After a bit of uncertainty regarding course enrolment and cars not working we could have had anything between 3 and 6 players tonight. We have 3, so we broke out Star Realms and then the other 3 turned up. Poor Star Realms. One day…
At six players we had a reduced but still reasonable pool of games to choose from.
We kicked off with a round of most voted for:
by Santa Ragione.
With the rules explained, TS (Alien) kicked off with a decidedly revealing move. KV (Human-Captain) was a lot more discrete as he made a b-line for the bottom right escape pod. So discrete, in fact, that he unintentionally cheated on a subsequent turn. But that shouldn’t be an issue, unless he wins. MC (Human-Soldier) was also able to be discrete and unfortunately headed for the same escape pod as KV. When KV was forced to reveal his position, MC was forced to make a major U-turn and go for the bottom left pod. BS (Alien) used his super alien speed to shoot up to the top of the map and hang out were nothing happened at all. DA (Human) found himself floundering about where MC pretended to be and was subsequently eaten by PH (Alien). As the soldier, MC knew that he could effectively take out PH if he got too close, but with PH’s extra speed gained from feasting on DA, MC didn’t stand a chance. While bits of MC were being picked out of PH’s large and pointy teeth, KV made it to the escape pod, found it was fully functioning and successfully escaped. Cheat!
Points go to PH for being a frikkin terrifying thing to share a space station in a black-out with and to KV for surviving.
Next up was a first for Board Games in Bedford. A popular game by Wizards Of The Coast:
I have never played this game before and know very little about the Lore or anything so, I can’t tell you who was what, because I just don’t know. (Guys, if you read this feel free to bring me up to speed and I’ll edit this). There were also a couple of distractions with dice and counters needing to be found and BS calling it a night. MC played the graveyard deck, KV was possibly the humans, DA was definitely something or other and PH might have been the thingies.
DA quickly produced a powerful indestructable whatjamacallit that caused lots of havoc. PH amassed a sizeable army of doofers. TS was hammered by everyone and was the first to fall. KV utilised tokens a lot. MC managed to place a lot of land, and clawed back much health then chose to destroy DA and become super healthy. PH and KV then crushed MC between them with PH finally being victorious as he jumped up and down on KV.
Incidentally, if you’ve been curious about playing MTG but baulked at the stupendous amount of money required to get a decent deck, I recommend you try out Infinity Wars. It’s free to play on Steam and has a lot of very similar mechanics but is also it’s own game. Almost every card can be obtained without paying a penny, but you do have to play the game a fair bit. There’s also the added bonus of not having shoe boxes full of ‘spares’. It needs a bit more love at the moment, so go give it some.
Edit: As expected TS has set me straight on certain aspects of Magic the Gathering. This is what he has to say on the matter:
With Magic the Gathering, you will have to excuse my poor memory, but what I recall was… BS had Eldrazi, and had laid a legendary land named Eye of Ugin, which is well known for powering some rapid releases of Eldrazi-based spells, before he retired.
PH had successfully brought out Rakdos, Lord of Riots legendary creature, which can be slightly better than BS’s card given that it reduces the cost of creature spells by how much player damage he induced that turn.
DA’s indestructible was called Zurgo Hellsmasher which, while it was not a legendary (more than 1 can be put on the battlefield at any given time), it is a frightening card which is indestructible when it attacks, and if a creature is killed when defending against it, then Zurgo’s power and toughness increases permanently.
KV had amusingly taken the human deck which he pointed out is much more powerful in a 1v1 game, but was able to hold his ground, like destroying powerful enchantments, stealing Zurgo Hellsmasher for a turn, and quickly building up a decent creature force on his own battlefield.
MC held the more worrying of battlefields, while his deck was not the most powerful, he certainly showed a decent level of luck pulling not one, but two Vampire Nighthawks within the first few turns, both of them having flying, death touch, and life leech – a combination dreaded by defending players, and kept MC alive for much longer than he should have been. MC had other cards down, but one of the other noteworthy creatures he used was Harvester of souls which allowed him to draw a card every time a non-token creature died, be it his own, or an opponent, and with so many opponents, but the time it came round to his turn, he had a plethora of cards to choose from to dominate with.
TS held Jeskai, which by normal means was the fastest and most furious of the decks when used correctly, but alas the cards were certainly not in his favour for this game. Jeskai, whilst not holding any powerful cards, or legendaries is known for requiring very few cards to run smoothly, and most creatures have flying, as well as a mechanic that worked between them that allowed life-leech. Alas, it was not meant to be, holding cards that cost a fair amount of mana, and having too few land to power them.
PH pointed out the owner of the game (TS) is/was designated to lose, which TS found very amusing, KV pointed out that he preferred smaller games, although the game ran extremely smoothly especially since three of the six players had never played before. As an avid fan, and a player for near a decade, TS believes the game was extremely good, and a lot of fun was had all round.
Oh, as to expenditure, you’ll have to excuse how much I said the Eye of Ugin cost – whilst it ‘is’ extremely expensive, it is only because it is a super rare card. On normal counts, myself and maybe 7 others will buy a new box or two of magic cards – usually set at about £80 (so £10-£20 each), and with maybe 36 individual packs of 11 magic cards per box we distribute them as evenly as we can, the extra’s put up as “winnings” for small tournaments we hold within our group. This way we get the latest and best cards for maybe ten pounds each and craft a decent deck from the cards we are given. Nobody knows what cards we are given, completely random, but guaranteed 1 rare, a few uncommons, and maybe 6-7 common cards per packet. Each packet usually bought individually costs around £3.50, whilst a crafted deck designed by wizards of the coast, along with two extra packets cost between £11-£15. The human deck KV used was a crafted deck, with a few alterations, and the Eldrazi deck BS used was one of the tournament decks, as was my Jeskai deck- albeit after the tournament I made some alterations.
I’ve maybe 20 decks between Helen and myself, of which 7 of them are good. I also hold two command decks between myself and Helen; while command games are similar to normal games, there are a few changes, and the playing of a command game is much much harder both to make, and to play. I severely enjoyed the last game – one thing I will always say is that I will enjoy a good game even if I lose. It is all in how the game is played, and down to the players themselves. I’ve yet to come across a bad magic player, but I’ve heard rumours on the internet of some people taking the game too seriously.
I have only 1 box of spares, which may contain maybe 3000 cards which I’m always happy to give, or trade (depending on how much I love the card, heh-heh!!)
I’d be delighted to play again, if ever the pleasure of playing them again arises. I’ll attempt to carry them with me on the off-chance 🙂
Finally, at the request of BINCA Games, we play-tested:
Now I am going to write an in-depth review of this game later but this write-up is going to hold much of my preliminary thoughts, so feel free to skip to the end to see who won.
With a very similar feel to Sheriff of Nottingham, this bluffing game possibly suffers at the very start due to its controversial subject matter. We play the part of dirty cops releasing killers from custody. The winner is the player who has the most killers in their ‘Released Pile’. In a time where the news is full of the heinous acts done by those in positions of trust and authority, this theme could leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Thematically speaking, the simple game mechanics could have been driven by any number of themes, most of which would have been more palatable than this one.
It must also be said that the rule ‘book’, whilst kept nicely in theme, and it’s clear that a lot of thought went in to the design of it, the decision to have each page separate has caused two main problems:
1. When packing this particular box, two Page 1 pages have been packed but no Power Card crib sheet. That’s right, the part of the rules that tells you how the power cards work references a part of the rules not actually present. I’ll talk more about the power cards later.
2. Owners of games with numerous expansions will know what I’m talking about with this one: Because the rules are not bound together, they very quickly cease to be in one place. One player is looking at one sheet, another player is looking at another. When it’s time to refer back to the rules, it’s very time-consuming to try to work out which sheet you want (something that can be tough even in bound rulebooks), particularly if you have page 1 twice.
Anyway, enough about the theme.
The game itself comprises of a sizeable stack of nicely produced cards comprising of six character types and a number of special Power Cards. The inclusion of a nice and sturdy cardboard band to store the cards in was a nice touch. The significantly large number of cards split into character types does suffer from a feeling of uniformity. The nicely presented ‘mug shots’ of each character type is identical so once you’ve seen one ‘Witness’ you’ve literally seen them all. In terms of game value, the non-Killer cards are almost incidental, but perhaps making each Killer card unique would allow the game to stay fresh for longer.
A minor negative point is that the insert tray to the box is made of that flimsy plastic that was already shredded when I opened the box.
The other game component is comprised of a goodly number of thick cardboard tokens which are the medals. Thematically, the more medals a player has the more influence they have so the better chance they have of letting Killers free without suffering penalties. The tokens are a nice 2-sided golden colour and come in a resealable bag with emblazoned with a sticker with “The Board” written on it.
During a turn a player may do one of four things:
1: Add 3 medals to their personal supply (everyone starts with 3).
2: Play a power card and do what it says.
3: Claim to be releasing 1 (or 2 matching) non-Killer character cards (from a hand of 7 cards). This is done with the cards face down. At this point all the other players take turns in deciding whether to call the bluff or not. Card successfully released go to the player’s personal Release pile where the Killers are counted at the end of the game. Any player caught out in a bluff or calls it and no Killers are revealed pays the other player 3 medals. Revealed Killers end up in custody face up in from of the player who called the bluff. If a player can’t pay, they miss their next turn and the other player still gets 3 medals, this time from the bank.
4: Use their medals to steal a Killer from another player’s custody (cost of 1 medal + the number of medals that player has stacked on that Killer – max of 4) or to release a Killer in their own custody (cost of 5 medals).
At the end of a turn, a player draws back up to seven cards.
When the deck is finished and there’s nothing left that is playable, the game ends. Even with all five players, that was a long time coming. Part of the reason of this is the ‘Lose a turn’ game mechanic. During this time, the afflicted player cannot even call someone’s bluff. In a five player game this penalty can change from having to wait between 4 plays (if you’re unsuccessful in calling the bluff of the person to your right) or 7 plays (if you’re unsuccessful in calling the bluff of the person to your left) to 8 plays (if you’re caught releasing a killer). That’s a long time sitting around not doing anything. An equally harsh, but less boring alternative would be to lose a Killer in your Released pile. That way, you’d still get to actually participate in the game, but also have an incentive to keep those precious medals handy.
The Power Cards
Most of the deck is comprised of the character cards, but there are also a number of Power Cards that players may find themselves holding. I only had the pleasure of holding a few of them. Without doubt, these were the part of the game that caused the greatest upset during play. It didn’t help we didn’t have the Power Card Crib Sheet. Much of the text was open to interpretation with the rules, in the one instance they did directly reference a particular card having a better (but just as concise) description than the card did.
Some of the cards were clearly meant to be reactive cards played out of turn, but as they had the same look and colour as the rest (which, if you remember, would comprise an entire turn to play).
Without the crib sheet, we were only able to use the cards at their face value, and many of them seemed a little pointless.
One card, for example, makes a player of your choice miss a turn, but you have to spend your turn to play it.
One card allows a player to steal one card from the hand of every player and keep one of those, but with a constantly replenishing seven card hand, there’s little point do even doing that. You only end up with 1 new card, which you would have gotten from the deck if you’d released a single Witness (with the added possibility of being called on it and getting medals).
One card allowed players to steal a Killer in custody but you’d still have to pay the cost (less 1).
One card cancels any action, including being called out in a bluff. Without the crib sheet there was no way in knowing if this lasted for the entire turn or only for the first time the bluff is called in which case the next player would successfully call the bluff (unless it was a double bluff).
Some of the better cards:
A Copy-cat character who is a Killer if the bluff is not called or a Witness if the bluff is called. I never held one of those.
One card allowed players to instantly release a Killer, just like that. I never held one of those.
One card allowed a player to kill a Killer in another player’s released pile. I never held one of those either.
One card allowed a player to steal a just stolen Killer.
One card allowed a player to copy a Power Card just played. A particularly powerful card as it’s presumably played out of turn so doesn’t use up a turn to play it.
The Police Chief was played near the end of the game and was a particular highlight and caused us all to break out laughing. This card is so ridiculously overpowered it’s a good thing there’s only one of them. In one turn, it allows a player to steal all the medals off of one player, a Killer off another and make a third miss a turn. It’s the card that will make players with the copy-cat cards hold on to them for when this card turns up. The only reason we didn’t was because we didn’t know about it until it turned up.
When the end came, we welcomed it.
Plus points for released Killers, negative points for Killers still in hand (KV picked up a Killer right at the end). Killers in custody break ties.
With the Power Cards being so largely impractical and the non-Killer cards having no function save for bluffing with to sneak Killers out, I feel that the two ought to be combined. That way each character card has a specific symbol (to keep with the theme they could be ‘Clues’ such as shell casings, fingerprints, etc. – Even dirty cops have to do some legit work on occasion). If a player releases a Killer-free card and another player calls it, the cards are revealed and left face up in front of the active player. Once a player has accumulated a number of specific ‘Clues’ then they can send the relevant cards to the discard pile and activate the relevant Power. Needless to say each player would need their own crib sheet for reference so they know what recipe or ‘Case’ they’re aiming for.
Wow! That was a little more in-depth that I expected it to be. Not a bad game, but the lose-a-turn mechanic needs to go and the cards need to do more.
Final score: Well that was anticlimactic.
Oh, and DA won.