Near & Far – Strategy Tips

So if you are picking up Near & Far for the first time, then I would dive into the Character Mode first and leave the campaign for another time. Pick a random map and a couple of characters (avoiding the two player characters), and kick off the game.

The mechanics are in the book, and the overall aim / feel of the game is hopefully in the review, but if you are looking for some quick tips for how you might win…

During the game:

Mining: This is key – it gets your camps out which brings you closer to finishing the game and it scores you points for those camps. If all that’s not enough then this move also gets you basic goods which help you through the game.

Getting the band back together: Got your first camp in the mine; well it’s time to get a new character to build out the gang. Each new character will give you swords to fit, hands to gather, and potentially extra movement. Over time you can build up the team to allow you to get to key locations on the maps – getting through the bandits, or just travelling very long paths. Each character of one type allows you to get the next one cheaper – helping you to build through the game.

Don’t underestimate pack-birds: Getting pack birds is more important than it seems at first – you need them for movement and you need them to keep items that you find along they way. These items can get you points, can get you key bits of “luck” later in the game.

Gamble earlier than you think: The easiest way to lose this game is to spend too many turns in town. You just don’t score your points there. Getting out of town as early as possible even if you are taking a risk is going to help you win or stand a chance of it!

Bandits: These guys are cheap points at the end, but also they get much harder as the level steps up. Killing the early bandits gets you more scores but also makes it much harder for your opponents to get across the map. This second part is often under-rated!

Hearts: This game has a bit of output luck and also makes it costly to move long distance on the map – the only way to combat both of these features is to increase your hearts. Keep getting heros and items that give you hearts! Normally you will finish with around 10 hearts!

Good luck!

 

Near & Far – Review

Type: Worker Placement / Narrative / Race

Time to play: < 90 minutes (Teaching: 15 minutes)

Best played with: 2-4 players (Best with 3)

Looking for a narrative game that allows you to build your character and go on an adventure? However, you want something you can break up into 60-90 minutes games with lots of maps? Well… Near & Far by Ryan Laukat might just be that game!

This is a simple narrative game built on a book full of maps – the incredible design of a book full of thick card maps which open up across the double pages. Add to that one board which represents the town, and where you take your worker placement actions and you have a simple, fun game. The game then adds replay-ability through a mix of different characters, and a couple of different game modes!

Campaign allows you to take any set of characters through a core story line that drives you to the final map. Character mode allows you to take individual stories of each of the characters and play it again and again with many groups. If you get through all of that content you can still pay this through in a simple mode without the legacy aspects of these stories.

Strip back all that content though and what you have is a worker placement game where players race to meet the victory condition. First player to get all their camps out finishes the game, but at this stage you count up the points – finishing the race first doesn’t guarantee you will win the game. You get points for the things you have achieved during the game (stories / killing bandits / placing camps in key locations). This core game is an interesting challenge – the conditions encourage you to push your luck early in the game to score the points before your opponents can. The bandits get harder, the point locations are near & far and going to the far edges of the board can be a real challenge!

So you are being pushed to take risks early, and you can get these great stories from the successes that you only just achieve and from the occasional big misses that happen when you take these risks. If you are playing the story modes of this game you can get out there and keep pushing the story, or your character story forward! These interesting little snapshots of your character develop over time with key words and other elements carrying over from one story to the next.

The worker placement of this game is pretty simple – a small number of actions to select from and you can’t stay still. However, you can go into the action spot that someone else has taken – as long as you are prepared to duel them for the spot. Lose, and lose a turn. Win and take the action! These exciting moments require a bit of luck though. This is probably the common theme of the game – there’s quite a bit of output luck and that will frustrate some people. Whether it’s the times where you go for the story and you have no idea what will happen, or if it’s going for the duel and rolling the dice. At points the game combats this with allowing the player to spend hearts to add points, however this does limit or restrict the player and sometimes doesn’t get them over the line! If you hate this kind of output luck then it might be worth playing this game before buying it.

However, the game’s narrative is highly engaging, the characters are very distinct and in a 2-3 player game there is very little downtime. The worker placement spaces are limited but the actions are varied, and each allows you to develop your character and their party in interesting ways.

The only other negative to mention is the importance of the mine (and it will be interesting to see how the recent kickstarter expansion changes this); the mine allows you to place camps which is how to achieve the end of the game and it gives you key resources. This will be a dominant strategy for players and players will need to take this action when the option arises.

For me, this is a great game – I am looking forward to completing more character stories and to exploring how each map (with very different paths) changes the balance of the game.

Last notes;

  • If you like story driven games and a combination of push your luck, race and euro mechanics then you have to try this
  • If you hate output luck or don’t have a regular group to get through the stories… perhaps enjoy the occasional game
  • If you win, turn the page and go again!

 

Mechs vs Minions – Strategy Tips

So – someone recently pointed out to me that the strategy tips I write assume you have some prior knowledge of the game. IF YOU DON’T – DON’T PANIC! The reviews I provide are designed to give you exactly what you need to know in order to start to think about these strategies. This is no happy accident – I pick games because of the types of strategies I can play and so the idea is that the combined review and tips here can really inform your choices.

So back to the table….

Given the ever expanding game mechanics and the campaign nature of this game – there is a lot that I could say which doesn’t apply to every mission. What I have tried to do below is stay focused to core game mechanics and things that will be relevant from early games to the end!

During the game: 

Space at both ends: The single most important factor in this game is trying to keep flexibility – you need to control your board. You are going to keep executing this command line time and time again, so keeping space at the front and back of the line for as long as possible will give you a lot more flexibility. Okay, damage can come up anywhere but keeping these slots free means that you can turn or move or attack before anything else goes wrong!

Spinning Around: Don’t underestimate the spinning requirements. The ability to turn and move gets you out of trouble, gets you into the attack and gets you to the finish line. Being able to turn with the 3rd card level means facing any direction! Even at the second level the ability to turn 90 or 180 degrees gives a huge amount of flexibility compared to the basic single turn.

Shifting Types: During the course of the game you can stack a card on an existing card stack (in your command line) if it’s the same colour; if it’s not then it replaces the whole command line. Now sometimes this can remove a spin you no longer need or remove a move you want to avoid – yes it could mean losing two cards for a single card (or even three), but sometimes that is better than charging in or spinning out of control.

Repairing & Reprogramming: As your command line fills up the new cards you can draw become less helpful – you have the moves / attacks / spins you need. So then the challenge is to repair the damage you suffer or shift the command line to the situation you are now in. As you draw up cards you can use certain colours to remove damage (Blue & Red) and others to reprogramme, switching two of the card stacks in the command line (Yellow & Green). This can help you avoid the negative consequence of damage or change your moves to get to the end!

Glitch Defense: One common damage is to get a glitch – this will swap symmetrical positions in your command line (most commonly). The fact that this is commonly symmetrical is an advantage you can utilise – you can have a symmetrical command line such that this is not a significant negative – i.e. don’t put all your spins together and all your moves together (unless it’s in the middle).

Focus on the Goal: This is a mission based game – get yourself to the end goal. It sounds obvious but it’s important. The aim changes drastically based on the game so thinking about this at the start of each game is key. It’s often true that your plans will fail rapidly but this is a game that rewards a continued and gradual effort towards a goal.

Pushing over Towing: One common concept in the game is moving others and moving things! You can do this by pushing or by towing. When dragging or towing something however for every two movement you use – you and the item only move one! When you push, you push two and you / the object move two. This is far more efficient – so towing is a last resort!

Overdrive! Schematics!: Killing minions can often be a side show to the main quest, however sometimes you do this so much that you can get close to unlocking a schematic or even your overdrive. As you get close to these, there becomes a significant advantage to a push toward this. When this comes to schematics, I wouldn’t rush – however, when it comes to Overdrive, the bonuses are big. Probably the first few missions won’t use this, but once these kick in they are very helpful and worth pushing for!

Good luck!

Mechs vs Minions – Review

Type: Programming / Co-Op

Time to play: < 60 minutes (Teaching: 10 minutes)

Best played with: 2-4 players (Best with 4)

You can take two actions – what, that’s all? Well, you can take one more each turn – OK. You have to do that every turn though – what everything? Yes and you take damage!

That’s what will go through your head as you start to read the rules for Mechs vs Minions, but this brilliantly simple game is tough, well balanced and very innovative. If you have played a programming gaming, like Colt Express, you will recognise the core mechanic of this game; a game where you find yourself guessing what will happen in the future, where other players will be and what will you get next turn!

Mechs vs Minions starts with a very basic mission where you have plenty of time to think about how things work and where the enemies are coming at you slowly. If this all feels a bit pedestrian, it quickly becomes complex as you realise that executing the same command line time and time again means you go forward a lot more than you mean to, or that you end up facing backwards!

Now I don’t want to put any spoilers for the campaign in this review, but this is a game that builds as campaign develops. You will fight tougher opposition. You will suffer worse damage. You will get more time pressure! All of this will build up the pressure you are under to achieve a really interesting challenge.

So what can I say without spoiling the campaign. Well this is a game that really benefits from a full group of players taking on the spirit of the instructions – let each other make choices and try to complete the campaign objectives. The game leans into this with a complex set of choices for each player – it’s hard to track your own path over multiple turns let alone the whole team! As for focusing on the campaign – each campaign setting is very thematic. It builds on the map pieces available in the box, and adds new rules and pieces throughout.

Every time you think you have the game figured out there is a new little mechanic that just perfectly ups the difficult one step further. It’s not taking it beyond the players, but it’s adding a layer more for the players to think through with each new card.

The game is also incredibly comic at times – whole player turns spinning on the spot, or one player doing the equivalent moves to the time warp! These are the moments where re-programming or repairing are needed, but are also the turns that make the game. This comic lack of control as you execute exactly what you planned, makes this game feel like the wacky races of minion fighting dungeon crawl games.

I would also add that players can drop in and out. The difficulty does move up but in small steps and not leaps – players dropping out and in will feel familiar with old problems and not overwhelmed by rules. Even new players late in the game can jump in and leave it to the rest of the party at first as they build out their own command line.

Does this mean the game is for everyone? Sadly not, and it’s not just the access to a copy of this (which is now very difficult!). The game is a comic and short game, but it doesn’t present opportunities for real heroic actions or for great conflicts. The game’s simplicity is part of its charm but it does seem to prevent this developing to a more filling and memorable campaign. So if you have come looking for an epic novel in a board game – you will be disappointed.

Of course, it’s a co-op and that brings the usual alpha gamer risks, and the potential for players to feel they barely contributed to the win (particularly if you spent half the game facing the back wall). However a little co-operation goes a long way here and the team is demonstrably better together than the four solo players.

Last notes,

  • If you like puzzles and well paced, light co-operatives you will find a lot in this box
  • If you have a need for a deep story arc, characters that matter or agency that develops – perhaps time to dust off the D&D books and stay clear of this
  • If you win at this game, crack open the next envelope!

Lords of Waterdeep – Review

Type: Worker Placement / Euro

Time to play: <60 minutes (Teaching: 10 minutes)

Best played with: 2-5 players (Best with 4)

How do you take Dungeons and Dragons and make an iconic Euro game that created many of the regular features of games since? Well – take a look at Lords of Waterdeep to see how you do it!

I got this game back out the cupboard this week and dusted it down for a few more plays. Even without touching the expansions (which are good value for money and additive to the game), there is a lot to love about this classic Euro. Above all, it’s set in that classic world of the Dungeon and Dragon universe – the archetype of board gaming and geek culture!

So what’s great about it? Well firstly it is actually well balanced at any player count. The change of the number of meeples each person gets based on player count is a very smart way to manage a tight euro game across each player count and to deliver a compelling game for each group. The points scored will be lower for higher numbers and the chain effect of different quests is less, but the experience is great nonetheless.

Worried that you won’t know what to do in your first turn? Well that’s okay, you start with two quests to complete (which need some resource gathering) and you start with a Lord from the town that gives you an endgame bonus. Start with just those three pointers and you will have an idea of what to do in your first turn.

However, this game hasn’t got too much to do – the choices for each meeple that you place are relatively simple and you can plan reasonably quickly. The board state will change by your turn, but not so much that planning is pointless. Also, the board offers multiple ways to achieve goals; meaning it’s tight but it’s manageable.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t complexity embedded here though. You can be the builder; scoring points for the buildings and getting bonuses when other players use them. Or you can use the Harbour to play intrigue cards that provide bonuses or block opponents – plus this action allows that meeple to get a second move at the end of the round. This mechanic is really clever, because by playing the intrigue card you get a small bonus and a free action, but as with any worker placement game the board will be quite full at the end of the round. Therefore, when you take that final free action you may not have a lot of choice about where you go. Still a free move is a free move!

You also have to balance the game between completing the quests you have and getting new quests. You need to complete the quests to get the points, and incomplete quests at the end were turns wasted during the game. However, with resources being scarce simply gathering up the quests early can leave you with a lot to fulfill at the end and with few places to get the last pieces you need.

Buildings added during the course of the game also add complexity, with new pieces becoming available and buildings that impact other buildings! There’s even one that allows you to take an action that has already been taken!

Low on admin and with only eight turns, this means you get a compact game that plays well and creates tough choices. In fact the only admin between turns is dropping extra point tokens on the buildings that haven’t been built and re-stocking the buildings which produce new goods each turn. The game end is also quick – you have been counting quests through the game, and now you just divide your money by two, add your leftover resources (or adventurers!) and work out your bonus. This will give you a total for victory.

All that in a game box that is perfectly designed to not have a single bag. That’s right the plastic inlay holds everything in place while you transport it. Plus the expansions offer new gameplay and a sixth player slot. For all of the above this game will be in my top games for some time to come.

However, it can’t all be perfect. Whilst there are enough buildings to vary the game each time, there are a few core mechanics that are always important. Building is always important. Not ending up with the same bonus as another player, tough with higher counts, is always important! Getting those quests is always important. These key mechanics can leave you playing the game the same way each time and with a fairly well defined path from start to finish. That will keep the game short, but the theme won’t ring out once you start to do this.

Also, for me there is the right balance of player interaction, but that is to say that this is not a multiplayer solo but you aren’t attacking each other. If you like that feeling of regular attacks or an ability for the group to drag back the leader, then this game has not got those mechanics. The leader can be blocked, but it’s not direct – it’s by stealing what they need and with enough options that will be hard!

Last notes:

  • If you like a fast paced euro with great art, a great box and a short play time – I could not recommend this more
  • If you want a theme driven or intense brain burning game; then perhaps skip this one for a Uwe Rosenberg game or Eric Lang game.
  • If you win at this game, then swap the lords (and the turn order!) and try again!

Lords of Waterdeep – Strategy Tips

A random Lord, two random quests and two intrigue cards give you a starting point in this game. However, there are a few more tips through the game that you need to think about…

During the game:

Use the Harbour: The harbour is a great tactic for new and old players alike. You get to play an intrigue card and you get to take an extra action at the end of the round. Those extra actions will often get you a couple of basic adventurers (knights or rogues), but most importantly this can be a good way to steal the first player marker or indeed to take a quest as you build up. The other one to watch out for is the money – often neglected but worth one point for every two coins these options can fund buildings, some adventures or indeed nudge you into the lead at the end.

Be a Builder: There is only one space where you can build a new location, and whilst early game these seem unimportant, the builders are often rewarded in the middle and late game. The longer the buildings are left the more victory points for building them – this means there is normally three points on offer from turn three onwards. Also, when turn five kicks in and everyone gets an extra meeple – the builders of the early game will more often be rewarded with the bonuses for owning a tile another player used. This can be a great late game way of getting points or key resources. Typically bonuses of points, money or one of two types is best. Bonuses of a fixed type are much more limiting as you cannot depend on them and they can be avoided by the other players if they are obviously key.

Get the quests early – but watch out for player count: Getting quests early is a solid plan – you never know when good ones will come back around or indeed if someone else will steal the ones you want. However two things to note in higher player count (i) it’s more likely that the reset trigger is used and all four revealed quests are removed and (ii) you won’t be able to complete as many quests. Smaller player counts give each player more meeples and give each player more chances to complete quests. Higher counts make scarcity a bigger problem and drive to lower scoring games. Watch out for that if you have extra players (extra tip that Ambassador and other extra piece bonuses are more important in higher player counts!)

When to play certain cards: When looking through your intrigue cards watch out for the opportunity for your opponent to give up coins or adventurers to score points. The card relating to Wizards can give them 5 points for just one adventurer (4 bonus to end game) or the tax collector can give a one for one conversion for coins! Play them when your opponent cannot use the bonus!

Scarcity: Early in the game, start to work out what people are going for and what is going to be scarce. Getting those scarce resources and taking starting player to do it is key to this game. Of course the other option is reduce the scarcity by building the relevant option – this can give you bonuses and help you continue to complete those quests.

Lord Bonus: The lord bonus is helpful but not all Lords are born equal. Watch out for the building Lord who is more capped than the others, also watch out for ones where there is an overlap with another player – focus your energy on the lord bonus you don’t have in common!

Chain effects: Some quests give you future bonuses; extra intrigue, extra points, extra resources – get these early. More complex chains though can also be built from quests that give you more of another type – a type you need to complete the subsequent quests. watch out for quests outside your bonus that give you more of a type you need!

Good Luck!

Mythos Tales – Review

Type: Detective / Co-Op

Time to play: < 60 minutes (Teaching: 10 minutes)

Best played with: 1-4 players (Best with 2)

Sherlock Holmes consulting detective is a classic game where players search across London to find clues to what is going on in the world – including a specific mystery that you have been enlisted to solve! Confused? Yes, that’s right, Sherlock is gone and you are in a new world of pain that builds out of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu universe. You find yourself in Arkham and the challenging mystery you are trying to solve is one that might just destroy the entire universe!

So, that’s the starting point! Thrown into an unfamiliar setting and with an arrogant benefactor (who has already solved the mystery faster than you!); you are asked to solve the puzzle. The concept builds upon the clue chasing Sherlock Holmes game to really challenge the players / team to dig through ancient riddles, crazy characters’ ramblings and off topic disappearances which might help but most probably wont.

Coming to the mechanics though there are two core ways to play this game – the race and the riddle. The race; this is really the focus of solving only the main puzzle but doing it as quickly as possible. The masterful professor has set the challenge but he will have done it in probably half the time he gave you. Can you follow the key path and do it quickly enough not to suffer the penalties at the end for being too slow?

The second options is to answer all the questions; that is to answer the core riddle and to find out everything else that is going on. There will be more questions at the end than the riddle you were set, but if you weren’t seeking these out then you have no chance to score the maximum points. Seek them out, and you will take longer than you should but you will know much more.

Each mission is a new choice and a new conspiracy. From the men hiding in the woods and the ancient writings of the library, there is a lot about Arkham to explore. With all this going on, you have many tools at your disposal – although these are equivalent to many distractions! You can run from house to house chasing individuals to help you. You can visit specialists who might know more about the case than you do. You can also read the newspaper – a newspaper that will often help with what else is going on and a few scarce clues about the main puzzle.

All that in hand, it sounds like you have eight missions of fun to work your way through. However, here’s the biggest problem with this – some of the puzzles are broken. Some of the parts of the rule book are simply incorrect and there are FAQs in place that can help you but this is not a game you can just take out of the box.

Is that all? Well no, I think that this game also suffers from the alpha player disadvantage of co-operative play. If you have a dominant player (perhaps quicker at solving the clues / quicker at realizing the twists and turns ahead) then he or she will push this game and leave other players feeling confused or frustrated.

Redemption for this game is found in groups who enjoy the knocks and set backs of the scrap with cultists. You will get into fights, lose time and get frustrated as likely leads turn in to dead ends. This is great fun at its best – it’s great to see the missions develop and there are few surprising turns along the way. The puzzles are good, the setting is great.

Last notes:

  • If you like to solve riddles and can take a back seat to let other players enjoy this too; then you will enjoy this.
  • If you have an alpha gamer or you are frustrated by reading FAQs then pass this with a wide birth
  • If you win at this game, you have another mission to solve!

Mythos Tales – Strategy Tips

Nothing in the set up here – just keep moving along the missions! However, there’s a few things to think about in the game!

During the game:

Two ways to play: As I discussed in the review – it’s either a race or a need to solve everything. If it’s a race you have actually only about half the allotted time, but if you try to solve everything then watch out for all the small leads and use every bit of the days you have. Both ways are fun, but choose wisely because you will only have one chance at each mission.

Systematically Capture Locations: Each time you speak with people they will tell you about other people, other locations and in particular street / house locations you might visit. If you can capture these you will be in a position to chase every lead – even when the one you had the greatest hope for turns out to be the dead end or worse the lead that nearly gets you killed!

Don’t Double Check: If you know something, then trust yourself. If the book is in the library then perhaps you can read it. However, if the book is not in the library then going to the library is not likely to reveal anything new. This is often the case; perhaps a character is at a location, a character you wanted to find – sometimes it’s better to save that as your guess than to go there and confirm it for certain.

Read the Newspaper: In the version of the game where you solve all the riddles you will need to read the newspaper. The things happening in Arkham are revealed through the small stories that are played out in the newspaper, and the clues hidden in the words used. Sometimes you need to look back to previous months to find clues of the core story or indeed these side plots. Keep an eye out for them and don’t forget to look at prior months.

Probably a 2-3 player game at most: There’s space for a person to read the clues in locations, read the newspaper, and to make suggestions through out. Beyond three players though forces someone into the role of scribe while others through around ideas. It leaves the game with a likely alpha player. Watch out for these downsides as you build a group of players for the game!

Specialists – well only in the cult: The specialists this game provides you with are often unhelpful. They are regularly disappointingly uninformed or perhaps add little to what you have learnt. The best ones are those who specialise in the occult. They bring something that you may not know but may not be told to you. Sure, enough games of Arkham Horror will help, but these will be your best advisors.

Don’t lose time: The biggest risk is duplication, but there is a lingering risk that you can get knocked out or end up losing time. Sounds simple, but sometimes it’s not just the scary dark warehouse that is the trap. Also, sometimes it’s when you go that matters so think before you decide which order to move in!

Good Luck!

Too Many Bones – Strategy Tips

Mix up the gearlocs and take up a new boss each time to get the challenge of this game. However, for new players you should be taking Picket, Patches and Ghillie; these simple characters allow the tank, healer and ranger strategies which will feel familiar for even for new players to the game.

As this game is vastly asymmetrical I will mention a few generic strategies and then focus on the strengths / themes of the various key characters:

During the game:

Watch Your Health: In the fight you need to watch that you aren’t going to get exhausted and knocked out of the fight. However the more important choices come between the fight – yes, up the attacks / defence / specials but don’t neglect your health. This is a common mistake and when enemies start to amass and are stronger you will quickly see that it’s too late!

Start Right: Generally, you will have a couple of melee characters and a ranged unit. Starting off with that in mind is important, and use the starting position to go after a key opponent. Usually you will group together to take out the most challenging opponent in one or two rounds to avoid their attack kicking in. If you get through the round with four weak, but alive opponents then you will suffer all four attacks!

Poison: Speaking of the dangerous opponents, there are none more so than a poison based attack. The flying creatures are tricky to handle but normally can be killed quickly. The poison creatures, with range attack, striking the weakest players – they are lethal. Once hit, you suffer 2 damage and then 1 subsequent damage. All poison is true damage (no shields!) and if it hits the weakest, it won’t take long for this to finish them off!

Next Bad Guy: Watch out though, as you kill off some opponents you know what’s coming next! If that opponent is difficult to handle / brings another poison attack then it can change who you focus on in the first turn!

Beasts / Machines: Get the beasts or machines onto the board quickly – these little characters have low health and often take the brunt of the damage on the weakest player – keeping you guys alive! They also deal out a couple of turns of additional damage.

Characters:

Patches: The medic of the team, patches will focus on getting some healing dice on the go. Once that’s in place, I tend to bring the attack dice and then the defence dice. There are other tricks in patches specialty dice, but having built a medic you will need to get into the fight – especially if you are only playing as three players.

Picket: The tank of the team; get the defence dice rolling so that you can use that shield bash as often as you can. It’s probably the best back up plan of all characters as it often helps take down the strongest of opponents (stacking dice over multiple turns). Of the special dice; that option to add one shield and then one attack to the locked dice is a significant boost!

Nugget: Build up your slingshot – you are the mixed use character, but your biggest ability is to weigh in on the ranged opponent who has a lot of health. One big attack from that slingshot might take out the Goblin King’s throne or even a high level flying creature!

Ghillie: Ranger, with great abilities to target multiple weak enemies or to summon creatures to the board. Ghillie’s game is played through the special dice – firstly the Wolverine. The Wolverine is the most powerful of the specials and with Hardy special ability it will last a lot of attacks. Once you have this in place, the piercing damage and multiple targets offers you the chance to take out opponents with difficult special powers (shields and flying respectively).

Boomer: Get the bombs working – this means a few special dice, but above all else you will need dexterity. Keep rolling those bomb components and build up the frag grenades. Keep an eye on health though as you can be an easy target for flying creatures.

Tantrum: Build your rage; you will be throwing yourself in the deep end with each hit taken and given boosting your special abilities. That will mean you need some health and a plentiful number of attacks!

Tink: The builder / controller; you will build your game out of the machines you control. Focus on getting one to the table and making it powerful. The second is much less important but watch out, because a few defence dice may be needed as monsters rush the machine and then move on to you!

Good Luck!

Too Many Bones – Review

Type: RPG / Co-Op

Time to play: < 180 minutes (Teaching: 20 minutes)

Best played with: 2-4 players (Best with 3)

Just closing out their expansion Kickstarter campaign and Chip Theory Games have another big shipping ahead. If you missed out on all that though, this is one of the rare games that you can actually download the entire game FOR FREE!

I did exactly that, as well as playing other people’s copies and this is a smart little campaign game. Like many new dungeon style games this is all control by automation and every player takes the role of the heroes – fighting through the bad guys to the final boss monster! Okay, the theme and story suffers and as exciting as reading from a card is, there will be D&D players who do not see this as a substitute. However, if you have a social gaming group and enjoy a longer / campaign game then this still has much to offer.

From the smart way the characters and bad guys have health chips (stacked below the character tiles), to the use of “bones” to build a back up plan, there are lots of innovative instances built into this game. However to focus on where the core of this game is – it’s about the character development. Who strikes the final blow and which character collapses in the fight is interesting, but this game goes further with vastly asymmetrical custom dice to describe your character.

Each game gives you the chance to expand that dice pool and add actions – healing others, summoning monsters and creating piercing or poisonous attacks. These unique features drive you to change your movements on the board, target different opponents. This changes how you play as you go through a campaign and you make choices along the way to get the right dice for the final battle.

However, all that is part of the downside of a game – a little less theme and limited play between battles and a constant focus on one final fight. The journey cards played between fights have a limited story and a very closed set of choices. The final battle is the goal for the game – defeating that specific boss. The way that boss plays is vastly different (because of those incredible custom dice) but it’s all about the win or loss of that final fight. What’s more, it’s really all about beating or not beating that individual character! Do that and the game ends instantly (unless you choose to complete the fight).

So is this a clever game with a few limitations, or is it custom dice hiding a simpler game? Well, I would end up on the first of these. The choices you make have real impact and you can play the same character in vastly different ways – partly on who else is in the party and partly on your own choices. Build a shield wall to protect your character, through caution to the wind with a lot of attacks, or use your special dice to boost the party’s chances of victory. Also, like any good co-op games there is so much going on in front of you that it is hard to have an alpha player – someone controlling everyone’s actions.

Unfortunately this can make the game quite long a quite difficult for new players. Some early guidance on the first dice to add is helpful (and I will mention a few in the strategy tips!).

So I would put aside the way you unlock treasure, the slightly weak journey cards, and turn your focus to your character and the diverse range of enemies.

Last notes:

  • If you like character development and very distinct ways of completing the same missions – you will really enjoy the options built into this clever game.
  • If you want a story or a bit of map movement, then perhaps this is not the story for you.
  • If you win at this game, take the next boss along and take a new group of heroes on the journey!