Monday, August 13, 2012

Lords of Waterdeep

Classified as a "European" style game by my friends, this game has been extraordinarily fun and quite enjoyable, if a bit complicated in learning how to play it.  The various aspects of this game have me wanting more games like it.  The game is very much a hybrid, providing the feel of a good combination of computer based MMO (quest completion and competing for limited resources) and tabletop RPG (making the decision on what, when and how to achieve goals).

The game starts with a combination of intrigue cards and quest cards, gives you a Lord of Waterdeep, a couple of agents and a money supply.  In the group pool of resources are gold, clerics, wizards, thieves and warriors.  On the board are more intrigue cards, quest cards, building cards, potential agent recruits and game control pieces.  Default locations on the board provide starting players with access to the various classes needed to complete quests and gain more gold.  Because only 1 building can be purchased each round, the selection of buildings (3 to choose from at any given time) can significantly affect your ability to complete quests.  As an aside, knowing which quest type your particular Lord wants can make a huge difference at the end of the game, so pay attention.

So far, there have been some obviously better quests/buildings/intrigue cards and some that seem to be after thought crap.  The difficulty in executing the quests varies and depending on how you approach it, can make a slow start erupt into a run-away winner.  

An important note, the execution order of each turn does seem to have a significant impact on play and determination of play by other players, so paying attention to the game is a must.  This is not a beer and pretzels game if you are trying to be competitive.  And while it can be complicated at first, getting to know and understand the little things about this game, make me like it even more.  But, because it has a fair bit of randomness, it does not benefit the regular player so much so that a new player cannot compete in their first game.

I highly enjoy this game, highly recommend this game and will consider purchasing this game upon my return from GenCon.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thunderstone Advanced - Towers of Ruin

Thunderstone Advanced has me torn.  Some aspects of this game I love, some irritate me and some just don't make a damn bit of sense.  There is a Facebook version of this game, but it is not the advanced version and is irritating in its own way.

Thunderstone gives the players an option of going to the village to acquire items (weapons, gear or villagers), heroes and spells or going to the dungeon to fight monsters.  In the dungeon, each "rank" of dungeon is progressively harder due to light levels, with rank 1 being -2 to attack, rank 2 being -4 and rank 3 being -6.  Fortunately, there are various light sources that can be used to counter these penalties.  This is significant as the monsters at each level are randomly pulled from the monster deck and thus you can get high/hard monsters at the "upper" ranks and low/easy monsters at the "lower" ranks, making them much more difficult.  In addition, most of the monsters now also have battle effects that can seriously affect the game.

Ok, some of the good - leveled heroes, no dice, lots of cards and options for deck development.  Fundamentally, this is just like other deck building game - a system of which I have become a huge fan.  The items can make a huge difference in how fast you make it into the dungeon, but can also be challenging due to becoming hero starved.

Some of the bad, one of the stated goals of this "advanced" version was to allow you into the dungeon faster - it has failed at this every time I've played it.  In the scenarios, the spells have been weak and at least one hero was pretty much useless, if not worse than the starting basic soldier (see picture above) you can get for free every round.

That said, some of the heroes are amazing and it is usually blatantly obvious that they are the best and go the fastest.  I mentioned "leveled heroes" earlier and I really, really like this aspect of the game.  You can level up your starting "basic heroes" to the purchased ones on the board and level the purchased ones up to more powerful versions using the experience gained from killing the monsters - that is fun and very useful.  The leveled up heroes eventually become worth victory points, so leveling at least some of them is usually a very good option.  Surprisingly, experience points (the little thunderstone shard pictured below) are not worth victory points, so holding on to them is useless - this is a point often lost on new players.

I cannot say I agree with most of the online evaluations giving this game a fairly high score (8+/10 in most cases).  I think they have tried too hard to refine it and actually made a slightly less fun version.  I cannot say that I would actually recommend spending money on this version, but if you already have, perhaps the expansions can redeem it, but I won't be purchasing them.