Thursday, 8 November 2007

FFG to All Other Game Publishers- "We're In Ur Base, Killin Ur Doods"


If there's any doubt that Fantasy Flight Games is the iconic, premiere publisher of board games today than STARCRAFT should lock that title down for them. At this point, I think FFG is actually outdoing "glory years" Avalon Hill in terms of releasing consistently great games that will, mark my words, be regarded as the classic games from this era in the hobby's development that people still play and enjoy twenty years from now. Their commitment to reintroducing past classics and developing respectful games based on high-profile licenses puts them head and shoulders above much of the competition and their best-in-business in-house development team just can't seem to stop turning out amazing work (WORLD OF WARCRAFT notwithstanding). Of course, the quality of their productions is on a level that no one else can touch and if I were a publisher I'd be doing everything I could to keep up with the high standards they're putting out there- you can say it's because they have more money or better resources, but the fact of the matter is that FFG started out very small doing pretty spartan productions and look where they are now thanks to smart business practices and raw, unbridled ambition. They're getting to the point where only firms like Games Workshop and Wizards of the Coast are any bigger.

So all you guys over at FFG- I salute you. Even Bexley, the guy filling in for Thaad while she's away at her little video game event who corrected a gross figure imbalance in my box.

As for my STARCRAFT review over at Gameshark.com? Best game of 2007.

61 comments:

Joe Belanger said...

Fantasy Flight is a lot like George Lucas (back in the day). G-Luc wasn't releasing deep science fiction, but he was getting a LOT of people interested in it.

While Fantasy Flight's catalog is great, it isn't for everyone. For some it's the themes, for some it's the time investment and for people that I don't care to acknowledge... both (may those bastards burn).

Fantasy Flight is the ONLY company that is releasing games that sends me back to my "glory days". When depth, length of play and the day (not the 45-60 min) spent gaming was king.

Shryke said...

Great Review Barnes.

My only comment would that the lack of diplomatic options is almost certainly intentional and in keeping with the theme. StarCraft was never a game about deal making. It's about killing the other guy dead. The game does this quite well.

I think it actually simulates the game very well in many ways. The whole game (both board and computer) is centred around building stuff to get bigger/better units, researching stuff to get bigger/better units, and then using said units to crush your enemies.

When I first looked/played it, it did seem out of place, since 99% of these multiplayer conquest/empire games have many diplomatic options, while this one doesn't. But it's really just the game staying true to it's theme. No compromise, the enemy must die.

jon said...

Barnes and Vasel in lockstep as usual....


:P

Ryan Walberg said...

Ditto what Joe said.

I get to play StarCraft on Saturday. It looks fun.

Michael Barnes said...

That's actually a great point Joe, and a comparison that I've made a few times in conversation...a lot of people hold STAR WARS accountable for the endless slew of big-budget, high gloss, low substance blockbusters we've been "treated" to over the past thirty years. That's kind of true, but that sort of undercuts the fact that STAR WARS is actually a pretty great movie regardless of its depth or assumed level of sophistication.

But still the point is that FFG is as close as we have to "blockbuster" games, and they do have the kind of charm, character, and total nerd appeal that make these games, like STAR WARS, the ones that are going to really galvanize people and create lifelong gamers.

I'd disagree with you though and say that FFG's catalog _is_ for everyone. They've got the hardcore (?) Euros like THROUGH THE DESERT and INGENIOUS, they've got the best lineup of AT games ever published, they've got CCG/CMGs, they've got light wargames, reprints, card games, 2 player games, even a couple of family games. Hell, they even do RPGs and have a movie in postproduction. Through in peanut butter and chocolate and it's the total package.

Now on to Shryke- that's a good observation about the lack of diplomacy...I think you're absolutely right and frankly I can't see ever making a deal with those filthy Protoss bastards but I still hold that the really limitless, timeless games are those that have extensive interaction. I haven't tried the team play variant, but that may actually be where some of that shows up after all.

It's a question of focus, and I think in the end I think Corey K. and Mr. Petersen chose the right things on which to focus. STARCRAFT is in fact about pwning other folks and OMG Zerg rushing and all that...and you're right, I don't know that I want to talk about it first.

As for Jon's comment- couldn't you have just said "Great Review, Mike!"

StephenAvery said...

FFG is kicking Ass. As a completely shallow neanderthal of a gamer I drool over their stunning graphics and great minis. They totally deliver the smash em up cut throat game action I crave and in different flavors to boot (Would you like the Fantasy Space or WW2 entre this evening?) Now if they only had decided to make Mutant Chronicles CMG in 25MM instead of 40mm....

Steve"Avery-SMASH!"Avery

jon said...

Nah, where's the fun in that? Whoo-hoo!!

OK, it is a good review, gets the feel of the game across well. I'm actually encouraged by the lack of diplomatic options, as I think that often detracts from the proper focus of a game. This comes up a lot with multiplayer games, and esp. AT games, which are usually conquest oriented. I don't want another example of all these cool levers to pull, but the game is decided solely because A made a deal not to attack B, even though C offered the same terms. The surrounding context has to matter more. I know this is an unpopular view here, but there you go.

As for Vasel, I'm actually a bit surprised he isn't (to steal a word from another thread here) fellating more about SC.

Thaadd said...

Cool article...
As an aside, I'm back, alive, vaguely jet lagged. Lots of photos taken, local game shop stalked and spied out.
Computer game conventions are a fair amount different from most game conventions I've been to - alot more drinking and hanging about, as we can't really DO our geeky thing while there, unlike boardgaming. I almost brought a copy of Cash -n- Guns but I didn't want to spend my week in Security Customs...
If anyone is bored, pictures are located here:
Flickr site
Now to catch up on parts emails!

Michael Barnes said...

I looked at Tom's review again just to see if maybe Jon was onto something...it's typical mumbly, "I like this game" crap but he makes a statement in there that I think reveals how little he really gets about the game's finer points. He basically says something to the effect that the game is too short to get around to building most of the techs or getting all the units into action. I thought that too, for the first time I played. But after doing a couple of test runs to see if that was really a problem, what I realized is that the point is to get you to focus on something and stick with it. Want badass ground units? Build up that barracks and focus on the techs that help them. Having trouble with flyers? Build toward taking them down. You _shouldn't_ want to build everything in the game because there's no reason to and it's a huge waste of resources. What you build should be a function of what you want to do and what other players are building- kind of a subtle type of player interaction there. And then there's the long-term strategic question of when to shift gears and build something else because the units are so limited. You've got six hardcore marines out there but what next? If you're just playing just to build things, you might as well break out PUERTO RICO.

This is a game that rewards replay and also very aggressive, vicious play. With the unit density so low, there's almost no reason to piddle around building up forces since anything over one just gives you a little defensive padding if your frontline guy gets wiped out and a couple of +1 bonuses. That's another example of really smart design- you don't win by just building a bunch of guys or turtling, you win by using them smartly, quickly, and by increasing their combat capability.

NeonPeon said...

Yup, FFG rules.

My buds and I will be playing some Arkham Horror and Fury of Dracula on Saturday...This will only be my second time playing either so I'm looking forward to the weekend.

That comment from the Tom Vasel review reminds me of when I first played Magic, I was annoyed by how difficult it was to summon creatures of all five colors.

the red phantom said...

I guess I get to continue being the skeptical jerk around here. Yay!

It would have really been a great review if it wasn't for the fact that I had an image of Mr. Barnes dry-humping the StarCraft game box, which is likely as big as he is. I don't need to hear for the 30th time this month how super-duper FFg is, since unlike most of you I want them to do *better* and not rest on their AT laurels. It makes me feel that I'm being "hyped", and I hate that feeling. I would rather one of the FFg cranks from BGG had written a glowing review, because that means something! As I wrote in another thread, Mr. Barnes showered the exact same level of enthusiasm on Tide of Iron in almost the exact same way. Look, we got it: FFg is an irreplaceable and well-respected company and their catalog has improved in recent years. On to the game.

If it's an FFg game, I read a review asking, "Why *shouldn't* I buy it?" So I immediately keep an eye out for criticisms which, both here and in Tom Vasel's insipid review, are muted by all the heavy breathing. Mr. Barnes makes what I take to be an accurate point, but immediately follows it up with, and I paraphrase, "yeah, but the game is a space conquest game playable in an evening, ya want the world??" When I hear five times the equivalent of, "this *may* be an issue, but how can you not love this game?", I get worried. And how many times is Mr. Barnes going to erect the straw man of a Eurogame so he can bash it with StarCraft? TI3 nor GoT nor StarCraft would have been designed if it wasn't for Euros.

I also disagree with anyone who thinks it's particularly daring or ambitious to build a game on a lisence. Is Glenn Drover daring and ambitious?

Glad to hear it's a great game, but Mr. Barnes' opinion was pre-ordained. And I really don't want to hear any more about "a gross imbalance in my box."

Michael Barnes said...

Ha ha! That's right on the money NP.

the*mad*gamer said...

How many times do you have to play this game to give a decent review?

This certainly looks like a game that you can't review after one play as Barnes points out. How many times did you play this game Michael before you did this review?

I am reminded of Tom's review of Tide of Iron, scooping everybody even before the game was available and when he took heat claimed it was a "preview" not a review.

I am also reminded of Barnes' review of St. Petersburg that went from an "8" and then nosedived to a "2".

I tend to agree with Matt Thrower in a discussion on a past podcast of mine. Matt usually waits before purchasing a new game until it has been around a while and the newness has worn off.

bill abner said...

I don't know how much Mike played the game, but my personal rule of thumb, for boardgames anyway, is that it takes a minimum of 5 plays and usually with varying number of people, to get a good feel for how everything works and more importantly what kind of staying power it has.

I don't really look at the rankings on BGG as "reviews" as much as I do a hodge-podge of impressions. I have rated games after 1, 2 plays but usually go back and tweak as needed.

Being new to the boardgame side of game reviewing, it took me a few games to realize what I consider a proper way to do them. For me, anyway.

If I had it to do over again I would significantly lower the scores of Ticket to Ride and Marvel Heroes, for instance. After a few more plays the light came on that I had reviewed them way too soon.

Runebound is another one. I didn't review it but my feelings about it went from "Cool!" to "I'll never play this damn game again" in a matter of about 5 plays.

Everyone has a different opinion on this stuff, but reviewing a game too early is a big, big problem in the videogame industry and the more I am exposed to the BG side...it looks to be about the same.

Joe Belanger said...

"I'd disagree with you though and say that FFG's catalog _is_ for everyone. They've got the hardcore (?) Euros like THROUGH THE DESERT and INGENIOUS"

Whoops, you're right. I did exactly what euros are designed to do; be forgotten.

So, yes, FFG has blanketed us all in gamery wonderfulness.

notbillysparkles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Barnes said...

Full disclosure- I paid for the game and I've played it four times (2, 3, 5, and 6 players) and I feel that's pretty much enough to get a large percentage of it down, and also to get a sense of how much longevity it has. After four games in a couple of weeks I'm still excited about playing it again tonight and I hope we can fit in two games, and I think that says a lot. I thought about waiting until next week to write it, but I felt confident enough with my take on it that I'd rather hit it while the game has that new smell.

I'm split on the review early/wait a while issue. My thinking is that most folks want reviews of new products so they can see where they'll fit into their collections, if they're worth checking out, or forgetting. But opinions do change, and sometimes particulars that aren't necessarily part of the game are a factor, like just getting sick of something or evolving attitudes toward certain types of gameplay. Hey, if the game burns out in six months I'll post here and tell you. But I don't think it will,as far as I'm concerned it's got what it takes.

And Red Phantom- I don't just hand out great reviews to FFG games. WORLD OF WARCRAFT, WARCRAFT, RUNEBOUND, BEOWULF, and most of the Silver Line games suck. My opinion certainly wasn't preordained, I actually was kind of skeptical about the game after reading the rules a couple of months back. Not to mention the fact that FFG's track record with Blizzard licenses prior to STARCRAFT was zero for two (zero for five if you count the expansions).

I do think it's pretty daring to make a licensed game that completely bucks expectation and winds up being not just a great game, but a great expansion of the STARCRAFT idea, which we really haven't seen since what, BROOD WAR?

I explicitly state repeatedly that STARCRAFT has a lot of Euro concepts in it, and in fact I think that's a big part of what makes it great. Truth be told, the game's really more of a Euro than AT game is you want to break it down along mechanical lines. Hell, the worker placement isn't fundamentally that different than the worker assignment in PILLARS OF THE EARTH or *gasp* CAYLUS.

notbillysparkles said...

Nice review Mike. my buddy picked up Starcraft at gencon and I'm still waiting to get together and play it. I'll have to take it around he block a few times before I throw in my two cents.

Welcome back Thaadd! Nice Pics. You forgot about trying Opal didn't you?

That's okay- I'll chalk it up to you been distracted by solosnake's bulging calf muscles.

As far as FFG goes, I 've been of the opinion that for the past few years they have taken up the torch that was blown out on AH, and which GW unceremoniously pissed on.

Billy Z.

Thaadd said...

I drank the Opal. It was vile. Like Fisherman's Friend coughdrops, only about 50% alcohol, if I am not mistaken. People joke about Jagermeister as being a cough medicine, I am SURE Opal started out that way.

I bought some Opal salt licorice as well at Duty Free, and 'got' a number of guys with it. I can look all sorts of sweet and innocent and eat some, while they take some, and are assaulted via tongue by ammonium chloride. In fact, I think I got at least one 'I will find your ship and blow it up' from someone...

Anonymous said...

Great Review!
Man, I can't wait until this game will be released in Germany. I will sweep Cuba, Hamburgum or League of Six (or whatever game is now really hot in german gaming-circles) off the table with this baby coffin and than we start to play a game similar to those great games I used to play in the 80s (Civ., Warrior Knights, Shogun). Differernce between todays games and the old school shit? I better explain on on example: I was very eager to master Puerto Rico. I finally know what to do and I managed to win over experienced players: "Okay I got 54 points, you got 32, you 37 and you 42. I won. Great(yawn)."
Shogun: "I attack you and my Ninja will kill your Daimyo. I roll... no!!! And then you roll....Nooo!! MY Daimyo is dead!" Enemy armies all over my provinces. It was like a Kurosawa movie. I lost. Great Fun!

I really think the gaming culture of to today is a culture of consumerism. Last week one of my gaming pals told me that he don't like El Grande, but he bought it anyway plus all the expansions. WTF?! If I would like EL Grande then I would play it a douzend times. And only then I would buy the expansions, in order to get another aproach to my favorite game. Everthing else is just to show off: look, I got all the important games on my shelves.
It is really all about how many games I own, not to have fun with one good game.
Shit, that is from a person, who got 30 games and just bought 7 games in Essen.

Mr Skeletor said...

Good to see you made it back in one piece Thaadd.

Reviews are frankly a slippery slope. On the one hand people say you can't properly review a game after only a few games, but then on the other people are really only interested in new stuff, so it's a catch 22. People complained a while ago that we weren't writing about new stuff, but when we do people say we are shooting our load too early.

I'm also not a fan of Red Phantoms approach of hitting the negatives. If a game is good why not say it, I don't understand why reviews which nitpick minor details are so much more useful, they just breed an atmosphere of negativity and frankly I'm getting a bit bored of it. Red sounds like one of the Aintitcoolnews whiners, who unless the reviewer bags the shit out of the film cry "Shill", which is fucking rediculous cosidering we are meant to be fans of our hobby.

I've had the game for 2 months now and my original review still stands. Take that however you like.

ubarose said...

I want to play with the anonymous German guy.

Anonymous said...

I looked at Tom's review again just to see if maybe Jon was onto something...it's typical mumbly, "I like this game" crap but he makes a statement in there that I think reveals how little he really gets about the game's finer points. He basically says something to the effect that the game is too short to get around to building most of the techs or getting all the units into action. I thought that too, for the first time I played. But after doing a couple of test runs to see if that was really a problem, what I realized is that the point is to get you to focus on something and stick with it. Want badass ground units? Build up that barracks and focus on the techs that help them. Having trouble with flyers? Build toward taking them down. You _shouldn't_ want to build everything in the game because there's no reason to and it's a huge waste of resources.

From Vasel's Review:

Technology: I'm a sucker for technology in games, as it's neat to see how it improves the different players, allowing them to go in different tangents strategy-wise. In StarCraft technology is critical, as it allows players to buy cards that go in their attack decks, making their decks more diverse and more powerful. Games aren't long enough to get more than half the technologies in play, so players have to choose carefully. I do have to point out that this may be the biggest weakness of the game. There are so many technologies with different effects and units that have different abilities, that a new player will likely be overwhelmed at the massive options. StarCraft is certainly a learning game, and it will take several plays before a player really understands each of the races. The game itself is fairly simple - the technology and units are what adds the complexity. New players can play competently but will likely feel like they've made many mistakes after their first playing, simply because they didn't comprehend just how the technologies and units complemented each other. Some of the units seem fairly weak but with upgraded technologies can help a player manage to survive and even win different battles.


Seems like he understands this aspect of the game fairly well.

Frank Branham said...

I think you can actually review some games after one or two plays. A lot of Euros in particular, reveal pretty much all of their tricks after that many plays.

This goes for the lamer Ameritrash games as well. This group discusses a lot of FFG games, but they are surrounded by a swarm of other hobby companies whose output is often far more shallow, tedious, and kind of painful to play than even the lamer Euros.

Imagine if Steve Jackson had an Avaloncon style convention where only SJ games were played. (It went downhill from Ogre, although Illuminati was kind of a bright spot.)

Andy said...

My fear was that the order system for Starcraft looked like it would be both too AP-prone and too artifical game-y (you plan to research in the same area as someone else just to stall their moving? wha?). Since you didn't mention that so much in your review, what are your thoughts about that system?

Mr Skeletor said...


Imagine if Steve Jackson had an Avaloncon style convention where only SJ games were played. (It went downhill from Ogre, although Illuminati was kind of a bright spot.)


There has been talk of adding more people to the FAT roster - I'd love to get a steve jackson fan on board to add a bit of diversity but they don't seem to exist. Who exactly is buying up that shit he makes?

Michael Barnes said...

Aw Frank, ILLUMINATI -blows-! Everybody knows the "other good Steve Jackson game is AWFUL GREEN THINGS.

Then Frank says-

they are surrounded by a swarm of other hobby companies whose output is often far more shallow, tedious, and kind of painful to play than even the lamer Euros.

Absolutely true. This is another reason FFG is so signficant at this stage.

I do think that, for veteran gamers at least, a lot of Euros can be completely reviewed after as little as two plays...some, not so. But a lot of those titles have a very limited arc from learning to mastery. Hell, one day for fun I might review a Euro without ever having played it to see how close I can get to how it really plays.

Anonymous German Guy- you are awesome.

mtlawson said...

Good review, Mike.

Unfortunately for me, I'm not going to be buying any games anytime soon, as our PC died and I had to go replace it. (When two HDs die on you in the span of an hour and you can't recover or reformat them, and the cable is fine, it's time to replace the PC.)

Thaad--

Who was that dude on the left in the picture of the men in kilts? He looks remarkably like someone I worked with until recently.

--Mike L.

Joe Belanger said...

Whatever you do, never mistype the URL to FortressAmerica.blogspot.com

A sheep was there that screamed, at the top of its lungs, stuff that everyone had heard before, but he never figured that out. Sure his last post is from last election, but he thinks he's pretty damn clever.

And now my soul hurts.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous German Guy- you are awesome.

I just had two beers and valium...and then a shot of jamaican rum. Actually I didn't remember what I wrote.

German Guy

Thaadd said...

Guy on left was a random Icelandic player (Giant). The guy on the right in the picture is about 6 feet tall.

Second picture, to hammer home point.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2127/1932920821_1514812a8f.jpg

MWChapel said...

Hmmm...I feel a pic coming on. ;)

Frank Branham said...

I don't actually like Illuminati either, but it has some clever bits, and I can at least see why is has fans.

I didn't count Awful Green Things because it was such a teensy tiny box, and because it was a TSR reprint.

Although, an FFG reworking of THAT would be divine.

jon said...

I looked at Tom's review again just to see if maybe Jon was onto something...
Michael, I was talking about your review, not Vasel's. I especially like how your reviews in general (and this one) get across the feeling of play without drilling too far down into minutiae. Sorry I didn't make that clear.

Michael Barnes said...

My fear was that the order system for Starcraft looked like it would be both too AP-prone and too artifical game-y (you plan to research in the same area as someone else just to stall their moving? wha?). Since you didn't mention that so much in your review, what are your thoughts about that system?

Well Andy, I have to say that this was one of the key reasons that I was kind of suspicious going into the game because I think programmed turns are kind of a tricky thing to pull off...sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't. STARCRAFT does it probably better than anything else I've played, except maybe WALLENSTEIN.

In a nutshell, the system is like a way-simplified version of the GAME OF THRONES action secret selection mechanic but it also has a little of the WARRIOR KNIGHTS order card and sequencing idea in it as well although it isn't random. As for AP, I haven't really seen it yet because there's only three orders- build, move, and research. But those orders do have some built-in variability- you can move for position or to attack, build lets you construct everything from workers to bases, and research gives you three extra combat cards along with a new tech. And you can always use the orders to bluff, block, or delay. Or, you can just forgo the order in favor of drawing an event card (which are always good and sometimes great).

So there's actually a lot of built-in flexibility, enough so I don't feel too limited or restrained by the mechanic, although that is really its purpose- to control player options to a reasonable degree without interfering with having viable choices. As for it being gamey- well, it is a little, particularly in the situation you described where you put down a research action to stall someone from moving. You could, I guess, draw a thematic connection that your order/presence there might represent a disruption caused by a raiding party, scouting force, or some other kind interference but I see what you're saying, and it may be something that you don't like. I didn't have a problem with it and I'm kind of on the extreme end of hating gamey mechanics.

The blocking actually adds a lot to the game- you can hold off a big stack of orders to get better prepared for an inevitable invasion but you do so at the risk of giving the blocked players a bunch of event cards.

My game last night went really well, I played with a family of four who were all really keen, sharp gamers that are almost exclusively into AT style games. They picked up on it pretty quick despite a rough first turn. And the youngest, this kid Erick, knows EVERYTHING about STARCRAFT- he quoted the unit responses all night, which was actually kind of fun. He was threatening to overrun my Zerg base on Chau Sara and I engaged in a little diplomacy, telling them that if he didn't attack we could be STARCRAFT friends. He didn't listen, and annihilated me. It was a great game, they're all very aggressive so the fighting was fierce and there was a major battle almost every turn. They picked up right away on the CCG-like element of the card play and the only thing they had trouble grasping was that the units themselves don't have statistics, they're all in the cards.

I especially like how your reviews in general (and this one) get across the feeling of play without drilling too far down into minutiae.

I absolutely HATE reviews that feature either numbered lists or bullet points detailing mechanics. I think it's incredibly amateurish and not up to the standards of reviews for other types of entertainment. I mean, what if a film review looked like this:

1) Cinematography. The movie looks good.
2) Sound. I thought the sound was good.
3) Acting. I liked the acting.
4) Writing. Good writing throughout.
5) Special Effects. Awesome stuff.

[red text]In sum, A BISCUIT TO HIS LIKING is a fine example of the Merchant-Ivory style of filmmaking, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea. [/red text]

WHO CARES??? I'm more interested in an overall impression of a complete piece of work, not how everything breaks down along certain lines- that's something I can handle for myself. But of course, this is the kind of hobby where people won't buy something because a reviewer complained about a color being a little off, so I guess reviews like that are perfect for the anal retentives.

StephenAvery said...

Illuminati blows!?!

I take umbrage at that remark Mr. Barnes. It is *the* best world domination game out there. Its got secret societies, clandestine deals, bluffing, whining and threating. All the best things in life. Oh sure, I can't get any of my friends to play it...and maybe I do have some emotional investment from long hours playing as a teen- But dammit! Its a good game. I'll not have you besmirch its honor with your mindless off the cuff denouncement.

That's it! I'm sicking my orbital mind control laser on you...

Steve"discordian"Avery

StephenAvery said...

And Frank. You should be ashamed of yourself for supporting such an inane pronouncement.

Shame Mr. Branham. A shameful thing indeed.

Steve"HailBob"Avery

Rliyen said...

There has been talk of adding more people to the FAT roster - I'd love to get a steve jackson fan on board to add a bit of diversity but they don't seem to exist. Who exactly is buying up that shit he makes?

*raises hand while nonchalantly looking the other way*

Yo, Tom, raise your hand!

jon said...

I have a soft spot for Illuminati. C'mon, special powers, resource management, faction-specific victory conditions, amusing theme, intricate combos, hidden whammies, it's all good.

Of course, it's really about who gets picked on the least, but it gives a powerful illusion that the other stuff matters.

Frank Branham said...

Jon:

You mostly got the who gets picked on least part. The problem with a lot of old school AT games is the ever popular "Oh crap, Frank is in a position to win. Everybody gang up on him."

That isn't a problem. The problem is there isn't enough forward motion to keep the game from becoming an endless series of kick the guy in the lead actions.

Modern designs have a way of moving the game forward. (TI3 and Starcraft both have turn limits.)

Shellhead said...

Avery said, It is *the* best world domination game out there. Its got secret societies, clandestine deals, bluffing, whining and threating. All the best things in life. Oh sure, I can't get any of my friends to play it...and maybe I do have some emotional investment from long hours playing as a teen- But dammit! Its a good game.

My first gaming group played a lot of Illuminati from about 1983 to 1986 before we completely lost interest in it. The game has some definite entertainment value, with the humor and the complex strategy.

We stopped playing partly because analysis paralysis was bogging the game down, with every player constantly running mental calculations of the modifiers to perform potential attacks, while trying to decide where to move their money around within their organization.

But the thing that really ruined Illuminati for us was the painfully long endgame. As soon as somebody would get close, everybody would bash the leader. Then, if a new leader emerged, we would bash him the following turn. Rinse and repeat. That was bad enough, but then we gradually realized that slow, cautious gameplay made it a little easier to get near victory without being bashed as a leader, which caused even our midgame to slow down.

The true forgotten classic game from Steve Jackson is actually Kung Fu 2100. The setting is unique, the theme is cool, the rules are solid, and the combat system is really fun. The components were adequate for back then, but are just barely tolerable by today's standards. I'm going to re-format my set, using cards in sleeves in place of the combat tokens. And I should probably laminate my map before it starts to wear out.

kriz said...

I appreciate reading reviews that the writer has played several times. Except for a brief period of time when my brain hemorraged and I bought a handful of Euros when Tanga first went online, I buy relatively few games and buy them to have a lot of replayability. I'd rather see in-depth reviews of older games myself, that the writer has played into the ground. But I understand you have to strike a balance to reach a wide audience.

So thanks for taking the time to play the game several times before reviewing it.

Starcraft sounds real cool, but I don't buy too much stuff and am still looking at some older games. I'll keep it in mind for the future though. Right now I kind of want to get my hands on Fury of Dracula, or maybe Arkham Horror...

To get slightly off topic, how do you still feel about Arkham Horror Barnes? I read some glowing comments of yours about the game, but I also read some reviews from others that say the game wears real thin after several plays.

NeonPeon said...

Shellhead, I was about to post my opinion on Illuminati but you beat me to it.

Players close to victory get kicked around until the least-kicked player squeaks by, or someone gets a good card at the right moment. The card is usually played for privileged attack, unless it's the auto 2 or auto 12 card, which have decided many, many games in my experience.

Still the game has a certain charm, and when a certain group of friends were requesting it for a while I'd be a sport and play...Sometimes I actually kinda-sorta wanted to play. I can't say the same for Munchkin or Chez Geek (this group LOOOOVES them...kill me).

Michael Barnes said...

Avery says about ILLUMINATI

I take umbrage at that remark Mr. Barnes. It is *the* best world domination game out there. Its got secret societies, clandestine deals, bluffing, whining and threating.

Yeah, all boiled down to a stupid numbers game that's more about modifying die rolls than taking over the world.

To get slightly off topic, how do you still feel about Arkham Horror Barnes?

Still a perfect 10, and still probably the best all-around adventure game ever published. The expansions have introduced a CRAZY amount of variability between games what with all the new Mythos cards, investigators, locations, encounters, etc. I've never played two games that felt the same. You might see the Dunwich Horror come out in one game, but not in five others. You might wind up a crippled claustrophobe in one but a drunk nun in another. You might even accidentally run into Cthulhu with nothing but a plate of food and a Derringer on hand. There's always some new combination of circumstances that makes the game hugely entertaining every time. I've probably played in excess of 30 times if that means anything to you.

I think if anything, there is a skill curve to the game where eventually you become "professional" and the goal becomes taking it down as quickly as possible, which is pretty challenging with the expansions.

Ever play ARKHAM HORROR with Eurogamers? I have. They'll draw an encounter card, read it silently, roll some dice, and maybe adjust their health/sanity. "Your turn".

Tom Hazlett (Southernman) said...

Rliyen said...
There has been talk of adding more people to the FAT roster - I'd love to get a steve jackson fan on board to add a bit of diversity but they don't seem to exist. Who exactly is buying up that shit he makes?

*raises hand while nonchalantly looking the other way*

Yo, Tom, raise your hand!


Baaaaaad idea - I've spent the last 25yrs being such a technie (we won't mention the alcohol) that I've lost all ability to string more than a couple of paragraphs together ... as my infrequent posts will testify to.

bill abner said...

Ever play ARKHAM HORROR with Eurogamers? I have. They'll draw an encounter card, read it silently, roll some dice, and maybe adjust their health/sanity. "Your turn".

That is awesome.

I don't think Mike has forgiven me for liking AoEIII. But that's damn funny.

Michael Barnes said...

Would that it were funny, Bill...but it's a true story.

ARKHAM HORROR is pretty much a paragraph game a la TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, it's just the paragraphs are on several hundred cards and not in a book. So the most these guys would say would be "I have to make a Lore check" and I'm sitting there thinking "Because of what?!" The game is all storytelling, narrative stuff but to them it was rolling dice and adjusting stats. And they hated it.

Andy said...

Had the exact same Arkham Horror experience on Halloween; usually it's just my girlfriend and I playing together, and we have a blast playing up the bizarre things that are happening to us...but these two gamers we had over, wow. At first they wouldn't read the cards aloud; when we insisted they read aloud, they just sped right through the readings, with no care for drama ("makeaspeedcheckifyousucceeddrawacommonitemifyoufailloseonestamina"). What's the point???

Michael Barnes said...

Really...I mean, a lot of the fun is stuff like "A talking skull tells you that professional wrestling is fake- lose 2 sanity"

NeonPeon said...

What you guys ought to do is play Euro games with Eurofans and make up stories for every move. Imagine the drama you could create between the provost and the bailiff...or tell a heart-wrenching tale of slave life on the plantation.

Shellhead said...

Arkham Horror is one of my two all-time favorite games. I thought the original was great, too, but it's been gathering dust ever since I got the FFG version.

I agree that it is very important that the cards be read out loud, or else you lose some of the excellent theme of Arkham Horror. Whenever we play, I always sit near the Arkham location decks, and I have someone that I trust sit near the gate decks and the Mythos deck. Instead of handing people their cards, we read them out loud in a dramatic voice. That prevents players from silently resolving their own cards or reading.them.too.fast.

kriz said...

So its like Betrayal at the House on the Hill? A game me and some friends love, but then you play with some dude who reads the cards to himself, and that player makes it boring real fast.

I usually stop the game to explain to them that reading the cards pretty much is the game.

As a side note, the most fun I ever had playing Betrayal, was with about 5 players. One specific player needed an item to defeat the villian. He was being kind of an ass about getting it though, so all the other heroes and I conspired to keep it from him and let him get eaten by the creature. And we told him this right when the traitor came into play. We lost, but it was loads of fun. He couldn't believe we wouldn't eventually give it him.

As for euros, my group actually does try to insert some sort of narrative into them when we play. Not always but it happens. Makes them more fun.

Shellhead said...

kriz said, "So its like Betrayal at the House on the Hill?"

Arkham Horror does bear some resemblance to Betrayal at House on the Hill, but AH is a much better game in nearly every respect.

While Betrayal seems like it would have more replay value, with the variable house layout and the 50 different scenarios, it is very hit-or-miss as to whether the traitor portion of the game will actually be fun or not.

Arkham Horror may have a fixed map, but there is vast potential for different challenges and opportunities to arise each game, and the quality of the components is visually superior, with the possible exception of the map.

Betrayal does have a slightly better narrative, because each scenario has a nice intro and conclusion, and the tone of the game definitely is changed by the specific setup and special rules for any given scenario. But Arkham Horror offers something better than a tight narrative: full immersion in a great setting.

notbillysparkles said...

For as much as I hated Betrayal at House on the Hill, I love Arkham Horror.

When I play AH I actually feel like I'm part of the narrative whereas BaHotH was nothing more than a series of mad dashes to get to flip more rooms than your opponents do, buff your character and ready yourself for a ususally let's-just-go-through-the-motions-and-finish-this endgame that came in fifty different flavours.

My wife, who has an innate fear of anything "too geeky" watched me and my bud play through a game of AH and said, "hey, this looks like fun... I think I wanna try it next time you guys break it out."

What's that tell you?


Thaad:
I'm rather impressed that you actually remembered to try the Opal!

"I bought some Opal salt licorice as well at Duty Free, and 'got' a number of guys with it. I can look all sorts of sweet and innocent and eat some, while they take some, and are assaulted via tongue by ammonium chloride."

That's just fucking mean.

Good Job!

Frank Branham said...

The big thing that AH has over Betrayal is that:

A: The game doesn't require 54 pages of errata. Betrayal's development period was two weeks. AH hired a new developer, handed him the not really finished game with 50 different scenarios, and told him it was going to press in 2 weeks.

It shows.

B: AH keeps throwing weird shit at you for the entire game. Betrayal has the exploration part, and then the random tactical minis game as the finale. The exploration part mostly just vanishes at that point, and it comes down to attacking and rolling and modifiers.

AH saves the really awful stuff for the later game as you start plane walking to try and close portals.

And it even has a Horrible Black Void. (Renamed as Lost in Space and Time.)

Shellhead said...

Frank,

In defense of Betrayal (BatHotH ?), one of the 50 scenarios also features a Horrible Black Void. That particular scenario is really broken, but if they slowed down the speed at which the void devoured the house, it would be a favorite for our group. It's perfectly understandable if you haven't played that scenario, or if you thought that it sucked.

Thaadd said...

Being mean was slightly aided by the fact that I was one of about 30 female players.... of 900 attendees. There was I believe more guys in kilts than girls in dresses...

There was a wife babysitting program. I got pretty grumpy at people when they insinuated I was in that. Salt licorice is payback. :)

notbillysparkles said...

Wife babysitter.

mtlawson said...

Ha. I feel your pain, Thaad. I've been at a scientific convention for my wife to present, and I would get funny looks from people who assumed for some strange reason that our badges were switched. (Don't give me that look pal, or I'll poke holes in the conclusions you made with only three data points to work with.)

--Mike L.

Bexley said...

"Even" Bexley? Ouch. :P

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