SuperHOT

 

 

 

 

[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 18 ]

SuperHot is a Kickstarter funded micro-deck builder card game designed by Manuel Correia and published by Board and Dice in Poland. The game features art design and graphics based on the video game of the same name.  The 1-3 player card game not only features head to head and 2 vs. 1 play but also co-op and solitaire play.

In solo mode, you lose the game if you ever have four bullet cards in your hand, the bullet deck runs out, the obstacle deck runs out of cards, or you have to refill your hand to four cards and you can’t. There are three levels you must complete in increasing difficulty in order to win. The first level has one goal card chosen at random from a deck of 25. Then, two goal cards in level 2 and finally three goals in level 3. You do get a mulligan once per level but the goal card must be in the next level. Once you complete all goal(s) in a level, you shuffle up all the obstacles cards as well as your own deck and discard pile, and draw new goal cards to start the next level.

SuperHOT published by Board and Dice

Six cards are dealt from the obstacle deck in a row to form the Line with the 7th card on top of the obstacle draw deck to show you what’s coming in the next round. Thematically, this represents the current “room” you are in and the things you can use to hide from the “dudes” in the room, or use to fight them. Additionally, there are items that can help you too like pliers to pull the pull the bullets out of you! In the bottom ten cards of the obstacle deck, a bullet card from a separate 12 card bullet deck is shuffled in. The player’s starting deck is made up of eight starter cards and four cards are drawn to form your starting hand. The player plays defense cards with values equal to the defense cards he or she is trying to defeat. The same goes for attack cards. Plus, there are cards where you may use a combination of both attack and defense together. Cards in the Line are either defeated or knocked out. The unique aspect of this game is cards that are defeated go into your deck’s discard pile, while cards you played or cards that are knocked out (by flipping them over) in the Line go into the obstacle deck’s discard pile to show up in a later round in the line. After the player’s cards are played, the player refills his or her hand to four. Next, the number of cards the player has played will determine how many slots from right to left in the Line are placed in the player’s discard pile whether there is a card in the slot or not. Then, the remaining cards in the Line with effects at the bottom trigger. Not all are bad. Some let you draw a card, or do nothing; while others may force you to place a bullet card into the obstacle discard pile. These are bullets are coming…you know they are!  In the last phase of the turn, the Line moves to the right and then is refilled from right to left back to six.

A “Gun” card is about to shoot!

What’s really interesting about this game is how cards you play don’t go into your discard but instead come back to haunt you in a new room later. So, what is critical here is the timing on which cards you play and when. You need to be effective in which cards get defeated into your discard and which go into the obstacle discard to fight you later. Card effects in the line before it refills can have a positive or negative impact on you and affect how you play the game. All of this can be mitigated on how many cards you play in order to defeat cards to your discard pile.

A typical starting hand of attack and defense cards.

Thematically, the game ties in well with its video predecessor. Only when you move does the game move. As you play cards, things happen, bad guys and bullets move in the room. You see the bullet coming at you. Can you slice it out of the air with your katana or will it inevitably hit you? As a whole, Superhot is a unique micro-deck builder. It’s not overly complex but does offer some interesting decisions. It plays fast and although the game play is very “samey” the large number of goal cards make the game challenging every time as well as offering that “let me play just one more time” feel.

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Shahrazad

 

 

 

 

[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 17 ]

“Scheherazade had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of bygone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers.”

–  Sir Richard Francis Burton’s translation of 1001 Nights

Shahrazad (an alternative spelling of Scheherazade) is a small box, cooperative tile-laying game for one or two players designed by Yu Ogasawara and published by Osprey Games. The game features beautiful, lush art on 22 tiles by illustrator Kotori Neiko who also did the art on the small box game Birdie Fight! Each tile is numbered 0 to 21 and each belongs to one of four suits or colors.

The solo (and 2 player) game is played over two rounds. The goal is to score as many points as possible by arranging tiles in columns across the table in a checker board fashion with no more than four tiles in a column. To start, a random tile is placed in the center of the gaming area and the player takes two tiles from the shuffled, face-down stack. The player will place a tile every turn adjacent to a previously placed tile and then draw one tile back up to two. The player may choose instead to replace an existing tile with another from her hand. In this case, she would then place two tiles on her next turn. You cannot replace tiles in two consecutive turns.

Beautiful art in Shahrazad

Once all the tiles are placed, tiles are scored but first some may be eliminated from scoring. First, tiles touching must increase in value from left to right. If one does not, it is flipped over and does not become part of the scoring. Second, tiles must form a valid path from the left side of the field all the way to the right side, in increasing value. If any do not, they are flipped over. Then, you identify the largest group of each connected color and score a point for each of those tiles and subtract one point for each empty space where you may not have paced a tile in a column. You then leave one column behind, shuffle the remaining tiles together and begin round two. This followed by another scoring phase which is added to the previous score for your final tally.

Mechanically there is nothing wrong with the game.  Shahrazad is a light, puzzly sort of tile layer; a solid filler perfect for couples and a nice little distraction for the soloist. Although you do have some choices in placing tiles, it is somewhat random in so far as tile draws are concerned and only slightly mitigated by the choice of placing one or two tiles, or replacing one all together to assist in your strategy. There is no theme here as it’s more of placing increasing numbered tiles and trying to get large groups of like colors.

Exquisite art and component quality.

When I first opened the box, I was hoping the art would feature characters and places from 1001 Nights as told by Scheherazade and that the style of artwork be more indicative of Persian culture even if only a westernized version. Instead, it features the names and art suggestive of the 22 tarot cards of the Major Arcana. Plus, most of the illustrations feature famous folklore and fairy tale characters like Puss in Boots, Red Riding Hood’s Wolf, and Gepetto and Pinnochio. I get the “story telling” idea but it’s sort of mish mash. As nice as the art is, I was a little disappointed with the disconnect of the art from the title and what I was expecting.

Shahrazad from Osprey Games

Osprey seems to be on a roll with its small box games like Odin’s Ravens, the Raven’s of Thri Sahashri, and the Lost Expedition. The component quality is outstanding. The included scoring tiles where one overlaps another to keep score is gimmicky and unnecessary. In fact it’s just easier to use pen and paper.

I can’t imagine anyone pulling this game out often for solo play trying to beat their own score, but all things considered, it is still a solid addition to a gamer’s library especially as it fills a dual purpose as a light co-op, couples game, filler niche.

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Field Commander: Alexander

 

 

 

 

[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 16 ]

“In the end, when it’s over, all that matters is what you’ve done.”

-Alexander the Great

You are Alexander and with his army conquer their way from Macedon on the Grecian peninsula through Mesopotamia to Indus and finally ending back in Babylon where Alexander would eventually die in 323 BC. If your campaign is successful, he shall be glorified as he completes Prophecies, governs enemy Cities or razes Enemy Strongholds. Can you conquer the ancient world and become history’s most successful military commander, Alexander the Great?

Field Commander: Alexander is a solitaire game published by Dan Verssen Games. The game includes four mounted campaign maps to choose from that include Granicus, Issus, Tyre, and Gaugamela. The Battle of Granicus is the best scenario to start with as other maps add more difficult armies to face as well additional rules. You may also string your plays from map to map for one giant, world conquering campaign! As you overpower more and more areas on each map, you will encounter Prophecies that you may or may not complete. These objectives will allow your Alexander to level up and become more powerful.

Field Commander: Alexander published by DVG

Various game counters represent your forces as well as those of your enemies. They include Archers, Light and Heavy Cavalry, Phalanx and Infantry, among others. Each counter possesses a strength value as well as a speed, or initiative, that determines who strikes first in battle. Having the sequence of play printed right on the board is a great reminder of the order of the steps you do on each turn. Initially, you can spend Gold to flip your counters from their reduced side back to full strength. Then, each unconquered Enemy Stronghold gets their chance to execute randomized orders that can build up their city with walls, place more Gold in them for you to loot, or even make them harder to beat by placing a garrison with extra forces within the city. Next, you get to scout ahead to see if the adjacent area you wish to move into offers any resistance or you may have to spend more Gold in order to have enough supplies for your troops.

Forces waiting to fight Alexander and his army!

Engaging enemy forces on the battlefield occur when you enter an occupied enemy region. Each enemy force counter draws a random enemy Battle Plan counter. The number drawn may be modified by Advisors you’ve brought along on your campaign. The Battle Plans give their assigned force an advantage. Likewise, Alexander’s forces get their own Battle Plans based on Alexander’s level as well as those plans that are purchased with Gold. Battle resolutions are based on the speed of the counter denoted in the upper right corner of the counter. Forces of the same speed are resolved simultaneously. Each hit reduces the opponent’s unit to its reduced side, or if already reduced, removes it from play. The game includes a player log sheet (that may be photocopied) to keep track of stats as you play your campaign. It also has an area for your battlefield at the bottom. A free, printable 8.5” x 11” battle mat on BoardGameGeek makes battling enemy forces easier to organize and, quite frankly, more thematic.

If you are successful in your war-like ways, Alexander will gain Glory. Additionally, pivotal areas of the map can be governed (Gold over the course of the game) or razed (a one time Gold pay out). The last step allows you to spend your acquired Gold and Glory on items such as purchasing forces, a City that gains you VPs, random Insight counters or Advisors that both allow for your forces to have special abilities, and you can level up Alexander to make him more formidable and allow you to gain additional Battle Plans to use against your enemy.

The optional free, printable battle mat makes game play easier!

This is an over simplification of the rules because like most DVG games, there are some persnickety rules and exceptions, and the rulebooks are generally not laid out especially well or indexed. Also, the game is heavily lucked based since it relies on dice for battle outcomes although those rolls can be mitigated through Battle Plans, Insight and Advisor counters. For those that may be scared that this game, like many war games, comes with a lot of counters, it does not. It’s very manageable. Overall, the system is fairly straight forward to understand and after a couple of plays you probably won’t need to refer to the rules. Deciding which Battle Plans to use against enemy forces, when to Govern or to Raze a pivotal area, and what Advisors to choose, all add juts enough complexity to the game.

All that being said, it is a very enjoyable game. It’s a light-weight, dice rolling war game. But make no mistake, it’s not necessarily easy to win. The best experience you can have with it is to play the entire linked campaign. Or if time, and for many of us, space is an issue, you can play just one of the maps instead of all four.

All four maps can create a giant, linked campaign!

There are other games in the Field Commander series including Rommel and Napoleon. Coming soon from DVG will be a Robert E. Lee version. So, depending on your interests, there might be a Field Commander game just right for you. This game is a great entry-level game into the system and a fantastic way to dip your toes into the shallow end of the war gaming pool. Heavier war games are out there for sure, but if you want something light, fast and quick, you can’t go wrong with Field Commander: Alexander.

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Roll Player

 

 

 

 

[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 15 ]

Roll Player is a dice drafting and manipulation game for 1-4 players from Thunderworks Games. Designed by Keith Matejka, players create RPG characters with the usual tropes of stats: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Class, Skills, Alignment, Traits and Equipment cards can also add complexity during play as well as scoring opportunities.

To start, choose a player board; this establishes your race i.e. Dwarf, Human, Orc, Elf, et cetera. Next, randomly assign yourself a doubled-sided class card. This establishes what profession your character will be: a rogue, monk, wizard, cleric, druid, and so on. Each class has different stat requirements that score reputation stars (victory points) based on the total pip value of dice in that stat’s row. Additionally, the card lists a special ability that can have an ongoing or a once per round effect. A random alignment card is placed on your home board with a cube that tracks whether you are good or evil; lawful or chaotic. This is not only a way to score more points but also used to enable certain special skills that you may acquire. A backstory card is also randomly chosen. This card sets up your pre-game history with some flavor text to give you some insight into your character and displays how additional points can be scored.

Player Board & Attribute Dice!

To start the game, take 6 random dice form the bag and roll them. Then place them on your board in whatever stat rows you’d like as long as you place dice all the way to the left. In other words you can’t put dice in random places like the middle of the far right side of a row. You’ll also start with 5 gold. Initiative cards numbered 1 through 3 are each placed above three Market cards. Then, three random dice from the bag are rolled and placed from least to greatest (ties are arranged by player choice) one on each of three initiative cards – the number two card also has one gold on it.

Attribute card and backstory flesh out your character!

At the beginning of each round you will take a die. If you select the first card, the AI will not take any cards in the Market. If you take the second die, you will get a gold but the AI will roll 1d6. A 1, 2, or 3 will trash (destroy) its associated card (a 4-6 does nothing). If you take the third die, a 1/2 will destroy the first card, 3/4 the second and a 5/6 will destroy the last card.

Once you have placed your die on your player board you have the option of discarding a Market card, if you are not interested in buying one, which gains you 2 gold. Otherwise, you purchase one of the remaining cards by paying its gold cost. Skill cards, which can be used at anytime during the game, can only be activated if you can move your alignment cube as indicated by the arrow on the card. If you can’t move it, you can’t use it. If the arrow is next to its cost then, if possible, you must move your alignment cube as indicated when purchased. Weapons and armor cards may also be available to strengthen your character but only one Market card may be purchased each round.

The Market

The other two dice are put back into the bag, the left most card is discarded and any other remaining are destroyed and therefore removed from the game. You replenish the Market, roll and add three more dice to the initiative cards with no more than one gold on the 2nd card, and continue with the next round. Each time you place a die in a particular row you activate that stats’ special ability as indicated. Abilities may allow you to re-roll a die, switch dice around, flip one to its opposite side, or shift your alignment cube. Once a row is complete, you will also gain a gold and when your player board is completely filled with all 18 dice, the game ends and you calculate your final score.

This game in a word is fantastic! It’s a great puzzly, solo experience as you decide which die you should take to get your stats where they need to be. The obvious choices are high valued dice, however there are trait cards that allow you to have a low valued stat and still gain points. Skill cards, although affect your alignment, gain you valuable ways to adjust your dice. Although Roll Player can seem a bit random, there are some interesting decisions to be made as to when you should bail out of trying to hit 17+ on your strength and utilize a trait card to get 8 or less, for example. Armor cards allow for a set collection element. There are limitations on how many weapons you can carry. (After all, you only have two hands.) Dice colors that match your class gain you additional points and gold dice give you one gold each time you place them.

One Deck Dungeon (base game) published by Thunderworks Games

The game has its critics wishing there was more than just creating a character or that it’s too random, but then again it is a dice game. At game’s end you have an RPG character with a backstory, completed stats, special skills and equipment ready to go on an adventure. But that’s it – no more. Enter the next Kickstarter! A campaign is in the works by the publisher that will add a module to the game where your completed character will battle a beast or monster! I, for one, cannot wait for this added gameplay.

There are lots of opportunities to score, and Roll Player has just enough in game crunchiness that makes the game a little “thinky” but also allows it to be played really fast. I don’t think you will play one game and put it away. Many games can be played in one session as you try different boards, classes, backstories and alignments – the possibilities are endless.

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