Hello, this is Ethan here with this week’s post on what we’ve been playing. The reason why I’m doing this instead of Amber this week is simply because I actually was the one playing more games this week with a lot of other people. Despite that, it was still a pretty full week of gaming so let’s not waste any time and jump right in.
9/15 – We began on Friday with Escape the Room: The Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor. This is the latest in our quest to play all of the “escape room in a box” type games. This one, as can possibly be inferred from the title, takes place in the manor of a stargazer who has gone missing, with only his caretaker left looking to find where he has gone off to. Like the Exit series of games, this one comes with a decoder wheel that you use to solve the various puzzles in the game. You also start with 5 sealed envelopes that you can unlock through use of the decoder, revealing clues to help you proceed further in the game. Like Exit, Escape Room: The Game, and Escape Room in a Box, this game had a lot of physical components to manipulate in order to find the clues and solve the riddles contained therein. However, the negative part of this game is simply that it was very very easy. The game gives you 2 hours if you have three to five players or 90 minutes with six to eight, and frankly it only took the two of us about 30 to 35 minutes to complete the whole thing. This would probably be a better game for a family with children, with the parents really doing some guidance rather than trying to solve all the puzzles themselves, but for a couple of adults like us who are very well-versed in this type of game it just didn’t present that much of a challenge. It definitely was fun though and there were some cool moments throughout the way, but I don’t know that we’ll necessarily be pursuing the further entries in the series, of which I think there’s only one released at the moment.
9/16 – On Saturday it was time again for our bi-weekly game day in Janesville. We started off with a bit of a smaller group (in that we didn’t have a full meetup of 15 to 20 people as we sometimes see). So in the interest of getting everyone together we pulled out Room 25: Season 2 which can accommodate up to eight players. The goal of this game is to escape a dangerous complex through the titular Room 25 while some of the players at the table are working against everyone else and trying to make sure that they don’t escape. The board begins as a 5×5 grid of rooms that are all flipped face down except for the center room. Each round, players program their actions and then one of the time carry them out. This will allow players to peek into an adjacent room, move into a room (thereby revealing it), push a player into an adjacent room, or shift and entire row of the complex so that the room at the end move to the other side and all rooms move one space accordingly. While some of the rooms are safe or contain only minor obstacles, there are some rooms that could kill you right out or otherwise eliminate players. While the majority of the players at the table are prisoners of this complex trying to escape there are one or two players that are guards whose goal is to make sure that at least two of the prisoners die before they can escape through Room 25. In addition the Season 2 expansion, which adds two new characters and some new rooms, also gives each character a unique ability that they can use on as one of their programmed actions. In our game we found Room 25 fairly easy, but one player revealed himself to be a guard — mostly through his suspicious actions. The other guard, who turned out to be me, managed to eliminate one of the prisoners by using my character’s special ability to carry her into the deadly mortal chamber thereby sacrificing myself in order to get us halfway to our goal. However, with one guard out of the picture the other prisoners were able to manipulate the board and get themselves out of Room 25 and get it out before the end of the game, though it was a pretty close match. After that we decided to stay together as the group of eight so we pulled out CrossTalk, which we wrote about last week and had previously played with four. This time we had two teams of four and alternated clue givers amongst the people in the team. We already went over the mechanics just last week but as a refresher this is a game where the clue giver is trying to get their team to guess a secret word or phrase while not being too obvious with their clue so that the other team gets it. The clue giver has a private clue they can give to their team before the round as well as a clue board which they can use to give their team additional hints. This game may have been a bit imbalanced because it was me and Amber along with another couple who could give each other hints fairly easily so in the end we won by 5 rounds to 2. This is definitely fun playing with larger teams even though it was still fun with four so I can see that this will be a good game to bring out with friends and family. Next we finally decided it was time to split up into a couple of separate games. I grabbed three others and pulled out Police Precinct, a cooperative game where players take on the roles of the police force in a (apparently) very crime-ridden city. The main goal of the game is to find evidence and catch a murderer before the limited number of game turns ends. However players must also deal with gang members and emergencies that pop up every turn. On each player’s turn they drive their police car around the city and they can either search for evidence to help them for the murder investigation, try to arrest gang members, or deal with an emergency that’s on the board. The latter two actions require rolling dice and trying to get a certain amount in order to arrest people or deal with emergencies such as shoplifting, arson, domestic violence, and so forth. For the emergencies generally the worse of a crime it is, the higher number you’ll have to roll on a die to be able to deal with it, while for gangs you need to roll at least as high as the number of people in order to arrest them. After taking their action, players draw Police Cards which can help them or others in later turns, and then reveal a new emergency. This is typically something out on the board and will need to be dealt with — especially because there are a few colors of emergency and if a second card of a certain color is revealed, the first card of that color becomes Urgent and if it’s not dealt with before another card becomes Urgent the city’s overall crime level rises which is one of the ways that the players will lose the game. In our game we ended up with a streak of bad luck as a non urgent emergency prevented us from drawing Police Cards for several rounds thereby decreasing the effectiveness of our turns. Coupled with the fact that one of our investigators was just not able to find the second piece of evidence he was looking for in one of the decks of cards it was contained in, we ended up losing the game due to the crime track reaching its maximum point. This is definitely a fun game, but very challenging as all good cooperative games should be. Afterwards, my little group of four decided to play Lords of Waterdeep, which I had recently received in the redditgifts r/boardgames Secret Santa Exchange. This is a Dungeons & Dragons themed worker placement game in which players are trying to recruit various adventurers and send them on quests in order to earn points and prestige. Throughout the game players can construct buildings to give more places to place their workers (or agents) in future turns but otherwise it follows a pretty standard worker placement formula where each turn you put out a worker and take an action. In addition to the action, each player has one or more quests that they are working on at any given time that they can complete on their turn by turning in the required cubes and/or gold. One of the players in the game was able to get a pretty good engine going early where he could get Intrigue cards every time he gained a certain color of cube and was able to use his turns to chain actions pretty effectively. That player ended up winning but I came in a close second and definitely had fun. This is a pretty basic worker placement game and is one I’m glad is now in our collection. After that, everyone got back together again to play a game called A Little Drop Of Poison. This is a game that we’ve had in our collection for a while and while Amber played it I have not before. It’s a somewhat social game in which there are two teams – mice and ferrets – and each round players will play one or more cards containing droplets of poison on either another player or the non-player character King who is in the center of the table. Once everyone has played their cards out on somebody else or the king, all the cards are flipped over. If a player has gotten three of the same color of poison they are eliminated from the game and if the player or players who eliminated them are on the opposite team they each score a point. If the king is eliminated with 8 drops of poison all the players who contributed will get three points if they’re on the opposing team or two points if they’re on the same team. There are also some antidote cards which will make a player immune to a certain color of poison or could potentially clear out all the poison they’ve accumulated thus far. The game is played over several rounds with the roles being switched up every round as well as the king being randomized, so you’re never necessarily on the same teams that you were before. This was a fun light game and was certainly fun to collude with some of the other players one round and then work against them in the next. For the final game of the night we pulled out another one that’s been on a shelf unplayed for quite a while: Crimson Creek. This is somewhat of a deduction type game where one of the players is potentially being controlled by a Nazi serial killer in an homage to slasher films of the 80s. There are several locations in the game that are all interconnected and on their turn players can move around and try to gain some clues about the identity of the killer or try to discover where Klein (the villain) is hiding. At the end of each turn, and as the result of too many “exposure actions”, players will be directed to draw an attack card to see if the killer strikes. This will be one of the seven locations chosen at random that is not the killer’s lair. If players are at that location they will be eliminated from the game, but if they are elsewhere or have managed to secure a hiding place they remain safe. Unfortunately, if the lair isn’t discovered by the third attack, all locations except for the lair get attacked and players that are in those locations are killed and eliminated from the game. This ended our game rather abruptly with all other people except for me dead after the first of what were supposed to be three “acts”. We checked and reread the rules and this seems to be the way the game is meant to play. A later-released errata included an easier mode in which only one location is attacked at the end of an act, intermediate where two locations are attacked, and the standard mode (which we played) where all other locations get attacked. This game didn’t really seem like a lot of fun for us and so it’s not necessarily a bad thing that it had been unplayed on our shelf that long. I felt a little bad for subjecting our friends to it blindly, and it quickly moved on to our for sale/trade pile when we got home.
9/17 – Another day, another escape room game. After running some errands and getting stuff done around the house, Amber and I pulled out another of the Exit series of games, this one entitled Exit: The Secret Lab. In this game, you’re trying to escape the titular lab through the use of clues and puzzles as is typical for the genre. This one we didn’t enjoy quite as much as some of the other Exit games we’ve played, although it was still quite fun. I think this one was the first game released in the series before they became more polished. One of the puzzles didn’t seem to make a lot of sense at all, and even after looking at the hint cards made even less sense. We eventually had to just look up the answer for that one, but the other puzzles we are able to solve without too much trouble. We ended up with 7 out of 10 stars which seems to be our usual score for these games, so I consider it a job well done. Sunday night, Amber went out to see the movie It with a friend, and I had a “playdate” with her husband at home. We decided to start with a cooperative game of Dead Men Tell No Tales. This is a pirate-themed game in which your crew has to infiltrate a ship, steal a certain amount of treasure, and return it to your own rowboats before the ship catches fire and sinks. You also have to contend with crew members and explosions along the way. This game is kind of similar to Pandemic in that each player has a certain amount of actions they can carry out on their turn and will use them to move about the ship, put out the fires before they spread or explode, battle against the crew members of the ship, and loot treasure. In addition, each character has a role giving them a special action as well as an item which can make some actions more effective. For example, my character’s special ability was to be able to fight fires in adjacent rooms in addition to the room that I’m in, and I had the cutlass which gave me a little bit more battle strength for fighting crew members and treasure keepers. We were able to get two treasures successfully off the ship (out of the four we needed to win on the easiest difficulty), but an unfortunate series of explosions caused that track to hit its maximum point and us to lose the game. Next we tried another cooperative game: . . . and then we held hands. This is a two player only cooperative game in which the players are members of a couple who have difficulty communicating and understanding each other’s emotions. Each player has a series of cards with one of four colors on the left and right corresponding to the four emotions in the game. The board is a networked web of nodes of the same four colors. The goal of the game is to get through three sets of 8 goal cards, again with each of the cards corresponding to one of the four emotions represented in the game. You move by discarding cards from either your hand or your fellow player’s hand in order to move to the color matching nodes and try to end your turn on the current goal color. The game also features an emotional balance which for each player is increased when they play “happy” or “calm” cards and decrease when they play “angry” or “sad” cards. The caveat is that players are only able to draw more cards to refill their hand of six when they end their turn in emotional balance. Otherwise, they may be limited as to what cards they and their partner are able to play. The other twist to this game is that the players cannot communicate about the game or the cards at all and must rely only on their own intuition to know which cards to play and what to do. The players lose the game if either player isn’t able to make a move at the start of their turn or if they run out of emotion cards to draw from, which is what happened to us but in the third set of a goal card so we made it pretty close to the end. After trying and failing to win at two cooperative games, we decided to play a competitive game so that at least one of us would be able to win. I decided to pull out Quantum, since that’s a game that Amber doesn’t really like to play and I don’t often get a chance to play it. This is a sort of space exploration/colonization game where the ultimate goal is for players to place all of their available “Quantum cubes” on planets on the game’s map. It uses dice to represent the spaceships for each player’s faction with the number of the die representing how far it is able to move and also its battle strength, with the lower numbers being better at battle but not able to move as far on a turn. In addition, each type of ship has a special ability they can do — for instance, the 2 is able to carry one other ship when making a move and drop it off in any adjacent space while the 4 is able to modify its value either down to a 3 or up to a 5. The value of ships is also important because there’s a target number that players will need to reach with their ships to be able to construct a Quantum Cube on that planet. Once players have constructed a Quantum Cube (or through the research action) they can take cards which either give them an ongoing special ability or have a one-time power such as giving them more ships or re-rolling the ships that they already have. A player can also place a Quantum Cube by gaining infamy by destroying opponents ships a certain number of times. We reached a point in the game where we each had only one or two more cubes to go but where my opponent had four infamy and one available card which would give him two more to be able to place a cube, so I knew I had to do something about it. I was able to destroy enough of his ships to get my own infamy up enough to place my last cube. This is certainly a fun game when I’m able to play it although I think it may play best with three players rather than just two. Next we played Glass Road, a game which is on my 10×10 list for this year and which I still have quite a few plays to go, although I’m planning to a lot of it solo. In this game, players each have control over a small area in the Black Forest of Germany and are trying to manipulate their resources to create glass and bricks, and then use those to construct buildings which will score them points for the end of the game. The game has two pretty interesting mechanisms. The first, as I alluded to, is the manipulation of resources. Rather than being tokens that you could collect or something similar, resources are tracked on two wheels which look a bit like the faces of clocks. Whenever you gain a resource you move the corresponding token clockwise to show that you have more of it and when you spend or lose some of that resource you move it counterclockwise. The manufactured goods of glass and brick are separated from the other resources that you can gain or lose such as water, food, charcoal, and others. Whenever there is an empty space between the “hand” of the clock and the first of your basic resources, you turn the clock hands which reduces all of your basic resources by one but gives you a glass or a brick, depending on which production wheel it’s on. This manner of resource production takes a little bit of getting used to as sometimes you gain a resource only for it to be automatically spent right away to produce glass or brick. The other cool thing about this game is the selection of actions on each turn. Each player has 15 cards for which they select 5 for each of the five game rounds (having the whole selection of 15 for each round). On a player’s turn they play one of the cards from their hand and announce it, and if any of the other players have the same card in their hand they will play it as well and all players with that card only get one of the card’s two possible actions. However, if nobody else has the same card in their hand the player that played it gets to do both of that card’s actions. In this way, you can try to predict what your opponents are going to do and have in their hands in order to make the most use out of your own cards. In our game I lucked out by being able to construct the Bathhouse building which gives two points for each adjacent lake, and I was then able to construct lakes on all four sides of it. My opponent in the meantime had a building which required him to have at least four of the large forest tiles so I was able to play the characters who got rid of those tiles with impunity knowing that he wouldn’t be playing those cards himself. The game ended up pretty close but I think I will attribute my narrow win to my experience rather than any lack of skill on the part of my opponent. With the night winding down and our wives on the way home, we ended with a couple of rounds of Codenames: Duet. I still maintain that this set of words seems harder to give clues for, but maybe part of the challenge is also that you have 9 words to clue for (rather than 7 or 8) and 3 assassins you have to watch out for. We did win our first game, on the easier difficulty with two extra turns, but on the second game using the standard difficulty, we came close but eventually failed. It was down to me on the last turn trying to come up with a clue to connect “Garden” and “Mark”, which I just couldn’t do successfully. I am starting to see some strategy in knowing that of your 3 assassins, one is an assassin on the other side of the card, one is neutral, and one is a word your partner is trying to get you to guess. After that night full of fun, we said our goodbyes and got ready for the week ahead.
9/18 – Monday was the day before our Rockford game night and I wanted to do a quick solo playthrough of a game we had gotten recently: Paramedics: Clear! This is a time-based game in which players are managing competing EMS or paramedic services and trying to stabilize and save as many patients as they can without letting too many die on them. The game is played over a series of player turns with each one lasting no more than 60 seconds. An app keeps time for the players and keeps the game moving at a fast and frenetic pace. In the solo version of the game you’re just trying to get through the deck of Supply cards and save as many patients as you can but when you play with more players each player will take a turn immediately in sequence over three rounds with a turn decreasing from 60 to 45 to 30 seconds per round. At the start of the game, players draw two Patient cards and put one on their main gurney and if it’s a multiplayer game put the other one face down on another player’s backup gurney. Then, on a player’s turn they reveal both of their patients and have to use the colorful Supply cards from their hand in order to create medical supplies to fulfill the patient’s needs. Each player has different requirements for creating each medical supply. For instance, while one player may require a yellow and orange card to make oxygen, for another player the combination might be blue and purple. At the end of a player’s turn, if they don’t stabilize all of their active patients by adding at least one of their needed medical supplies to them, that patient will die. In addition, once a patient is completely treated they are moved off to the hospital area on the right side of the player’s board and that player must immediately draw a new replacement patient and stabilize them by the end of their turn. If a player doesn’t end their turn by pressing the timer within the 60-30 seconds one of their patients will die, even if that patient has been stabilized. To help players create the medical supplies needed there is a central row of Supply Cards a player can trade with from their hand as well as in a multiplayer game being able to trade with other players (two cards for one). In addition, players are able to upgrade their ambulance with extra supply cabinets, the capability to have six cards in hand rather than five, and the Medevac upgrade which lets you immediately treat a patient without having to provide the needed supplies. At the end of the game players will score points for all of the patients they’ve successfully treated and lose points for those that have died. It was fun going through the solo to see how it plays but I’m looking forward to playing with a full complement of 4 players to let things get really chaotic.
9/19 – And here it is at last: our Tuesday game night. However, this installment was a little bit different because Amber wasn’t participating in board games but rather running a Pathfinder Society scenario. This was only her second time ever GMing but from what I hear it went great! In the meantime, I joined a group of folks looking to play a few new games. The first game that we played was Flatline, a cooperative real time dice rolling game set in the same universe as the bomb defusing game Fuse. In this game, players are dealing with the aftermath of FUSE, treating people who have been injured in bomb explosions. There are four medical bays where people are being treated and each of those has a number of different rows requiring certain combinations of dice from one or more players in order to satisfy. On each turn players roll the dice simultaneously and then have 60 seconds to place them into the medical bays or on various emergency cards which come up over the course of the game. If a row in the medical bay is completely covered by the end of the round then it is cleared and marked off. If a if the last row of a bay has been cleared then that bay is removed and may provide a benefit for the players such as giving everyone an extra die or allowing them to clear a row in a different bay for free. The challenge in the game (besides the real time) is in some of the emergency cards that come up, requiring players to allocate their dice to them or else will have detrimental effects, including ending the game if players draw too many of a certain kind. Finally, players only have a limited number of turns in which to complete the entire stack of medical bay cards; however, these turns can be earned back over the course of the game. We played on the easiest difficulty and while it was still a bit of a struggle we managed to prevail by the end. Next up, I pulled out Ion: A Compound Building Game, which is a drafting game about combining different chemical elements to create compounds that I know another of the players at the table had been interested in. In this game players receive a hand of cards, each one representing a different chemical element, and most of them positively or negatively charge ions. Each turn, players select one card from their hand to lay down in front of them and pass the rest to their left. Upon playing a card in front of them players can either start forming a new compound or add to an existing compound, knowing that only knew neutrally balanced compounds will score at the end of the round. In addition, there are some noble gases — neon, helium, and argon — which will score you more points if you can get all three of them in front of you. Finally, each round there are a few goal cards that players are working towards that will grant them bonus points if they can complete them. This game is a fairly light and standard draft a game along the lines of Sushi Go, but it has the added benefit of perhaps teaching you a bit of chemistry as you go. One of the players at our table is pretty new to modern games, so was having a little bit of trouble with Ion in particular, so we decided to play the game that she had brought: a very old-school copy of the game Aggravation. This is a game similar to Sorry or Trouble in which players are moving around the board and trying to get their marbles back to their home base, but can land on another player’s marble in order to send them back to their start. The twist in this game is that in the star-shaped board there’s a central ring that if players land on by exact roll they can move around, creating a shortcut to get back to their home. In addition, players can land on the very middle space with an exact roll causing them to skip even the central ring, but it takes a roll of one to get out of it so you may end up stuck there for some time. While this isn’t the typical fare that we usually play on our game nights, we actually ended up having fun with this classic roll and move. And it definitely did cause a bit of aggravation as well. At the end of the night, we were down to four players, so we settled on the game Lignum. This is a game about chopping and selling wood and related products. The board features a track that players move around each round, with the caveat being that once they’ve gotten to a point they can’t go back. The spaces on the track will either grant players tokens such as carts or sleds to move their wood, saws in order to cut the logs into planks, various goods which could be sold or turned into huts, and so forth. There are also spaces where players hire workers such as woodcutters, sawyers, and bearers who are the ones carrying the logs back from the forest. Once all players have reached the end of the track, they decide how much wood to cut from their selected area of the forest from the logs that were made available at the beginning of the round. Then they can use their bearers along with carts or rafts to carry the logs back to their farmstead where they will go either immediately for sale or into the sawing area, where their sawyers will then saw the logs into planks. Players are trying to earn the most money by the end of the game, so the logs and planks that they create can be put for sale or, to gain the most amount of money, can be added to a task card which typically require a certain mixture of the three types of wood that have been aged for a particular amount of turns. This game was on the heavier side, but it was still fun to burn our brains a little bit at the end of the game night. I ended up winning by only a few points thanks to the small storage shed I had built which allowed me to ignore the aging requirements of my task cards and let me complete two of them by the game’s end. All in all, it was a fun game night even though Amber didn’t get to participate in the board game side of things. I’ll be in that boat next week as I’m running a Starfinder Society scenario for our game group during our normal game night time.
That’s all for this week! Tomorrow we have a game day and game swap in Rockford, so I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun updates to report next Friday!