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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Dec 092016
 

Conan, a strategy game from MonolithGet in the shoes of Conan, your favourite barbarian, and get all over Hyboria defeating your enemies and vanquishing monsters.

Monolith had an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign on the back of a very popular and much loved IP like Conan, some kick-ass miniatures, artwork and cool gameplay promises. At nearly $3.5 million, they also hit a pretty huge number of stretch goals that translated into more miniatures, more missions and more of everything. Conan was going to be epic!

Then the problems came and delays settled in. And I am talking a delay of years. Despite showing some prototypes at Essen Spiel in 2014, the games didn’t arrive at the backer’s homes until the third quarter of 2016. Which brought up a lot of resentment and understandable questions.

In my case, though, as soon as I got the box, any questions about timing disappeared. Two pretty huge and heavy boxes with 106 and 115 miniatures respectively, some seriously gorgeous game boards – double sided – and the game rules books.

That made the game worth waiting for.

The boxes are sturdy, huge and very gorgeously illustrated. Inside everything fits nicely inside as long as it comes as it was packaged from factory. The miniatures come either in a blister of three for the bigger sized ones, or a box with two trays for the smaller ones.

Two decks of cards – spells and items, dice, plastic gems, colured bases for the miniatures, a plastic tray to setup gameplay for the Overlord and lots of tokens for the enemies, character sheets, treasure, reinforcement points, etc. All of that neatly snuggled inside the box until you pull it apart… then getting it all back in becomes a bit of a nightmare. No insert and no extra space to account for the extra volume these items have when they are lose.

Bugger.

The miniatures in Conan are spectacular, though there is a difference between some of them, both in the material used and the quality of the sculpting. In fact I was surprised that a miniature of a lion had considerably lower detail and quality than the other two big monsters. Also some of the miniatures arrived with the spears slightly bent. Nothing major, but big enough to be noticed and a bit annoying.

The boards are fantastic, though. Thick, large and truly beautiful to put on the table. They take a lot of space, mind you, so not a game to take to a picnic.

The character sheets are a bit flimsy. Also double sided, one with the names in French and one with the name in English, they are otherwise identical on both sides. Considering there is very little to no text on the sheets, I would have preferred if one of the sheets had included some differences to play an advanced or basic game, or simply some different attributes to give Conan more replayability.

The two rule books are huge and averagely laid out. One of the books contains the basic rules for the players and the other one with extra rules for the overlord and the scenarios. They are easy enough to read but the rules are a mess in places. There are lots of information that has been left out, like a list of the skills the characters have. That makes playing the game for the first time a bit frustrating, to be honest.

Once the game has been set-up – you need between 15 and 20 minutes for that – winning conditions are set by the scenario, as well as the starting order.

There are two phases, one for the players and one for the overlord. The mechanics are, essentially, a matter of placing a number of gems on the actions the players want to perform. There are six main actions – attack, ranged attack, defend, move, manipulate and reroll. The more gems you place on them (within the dice limit given by each ability/character), the more dice you can roll to perform that action.

Players can decide in what order to act and/or attack and their stance. The stance, aggressive or cautious, will determine how many gems the players get back at the end of their round. Used gems go the fatigue area. Any wounds the heroes suffer take a number of gems from the fatigue area to the wounded area. If you get all your gems in the wound area, your character dies.

That can take some doing…

The overlord’s phase is not too different. They have a set of cards with an activation cost for each card. Once a card is activated, it goes to the right of the queue, where the cost to activate them is higher. The overlord can also assign gems to movement, defense or reroll for all the units.

Each scenario has a number of turns before it ends. And usually that means the players lose.

Each unit of enemies is composed by a number of minis that are identified by the coloured bases and when the corresponding card is activated, the units move, attack or otherwise act.

The mechanics in Conan are not overly complex, and if they were well explained from the start in the rules books, they would be even easier.

What makes the game complex, and fun, is the level of strategy involved.

Throughout the game, all cards are exposed. The overlord knows where the players re, how many gems they have free for the next round, how can they move… Conversely, the players know what the overlord can use at what cost, how many gems are available and where each unit is.

So think about it like a cooperative team chess vs. One single person.

Conclusion

Conan has a lot going for it. Even if we ignore the gorgeous look and miniatures, the game play is really sound. It may not add anything new to the gaming table, but what it does it does it very well and you are likely to want to come back to it.

The rules need some major updates. Not because there is anything with the existing rules, but because they are not well explained. The manuals are horrible. We had to check several times in online forums to try and find answers to the questions we had.

And we only had basic questions like “Where are the abilities descriptions” or “There is a spell icon on this foe, but no explanation as to what spells it uses if any at all”. Even finding out exactly what the consequences of each stance are was a struggle.

On the other hand, once the game is going and the players are deciding what to do, it is really good fun. There is a massive risk of a lead player taking on the team, though, so I would recommend this game only in groups who know each other. It could be annoying if here is a power player anywhere.

Something else we found weird is that there is no escalation points. Conan is meant to be for two to five players, but I reckon you can’t play this on a one-to-one with the scenario setup. The one player would need to control the three characters that the scenario suggest you work with. Even if you play with four players, the scenario (at least the first one) tells you what extra character to use, but not to amend the number of enemies, treasure or number of rounds.

Me and my group are looking forward to playing it again. The level of complexity might not fit everyone’s tastes, but it certainly left us wanting more.

Also this game is very good value for money. At least at the pledge level I got. To find over two hundred miniatures of this quality for just over 100$ is absolutely amazing, and the boards are so good that I can also use them in my RPGs too.

If you want a game that is as strategic as it is gorgeous, Conana is one to look at. You will have a lot of rules to clarify, but it will be worth it in the end.

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Dec 052016
 

mansions_of_madness

Mansions of Madness 1st edition was received with mixed feelings by a lot of people. This new and evolved version of the game tries to solve some of the problems of the first version. Does it?

By Paco Garcia Jaen

Fantasy Flight Games has become the most prolific producer of Lovecraft based board games. And they have started to do very well, I have to say.

Actually, they have been doing very well for quite some time now. I have enjoyed Arkham Horror, Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror quite a lot. And so I have enjoyed Mansions of Madness first edition, so this was going to be one that I would likely enjoy too.

Upon opening the box you could be forgiven for thinking you are opening the mother of all expansions for Mansions of Madness. Huge amount of miniatures (some of the squeezed because of the lack of space and more than a few that needed unbending with hot water), an even bigger amount of tokens, cards with spells, unique items, conditions, equipment… Also more characters, more mansion and garden tiles and new adventures.

So, at first glance, more of the same.

However, there is something very different, and is that this time you need an app to play the game.

In the original game, one of the players had to play the part of the mythos. It was the person who run the game, prepared the tiles, puzzles, monsters, scenarios… everything. Now, an app does it all for you, so the game is fully cooperative.

The look and feel of the game components is the same FFG has been using for pretty much all their Lovecraft games. The characters are the same you will find in Elder Sign, Eldritch Horror and Mansions of Madness. In fact the first edition characters and he rest is compatible with this version, so if you have that game, you can still enjoy it with this.

Each character has a special ability they can perform, sanity and physical power hit points and then a series of abilities like observation, strength, agility, knowledge, etc with a number beside them that will determine how many dice you roll when using them.

So what does the app do? Firstly it let you decide what scenario you want to play. It will ask you what character and how many of them will play and then tthe mansions of madness appell you what rooms to start with, where to place the clues, doors, obstacles you can move, non player characters… Everything in lovely 3D in your tablet or smart phone (ideally tablet for size) and with a soundtrack to go with you in your adventures. I can tell you that makes getting ready to play this game much quicker and very, every easy.

The app also decides what roll you have to make to get over a challenge. For example, some times it will ask you for a strength roll to open a jammed drawer, but sometimes it will ask for a knowledge roll instead, giving you a description of how you pull in the right way because you know the lock, rather than because you are just applying brute force. Thus having a strong but not very wise character might be handy in some circumstances, but not always.

The game mechanics haven’t really changed that much. Your characters have two actions per turn and a limited number of action types – move a few spaces, explore, search, push, trade items… – and little else. That’s it.

Once all characters have performed their actions, and they can do it in any order they wish, the mythos turn comes up and then thing start to happen. Things that the app will tell you. If monsters appear, or if nothing happens… all handled to you effortlessly without reading a single page.

Do you happen to find a puzzle? Don’t worry… the app will display it for you and you can solve it there and then. It will keep track of the progress and the number of times it’s been attempted. The cool thing about this is that you actually have to solve the puzzle without having to set-up tokens or use any more space on the table. The challenges include things like driving a brick through a mobile labyrinth, or a game of finding he right combination of shapes and colours with a limited number of attempts. And they can be as hard as they get!

How about talking to non player characters? For example the butler who holds certain key you have to convince to give you. Just like you would do in a videogame, you can talk to that character with a limited number of sentences. It can be a bit basic at times, but they give more depth to the game and makes it richer as those characters can be part of the winning conditions for the scenario at hand.

Something else that is handy about the app? You can save the progress and make it easier if you have to set-up again and continue playing another time. In our case that is very handy because we usually stop for food breaks in the game, so this way we don’t forget anything.

Also, there are several configurations for each scenario, so even if you play them more than once, they will likely be different, so the replayability value of the game is greater of its older sister.

Combat is also handled by the app. You decide what to attack and the app will give you the choice of what sort of attack, unarmed, with a slicing weapon, heavy weapon, a spell… then it gives you what roll you have to make – sometimes it will be strength, sometimes it will be speed, sometimes, something else – and then enter the number of hit points you inflict. Once you reach the number given to the creature, it disappears. No more hit point tokens on top of platforms that move around.

When the playing characters receive damage or horror (insanity), they get cards upsiedown. Once they fill their quota as given in their character sheet, they will be asked to turn one of the cards upside down. Each card has some effect that will apply to the player. For example if you fill your horror quota, you might turn against the other players, or simply be given a different set of winning conditions (like burning half the rooms in the mansions or similar), so your character is not right away lost. Of course if you fill your insanity or physical quota again… not even you can survive that!

The length of the adventures depends greatly on many factors, but I would be surprised if you needed less than two to three hours to finish them. There are lots of things to do all the time and solving some of the puzzles can be time consuming.

Conclusion

I think this version of the game is better than the previous one. Hands down.

Not because it does anything that is too different, it doesn’t, but because of the app helping you run the game and managing the already large space needed for the game.

Yes, it is true that depending on the app can be a pain in the ass if you don’t happen to have yours nearby or simply the battery run out, but if you know you are going to play, make sure you have it filled up with power because you will need it. I think it is just a matter of getting used to the idea that you need your tablet or phone to play this game and once you are in that frame set, you should be OK.

The adventures are as close to an RPG as you can get without the need to play an RPG, which I guess is what make them so appealing to me.

Set up and pick up time have been reduced too, which is good because previously you could take as long setting up as playing, specially if your characters died quickly.

Talking about that, adventures in here are also quicker to get you in the swing of things with monsters likely to appear one or two turns into the game. Fighting them is hard, but not impossible, so there is less fear of getting into a room with a Hound of Tindalos or a cultist this time, which is good. Also the new mechanic of being able to move some pieces of furniture to block doors and trap monsters in rooms where they can’t get to you is truly great.

Lastly, I loved the way the adventures go “in crescendo” as the game progresses. They start slow and then the pace of everything moves up a notch, making everything more frantic and difficult.

mansions of madness minisProduction wise the game is sound, though it is only a matter of time before FFG has to update their production values for minis. They are starting to look a bit too old-school for me. The app works without any glitches we saw, though we could do with some more advanced features, like placing characters in the correct rooms before saving so we know where we were when we come back to the game, or even letting us use our own music rather than the same soundtrack again and again. Also, storing the game saves up in the cloud so we can jump from device to device would be very neat.

The rules are just as gorgeously laid out on paper as always and the artwork is as good as ever because it is the same as ever. Some might think it is lazy of FFG to keep using the same illustrations, and even the same sounds in the app you can hear in Elder Signs, but to me it makes sense, not just from the economic point of view, but from the line development point of view. Why use totally different illustration in games that are, essentially about the same thing? You re playing the same thing in different ways, so having the same characters gives a familiarity that is nice to bring from one game to the next.

The price tag is a bit ouchy, though. Even though you might feel you come out with less because it has less tokens than the previous version, we can’t forget that with this game comes the development of a very complex app that needs updating every time a new expansion comes out, and that has to be paid for. Retailing at around 100$, £90 or 100€, this game is a lot of money, so try it before you buy it if you can and your budget is tight.

If you liked the first edition of Mansions of Madness, I would certainly ask Santa to get you this for whatever you celebrate. If you didn’t like it, please have a go a this one because you will probably be very pleasantly surprised.

If you like the CoC RPG, please have a go at this because it offers a somewhat watered down RPG experience that you can prepare in next to no time. Also, I doubt you will be able to find that many tiles and miniatures for this price anyway, so it is a sound investment.

Fantasy Flight has really done it very well and the integration with the app is so good that gives me hope for using more apps in the future, so FFG has managed to somehow lower my levels of scepticism, something not easily done!

Now get off that chair and get this game. There are mythos to combat!

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Oct 252016
 

pic2367574_t

By Paco Garcia Jaen

Having a quick and easy to teach/learn game is a must. Because sometimes the only time left to play a game are the 15 minutes before the take-away arrives or the pasta finish cooking, or there are some waiting time for the last member of the party to arrive.

That is pretty much what happened last Saturday and we cracked open Tornado Ellie. By all accounts a kid’s game. One that was launched at Spiel 2015 and had a ton of people (mostly kids) stacking cards on top of meeples at the booth.

And it looked fun and pretty hard too!

In Tornado Ellie, the players are farmers in the middle of a tornado who must sacrifice animals in order to keep the tornado at bay and not have their farms, crops and cattle blown away.

The game components are pretty interesting. A grooved board sits atop four strips of cardboard that assemble to form a platform. On top of that grooved board goes another board, which is the tornado itself. Held in place by a small cylinder, the players will guide the tornado from player to player for the game to progress.

Each player also has a hand of four double sided cards, three barn shaped meeples, three cow meeples and three cylinders to represent trees.

During their rounds, the players use the cards in their hands to place them on the tornado platform. The mechanic is to place a number of animals on the platform. The cards have either pigs, hens, sheep or cows in different numbers. Players have to find a card that either has the same number or greater of the combination of animals on the board, or a card with just one type of animal but in numbers greater than the animals present.

For example, if there is a card with three cows on the tornado, the player has to put either a card with only cows on top, or a card with a combination of animals as long as there are at least four cows on it. Considering there are a large combination of cards, to follow the rules is easier said than done.

Also there are some special cards with single animals that either change the order of play or make it slightly harder for the next player.

When the player can’t place cards on the platform, things get a bit hectic.

That means that the tornado gods are not happy with the sacrifice – or lack of – and then the tornado will take away some things away from the farmer. The back of the cards has drawings of either trees, barns or cows and that is what the player has to sacrifice to the tornado gods off their starting stash.

How do you do that? Piling up the meeples on top of cards. That “simple”. Once the tree, cow or barn meeples have been put on top of each other to form a tower, the tornado has to be sent to the next player and hopefully not topple it.

If it falls (which is very likely) then the player who wasn’t nimble enough looses all their assets. But that is a good thing for the other players who, thanks to the grace of insurance companies, will get one of the toppled resources back.

Because that is what insurance companies do… pay some people on the back of the disgrace of others.

Eventually the game ends. Not sure how or when, though, because we were a bit bored after a while and had to go.

Conclusion

This game has too many flaws to be in my list of good games, to be honest.

For starters the rules don’t make clear little things, like what happens if the player topples the tower before they rotate it and thus before the player sacrifices any of their resources.

Then there is the theme, which, quite frankly, makes no sense. You really get away from having your cows, trees or barns destroyed by putting other animals in the line of the tornado? And then when another player suffers, you are rewarded? Seriously?

The artwork is great, I have to say. The animal caricatures are lovely and the whole set up is very nice to behold. Also the wooden tokens are of a good enough size and quality too.

However that is pretty much where the quality ends.

Adding cards to the pile brings little joy other than “oh great… I put a card here!” and that’s it. There is little reward there.

Stacking the tokens on top of cards also becomes a bit of a fruitless endeavour, specially if the player is feeling evil and puts the cows or the barns on their base instead of on their side. It becomes almost impossible to stack them at any height, which I found very frustrating.

This game will probably do well with children. The whimsical graphics and the silly nature of building up the stack of tokens just to watch them fall will make kids chuckle. It is very easy to teach and learn too.

If you are looking for a game for younger players this might be worth considering, but if you want a dexterity game, there area much better choices out there.

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Oct 202015
 

pic2492244_t[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

I believe there is no such thing as a dull theme for a game if the theme is well implemented. A lot of people dished Fleet for being a game about gathering a fishing fleet and yet love Terra Mystica even though the theme is pretty crap.

Shephy goes some way to prove that point: A well placed theme, however unlikely and however boring sounding, can make a game better if it is well implemented.

In Shephy, humanity has disappeared and sheep must manage without shepperds to grow in number and survive the apocalypse that got rid of humans. Some think that’s difficult and can’t happen because sheep have always been silent and thought of as stupid. And thus the nihilist sheep will not help. And nature won’t help.

But we can. We can make 1 sheep into 1000 and win the game.

That is what Shephy is all about. Well… it certainly is original and comes all the way from Japan, so it might not be all that easy to find.

The game was designed and illustrated by Pawn, and she made a tremendous job of both aspects of the game. This solitaire game comes with 72 cards in a small box and the rules, both in English and Japanese. The box is pretty much fully in Japanese, but don’t let that put you off, the rules are actually very well translated and are easy to follow.

I say easy to follow, but that doesn’t mean the game is easy to understand right away. I needed a play or two before becoming fluent. And that is a good thing, I think. A few moments of “Oh! nice!” and stopping for a few seconds to admire the simple but extremely effective artwork will came my way and then found myself playing Shephy time after time. With a play time of about 10 to 15 minutes, fitting in more than one game is easy enough.

The cards are pretty good quality and will handle themselves well after much playing. However this little gem is so good that sleeving them all should be compulsory. The box so far is lasting and, at the time of writing this review, it’s been in a suitcase that’s been bashed about in a plane, and in a rucksack that’s come with me all the way from Germany to Iguazu and Buenos Aires… And it’s lasting without getting broken. It is indeed well made.

The game has various decks. 7 sets of 7 cards each. Each set has a number – 1, 3, 10, 30, 100, 300 and 1000, a set of 22 event cards and one card to represent the raise of the nihilist enemy sheep that want their destruction (I think that’s what they want… you lose the game if they get to 1000, so I am sure they’re pretty horrible).

At the start of the game you place all your sets in front of you and have one card of one sheep. Draw a hand of 5 event cards and start to play. The event cards can be anything from Multiply (duplicate an existing card) to put values together to replace cards, release sheep (send them back to the set they came from) or even get other event cards out of the game completely. Play a card (or two in some cases) and draw a card… rinse-repeat.

The thing is that nature is not kind, so there are a lot of events that will release sheep back into the decks. Also there is a limit to the cards you can have in play; just seven.

When you run out of event cards, shuffle the discard pile and start again. Also raise the number of enemy sheep from one to ten, from ten to 100 and from 100 to 1000. If that comes to pass, you lose the game.

Loosing all your sheep in play, means you lose the game.

I tell you, it’s easy to lose the game.

Although the 22 events might sound as limited and after a while you become very familiar with them, the shuffling and randomness of the drawing mechanism keeps this game pretty alive. There are lose formulas you can follow to increase your flock, but you can never be sure they’ll come in the right order before you get to the dreaded 1000 enemy sheep.

Conclusion

This is a really neat solitaire game. And somehow very addictive. The frustration of losing the game can only be placated with the satisfaction of winning. Thankfully, that satisfaction doesn’t come often enough to make the game boring.

Of course, like most quick games, after a while I wanted to play something else. And yet something in my mind wanted to keep coming back to it. Luckily, any break is long enough for this game. Or maybe this game is short enough for pretty much any break, I don’t know which.

The point being is that this game is excellent. Truly, truly excellent. There are so many cool details in the game, like illness to destroy your sheep, or a shepherd dog to help you, or… anyway… there are many cool details in the game and they fit the theme so perfectly that I almost ended up caring for my flock. I *really* wanted to get to 1000.

And I have done sometimes. But not enough times. So I think that now you know this is an excellent game and why, I will leave you to find a copy and I will get back to trying to populate the Earth with more sheep now that they don’t have humans to help.

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Aug 072015
 

pic2509383_t[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Chaosmos came out thanks to Kickstarter a few months ago and it puts you in the position of an alien race that’s trying to survive the end of the universe.

See, all things die and the Universe is not exception. And every creature out there has a survival instinct and aliens are no different. And in this game the Universe is dying and is dying quickly.

However not all is lost. There is The Ovoid, a mysterious and powerful artifact that will ensure you can jump straight into the new universe that’s about to be born out of the demise of ours. And yes, you’re going to need it if the civilisation you represent as a player is to survive.

Let me tell you, the box is really full of components. From a circular counter to cards, envelopes, small screens to hide things behind, some miniatures, hexagons, cards, tokens… How they’ve managed to get so much stuff in the box is a mystery. How to put everything back in again another. It’ll take a bit of time to get everything together once you’ve played, so be patient.

I won’t talk too much about the components because you can see my unboxing video here, which will show you all the components. I’ll only say, just in case you don’t want to watch the video, that the artwork is patchy in its quality and the art direction could be improved somewhat.

Setting up time is long to start with, but it’s not too painful. One just has to get to grips with what’s meant to happen for the first time and then it’s a lot easier. However I’d strongly recommend keeping your components well organised to make sure you don’t have to look for what you need when you start your next game.

I also have to say the game is easier to play than the rules would make it look. They are quite verbose and long, but the mechanics are rather easy. I’d suggest watching the video tutorials Mirror Box Games has in their website. Seriously, the game is easier than it would appear.

And talking about playing…

The board is set by placing the hexagons with the planets, one for each civilisation and each one of those planets has a small envelope with some cards in them. Those cards are only visible when you get control of the planet and then you can use some of the cars and swapping for cards in your hand. Each player has a hand of 7 cards.

The cards contain traps and locks to stop other players to access the envelopes and also equipment, weapons…. And the Ovoid.

Each player has a number of actions and they can do one thing during each action. Like going from planet to planet, looking at cards, swapping cards, beating the crap out of each other… That sort of fun!

The combat is bloody. Two dice determine the damage, which you can help/deter with some equipment. Nothing to scientific, but fun and tense as you never know how well you’ll do.

Eventually time runs out, as in the number of rounds come to an end, and the player who has the Ovoid wins the game. That simple. The rest of the players will look miserably at the winner while their universe collapses and they become nothing while the winner creates a new universe of their own.

OK, that was a bit over dramatic.

Conclusion

Chaosmos is really good fun. The game starts as a treasure hunt as the players will need to find where the Ovoid is. However they might not want to keep them in their hand right away as some cards can take it away and then start the chase again. Instead the Ovoid can be hidden away.

And you have to have a good poker face, or a be a good bluffer and pretend you know – or don’t know – where the precious artifact is.

Although the game could have a tighter art direction, it doesn’t really detract from the game experience, so I won’t lambaste the game too much for that. Just something to keep in mind for when the second edition of the game comes out.

If you’re blessed to have a group of people like mine to play with, this game is carnage and it doesn’t matter how long it takes, it can be enjoyable. However be careful because the game can be a bit dull to start with if the Ovoid is not found quickly enough.

Overall this game is well worth it and it has good replayability value for me. With a bit of luck there will also be some expansions or even a follow-up called Creasmos where the civilisation that jumps into the new universe has to conquer it.

One to get out on the table and enjoy around a drink!

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