Wandering Monster Table 2

May 10th, 2011

Are you Claustrophobic?

While I love Fantasy Flight Games, I do find that many of their games present a rather obscure to downright unclear victory condition.  It’s not that I dislike such games, but it’s sometimes just refreshing to play a game that goes back to the basics.

Asmodee Games publishes Claustrophobia – The Board Game.  If you’ve played Space Hulk, you’ll be somewhat familiar with the game play.  In essence, this is a struggle for survival, the church vs. the endless evil demonic hordes.  (Any wonder why I would like this?)

I would highly recommend Claustrophobia to any gaming group that likes a tight solid combat system and simple, clear rules.  Humans go into a tile based maze and try to search for the ending tile (in most cases), trying to survive in the process.  To build both atmosphere and strategic value, both human and demon player may only fit up to 3 of their figures on any one tile.

To me, one of the best parts of the game is the setting. The fluff speaks of how a priest is invited to go into the tunnels below a church (which pretty much lead straight to hell) and ‘deal with it’.  But the church is on a tight budget and can’t give him the proper soldiers.  But this guy, he’s a bad ass priest.  He doesn’t want soldiers.  He goes and finds convicts who are sentenced to death and invites them to come along for the joy ride.

Now I don’t know if the fluff expressly spells it out, but in my mind, I love the idea that the convicts join because of the power of Faith.  That they follow this priest because they can sense something truly Holy about him.  Thus it’s not just because of the opportunity to become a free man but it’s the opportunity to became part of something bigger than yourself.

I can see a lot of story in the fluff of this excellent board game.

I’ve played Claustrophobia several times and it never fails to give us a great time. We are working out 3 player rules (2 humans and a boat load of troglodytes) which are turning out to be quiet fun.




Wandering Monster Table: Summoning up a damn fine game

April 22nd, 2011

If you’re a film critic you need to watch a lot of movies.  Therefore it stands to reason that to be an aspiring game designer; you need to play a lot of different games.

One of my new favorite games is a card game called Summoner Wars.  If you’ve not had the pleasure of playing this, you really should.

What makes SW’s work? Simple, yet careful, game design. When I teach it to people I explain “it’s like Magic the Gathering, only your wizard is on the board”.

The idea behind the game is to use a modest deck of cards, the majority of which represent a soldier of some type. You summon your soldiers next to one of your few walls. From there you move and attack, much like a miniatures game. There are dice rolled to see if an attack hits. Units have an attack value, health and a single special ability. The restriction here is that no matter how many units you have, only 3 can move and you can only make 3 attacks per turn. Now this is faulty from a miniatures game point of view as there is simply no logical reason why only a handful of units could move/attack but from a game balance point of view, it serves to keep the game fast paced and to prevent one side from gaining too much board control.

It seems simple but it plays out exceptionally well. One important thing that the game does away with is ‘summoning sickness’. A unit that is summoned can be immediately moved and make an attack.

Between the limited move/attacks and the lack of summoning sickness you end up with a game that plays out like a pendulum. Opponent attacks and wipes out many of your troops. Provided you hand of cards doesn’t suck, you summon up some troops and wipe out your opponent’s units.

One of the best parts of the game that I’ve not mentioned is how you summon. To do so, you need magic points. You get magic points in one of two ways: Discard one of your own cards into the magic pile or destroy an enemy unit. This is a wonderful risk vs. reward mechanic. How many cards, from your precious and limited deck, do you ditch in order to summon a champion (who cost more) or a bunch of common units?

The game is designed for 2 players but you can play 4 players as teams. It feels slightly different with allies but it still plays extremely well.

The designer is committed to adding more and more decks. Options are always great. I’ve played probably 20 games with the original 4 decks and just recently acquired 2 new decks and have been introducing people to it. And there are 2 more decks available and 6 more on the horizon. I am incredibly impressed that the designer has enough time to manage the artwork and create decks that are (hopefully) balanced.

Do yourself a favor and check them out.


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