Android Netrunner - Kala Ghoda Review

Right I got two packs to get on with this week so let's get a move on! Wanted to get these out earlier but let's just say my job has had me working 7am to 7pm days frequently lately and I've just not had the time. Here's hoping the worst is over! Now I started this series with Game of Thrones and will no doubt continue, but I also enjoy Android Netrunner and so will be giving my opinions on the cards for their packs as well starting from the Mumbad cycle, which is advertised by Fantasy Flight Games as being a meta changer - yeah we'll see about that shall we?

To repeat a previous disclaimer, I'm a casual player that enjoys the game and can hold my own in a local store tournament (came 6th out of 24 recently, that's not bad come on!) despite having much to learn myself. That's all. Take that for what its worth, but maybe that will allow me to consider combos and ideas that will be fun to use rather than simply dismissing anything that doesn't make a Tier 1 level deck or whatever! So that being said, let's start. You can already check out my Android Netrunner review on my site. If you want to see all the images for each card, I recommend you visit netrunnerdb.com and use their search engine.


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Putting Too Much Trust In Fate - B-Sieged Review

Right, before I start this review, a little mini-rant. Publishers, please can you stop calling your games these weird names that mean they are constantly mis-spelt or difficult to find on search engines? And subtitles are pointless, no-one is calling this game "Sons of the Abyss" when they show it to someone. How hard can it be to name a game?

Phew, got that out of the system! So as you all know, I love a good Co-Op game when it's done right. Easier to teach, great fun and none of that "take-that" attitude that puts people off some games. So a tower defence Co-Op with great production values, that's a recipe for a hit right there. . . until I noticed the logo on the side. . . Cool Mini Or Not. And then I remember this was a Kickstarter project (actually saying that has Cool Mini or Not ever self published a game not via Kickstarter?) Now I'm not trying to bash the publisher here, but anyone who's heard my podcast or read my reviews will know that I have a sketchy history with their games. 90% of the time they blow my mind with the production quality (Xenoshyft is basically the other 10%), but constantly I'm discovering flaws that put me off wanting to keep them in the collection or play them again.

It happened with Zombicide, Blood Rage, SMOG, hell I still hold up that Arcadia Quest is their best work to date (The Grizzled was predominantly made by a French publisher and doesn't count) and that was one of the earlier ones. But I hold hope that this one can break the chain, and if that fails, there's always Zombicide Black Plague which is sitting on my sofa in shrink wrap right now beckoning to me, more on that to come in the next few weeks. So let's get this giant box opened up and cross your fingers. . .



Designer: Gorka Mata, Victor Fernandez, Sergi Sole
Publisher: Cool Mini Or Not
Age: 12+
Players: 1-6
Time: 60-90 Minutes
RRP: £74.99



No Matter What Comes Through That Door, You Will Hold!


As with all tower-defence style games you are a band of heroes defending your castle from an invading horde of enemies of various types from fast advancing troops to rock hurling monstrosities. The twist here is that it's not enough to simply survive for as long as you can. Players must also ensure that a Messenger is able to breach through the incoming horde to send for help and then return back to the citadel to win the game. I'm not entirely sure why it's necessary for a Messenger to return, surely you would be better off with a giant army returning back to fight the hordes, but I digress, that's the rules of the game.

Each player has their own hero with a couple of unique skills. From the beginning you can upgrade your character with a varied selection of new abilities, items, spells and traps to help defend your citadel. If things get too hairy, you can push your luck with the central catapult to take down multiple foes or some of those insanely large ones, but be warned, it may get stuck every now and again, such is the way with medieval artillery.

Should two Messengers die or one not return within 12 rounds, the heroes lose the struggle, however if they can get a Messenger back in time then it's a victory all round. Of course achieving this is another thing entirely but we'll get on to that later.


Oh Look! Miniatures!


It's a CMON game so what did you expect? There's a ton of large miniatures here to represent both heroes and hordes and they all look as great as ever. Although why they couldn't fork out to make the Avatar (a humongous beast that randomly spawns) and the Messenger a miniature I don't know. I hear they were Kickstarter exclusives and that's ALWAYS the wrong way to do a Kickstarter in my opinion. Not everyone is keen to fork out money in advance you know! And I certainly am hesitant to do it with giant miniature games like this, I don't subscribe to this whole "pledge and sell afterwards" trend that's going around at the moment.

On top of that, the cards are actually pretty good quality as well along with the boards and the artwork is also very cool across the range. It's an art style that I can't quite place my finger on, but I've seen it in animated movies or anime at some time. It's very colourful and striking and when everything is combined it will look great on the table even though your miniatures will be grey. Although one caveat with that, this has a humongous footprint and I really can't place enough emphasis on that H-word. The cross shape of boards you set out takes up a ton of space and that's not even taking into account the miniature boxes, the placement board for the cards and the player sheets. It really is a table hog, I had to put the cover on my poker table just to barely fit it on, granted it's not the largest table in the world, hence I have a GeeknSon table on order, but even so.

The rulebook also isn't perfect. It's not bad, but you will likely be checking up a few rules to clarify matters and some aspects are not fully explained like the catapult, i.e. is it technically a building, does a hero occupy it when used therefore blocking others, etc. These obscurities are actually pretty fundamental to the game however. Now there is a FAQ that clarifies matters (more on that later), but in my world, your game shouldn't need a giant FAQ less than a fortnight after its release, proof read your rulebooks people!


The Odds Aren't In Your Favour



The game is definitely extremely difficult in its current state. However it's not difficult in the right way. Now what I mean is that you have very little control over how the game progresses. When you fight an enemy, you roll a die. When you fire the catapult, roll a die. When you rotate the catapult, roll a die. When you spawn enemies, roll a die. When you gain a new item, draw a card from a random deck. Get the picture yet?

There is a lot of die chucking in this game and we're not talking custom dice here, just your standard six-sided affair, well bar one die for the catapult with some skulls on it. So you're trusting to luck a lot, and there's no means of mitigation. When rotating the catapult, you have to roll a die to see if it gets stuck and if that happens, you wasted your action. Even when you draw a new card it might have a negative effect and thus you've wasted your action, hell even if it's a good card, you might not be able to use it to any good effect there and then or you'll have to waste yet another action to trade with another person.

Now on top of that, the game is already really difficult. Monsters spawn in droves and you will struggle to keep up with it all especially when trying to clear the path for the Messenger. But when you lose a game of B-Sieged, and trust me you lose plenty, you never feel like you could have played the game any different. Because the luck was either with you or it wasn't. Now you could compare this to something like Ghost Stories and yes there's some dice rolling in that. But you can control the mitigation there with the tokens and you have access to all the location abilities from the get-go that don't rely on die rolls. Here you might draw a bunch of weapons/armour cards that will barely help you. Or you might draw a really powerful bow that will lay waste to many enemies at once. You had no control over that though so you don't feel like you made a contribution in terms of tactics or strategy. And when the game isn't a short one (we're talking 60-90 minutes and all that setup time), it's very frustrating to have your time effectively nullified outside your control.

In terms of choices, there certainly are enough to make here, in terms of which wall you defend, what building you use, etc, but even if your choice was a sound one, again the end result is pure luck of a roll or card draw. Your best laid plan to wipe out the back zone with a catapult shot just went sour because one die made it get stuck and then your attack missed. And the enemies don't have this problem, everything they do is automatic and scripted including the hits they deal out. No chance the big Molen guys will miss with one of their rocks, nope, it's automatic hit and damage. Why is it so hard for the heroes to hit anything yet the enemy are pinpoint accurate?

It gives me the impression that B-Sieged is trying to be a light "beer & pretzel" style game. But if so, it should take half the time in game length and not require such a huge footprint, setup time and price point to boot.


Download The Latest Patch


Since B-Sieged was released, there has been a large FAQ issued out to fix some of the issues that I've mentioned above and clarify some of the obscure rules. Now this is a help, but it is by no means a complete fix. The rule clarifications are fine, finally the catapult is fully explained for example. However the suggestions it makes for toning down the difficulty only work so well. One of them is about the frequency that the Avatar turns up, which to be honest didn't happen that much in my games, at least certainly not from rolling the same spawn symbol 3 times in a row.

So even though this FAQ is out, I feel that if you want to get the most out of B-Sieged, you will have to come up with some house rules of your own. Certainly I feel one of the best things you can do is remove the turning nonsense with the catapult or at least make it so that turning and firing is all in the same action. Additionally I would opt for been able to look through the available resource piles everytime you draw one and then pick the one you want. This gets rid of the issue of spending time only to draw something useless for you and wasting actions to trade. Now the flip side of this is that you render the negative cards in the decks completely useless, but to be honest they shouldn't have been put there in the first place so big whoop!



Verdict


Not again . . not again! This one actually pains me to write because I can see a lot of potential here. Somewhere in this box is an awesome game, but sadly B-Sieged lets itself down with its lack of luck mitigation combined with a colossal difficulty spike. The recent FAQ has helped to improve on these things as well as clarify some ambiguous rules, but it's not enough and I feel that more house rules will be required. If that's something you are comfortable with, then go for it, but for me it felt like I needed to re-write half the rulebook and ditch some of the components.

It looks the absolute business as to be expected with quality miniatures, boards and cards, but you better have a large table otherwise you're going to be struggling to fit it all on. It's also not a short game due to the long setup and constant spawning/resolution of the enemy models, certainly I don't recommend playing this with any more than 4 players or even 4 heroes for that matter.

Overall, it's another disappointment for me, but there's a solid game in here somewhere and I really tried hard to see past the issues. With some rules fixing I feel it could be pretty solid, but that's why we have the concept known as "play-testing"!

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 adore the visual aspect of this game, it is no doubt a great spectacle when laid out.


You believe the FAQ is enough to fix some of the problems or don't mind house-rules.


You welcome the challenge and like the variety of the cards that are used.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:



You think the difficulty spike is just way too high for it to be enjoyable.


You hate the amount of randomness this game puts you through.


You aren't prepared to house-rule a lot of changes in addition to the official FAQ.


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Pull My Fingers, All Of Them! - Crossing Review

I'd never even heard of this game before I got a copy of it so my initial thoughts were a little uneasy. However I noticed that it was a 15 minute game, putting it in the filler category. Such titles are useful for two reasons when I'm reviewing games. Firstly they are quick to get to the table and thus easier to get many plays in. Secondly I can teach the game to anyone I know! You know how hard it is to find guinea pigs for 3 hour long complex games?

The Minimum Age figure however showed 6+, meaning for me in my mind this is a game intended for children. Now I have to be honest here, I don't have kids and I don't intend to have them either so naturally a game like this isn't one I would be housing in my collection. It means you can take my opinion with a pinch of salt, however I have plenty of friends with children to play this with and children are frequently seen at local Dice Portsmouth events so if it's any good, I'm sure it will find a good home and be enjoyed by many. So let's dive into the unknown with a game focused on lots of . . . . . pointing.


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That's Not How The Force Works! - Star Wars Imperial Assault Review

Phew it's taken me a while to get this one done! Unfortunately with the game being made up of two very distinctly different gaming experiences it wasn't enough to just partake in one. Skirmish mode wasn't too difficult, I just had to find a willing guinea pig. But the campaign mode meant spending many weeks with the same group going through what seemed like an endless story until we finally completed it. I could have reviewed Imperial Assault a little bit earlier, but I started noticing things the more we went through the campaign and it became apparent that I had to wait it out and see what developed.

Now I've already done a small review for the Twin Shadows expansion so I won't touch on that here, especially as our campaign mode barely used much of that expansion anyway. A side mission and one of the characters, that was literally it. Maybe some random items and guns were found as well but I wasn't paying attention to what expansion the cards came from. I'm going to do my best to avoid spoilers here also, but I can't promise anything. Now buckle your seat belts, this is going to be a long ride that will take longer than 12 Parsecs. . .



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Seconds Out, Round Two! - Time Stories: The Marcy Case Review

Time Stories was one of the first games I had come across where the hype train was justified for me. It provided me with some of the best personal enjoyment in games to date and gave me that feeling of nostalgic love for the "choose your own adventure" books of old. That being said it couldn't be argued that the short time span (no pun intended) and price point was going to put a few people off unless you clubbed together to buy the game, which I still say is the recommended way to do it, that way it's no more expensive than a cinema ticket.

Space Cowboys will now release multiple scenarios throughout the years to come to provide the game with some longevity and certainly they are doing so pretty quickly. We already have 2 expansions to date and BoardGameGeek already has details of the next one. The Marcy Case is the first expansion and just like before I will keep this review 100% spoiler free. Well 99.9% anyway, there's always one that considers a minuscule comment as a spoiler these days. Now I went into The Marcy Case only knowing the "setting" that it was based on, which to be honest is pretty common information and that did give me some reservations as it's not a genre I'm particularly keen on. The Asylum's story was engaging and mysterious, but can they repeat it in this one?



Designer: Nicolas Normandon
Publisher: Space Cowboys
Age: 12+
Players: 2-4
Time: 60-90 minutes per "run"
RRP: £19.99



A Change Of Style


As we now have a new scenario, we also have a new style of artwork for the cards themselves looking more like a hand-drawn style compared to the computer generated style of the first set (correct me if I'm wrong on that because if that's not computer generated, that's mighty fine skills there!). It looks fine and fits the theme, but I'm definitely a bigger fan of the original style. However this is just personal preference and no doubt the artwork style will probably change in every scenario as different designers put their mark on the game. As before there is a large amount of graphic imagery present with gore and implied injuries so bare this in mind if playing with younger gamers.

The rules within the deck (because you don't get a book, literally you get the deck of cards in the box and that's it!) aren't too tricky to follow if you're familiar with Time Stories by now, although there are some minor odd points that don't get explained like for example, why is one location on the map written in red when all the others aren't? Is it a warning, is it a difficulty rating or do you need a specific item before you can go there? I never saw an explanation. Other than that though the deck mechanics work in exactly the same way as before.

It's All About.... SEEN IT!


If you asked me to compare the two scenarios as to which is better, it would be Asylum in a heart beat. That's not to say The Marcy Case is bad at all, far from it, but it's got one feature that lacks in comparison and that is the storyline itself. Even though the main plot arc is resolved in a clever way, the story is very basic and predictable. In the Asylum you were unsure exactly what was going on and there was a good amount of mystery and puzzle solving. But in The Marcy Case you're literally chucked into the action with the game going "Here's the setting, ready steady go!"

It's still good fun to investigate what's going on and see all the locations and plot arcs unfold, but it never feels as engaging and the emphasis on combat seems a bit too heavy for my liking. I was also a little disappointed that only four receptacles were available to choose that didn't appear very different from each other other than a tweak in stats. I believe the Asylum had a lot more to choose from, but here if you die or repeat a run, you're unlikely to care too much about trying out a different character.

Now I mentioned the plot arc resolution is very clever in the way the deck showcases it, but there are some minor issues with it. Firstly there is a hidden twist which when you come across it, you will be wondering what was the point of your whole excursion? It's not quite as ridiculous as the infamous "Eagle" problem with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it still made me raise my hand to ponder the question.

The second issue may not affect everyone, but in our play through we failed the first run (by plot, not by time units running out) and by doing so it meant that it was almost impossible to fail the second one because your memory will inherently retain something that means you know exactly what you need the next time. I can't spoil it any more than that, but that felt a bit anti-climatic. In fact when browsing through the deck afterwards, we noticed there was a fair amount of clue taking/solving present in areas we'd not been too that we never even needed to do! You know the cassette tape on the front cover? Yeah they are relevant to the story, but we didn't use them nor did we need to it seemed. It felt like a good chunk of the scenario was wasted or too easily bypassed.


Verdict


The Marcy Case is still a great deal of fun, aptly piloted along by the innovative Time Stories card system. The over-arching resolution of this story is very clever though it's spoilt by how it's very difficult to lose the second run once you've failed it once. The same fun factor of revealing new locations, interacting with the environment and characters and working together as a team that you got from the original is still here in spades so it's certainly worth playing through.

However the Asylum is clearly the better of the two in terms of story and mystery. Whereas the Asylum borrowed  (albeit heavily) from various licenses, this one is just blatantly ripping them off to the point where you'll be making direct quote references. It also seems a little too heavily focused on combat and rather than build up an engaging mystery to solve, it just chucks you in the thick of it and you know exactly what the theme and story is from the word "go".

It is still fun to play, but won't leave you with the same impact that the Asylum scenario did. Here's hoping that the Prophecy of Dragons with it's alternate timeline setting will deliver something new and fresh as I would hate for the designers to run out of ideas.

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 enjoyed the original Time Stories - bit of a given really!


You welcome the gore factor that has been prevalent so far in this game.


You enjoy the theme it's based on.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


Combat wasn't a favourite part of the experience - it seems quite abundant here.


You think it's ripping off a few too many obvious licenses here.


You want it to take longer than the previous scenario and have a deep storyline.


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