades could have been a little more diverse and certainly I wish it was harder to level up stats so that you actually had to make a serious choice in how you evolved your clan, but there's still multiple paths to victory and the game doesn't overstay its welcome in length. Did it deserve all that hype and is thus the best game of the year? No way! But it's still a good, fun game, just not a great one.


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You want a game where getting beaten in combat doesn't necessarily mean you're not doing well.


You're obsessed with miniatures - the monsters in particular are excellent.


You're a lover of theme - this is one of the few games that manages to get a Norse / Viking style setting right.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:



You're low on storage space - having big miniatures comes at a price.


You're expecting this to replace Chaos In The Old World - there's more meat in that game and this is much lighter.


You were expecting a ton of variety in the upgrades. There's a fair amount, but there's a lot of repetition also.

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Chewie.....We're Home! - X-Wing Miniatures Starter Set Review

A faithful nod to the upcoming Episode 7! Oooooh I can't wait, I love Star Wars, though not to the point of complete cult devotee. I'll happily play a Star Wars themed game (I'm sure followers will have seen enough Imperial Assault photos from me lately), I'll enjoy talking about the movies and the sounds of John Williams, but come December 18th 2015 I will be sitting in that cinema enjoying The Force Awakens in my normal trendy going-out clothes as opposed to donning Jedi robes or Stormtrooper armour.

Now the biggest highlights of the trailers I've seen have been the spaceship battles. Finally I can see X-Wings and Tie Fighters fighting at low altitude showing off far more in the background than just the blackness of space (though saying that kudos to the opening sequence of Return of the Sith). The dogfights look great and that of course reminded me of Fantasy Flight Games X-Wing Miniatures.

This franchise has been one of, if not their best selling line of games on their books. Incredibly popular with gamers this collectible miniatures saga brings the essence of spaceship miniature gaming to the table while removing the requirement to spend the combined length of all the Star Wars movies and special Blu-Ray features combined to assemble and paint everything beforehand.

It all began with a starter set and expanded into loads of new ships to collect. With Episode 7 incoming, we've now got a new starter set, supposedly identical to the previous one except for some slightly different ships to coincide with the new movie. Is this enough to wet my appetite, can it sustain itself or has this whole saga been overhyped?



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Tetris Tower Defense - Castellion Review

This is the first of 3 reviews I'll be doing over the course of the next couple of months on the Ominverse games released by Z-Man. Onirim and Sylvion will be the others (Urbion doesn't get a lot of mention these days) in the line up. Originally I was only going to concern myself with Onrim after Zee Garcia kept bringing it up in Dice Tower episodes, in fact this seems to be a trend now. First he hooked me onto Pillars of the Earth, then Biblios which was a major surprise that I even liked it and now Onirim which has taken me forever to find a copy. Lucky for me Z-Man stocked up on their Omniverse games at Essen and so I raided their stall for all of them! Of course it's not like I love every game that Zee mentions - after all he likes Power Grid!

I'm also one of the reviewers that will praise the merits of solitaire gaming. Of course the main reason we play board games is to interact with friends and other people, but that's not always possible to achieve and for someone like me who has yet to be blessed with a significant other that enjoys board games, a chance to whip out a decent game even when by yourself makes a good evening in. Just boil the kettle for some green tea or pour a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc and I'm happy! So these Ominverse games have always intrigued me being predominantly intended for solo play only. Yes you can play them as a 2 player co-operative, but I believe the vast majority opt for solo mode and for the purposes of these reviews I will be focusing on that style. Not to mention that Christmas is incoming and some of you are probably on the lookout for some stocking stuffers. . .



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Cthulhu's Spawn of The Depths - Abyss: Kraken Review

Abyss, another of my favourite games from 2014 gets an expansion and in some ways it's about time! Very little was revealed about this until close to the release date and so the anticipation level was high for picking it up at Essen. Abyss was a huge surprise for me when I played it having only really seen the
various box covers and not knowing many, if any reviewers that had actually picked it up and played the game. Just noticed I haven't reviewed it yet either outside of the podcast or talking about its amazing artwork - I shall have to rectify that at some point so there's a teaser for you. So much to
write, so little time, I wish I had the means to do video reviews again. Ah well bide your time Luke, find a new house to move into in the next few months and plan ahead for the rebirth - oh yeah I got ideas for Broken Meeple's future!

Given that not a huge amount of buzz was being received for this I did have my doubts as to how good it was going to be. But with a cheap price point and the fact I love the original, it was going to be a must-buy for me and perhaps in some respect that was better as you know my stance when games get too much hype for their own good. And in the highly unlikely Worst case scenario of it not being very good, at least I would have extremely good looking coasters to use. So let's plunge deeper into the watery depths of Abyss and see what's what!




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It Must Be Love....Looove....Lov, Oh Bamboo!! - Takenoko Chibis Review

It took me so long to get Takenoko played, but wow, when I did, it grabbed me and didn't let go. It was an instant purchase at ManorCon and it quickly shot up to #7 in my Top 75 Geeklist from the podcast. I called it "charming" in my full review of the game and I stand by that. It instantly calms you after a bad day or a heavy Euro game and you just can't help but make "om nom nom" noises every time the panda eats some bamboo.

So an expansion has now been released and it was my #1 Anticipated Essen release (ok I know GenCon got a few copies, but we didn't so there!) It sounded like it would do what most expansions should be doing - adding in some new twists, not complicating the rules too much and most of all, NOT ADDING ANOTHER PLAYER!! Seriously publishers, adding another player does not automatically improve a game, if anything it pretty much always makes it worse.
I grabbed my copy at Essen, got it signed by Antoine Bauza and Corentin Lebrat with some funky panda artwork and stickers and was more than glad to get it played to see if it met my expectations.


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Where We're Going We Don't Need. . .Roads! - Celestia Review

Had to throw in a Back To The Future reference somewhere given that I'm writing this review at a time when the second film is now about the past (mind blown). 

Push Your Luck games haven't been my favourite games to play in the past. I don't dislike them at all, but they haven't made me go "oh my god, that's amazing" at any point. Incan Gold is probably the most widely known introductory game in this genre, but even that isn't one that I actively seek out. I suppose it's down to the fact that they essentially boil down to "flip the next card, yay or nay" without much else to consider other than basic probability.

However I then watched the first Dice Tower 24 Hour Marathon and saw a game brought out by Tom Vasel called Cloud 9. Looked very basic, very simple and it was essentially a push your luck game, but with some tweaks that caught my interest. Firstly you had to roll dice to determine your chances before considering whether you're in or out, which changed the difficulty frequently. Secondly because you had to rely on another player most of the time to get you further, you had to make a call on whether you trusted his ability to help you progress. This resulted in some fun banter between the players with trash talking, bluffing and deception entering the fray. Suddenly my curiosity peaked, you know how much I like a good bluffing game. 

One snag - it was out of print. Typical. Despite many 2nd hand sales, it was impossible to find a copy of this game. But then word came of a revised version coming to Essen, with much better artwork and components as well as some additional tweaks to improve the game overall. Naturally this propelled it on to my Top 10 Anticipated Games list and I had to check it out and see if my patience was rewarded. Was it worth the trip or will I crash and burn?


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Episode 37 - Post Essen & Demos

Well Essen 2015 is over and I had a blast!! I've already reserved my hotel for 2016 and I hope to see you there, maybe with some proper means of identification though!

So it's time to talk about it, but I can't do it alone. So for the first time ever on The Broken Meeple, I have guests and not just one, but two! Paul Grogan and Jacob Coon, both demo staff at Essen join me as we discuss the highs and lows of games played and give our feedback on how to effectively demo a board game in this special extended episode!


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Code Name: Operation Certain Death - The Grizzled Review

Uh oh!! Another game from Cool Mini Or Not! Ok, I'm making that sound worse than it actually is, basically if you've been keeping up with my reviews; they've been hit and miss for me lately. On the one hand they put a lot of effort into their miniatures and they always look great, however I tend to find that the game doesn't hit it for me after I get past the glossy exterior. The Grizzled however was originally published by Sweet November, a French company and they are the ones who have influenced the design of this game (i.e. CMON simply brought it over to the American/English market) so I will now proceed to eradicate any potential linkages to previous CMON games forthwith.

There's been some interesting feedback on this game, both good and bad, but some common themes arose. People were unsure what to expect from the game at first glance and the aesthetics were subject to personal opinion in a divisive manner. But overall, the feedback was positive and you know me, I love a good co-op game so this seems like a chance to review something a bit lighter than the typical norm as of late even if the theme isn't one that grabs me initially. Does The Grizzled give me a good fun feeling or will I be left feeling frazzled?




Designer: Fabien Riffaud and Juan Rodriguez
Publisher: Cool Mini Or Not / Sweet November
# of Players: 2-5
Age: 10+
Time: 30 Minutes
Rank / Rating: 7.47 / 1904
RRP: £16.99


Moving My Drinks Cabinet 6 Inches Closer To Berlin


The setting is the First World War. Two decks of cards are sorted out at the start, one of which the players must attempt to deplete to reveal the dove of peace below, the other the players must avoid depleting to avoid revealing the war monument and thus losing the game. These represent the Trials and Morale decks respectively.

Each round, the current team leader will choose how many cards every player draws from the Trial deck. Then, going around the table, players must either play a card in their hand or back out of the mission. Each card represents either threats to the team (such as mortar shells and weather conditions) or negative personality traits such as trauma or obsessiveness (Hard Knocks). If one threat shows up 3 times, the team fails the mission. The team must play their threats correctly in order to gain any progress. However, most of the information in a players hand remains secret throughout the game which limits what each player knows about his comrades. A failed mission will result in the trial cards played been reshuffled into the Trials deck to be faced again. Regardless of the outcome, a number of cards will be transferred from the Morale deck to the Trial deck based on the number of cards remaining in player's hands. This highlights a necessity for speed as well as efficiency. Each player may then offer support to another player, however this is also done in secret and only the player with the most support offered will gain any benefit.

Play continues until either the War Monument is revealed (lose) or the Dove of Peace is revealed and no cards remain in any players hands (win). Alternatively the game may end prematurely in a loss if one player has 4 or more Hard Knocks in front of them at any one time.


Advancing No Further Than An Asthmatic Ant With Some Heavy Shopping


The Grizzled comes in a small package, easily storable and not too expensive either. The cards and tokens are of decent quality; however the artwork is subject to debate. It reminds me of some film animations from long ago and I personally don't mind it, but also don't believe it's anything special. The characters look decent enough but serve no purpose other than a limited ability to discard certain cards in play that needs refreshing via support. Other than that most of the cards are simply a depiction of 3 threats and 3 weather conditions so it's not particularly varied, but its colour pallet is pleasing.

One bad point I will bring up though is the Hard Knock cards. I understand that the font is deliberately written in an old fashioned calligraphy style to match the way soldiers would write to their loved ones while out on the trenches, but it has the side effect of making them very difficult to read especially when glancing across the table. Given that the rest of the game is fairly language independent, this is a step in the opposite direction.


He And I Are Behind You. . . About 35 Miles Behind You


The gameplay is simple, in fact I would consider this a gateway level game, but by no means should you consider that The Grizzled is easy to beat. On Rookie mode which I do reccomend for your first game or two, it's reasonable that you will achieve a win. Once you stick true to the limited communication rules (that includes you Hanabi cheaters) and bring in the Trap rules (a trap symbol forces another revealed Trial card from the deck), the difficulty shoots up considerably. It can also get harder with a higher player count as choosing the support tiles can be a tricky decision. 2 player games have their own specific rules (but I don't recommend you play this ever with 2 players) and in a 3 player game it's usually pretty easy to gain a support benefit every round.


The big attraction to The Grizzled for me is the limited communication aspect. Nooooo, this doesn't mean I'm anti-social and don't want to interact with other players, but it's the same buzz I get from the aforementioned Hanabi where you can't relay certain pieces of information. It forces you to get in the heads of your team mates and try to figure what they are thinking to the best of your ability. The Grizzled would be dirt simple if you could always talk about everything, but now that restriction adds a new challenge. It's a concept I'm usually a fan of in games, though that doesn't mean I'll always like a game if it includes it (cough cough Then We Held Hands). This makes the playing of trial cards tense enough as one bad play could mean that your teammates are forced to withdraw with cards in their hand. But it gets worse for the support tiles as you cannot discuss who you will give support to. In a 4+ player game you're effectively conducting medical "triage" with the team as you decide who needs the support the most, but with less it doesn't have as big of an impact.

As a result I definitely feel this is a game best played with 4 or 5 players. And the higher of those numbers is a godsend in itself. How often do you end up with that dreaded number of 5 players at a club night which alienates a ton of games off the bat and makes your favourite Euro games drag on for so long at max capacity that you fall asleep in mid-game? Well here, you have a short game that can cater for that dreaded number and not drag at all, hell I think it's best with 5 players and I almost never say that about any game that maxes at 5.


Verdict


I'm actually pleasantly surprised. I didn't think I would get much out of The Grizzled, but even though it's light, it still poses a good challenge and doesn't bog down in mechanics or AP issues. 30 minutes is a fairly accurate timescale with 45 minutes being your absolute top limit so repeated plays are common place. As much as it litters the rule book with historical soldier letters, it's essentially abstracted and the artwork is nothing special. It pays tribute to those that fought in the war and I applaud it for that, but don't expect a thematic journey.

The big selling point for The Grizzled is the lack of communication between players. Not being able to relay what is in your hand or who you're supporting has you constantly thinking of how the other players will react to your play. It's a neat twist and helps to build on the co-operative nature of the game. Overall, it's a neat, light and inexpensive co-operative game that can be played quickly while also catering for that much dreaded 5 player count. I know other co-op's that provide more enjoyment, but this fills a good niche and as such I'll be holding on to this one for now.



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You enjoy the idea of limited communication - it's what makes the game interesting.

You want to cater for 4-5 players in a short space of time.

You want an inexpensive co-operative option that won't take up much space on the shelf.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You're expecting a strong theme - the historical homages are nice, but it's fairly abstracted.

You want to play this with 2-3 players only - it improves with a higher player count.

You don't like the artwork as it's there's only so much to look at.


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It Ain't No Man. We're All Gonna Die - Legendary Predator Review!

Welcome ladies and gentleman to one of the toughest reviews I'm going to have to do in 2015 or perhaps even since I started The Broken Meeple. Take a game system I already like (Legendary), attach it to the Alien license (one of my all time favourite IP's in existence), do the same thing with Predator (a license I also really like) and then put them head to head against each other. Thank you Upper Deck! 

Alien Legendary was my #2 game of all time on my Top 75 list back in July 2015. I like the deck-building mechanic and I adored how they'd managed to capture the theme of the movies in those Hive decks. Add the wide variety of characters and movies to choose from and it was a auto-win for me. It wasn't flawless though,  the traitor and Alien player mode were tacked on and not particularly well and it was a pain in the neck to sort through all the cards and obtain some decent dividers. But I enjoyed the co-op game so much that with anything less than 5 players, I'm always keen to get this to the table.

So naturally some of you will have seen on social media that I was rather gasping for the Predator version to come out. A chance to play through those iconic movies, a new Player vs Player (PVP) mode where you can control Predators and the chance to mix everything with Alien and fulfil the dream of establishing an Alien vs Predator synergy that would join the ranks of the classic PC games and novelisations. Not the films, no no, we don't acknowledge their existence, in fact that will be one of the first things I take care of when I return from the future in . . . . . the future. . . . ok this is really segwaying franchises here, let's get on with the review, there's a ton to cover!

Designer: Ben Cichoski (2015) Publisher: Upper Deck # of Players: 1-5 Age: 17+ Time: 60-90 Minutes Rank / Rating: RRP: £49.99 Brothers In Arms The co-operative mode plays out exactly like the Alien version. The players as a group will attempt to complete a set of objectives usually keyed to one of the iconic movies in the franchise before they all perish in one grisly form or another. As with other deck building games, everyone starts off with a basic deck of low quality cards, except they get to add a unique card based on their chosen character at the beginning. Over the course of the game, players will purchase additional cards relating to specific movie characters to add to their deck. As their deck grows more powerful, they will attempt to complete the objectives while dealing with all of the nasty stuff that the game throws at them, from debilitating hazards/events to frequent enemies including the "hard as nails" troupe of Predators. Cards will help not only their owners but also other players at times of need when the group needs to work as a team to overcome the next obstacle in their way. Completing the final objective will result in victory, otherwise expect to find yourself somewhere up a tree in the not so distant grim future. Alternatively you can put yourself in the shoes (although technically they don't wear shoes, if they did it would look weird) of the Predators themselves and hunt down human prey. This is a competitive mode with players competing against each other for the most honor. The game will play out in much the same was as the co-op mode, except players can now duel each other for extra honor and instead of buying character cards, they are acquiring various types of gear/kit such as camouflages, weapons, claws, etc. The CIA Got You Pushing Too Many Pencils?

One of the biggest gripes that everyone has with all Legendary games, but especially Alien is the amount of sorting that is required upon lifting the lid off the box. Well sorry guys, Upper Deck have not learned their lesson and you're going to have the same amount of fun here. The cards are in no particular order in their shrink wrap and you'll have to separate more decks than before before you can even think about sleeving. The only advantage you have here is that it seems that the text at the bottom of each card showing which deck is front is a little easier to read especially for the Predator decks which are written in green. It's a slog and I can't fathom why they can't simply give us the cards in at least some kind of basic order, but stick with it and maybe put on the original Predator movie to pass the time!

You're also stuck with the basic Legendary dividers that have featured in both Marvel and Alien which at best are for scribbling on until you hop onto BoardGameGeek and print out some decent ones. It's a bugbear of mine why publishers can't all do decent dividers, but that's just a trait of the board game industry. Smash Up Geeky Box and Sentinels of the Multiverse will always be remembered as the card games that got dividers right! Now with sleeves I highly recommend you use some coloured sleeves as well as clear ones to distinguish some of the decks. I did this with Alien and it speeds up the setup and takedown tremendously. Three different colours should be sufficient to cover the essentials and you can tailor this how you see fit.

It's not all bad though and to be fair one of the component gripes is more of an initial setup issue than a ongoing quality issue. The artwork across the cards is of a good standard and there are some very cool graphic images of characters meeting grisly fates at the hands of Predators. I think it's actually a step up from Alien in terms of the gore factor and as such parents should take heed of the age rating on the box cover. The original films were rated 18 after all. The playmat is very nicely produced using my preferred Neoprene material and manages to incorporate the needs of both modes of play despite one using more decks than the other without sucking up your gaming table. 

If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It One of Alien's shining graces was that unlike previous Legendary iterations there was a way for players to directly influence another players turn. This was done by the Co-ordinate mechanic which allowed a player to effectively copy the card from their hand to use on their turn. The person doing the co-ordinating didn't always lose out however as they got to draw a new card to replace it. This mechanic is repeated here but there is a greater emphasis given to it, with the keyword appearing on more cards than before. But there is a new ability to supplement this in "Call for Backup" which grants an ability for the turn that gets better depending on how many players coordinate with you afterwards. This adds a new element of teamwork to the cooperative game although it's a small pain that it can only be found on the unique avatar starting cards. The ones from Alien had a special ability that always worked no matter what, but here you will have an ability that is a dead draw for half the game until everyones deck builds up. Even though the latter is closer to the teamwork vibe, I much prefer having the constant ability as it added that extra level of differentiation to your avatar. In Predator, they seem a bit too similar now. And you will need these abilities because the difficulty is just as high here as it was in the original making this an equally challenging venture as the Alien version was. Unfortunately it also carries the same scaling problem as well. Playing this game solo works well as the lack of any Co-ordinate abilities balances out been able to tailor your deck as you see fit without player intervention. From 2 up to 5 players it's a constant upward scale of difficulty where 3-4 players seems to be the sweet spot, but 2 will seem fairly easy and 5 will be tough as nails, possibly even impossible at times. There is however a tweak to the setup now in that you get an additional turn in a 5 player before enemy cards start spewing out, which helps, but it's still punishing. Also the table used to dictate how many mercenaries/youngbloods are placed into each objective deck has changed slightly for balance reasons and the rulebook even states to use this as a replacement for the one in the Alien system though I've not had a chance to try this change out. He Didn't Kill You Because You Were Unarmed. No Sport. This is the big selling point of Predator Legendary which distinguishes it from the Alien version. Being able to effectively turn the game on its head and play not only from the perspective of the enemy, but also in a PVP style. The gameplay is very similar to the co-op but there are some tweaks as to how the enemies function. I was scared going into this as I remembered how the traitor setup was very tacked on and unpolished in the Alien version, and if this mode followed suit, it's a giant chunk of the game that becomes unplayable in comparison. However I'm pleased to report that it actually works quite well and in some small ways, even better making this a mode that will actually have players legitimately debating which one they prefer. Buying cards is no different from before, however they make more sense as to what each set actually does and you don't have to feel guilty about taking this time. There are four types (Intel, Strength, Survival & Tech) and you can get a general feeling from their headings alone what kind of cool stuff you'll get through the cards. Fancy some nice shiny blades? I'm pretty sure you'll find them in the Strength pack. How about a nice new Plasma Caster? Head over to Tech. Granted some back knowledge of Predators in general will help on this front, but let's face it if you went out and paid the money and then spent the time sorting this box out, I'm pretty sure you know what Predators are and how they work. In contrast if I buy a Dutch card in the co-op mode, that doesn't tell me much about what to expect. 

Tests and Challenges function like little mini-objectives that you can aim for to get more honor and thus give you more options. Enemies can also obtain gear from a side deck which buffs them up in various ways allowing for good variety and sometimes some hard nut foes to ruin your day, but then they're also worth more honor so quit your moaning, you didn't see the first Predator whining when Mac grabbed that minigun! It might have been cool to see that incorporated in the co-op mode, but maybe that would pushed the difficulty to new levels. Dueling will however worry some players because being able to hit each other means you can potentially kill each other and no-one wants an early elimination. Well thankfully it's not as simple as that. The duel keyword isn't on every card and a Predator dying is one of the end-game triggers, therefore you would only want to do that if you think you're in the lead already. This stops the classic problem of picking on the weak to an extent as prematurely ending the game won't always be a good move and they can always hit you back if they grab a duel card as well. 



Get To Ze Choppa!


Oh come on, I had to put it in somewhere! Whether you prefer the Alien or Predator theme is going to be a purely subjective matter and may even influence which one you'd prefer to get assuming you don't get both. The co-op objectives in Alien perfectly represented the events of each movie and I'm pleased to see that it's the same case here albeit with some minor blemishes here and there. Firstly the objectives in Alien had more room for mixing around to create varied games, but Predator's are quite strict in their layout. For example you can take out the guerrilla camp from the first movie, but then why would you suddenly be back in Los Angeles hunting for clues in the city about Predator killings?  The first objective is also a little disjointed from the latter ones as it deals with a relatively mundane human threat before building up to taking on the ugly one himself at the end. Now of course this is the fault of the movies, but it almost feels like you're playing out two separate mini-movies each game.

A new addition that I greatly approve of though for thematic reasons is the introduction of alternate goals in co-op mode. You can go for a major victory by taking out the hunter, but each movie has it's own alternative minor victory condition that you can go for if the kitchen is getting a bit too hot for you. And these aren't necessarily easy in themselves. A very tense game I played had us on the backfoot being battered by multiple enemies at the end to the point where we knew we couldn't take on the main hunter and survive. However the alternate goal of (you've guessed it) getting to the chopper became available and we just managed to evacuate ourselves out of the game to fight another day. This was a good implementation and I would like to see Alien eventually get a similar set of mini objectives in the future - an expansion is hinted at by Upper Deck for the future so fingers crossed. 

 Speaking of Aliens and theme, naturally one of my biggest desires with Predator Legendary (and I'm sure this was a shared one among the fans) was the possibility of mixing everything together. I've already done that with my Marvel Legendary/Villains collection and even though I'm not bonkers enough to mix them with Alien, who can resist the urge to mix Aliens and Predators together and have them go up against each other. Of course the worry was how seamless this would be and actually it's been handled pretty well. You have to accept that the terminology on the cards have to hold a double meaning, but other than that there isn't a great deal to change and the rulebook gives plenty of detail as to how to mix in objectives and how to calculate honor points for when you send the Predators in to hunt the Aliens.
Verdict


I went into this expecting that I would be faced with the toughest question of all. Alien Legendary or Predator Legendary? It's still a tough call, but I believe that it comes down to two main considerations. Firstly the games are essentially identical aside from some minor rule tweaks and the new PVP mode so you have to ask yourself which theme do you like better? For me it's Alien hands down, no questions asked. Secondly the new PVP mode as mentioned is unique to this set and essentially 50% of the game so you will have to like this aspect in order to get the most out of Predator. However it's a solid twist on the game and actually beats a lot of competitive deck building games for me by itself. 

Alien Legendary was my #2 game of all time on my Top 75 list. I still love it and think it's the best Co-Op deck builder game in existence. Legendary Predator is also a great game, though I feel it doesn't quite measure up to the Alien version. However these are mainly due to minor nitpicks with some of the rule changes and most of these affect solo play anyway. There's definitely a greater emphasis on teamplay with more Coordinate cards and the new Call for Backup ability so I feel that solo play suffers a bit in this version, but it feels more like a co-op overall.

Even if I think Alien Legendary is the better game overall, this is still an excellent addition to the system and the ease of mixing the two together means that fans of the franchise will get even more value out of it. Pick whichever side you like the most first, then if you're happy, grab the other set and go nuts. 

YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You like the Predator theme - it's well represented in both modes of play.

The PVP mode is something you are keen on, it's easily 50% of the value here and not simply tacked on.

You already enjoyed the Alien version and desire the need to mix everything together - it's so satisfying!



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You didn't enjoy Alien Encounters for mechanic reasons - it's a very similar beast and therefore is unlikely to win you over.

You are concerned about the graphical art work and use of language - the game is rated 17+ and deservedly so.

You aren't likely to play both sides to this game - it's a big money sink and time investment for just one of the two modes of play.

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