Jan 192017
 

pic2617634_t[1]TIME Stories is a time travelling adventure fully cooperative board game for up to four players that tells an adventure as the players struggle to keep rounds to a minimum and use time as best they can.

Designed by Peggy Chassenet and Manuel Rozoy, this clever and rather gorgeous game uses extremely simple mechanics to develop a game that will have you hooked within minutes and make you want to play more and more.

The first thing that catches the eye of this game is the production. The box has an incredibly elegant cover with the right illustration and the logo of the game that, somehow and despite its simplicity (or perhaps because of it) sparks curiosity.

Perhaps because just the name of the game is evocative enough. After all, who doesn’t like the idea of stories that involve time travel?

Inside the game doesn’t disappoint. A large board that continues with the minimalist design from the cover gives the spaces where the cards and tokens will be placed and moved throughout the game.

The insert is probably the best I have ever seen. The right amount of space for everything the game comes with, but also designed in a way that will allow you to arrange the components so you can get back to the game and take off from where you left. The importance of this will become obvious a bit later when I explain how the game plays.

The tarot sized cards, used to create the locations and maps where the play will take place, as well as the events and objects that the players will have to deal with and use to overcome challenges are nothing short of glorious. All of them are illustrated truly beautifully with very evocative depictions of the locations, as well as detailed illustrations of objects. The anatomy of the cards has also been well looked after with both icons and text clear in the right places.

The tokens used in the game are pretty standard. From the materials point of view there is nothing amazing about them. The iconography is very clear and although it doesn’t seem to have any relevance to the situations, for example obtaining a token with four grey squares in order to be able to access certain card, it doesn’t break the illusion the rest of the aesthetics provide.

Dice are wooden dice with engraved icons. The wood goes very well with the player tokens and having them engraved is indeed a good thing.

Then we have some cylinders and some stickers to attach to them. This was the only aspect of the production that got me by surprise. It felt a bit too cheap compared to the rest of the game. Of course it is a means to save some money, and, in any event, once the game is going, they do not detract from it. In fact the white colour with the coloured side really look very good on the board.

Gameplay is a lot simpler than it would appear. By reading the rules. Although the rules have been very well laid out and, like everything else, look gorgeous, they feel like too many for the simplicity that follows when one plays the game.

At the start of the game, a number of cards are laid down on the board and a token is placed on the track that measures how much time we have to complete our mission. The cards laid on the board will form the image of the location where we, as characters in the game, are meant to be.

From that moment on, things only look up.

Once we are initiated in the time travelling experience, we are sent to our location and we must choose from a series of characters, each one with their own abilities, to perform the tasks ahead.

Revealing any of them could potentially ruin the game, so I will refrain from posting spoilers.

The characters will go from card to card, revealing what happens in that particular spot. The cards will reveal new locations for the players to travel to and explore, as well as challenges, like fights or battle of wills, that will be resolved with the dice in opposed rolls.

As the players take their actions and agree what locations to visit or actions to perform, the time counter moves down until it reaches zero. When that happens, that chapter has ended and the game must restart.

This is the tricky bit for the game… it is very limited in its replayability. Because the story has been laid before you even start to play, you may revisit the locations, but you will know what is going to happen in them, so you will know what to avoid or what to expect. That is not too bad as long as you keep discovering new things, but eventually, after maybe 10 games, it will wear off.

Luckily there are some expansions to keep the game going, so it can go on.

Conclusion

To give this game some sort of comparative, it is like an old game-book or a point and click adventure on a board.

The old “turn to page so-and-so when you find such-and-such” or “click here, and then fight the guard to get the key that will take you to the room to the right” sort of environment is totally perfect.

The thing is that we have to get used to the idea that this game has a finite life span. Much like a videogame would have, but with more people enjoying it at the same time. I understand that is not something a lot of people are comfortable with, but I am quite happy with it because the quality of the experience I am getting is truly superb.

Any game that leaves me and my group wanting to continue with the adventure to know what is going on must be a good game.

And the story is gripping. The right combination and balance of exploration, surprises, creatures and a fantastic selection of characters… and with the visuals to really drive you in, I would gladly see it turned into a TV series!

If you are a role player and want a game that will help you introduce people into it, or you used to love point and click adventures, you really can’t go wrong with this game. Just get used to the idea that you will need to get some expansions in the future, though.

Buy this game if you want:

  • Easy mechanics that fit with the theme and are learned with ease
  • A compelling story with enough twists and turns to keep you going
  • A storytelling game you can teach anyone in minutes.

Don’t buy this game if you want:

  • Tons of replayability
  • Strategy
  • Euro gaming
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Jan 112017
 

JennelHaving Jennell Jaquays on the show was long overdue. With so much talking about OSR and what games were like all time ago, Jim and I thought it was about time we had someone who knows *a lot* about the old days and the starts of many things.

Jennell has been writing games since the mid 70s and has written some books that continue to influence creators to this day.

And she has some truly amazing stories and, by the sounds of it, a really well packed library at her home!

Hope you enjoy the show!

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Jan 022017
 

DungeonologyDungeonology is one of those books that are not aimed at you but you still love them because it is gorgeous and, deep inside (or not so deep as the case might be) we all have a child in us.

This book, published in November 2016, is a collaboration between Wizards of the Coast, Candlewick Press and Templar Press. The lore of WOTC has come together with the know-how of two very experienced publishers who put out quality books for children.

And it shows. Dungeonology is lavish, extremely well written and truly gorgeous to look at, as you can see in the video.

Hope you enjoy it!

Wizards of the Coast site: http://dnd.wizards.com/

Candlewick Press link: http://www.candlewick.com/cat.asp?browse=Season&season=current&page=1&mode=list&pix=y&catheader=y

Templar Publishing: http://www.templarco.co.uk/

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Jan 012017
 

Return to Crypt of the Sun LordReturn to Crypt of the Sun Lord clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It feels like yesterday when I first reviewed a module that was flawed, but had promise: A1: Crypt of the Sun Lord. The short level 1-dungeon crawl introduced to PCs to a nice little complex and provided some pretty easy challenges…but it also introduced us to the fascinating frontier’s village Rybalka, saw some improvement, and, more than that, it already exhibited what I consider the most crucial strength of AAW Games’ modules: A mix of action and brain-teasers and, more importantly, an admirable ability to depict cultures that feel “real” – yes, they feel alien and fantastic, but a sense of realism and detail suffuses the best of AAW Games’ works that can’t help but draw one into the diverse world of Aventyr….though, back then, the world had no official name yet. 😉

Since then, the company has grown by leaps and bounds, so let’s revisit the crypt of the sun lord and see what now can be found in the place where the PCs first hands on the mystical blade of the sun lord. It should btw. be noted that the blade of the sun lord, even when you have not played A01, will be found and gets full stats. This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, still here? Great! The previously explored upper floor (with a graphically enhanced map) has seen better days – beyond bandits, a sense of dilapidation haunts these halls and thus, the PCs venture forth – and may find that a stair is not what it is supposed to be: The wards that keep a mimic in stair-form suspended in time are about to fall, thus adding a level of danger and eureka-effect to the exploration of groups that have braved A01 back in the day. In Ka’Teek’s final resting place, the PCs can now unearth a secret door that leads from the muck-filled, crumbling tomb to the halls below – and here, you’ll be blown away. No, really. The lower level not only sports one glorious full-color map, it also has a lavishly-detailed isometric version of the already beautiful map. And yes, the isometric map is full color and drop-dead-gorgeous. I’m talking about as detailed as back in Ravenloft, only in color! A key-less version of this one is provided as well, though I’d only hand out the respective rooms after the PCs have explored them – e.g. traps and the like can still be found on the isometric version’s key-less one. Still, this map is gorgeous and greatly enhances the sense of immersion – not that the module required that, mind you.

What do I mean by this? Well, first of all, the exploration of the temple of the sun, hidden here in these depths, does sport bulettes that have dug into the temple…but the temple also has an ingenious intrusion-countermeasure: The very doors of the complex. You see, the exploration itself is an interesting puzzle, with doors preventing the opening of others while open: Some doors can only be opened while others are open and some can only be opened when others are closed. While the puzzle can potentially be brute-forced by capable PCs willing to spend time and resources, exploration with it intact proved to be much more rewarding. I mentioned, in the beginning, the strength, as a company, to create a blending of the fantastic and realistic and indeed: From paralytic flees to spikes of searing light, this oscillation is well-represented in the hazards of this complex. On a cultural note, a fountain of balance that provides boons, but also dishes out pain to those dishonest – and yes, there is a clear and interesting logic to this test of a creature’s honesty, one that can be gleaned from experience and one that constitutes a great example of unobtrusive storytelling.

The temple also houses iron-pyrite clad guardian warriors and indeed, the interest of PCs and players and the understanding of the dynamics of the temple may prove to be helpful – for the challenges faced inside are nothing to scoff at: The respective combat encounters are interesting and dangerous with not a single boring one among them. PCs will thus be motivated to actually unearth the methodology of the temple’s beliefs – if they understand it, they are rewarded.

Things become, at least in my opinion, even more interesting once the PCs manage to bypass the crysmals and breach the sanctuary – for here, the runes of the ancient people are provided as inscriptions that the players can decipher. I really liked this section, particularly since I can fluently read runes and since we have a pretty simple letter-substitution, so no, your players won’t be flustered for a long time, even if they have no idea regarding the meaning of runes. Within the depths of the complex, a secret altar awaits, providing not only a glimpse into ages long past, but also offering perhaps one of the coolest boss fights I’ve read in a while: The blade of the sun lord can be used to conjure forth the spirit of Ka’Teek – when have you last fought an honorable LG spirit of an ancient priest-king with a blinding aura that also may yield you a better blade? Oh, and this is NOT the end – You see, the temple also hides Ka’Teek’s suit, which is the only way to handle the true treasure herein: The Sliver of the Sun. Unprotected exposure to this artifact can lead to many very dangerous effects – and the table of these effects also constitutes a great scavenging ground for more lethal exposure to radiation and the like.

What does the sliver do? Well, it friggin’ CHANGES THE CLIMATE. This may break a particularly nasty winter or make a summer truly devastating…and its weaponized use can carry whole campaigns on its own – the potential outcomes presented certainly suggest different ones and can be used by any GM worth his craft to make plentiful follow-up modules. In fact, this could easily be the story for a whole campaign, should you wish to go that route… And yes, if you don’t want such a game-changer in your campaign, you can easily destroy the item in a cataclysmic blast…which coincidentally, with minor modification, would make for a compelling adventure in the plane of shadows…

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no problematic segments. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The book offers a significant amount of gorgeous artwork and the cartography by Tommi Salama and Justin Andrew Mason deserve special mention: The maps are GORGEOUS. The inclusion of an isometric map (including a key-less version of it) render the map-material of this book, at least in my opinion, absolute top-tier; not only regarding 3pps, mind you.

But, know what? All of that wouldn’t be enough, were it not for the crucial part – the writing. Jonathan G. Nelson & Stephen Yeardley have surpassed themselves here: The core-authors of AAW Games deliver a perfect culmination of the development of the company in this module: With formal quality turned up to eleven, the duo has retained the unique feeling or realism blended with the fantastic, the fascination for these cultures that makes the module feel like exciting, fantastic and strange archeology. The inclusion of material to occupy one’s mind via several unobtrusive puzzles also improves the module’s feeling of diversity beyond the varied encounters and hazards. However, the true accomplishment here is, much like in Stephen Yeardley’s superb C07: The Sussurus Tomb, the fact that the players are rewarded for engaging in the indirect storytelling the complex offers.

If the above was not ample clue: I *LOVE* this module! It feels like a great culmination, at least up until now, of the development process of AAW Games as a company and the authors: While retaining the key-strengths of the captivating cultures depicted, the diverse challenges herein are much more streamlined than in previous modules. Better yet, the rewarding of players engaging the indirect storytelling as well as the inspiring end of the module render this one exceedingly well-rounded dungeon, perhaps one of the best in this size out there. My final verdict with clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015 – a wonderful tribute to Cliff “CJ” Jones, to whom this module is dedicated.

Endzeitgeist out.

A24: Return to Crypt of the Sun Lord is available from:

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Jan 012017
 

13th Age Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes13th Age: Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes of clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what this 13th Age: Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes provides is interesting – we get items that are obviously the result of the craftsmanship of minor sorcerors, here called alchemists and talismancers – basically, everyday items. However, beyond the basic concept provided, each item sports 13 rumors related to it, some of which may be true, some of which may be false…all depending on the GM. This customization option is something I truly cherish here…so what do the items do?

The first item would be Blacklight Candles – mundane candles of black wax…but only the wielder can perceive the light they shed. Sounds boring? Well, what if it’s true that only drow make these things? Or what if the fire started from such candles also is invisible? The latter is a genius hook I’m going to craft a whole adventure around. Clay of Life helps stabilizing the dying and can even be used to help re-attach severed limbs…and it may be fermented dragon droppings…or it may a plot of none other than the Lich King! Obviously, it would be pretty awesome if the extremely expensive clay sold in Horizon works – it returns the dead to life…but it could also transform them into mindless golems…

Dancing Shoes are a great idea: they allow you to dance like a pro…ONCE. As soon as you stop, they’ll burst into flames. Need a variant on the Cinderella-trope? Here’s an interesting one for you! (Oh, and yes, if you’re VERY unlucky, they may burn you – but hey, the show must go on…right?) What about arrows that are particularly lethal versus ethereal foes (and less lethal versus physical targets), allwoing the PCs to better fight the threat of dybbuks and similar adversaries? Featherlight Skirts are also awesome in just about any decadent environment – these skirts puff up like a parachute and feather fall the wearer. The sample stories suggest e.g. a cadre of bored noble women using these skirts for what amounts to illegal base-jumping – and the idea alone is glorious: Think about the narrative potential here for an uncommon murder mystery…or a conspiracy waiting in the wings.

Finally, Grave Dust has a chance to work as a pretty potent sleeping agent…which is okay…but what if it’s true that gelatinous cubes and similar slimes hate the taste and may spew forth immediately anyone covered in the material? Or what if it’s true that the effects of the material end immediately in the vicinity of royalty? What does that say about the tavern-brawl featuring the material you just witnessed?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to 13th Age’s neat two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. Artworks are full-color and nice.

ASH LAW delivers some cool low-magic/alchemical items here. Yet, on their own, the fall somewhat flat. It is due to the absolutely inspired amount of narrative potential provided for each of them that they truly come into their own – what, on paper, sounds like a selection of solid, if a bit unremarkable items, becomes pretty awesome pretty fast by virtue of the inspiring 13 hooks provided for each of them, transforming the items into something more than the sum of their mechanical benefits.

Granted, I could nitpick some of these potential options: “Does the invisible fire created by blacklight candles visible burn objects or does it create an illusion of things being in order?” and similar reasoning – but that would be a disservice to the inspired ideas herein…and it would take a bit away from the GM’s options to customize the living hell out of these items to suit his or her need. I consider this to be an inspired installment in the series, one that oozes flair and panache, not only for 13th Age. The one reason (beyond aforementioned nitpickery) this does not reach the highest echelons of my rating system is that the items are story-items, one and all – they don’t really do something mechanically interesting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

13th Age: Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes is available from:

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Dec 312016
 

pic2496436Black Hat is one amazing game from Dragon Dawn Productions designed by the talented Timo Multamaki.

The game, for 2 – 6 players, puts you in the role of a hacker who has to race to the other side of the board to become the best hacker that ever was.

but in order to do that, you have to outwit your fellow hackers so you can be the first to act and take positions.

Will you have what it takes to play your cards well, act first and become the super hacker?

Publisher’s website: http://eu.dragondawnstore.com/

Boardgamegeek page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/148282/black-hat

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