Thursday, 19 July 2007

Another Prayer Request

Folks, Cracked LCD #3 is's my "Games to Avoid" one. I really need to buy a minivan and to pay for my gas bill so please visit the site. The column has been under attack from Satan and it really needs your support.

Looks like it's another F:AT meetup tonight! MICHAEL BUCCHERI is going to be joining up with Robert Martin and I along with our comically drunken sidekick WILL KENYON who will likely rope Mr. Buccheri into a 4 hour long game of WAR OF THE RING like he did with Franklin Cobb. Mr. Buccheri has already requested that we play MISSION RED PLANET instead of DUNE.


LilRed said...

Great article. Has your column really been under attack? I have enjoyed it so far...

I don't totally agree with you tho:

Warcraft WITH the expansion is actually an okay game. I got these two in a package for $30. I wouldn't have bought it for the full $80 tho... And even I disagree with the crap wooden pieces. They should have replaced it with the same kind of chits they use for monsters and summons in the expension IMO. But if you look apart from that Warcraft with expansion actually has lots of flavour and is fun to play.

And I actually like to play munchkin but only with one person and without expansions even tho I have been trapped and bought more expansions... Munchkin plays best with 2. And I exclusively play it with my gf. She likes the randomness, the funny cards (she has actually played roleplaying games, and I never have) and the take that factor. But without getting too silly cos you only play with 2. It makes for short (15 - 30 mins MAX) games which is what Munchkin needs.

Shellhead said...

Great picks for that list in the latest article. Every game you listed is popular and yet highly over-rated.

I disagree with you regarding Cults Across America, but I will admit that the game usually lasts about one hour longer than the fun. Still, the combat is kind of fun, the cards bring a welcome degree of chaos, and I especially like the briefcase virus carried by the Director of the CDC. The Dreamlands map adds an interesting strategic element, although I admit that it functions more like the pattern in Amber than anything Lovecraft wrote about.

Michael Barnes said...

Yes, Satan is literally attacking the column with a pitchfork. He cackles "haw haw" and then stabs at it whilst standing next to a boiling cauldron.

I'm glad SOMEBODY like the WARCRAFT board game...I never played with the expansion because my group pretty much declared it DOA without...I didn't really see much that I thought would improve the game. It's a disappointment because it _seems_ like there's somse good ideas there.

And lilred...this is probably the only board games forum where you can attempt a defense of MUNCHKIN and not be publically flogged. That being said, MUNCHKIN sucks.

I did think some of the card stuff in CULTS ACROSS AMERICA was fun, like the "Race to R'lyeh" where everyone has to drop what they're doing and literally race to R'lyeh. But there again, funny cards do not a game make.

Plus I think I've about had it with cute/funny/silly Lovecraft stuff.

LilRed said...

Somehow I always imagined Satan being on the Ameritrash side while Tom Vasel is trying to get God to perform an exorcism on all Ameritrashers while praying to a shrine of his DoW Games.

Hehe, I know i was taking a leap when I said I like Munchkin, I totally see why people hate and even I totally hate it in groups. But with 2 players it's hardly THAT bad. But it's no rocket science.

Michael Barnes said...

I'm with you bub...I'd rather play MUNCHKIN than say, PILLARS OF THE EARTH.

I've debated long and hard about whether Satan is actually on our side or not and I think I've come to the conclusion that we're much more aligned with Odin, Azathoth, and Quetzalcotl. Satan is just a marketing tool for the church.

mtlawson said...

I think I won't give up on Runebound quite yet (besides, it's my buddy's game, not mine), but I've been thinking of Return of the Heroes for a while now. I have a copy of Magic Realm, but I know it'll take a while before I get the game to the table.

As for Munchkin, that's the only game my RPG playing brother-in-law ever plays, so if I want to play a board/card game, that's the game.

All in all, it's a good article. Keep up the good work, Mike!

--Mike L.

Michael Barnes said...

I've said it many times...RETURN OF THE HEROES is brilliant. The thing is, it resembles MERCHANT OF VENUS as much as it does an RPG. It's got a really light style of play in contrast to something like DESCENT or RUNEBOUND. It's simple, turns are very quick (if a player takes over a minute they probably have potty training issues), and it creates a fun game world.

MAGIC REALM is just's well worth the effort. It may be dense but it doesn't feel nearly as clumsy and unwieldly as RUNEBOUND does. And there's no point in the game at which a player is rolling a D20 over and over again for combat while other players are already taking their moves.

It's really a shame RUNEBOUND didn't work out for me...I like how developed its become, I like games that have a lot of options and details. Every time I've given it a (second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth...) chance it still falls completely flat with me. I think the movement system sucks, the combat is awful, and you can see in other FFG games how a lot of the good ideas there went on to better places. Like the environment cards in ARKHAM HORROR, for example.

Ken B. said...

Runebound is perfect for your target audience though Michael--the thing plays just like a multi-player RPG on the SNES or other console.

Also gamers these days are used to "wander around with character, level up, kill stuff, go on epic quest to finish" the game type stuff, so it's right up their alley.

Michael Barnes said...

Well, yeah, but there's better games out there that do the same thing...what did you want to play, LEGEND OF ZELDA or HYDLIDE? Don't settle for less kids.

neonpeon said...

He cackles "haw haw" and then stabs at it whilst standing next to a boiling cauldron.

A friend and I laugh at how Satan always haw-haws in those comics. I didn't think anyone else noticed. In fact, Barnes, you always make these obscure references that I always somehow "get" Hydlide (how about Golvellius or Neutopia?). :)

I once played Munchkin above the max # of players - I think there were 10 of us - oh how I prayed for death.

MAGIC REALM is just's well worth the effort.

I second this. Realmspeak can help immensely in learning the game. Steve McKnight (pretty much THE MR guru) runs semi-regular online games, and he's patient with newbies. Great guy. Catch him on that other site.

James said...

Michael you never provide a direct link:

Cracked LCD 3.0

Pretty good this week!

Mr Skeletor said...

My Thoughts:
Warcraft - I still want to try this. I'm scared to pay for it in case it blows as much as everyone claims, but then you guys whine about a lot of great games. Maybe if I seduce Jeremy at FFG ("My, your blue hair is sooo handsome!") he'll sneak me out a copy off the back of the truck.
Apart from that I have to question why you are mentioning things like "hybrid" and "Eurogame" - do the gamesharkers even know what these things are?

World of Warcraft: Poor choice. The faults you give are faults with the online game as well. Most videogamers who enjoy the PC game would most likely enjoy its boardgame translation as well.

Age of Mythology: DO gameshark players know what Purto Rico style is? I don't mind this game but yeah, I'd be hesitant to recommend it.

Runebound - Bad choice. People who's experience with RPGs comes from a computer will enjoy this game. ROTH is an adventure game for people with a Euro background, not videogamers. Your also showing personal bias when you say ROTH or Prophecy are better games - I'm pretty sure Rune is more highly rated then both those games, and it certainly has the much higher online presence.

Steve Jackson Games: I hate these things but I think the audience you are writing for enjoy them. So you're possibly alienating readers here.

RK: Unless your a game addict RK has enough top shelf titles that you should never need to go to his B stuff anyway.

Overall I gotta say Michael I think you fucked this article up a bit, mainly because you are forgetting your audience over there and writing too much from your own perspective and not enough from theirs.

neonpeon said...

Warcraft ain't bad. The blobby pieces are a bit strange at first, but because you can upgrade each unit type (melee, ranged, flying), you need generic pieces for each. (Though it does not make sense that all your existing orcs upgrade into ogres, I guess they wanted to keep it simple...It's something I can overlook.) The game does a decent job of recreating the feel of the computer games - you make similar decisions such as whether to grunt rush or build up, and when to acquire mines. All in all, Warcraft wouldn't be my first choice when I'm in a wargame mood, but I brought this out for a group of computer gamers and we had good fun.

bill abner said...

I know the audience pretty well (I hope I do..) and I think it's less about the audience as it is the games themselves.

My normal boardgame group *all* started with and still play PC and videogames from WoW to Call of Duty to Tiger Woods.

Runebound was the first game I showed them and it failed due to downtime. It doesn't matter if a guy loves Baldur's Gate II or not; sitting for 10-15 minutes while other players take their turn isn't fun.

WoW was played twice and abandoned by everyone, even the "I have 3 lvl-70 characters" WoW maniac. So the stereotype doesn't always fit.

I agree with Michael that there are games that do the things these games are trying to do far better and with more style.

The entry I have the most trouble with, and almost asked Michael to rethink, was the last one. The only reason is that it doesn't quite fit the subject matter.

If all Michael is to do is pick "popular" board games with a videogame license or slant, then what's the point? I know a LOT of people that hate the WoW game and also a lot of guys who love it.

These columns are first and foremost opinion pieces, so I have no trouble at all with him singling out those games as they pertain to him. Of course there is going to be personal bias in a column. There damn well better be!

That said, I think a good idea for an upcoming column is to actually define all of the boardgame lingo he is throwing around. I think that's a fair criticism that the audience may not understand the Euro, Ameritrash, Puerto Rico-stylings.

Next week is Michael's highly detailed Tide of Iron review. Good stuff.

Mijjy said...

When you were advising to avoid certain Knizia games, you mentioned "Lord Of The Rings", was this referring to the somewhat average "Confrontation" or that abortion of a co-operative effort??

andy stout said...

I'd just like to agree with the "hybrid", "eurogame", and ESPECIALLY "Puerto-Rico style" complaints; I have friends who play plenty of board games, both Euros and Ameritrash, and STILL have no idea what those things mean.

I also think it would have been a good idea to be more specific about the Knizia anti-recommendation: you mentioned three great games of his, but there are certainly a couple more good ones (in addition to those three, I am happy to have Modern Art, Colossal Arena, LOTR Confrontation, Blue Moon, and especially Battle Line on my shelf), and some specific titles to avoid probably would have been more helpful (and funny) to read.

The first time I played Runebound my girlfriend had fun (I didn't), the second time we played it was gruelingly boring we literally nearly passed out. I couldn't believe that we'd pretty much seen every encounter possible in the base game by the end of the second game: expansions are fun, but not when you NEED one after two games.

Really looking forward to the Tide of Iron review, when it comes to FFG games that one's second only to Descent for me!

Mr Skeletor said...

If all Michael is to do is pick "popular" board games with a videogame license or slant, then what's the point? I know a LOT of people that hate the WoW game and also a lot of guys who love it

I agree with this - but ironically that is what Michael has done - picked a bunch of video game titles that he personally doesn't like. Where are the Thurn and Taxis, Transamerica, Risk LOTR, and other such popular stinkers on this list?

Recommending Zombies!!! but then bagging WoW should ensure his gaming Visa is revoked.

I agree with Michael that there are games that do the things these games are trying to do far better and with more style.

Name 'em.
Return of the Heroes is for fart sniffers who like games with 'cute' jems. Anyone who ranks that above the Awesomeness that is Runebound is a fairy man. 2d10 FTW!

Joe Belanger said...

OMFG!!! Did you ever notice that Tom Vasel and Satan are never around at the same time? Huh, did ya?

And that Tom wears glasses and Satan doesn't?

Anonymous said...

"And that Tom wears glasses and Satan doesn't?"

That doesn't make any sense. Tom wears glasses and Satan doesn't wear glasses. If he took them off when he transformed he wouldn't be able to see.

Matt Thrower said...

Malloc prefers M:RP to Dune? Fuck. We better kick him off the staff, quick.

bob_the_goon said...

I just played Warcraft last night. Definitely needs the expansion to shine, but also does a good job capturing the source material. Different pieces would be nice though. . .

I also like WoW, with 4 or 6 players. We get into the team aspect and I like the character customization.

Although I like, Runebound, it probably deserves to be on that list. Too many qualifiers to make it good. Some of the card expansions add player interaction, but downtime will always be a problem with more than 3 players.

Tom Hazlett (Southernman) said...

Anonymouth said...
"And that Tom wears glasses and Satan doesn't?"

That doesn't make any sense. Tom wears glasses and Satan doesn't wear glasses. If he took them off when he transformed he wouldn't be able to see.

... er - Superman still managed to see OK ....

(crap - have I blown it ?)

Clarissimus said...

No, you're right on the money.

Michael Barnes said...

I recieved a call yesterday from an angry FFG employee who shall remain nameless...apparently there's talk of massive layoffs and cancellation of the entire WARCRAFT line...seems my reckless abandon has permanently damaged the hobby once again.

Frank- It's an opinion piece. The goal is to strike a balance between catering directly to the audience and also push the proverbial envelope a little, give them the benefit of the doubt that they may know what PUERTO RICO is or may at least investigate further if they don't. Plus it's important to maintain _my_ POV throughout the article, otherwise it'll just wind up in that Tom Vasel "it's not my cup of tea" category. Sorry, I don't write noncommittal bullshit like that.

Bill's needs to be more about the games, not the audience.

Where are the Thurn and Taxis, Transamerica, Risk LOTR, and other such popular stinkers on this list?

THURN AND TAXIS? Come on, no one outside of the 2000 or so manchildren who sup at the cock of BGG daily give a fuck about that game's existence. TRANSAMERICA is an activity, not a game, and RISK LOTR is pretty much forgotten by this point. I picked stuff that might draw the attention of a new gamer or a video gamer.

The Knizia stuff...that's on there because I know how when you're investigating something like board gaming and you start seeing a name around like that...and then that name shows up on boxes as a marketing device. "Hmm...I've heard this Knizia guy is pretty good...maybe I should buy this game". Next thing you know, your friends are rising up in rebellion in the middle of CLASH OF THE GLADIATORS.

I think the "Definitions" column is a _great_ idea. Look for it in August. Don't expect it to be 100% accurate. HAW HAW!

Malloc said...

I don't know what one of the Fortress Ameritrash Tastemakers wants to poison my Rep with the whole Mission Red Planet bullshit. I was the one who showed up at the Game night with a 44"x36" Dune board in the car!


Anonymous said...

"... er - Superman still managed to see OK ...."

Tom, if you haven't seen Mystery Men, do yourself a favor.

Malloc said...

I would also like to add that I am not a member of a game group that goes by the name Mercer MEEPLES!


Russ Fade said...

I'm with Mr. S on some of his points.

Runebound is a lot of fun with 2 or 3 players.

Zombies!!! would only be fun at Sororiety House Slumber party . . . and only if we skipped the Zombies!!! part.

It IS an opinion piece, though! ;)

Michael Barnes said...

Listen, I didn't name it "Mercer Meeples", nor did the organizers anticipate the sort of anti-meeple mayhem that me, Robert Martin, Billy Motion, Will Kenyon, and others introduced to their shindig once we started showing up. These days there's usually three AT tables to one Euro table.

BTW, we had an awesome time with Malloc...played SPACE CRUSADE (a real nailbiter until Mal delivered the coup de grace on the last Dreadnaught), REALLY NASTY HORSE RACING GAME, LINEAGE II, and CA$H N' GUN$. Fun stuff, all around. Mal also witnessed my attempted murder of local beekeeper Jason Thomas. Steve "Puddin'" Avery was in attendance and gave everyone someone to blame for everything. Great time.

BTW- his DUNE map was incredible, but he unfurled it in the moist Georgia air, rendering it useless.

Michael Barnes said...

Oh, and this "RUNEBOUND is fun with two or three players" doesn't hold up. The game is still boring, it just seems better because you're boring less people simultaneously.

Mr Skeletor said...

Yes yes, it's an "opinion" piece, but you are forgetting to account for the fact that your opinion sucks balls.

But hey, let the game sharkers go out and buy "Return of the Heroes" and leave Runebound on the shelf. In 5 years time when Runebound reaches cult status and commands top $$$ on ebay and they are stuck with the hardly replayable disneyland clone, they'll start cursing your name worse than Tom Vasel. Don't then come crawling to me for salvation.

As for the "Runebound is boring" argument - well were you not one of the guys giving Battlelore "Game of the Year" props not long ago? ;)

notbillysparkles said...

Hell, I even jumped on that bandwagon-- until the "expansions" started jumping in and pushed me the fuck out.

hacksword said...

Listen, I didn't name it "Mercer Meeples", nor did the organizers anticipate the sort of anti-meeple mayhem that me, Robert Martin, Billy Motion, Will Kenyon, and others introduced to their shindig once we started showing up. These days there's usually three AT tables to one Euro table.

If you outnumber the Euro guys three to one, you should lobby for a name change. A name like "Mercer Meeples" might discourage others from checking your group out.

mtlawson said...

Okay, how much is Return of the Heroes a Magic Realm lite? The game pieces -with the numbered locations- looks awfully similar to Magic Realm.

--Mike L.

ubarose said...

Return of Heroes is more a pick up and deliver, then race to fight the big boss game. It's fun, but is so different from Magic Realm and Runebound that they don't belong in the same sentence.

The downtime in Runebound is obscene. Sometimes it feels like it is a shopping game rather than an adventure game. With a few tweaks and some new art work it could be the Barbie goes to the mall game. However, with people who know the game well, it can be a lot of fun.

StephenAvery said...

Steve "Puddin'" Avery was in attendance..

Where did "puddin" come from? I like Good Ol' Steve Avery better. If you're really grasping for nicknames you should go with something more accurate like Steve"Lord of Creation" Avery or Steve"Rock Hard Abs" Avery or even Steve "Superior to me in every way " Avery...

StephenAvery said...

Oh.. BTW never never never bet on Micheal Barnes in the Nasty Horseracing Game.

Good Ol "Master of Creation rock hard abs superior to me in every way Puddin" Avery

Ken B. said...

Didn't you used to pitch for the Braves?

Shellhead said...

I firmly believe that Zombies!!! is a better game than Runebound.

Zombies!!! has simple gameplay, but people really love the city tiles and of course, the 100 plastic zombies. Sure, the game ultimately outstays its welcome by an hour, but until people get bored (or arbitrarily decide they don't like the game), they are having some fun.

The Zombies expansions add to the fun and replay value, but it's a good idea to prune down the card decks, as some of those expansion card from the mall set and the military base set are so specific as to be useless. Our group now plays with a house rule that only the first expansion set entrance comes into play, opening up that one expansion, and then the rest are ignored. That keeps the game manageable in terms of table space and zombie usage. The guts token rule from the University set adds a new dimension to the game.

The latest Zombies expansion goes a long way towards bringing the game to a reasonable length, by adding two new important ways to get around town. Sewer lids let the players bypass some awkward map layouts and dangerous clumps of zombies. Subway stations let players potentially travel a long distance across town, from subway station to subway station, at the cost of losing just one turn of movement.

Runebound has some nice artwork and components, but the movement system doesn't add much to the game, aside from slowing down the pace. The combat system is unnecessarily complex, again slowing down the game without giving much back. Add in the followers and the magic items, and you get lots of noisy math before die rolls, reminding me of the worst aspect of the original Illuminati game. This might be okay, but the lack of interactivity between the players makes Runebound solitaire with long downtimes, a bad combo for a boardgame. Despite the silly Tom Wham artwork, Mertwig's Maze does everything that Runebound does, and Mertwig's Maze does it better.

Anonymous said...


The Czech and Slovak Republics are separate countries; Czechoslovakia hasn't existed since the "Velvet Divorce" of 1993, nine years before Prophecy came out and 14 years before your article was written.

433 said...

You can try and seduce me by complimenting my hair, Frank, but it's my beautiful beautiful eyes that set hearts aflutter.

And won't Britney get mad?

Mr Skeletor said...

No, as I kicked her bitch ass on the curb after she complained that Runebound didn't have 6 sided dice like Talisman.

rarbelaez said...

Well,in my experience, having played lots of videogames, like Baldur's Gate 1 & 2, the most excellent Planescape: Torment, Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2 and other similar games, the combat system, the fear factor and the character progression are the cornerstones of these types of games.

Even a whitewolf based videogame like Vampire: The Masquerade Blodlines is TOTALLY combat centered.

Runebound is a much stronger game than RoTH in those areas.

That is also the reason why I personally prefer Runebound to Return of the heroes any day.

It's not that RoTH is a bad game. It's not. But Runebound is simply more exciting.

The main reason is that there is a strong fear factor in Runebound's combat, because you can easily get killed (KO'd) and it'll hurt you (gamewise) a lot.

When you're involved in a really hard combat, you can cut the tension with a knife. The lenght and complexity of the combat system add a lot to the tension. A lot.

It's not just a single die throw like in most combats in RoTH.

That's why I never get the people that play with softer KO rules: That totally kills the game.

In Return of the heroes the gameplay might be faster, the downtime smaller, and there's a strong focus on exploration, plots and subplots, but the combat is too damn simple; not even slightly exciting.

Even if the rest of the game is good, this kills it for me.

There's also a sentimental reason: Combat in Runebound gives me a similar rush to D&D combats back in good old 2nd edition.

Now that I think about it, it was like the discussion between RPG D&D fans and Whitewolf fans, one system being centered on integral character development and role playing, and the other system focused on Combat (of course, this was vastly dependant upon your GM and your gaming group). And videogamers are clearly more akin to the first group than to the second.

By the way,runebound 2nd. Ed. uses two 10 sided dice to replace the old 20 sided die(which creates a nice distribution curve, reducing the probability of really good or really bad dice throws).

I prefer Doom: The Boardgame to Descent for the same reason. It's a harder game, with more tension and therefore, a greater sense of accomplishemt when you beat it.

Unfortunately, most gamers in Colombia (where I live) are Eurogamers...So I barely get to play the games I enjoy the most...

So count your stars, and stop whinning so much :-)

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