Eldritch Horror

From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Eldritch Horror is a new Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games.

Few games get a reaction like the Arkham Horror game series.  The base game is incredible and the expansions do add a lot.  I just do not recommend running it with more than one expansion.  As time went on, it was harder and harder to pull in players for the game unless you were at a con where people were prepared to play a 4+ hour game.

Then came Eldritch Horrora new take on a the Arkham Horror concept.  The designers took the basic concept of Arkham Horror and globalized it. They had me at global!

From page #2: “Harrigan ran his bandaged hand across the map on the hotel room’s wall. Dozens of documents and scraps of paper from all over the world were pinned to their corresponding locations, interconnected by a complex web of colored string.”

In general, Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game where players trek across the world, investigating and taking on challenges with the overall goal of defeating an Ancient One causing all the trouble.  Of course, like Arkham Horror, this game is inspired by the writings of HP Lovecraft.  In each game, an Ancient One is chosen and various setup based on that is determined.  The players ultimate goal is to banish this Ancient One, but if they fail, it awakens and humanity is doomed.

There are a lot of similarities between Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror.  However, obviously because of the global nature of the game, there are some differences. The board is a full map of the earth, divided up into countries and major cities highlighted with large circles with game information in it, much like the locations in Arkham in Arkham Horror.  All are connected by travel routes called Paths either by rail, sea or the dotted wilderness trails.  You need tickets to travel rail or ship paths and a character is limited to two tickets at any given time during the game.  There are also locations marked along the paths with numbers and symbols signifying what kind of location it is (city, sea or wilderness location).  These act as other locations used in the game for Clues as well as other things in the cards.

There is something called the Omen Track on the board as well as a Doom track and the Asset reserve area.  These have similar parallels to Arkham but because of the more epic nature of Eldritch, they act differently.  Assets (which are various pieces of equipments, artifacts and allies) are acquired through skills tests rather than money.  There is no real monetary system in this game – only clues and tickets.

Of course, the game is heavily card driven, as one would expect.  The turn sequence is simple, it just gets complicated the more cards are drawn and the more challenges one has to face.  There are Encounter cards for each region (America, Asia and Europe), as well as General Encounters which are chosen as an option in certain areas and mandatory in others.  These act similarly to Arkham Encounter cards and can be somewhat helpful or can be really challenging.  Additionally, there are Expedition Cards, which are cards drawn if you land on the current expedition.

From page # 2: “He followed a red string from the transcribed testimony of a lunatic in Arkham to a pencil rubbing of some pictographs he found in the Amazon. From there, he traced a blue thread to a page torn from the journal of that astronomer who was murdered in Sydney.  ”

Clues are slightly different from Arkham Horror.  They are not just automatically acquired.  One has to solve a Research Encounter (another set of cards, keyed towards the specific Ancient One).  So they are not as plentiful as they are in Arkham. Like Arkham, they can be used to help in skill checks.  They also help in solving Mysteries and Rumors.

There are the dreaded Mythos cards that we all should be familiar with if you played Arkham Horror. There is a specific mechanic on building the Mythos deck, with three different colors marking the progression of difficulty in the game.  Make progress early in the game or things are going to get harder.

In the end, your goal is to solve the Mystery cards associated with the Ancient One you chose, all the while trying to keep the number of gates down (opened by Mythos cards) and killing creatures (released by gates).  Your progress is hampered by various events like Rumors, which are like short term Mysteries that effect your progress considerably.  Rumors and other events come up in the Mythos cards as well.  More simplified in the game, as compared to Arkham, are the gates and travelling to other worlds.  These are boiled down to their own cards but still have similar impact.

The game comes with four starting Ancient Ones and more come with expansions.  There are 43 monsters, 12 characters and 9 possible Gates.

I have played this game multiple times, some at home and some at cons.  I have had a lot of fun with it and it continues to challenge us.  Much like Arkham Horror, it has a lot of replay-ability and it is like a different game every time you play.  I have yet to win the game, however, but that only makes me want to keep trying.

In conclusion, this game is very fun to play but like its predecessor, very involved.  It takes a long time to play, even without the expansions.  I was a big fan of Arkham Horror but I am even a bigger fan of Eldritch Horror.  I think it is a worthy heir to the product line.  I highly recommend it if you can handle long games.

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their new Board GameEldritch Horror” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Eldritch Horror
Game Design: Corey Konieczka and Nikki Valens
Additional Content and Design: Tim Uren, Richard Launius
Inspired by the Arkham Horror Design by: Kevin Wilson, Richard Launius
Editing/Proofreading: Brendan Weiskotten
Graphic Design: Michael Silsby with Dallas Melhoff, Chris Beck, Shaun Boyke
Cover Art: Anders Finer
Investigator Art: Magali Villeneuve
Game Board Location Art: Raymong Bonilla, David Griffith, Ed Mattinian, Patrick McEvoy, Emilio Rodriguez, Tim Tsang, Magali Villeneuve, and Drew Whitmore
Additional Interior Art: The artists of Call of Cthulhu LCG and Arkham Horror Files products
Investigator and Location Art Direction: Zoë Robinson
Managing Art Director: Andrew Navaro
Managing Graphic Designer: Brian Schomburg
Production Manager: Eric Knight
Executive Producer: Michael Hurley
Publisher: Christian T. Petersen
Number of Pages: 16 Page rulebook
Game Components Included: Board, a bunch of cards and a bunch of card board bits. (Typical for FFG)
Retail Price: $59.95 (US)
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Player Ages: 14+
Play Time: 3+ hours
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

The Nether Realm, Talisman Expansion

The Nether Realm, Talisman Expansion
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

The Nether Realm, Talisman Expansion is a new Board Game Expamsion from Fantasy Flight Games.

Talisman is one of those games I always seem to buy for.  I enjoy it with my kids and with my friends.  In past editions, it did get repetitive but what I like most about the FFG version is the variety they seem to be injecting into the game.  Unlike past editions, FFC has put out various sized expansions so as to control the bloat a game like this can develop.  I bought two expansions recently – The Firelands and The Nether Realm – that are very small but have significant impact on the game.

The interesting thing about The Nether Realms expansion is that it is designed by a fan.  I like when a company pays attention to its fans and gives them opportunities to grow the product.  This speaks well of Fantasy Flight Games.

From the website:
“Journey through the realm of Talisman on your quest for the Crown of Command but beware the fiery Pyrochanter, fearsome Titan Wraith, and other Nether Deck enemies that seek to thwart your plans in The Nether Realm expansion.”

The Expansion itself is very simple.  It contains Alternative Ending cards as well as new Nether Realm cards.  The Nether Realm is an expansion that specifically applies to the Alternate Endings contained within.  Each Alternate Endings instructs various uses of the Nether Realms cards.

The Nether Realm cards are alternate Adventure cards that pack quite a punch.  The majority of cards are very nasty monsters, ranging from Strength 1 to Strength 12!  Depending on what Alternate Ending is chosen, these cards can present a consider challenge to the players.

From the website:
“The Nether Realm was designed by Jon New, the man behind the Talisman-dedicated fansite Talisman Island. The Nether Realm offers three new Alternative Endings for Talisman, along with new Nether cards.”

In conclusion, although I like more challenge in my games, I am not sure I would choose these kinds of challenges.  Your character definitely needs to be ready for the Nether Realm challenges. 

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their new Board Game ExpamsionThe Nether Realm, Talisman Expansion” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com , and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 14

Product Summary

The Nether Realm, Talisman Expansion
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: Board Game Expamsion
Expansion Design: Jon New
Additional Development: Samuel W. Bailey
Talisman Revised 4th Edition Design: Bob Harris and John Goodenough
Producer: Christopher Hosch
Graphic Design: Evan Simonet
Cover Art: Ralph Horsley
Interior Art: Bruno Balixa, Massimiliano Bertolini, Joao Bosco, Mark Bulahao, Christopher Burdett, Joshua Cairós, Felicia Cano, JB Casacop, Sara K. Diesel, Guillaume Ducos, Raymond Gaustadnes, Matt Larson, Alexandr Shaldin, and Joe Wilson
Managing Art Director: Andrew Navaro
Art Direction: John Taillon
Number of Pages: 3 pages of rules
Game Components Included: 36 Nether Cards, 3 Alternative Ending Cards
Game Components Not Included: Talisman 4th Edition Revised Core Set
Retail Price: $14.95(US)
Number of Players: 2-6
Player Ages: 9+
Play Time: 60+
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com  

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

The Firelands, Talisman Expansion

The Firelands, Talisman Expansion
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

The Firelands, Talisman Expansion is a new Board Game Expansion from Fantasy Flight Games.

Talisman is one of those games I always seem to buy for.  I enjoy it with my kids and with my friends.  In past editions, it did get repetitive but what I like most about the FFG version is the variety they seem to be injecting into the game.  Unlike past editions, FFG has put out various sized expansions so as to control the bloat a game like this can develop.  I bought two expansions recently – The Firelands and The Nether Realm – that are very small but have significant impact on the game.

Firelands is an Western Asian culture influenced expansion, with desert and fire themes.  It comes with a bunch of Adventure Cards, Spell Cards, and a new type of card called Terrain Cards.  There are new Alternative Ending Cards, and new characters.  Special to this expansion as well are Firelands tokens.

From the back website:
“The appointed time has arrived, and Talisman lies in peril with the fiery onslaught of the Ifrit. Your quest for the Crown of Command just became a lot hotter …”

The Adventure Cards have a strong fire or western Asian theme throughout.  These introduce several new concepts including the Fireproof symbol.  As you would imagine, this symbol makes the card immune to fire effects.  This includes a new effect called Burn.  Various effects from the Adventure cards or spells allow players to burn other cards on the board.  Any burnt card is taken out of play.  At times, character may suffer a burn effect and survive, but the card may instruct the player that any item or follower not Fireproof is considered burned.  This can be even worse than death late in the game.

The primary theme of the expansion is that legendary Ifrit have returned to exact fiery vengeance on the land of Talisman.  Throughout the adventure cards, players face various challenges related to the Ifrit as well as finding items related to him.  Ifrit Gold, for example, is fireproof gold.  A Flame Rift is an event that destroys Adventure cards in the space and the top 3 cards on the Adventure Deck, and leaves the space with a Firelands token.

Also in the Adventure cards are nasty creatures called Noble Ifrit.  These are 14 creatures that are special to the Firelands expansion.  They have specific on-going effects while in play and marked with a special border. For example, the Ifrit Sultan burns either the space or one of your cards in your possession, your choice. Or the Ifrit Raider that gains a bonus for every Firelands token in the region.

Fireland tokens are the newest aspect unique to this expansion.  When a space is marked with a Firelands token, it makes the space very deadly.  The more you have placed down, the more deadly the characters’ journey gets.  This represents the continued influence of the Ifrit as it exacts his revenge.  Fireland tokens cannot be paced in the inner region.

From the website:
“The Firelands introduces a host of danger to the realm of Talisman, and if you take too long on your journey, you may feel the fire licking at your heels. The Ifrit – once enslaved to create the Crown of Command – have risen to attack the land of Talisman, burning everything in their path.”

The Terrain cards are another addition to the game that is interesting.  From the rulebook – “Under the influence of the Ifrit, the land irrevocably shifts and changes.”  There are 3 Ruins cards, 3 Desert Cards, 2 Woods cards, 2 Crags cards, 2 Forest cards, 2 Hills cards, 2 Fields cards, 1 Plains card, 1 Chapel card and 1 Graveyard.  All the cards have similar art to the corresponding space with the same name on the board.  There are certain game effects that will ask the players to place a Terrain card on a space, which changes the nature of the space until the end of the game (or something changes it further).  Terrain cards cannot be placed in the Inner Region, but they can be placed on the Chapel or the Sentinel which totally changes the game in those respects.

There are four new characters added – the Dervish, the Warlord, the Nomad, and the Jin Blooded.  The Jin Blooded is the magic user of the group, very strongly tied to magic.  He even is able to spend a fate to gain a spell and vice a versa.  The Nomad is sort of the rogue type character, able to travel through the Outer and Middle Region freely, turning any space she chooses to a “draw 1 card” space. The Warlord is the fighter of the group, obviously.  The Dervish is stylish sword fighter, with a lot of finesse and able to fight with two weapons.

Finally, there are three Alternate Ending cards, two of which have a fire theme and the other plays to the heart of what Talisman is.  My favorite of the 3 is the latter, A Hero Rises.  It revokes the Fate limit and evokes a condition where a character gains Fate when they win a battle and loses fate if they lose a battle. First character to 13 wins.  I like that one a lot.

In conclusion, this is the kind of expansion I like in this incarnation of Talisman.  It changes the game to a degree that it is not repetitive but at the same time really plays to the heart of what Talisman is.  Let’s face it, Talisman is nothing more than a beer-and-pretzels Dungeons & Dragons.  There is not a ton of strategy to it.  It’s more thematic than anything else.  So the designer play with that theme and bring in more story and challenges for players to experience.  I really enjoy it for that.

My biggest concern as with most FFG games is the price.  For a small box, it is a little pricey. But I still bought it, so it was obviously not too much.

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their new Board Game ExpansionThe Firelands, Talisman Expansion” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 16

Product Summary

The Firelands, Talisman Expansion
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: Board Game Expansion
Expansion Design and Development: Samuel W. Bailey
Talisman Revised 4th Edition Design: Bob Harris and John Goodenough
Producer: Christopher Hosch
Editing: Brendan Weiskotten and David Hansen
Graphic Design: Evan Simonet
Cover Art: Ralph Horsley
Interior Art: Aaron Acevedo, Aaron Anderson, AndriusAnezin, John Ariosa, Erfian Asafat, Bruno Balixa, Dimitri Bielak, Nora Brisotti, Mark Bulahao, Felicia Cano, JB Casacop, Trudi Castle, Jacqui Davis, Sara K. Diesel, Jon Hrubesch, Nicholas Kay, Kristin Kest, Dan Masso, Joyce Maureira, John Moriarty, Juan Martinez Pinilla, Jorge Carrero Roig, J. Edwin Stevens, and Frank Walls
Managing Art Director: Andrew Navaro
Art Direction: John Taillon
Production Manager: Eric Knight
Production Coordinator: Megan Duehn
Executive Game Designer: Corey Konieczka
Executive Producer: Michael Hurley
Publisher: Christian T. Petersen
Number of Pages: 4 page rulebook
Game Components Included: 81 Adventure Cards, 18 Spell Cards, and 20 Terrain Cards, 3 new Alternative Ending Cards, 4 new character cards and plastic figures, 34 firelands tokens
Game Components Not Included: Talisman Core set
Retail Price: $24.95(US)
Number of Players: 2-6
Player Ages: 9+
Play Time: 60+
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

 

Arcana Revised Edition: Look at all the Shiny!

Arcana Revised Edition
From: Fantasy Flight Games, Dust Games
Reviewed by: Steve Constant

In the City of Cadwallon, only one game can be so pretty but so confusing to play!

Everyone knows the game of Poker, I assume? Players use a standard fifty-two card deck, known as a French deck, to create combinations of cards that are partly or completely hidden for the duration of the game and revealed to determine a winner. The rules can be simple or complex. Bets are placed. Averages-to-win are employed. Fooling your opponent is sometimes required to win.

Now, give each of the players a motif of a Guild, the betting system doesn’t use real money but collects Stake Cards, and drape the cards in the most beautiful modern fantasy artwork. This is Arcana Revised Edition.

Arcana Revised Edition, and its predecessor Arcana, are deck building games that are along the lines of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and Dominion. To be honest, I knew nothing when I picked up Arcana Revised Edition except for the outstanding art that covers every inch of the game. There are individualized art pieces on the game box, the rulebook, and over three hundred cards.

‘But!’ You say, ‘Magic the Gathering cards have unique artwork on each card? Why not play Magic?’

Because I value eating and having a bank account. Also, Arcana Revised Edition’s art keeps it unique styling through each piece even though they used nine artists. It doesn’t look drawn-together from a last minute on-a-shoestring budget. I appreciate that aspect of game design.

When I started playing Arcana Revised Edition I needed all my experience in gaming just to try and figure out what was going on. For starters, I didn’t know the name of the city the game is based in until I started writing this review. It just doesn’t matter. And for a lot of the fluff of the game, it is just that – fluff. Relic cards? No, they are just 1-point victory cards. Personality cards? Nope, they are used to win stakes. The ‘Ducal Jubilee’ Card? Please, just means I need to go all out in this round because the game is over.

In the most basic rules of Arcana Revised Edition the objective of the game is to be the leader of guild, that comes with a unique power and followers, in attempts to win stakes. The number of stakes depends on the number of players at the table. Stakes between opponents are always played blinded and one-on-one, where the opposing players do not know what cards they are playing against each other. There is also a ‘Neutral’ stake between all players at the table that is played with all cards placed face-up. Each round players draw four cards from their deck and assign them as they see fit. At the end of the round all cards are revealed and stakes are rewarded. Stakes are won by playing the most Arcana that is on the stake card – Staff, Sword, Cup, or Ducat. Stakes won are added to the winning players deck and the process is repeated until the Ducal Jubilee card is uncovered from the ‘Neutral’ stake.

The expanded rules allow for customization of the player’s guild, adding of guildmasters, adding of the city militia, adding of objectives, adding of random events, and adding of tactical discards. All or none of these rules can be used during the course of the game.

Conclusion? If you got lost reading my description of how the game is played, you’ll be lost playing the game. It is best to have an experienced player at the table to help new players into this card game. The Game Designers recognized this fact. They created a lettering system to help new players know which cards to use. Though, I would have figured they would realize it was a bit too much when they reached the ‘F’ rules set.

But! When you are familiar with all of the rules this game it is extremely enjoyable and fast to play. Anyone who knows Fantasy Flight Games knows that are infamous for games that last an incredibly long time.

Note: The first major difference between Arcana and Arcana Revised Edition is the expansion of guilds from four to six. The second major difference is the labeling of cards for all of the difference rules sets available. I highly suggest purchasing the revised edition if you are interested in picking up this game, though the packaging is larger.

Codex Rating: 14

Product Summary

Arcana Revised Edition
From: Fantasy Flight Games, Dust Games
Type of Game: Card Game
Game Designer: Damien Desnous
Cover Illustrator: Nicolas Fructus
Graphic Design: Mathicu Harlaut and Franck Achard
Illustrators: Paul Bonner, Gary Chalk, Miaguel Coimbra, Nicolas Fructus, Edouard Guiton, Florent Madoux, Paolo Parente, Goulven Quentel, and Marc Simonetti
Number of Pages: 12 page rulebook
Game Components Included: 6 Guild Crest cards, 120 Guild cards, 116 Stake cards, 1 First Player cards, 1 Ducal Jubilee card, 6 Militia cards, 18 Guild Master cards, 24 Objective cards, 12 Event cards
Retail Price: $34.99(US)
Number of Players: 2-4
Player Ages: 13+
Play Time: 60 min

Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Eldritch Horror

Eldritch Horror
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Tony McRee

Eldritch Horror is a cooperative board game from Fantasy Flight Games. This game is another addition to their line of games that explore the H.P. Lovecraft lore. Getting inspiration from the Arkham Horror game, Corey Konieczka and Nikki Valens take the adventures out of the city of Arkham and send them globetrotting in search of a mystery that will bring them face to face with the Ancient Ones.

 “The end of the world draws near!”

Eldritch Horror is very familiar in gameplay to Arkham Horror, and the mission you need to accomplish is to either keep the Elder One from awakening or destroy it if it does. At the start players pick investigators, some of which are familiar faces from the other games in the series. Investigators have three steps to perform: all players take two actions, players then have encounters, and the lead investigator turns over a Mythos card from the constructed deck based on the elder one. The actions the players take include travelling, getting tickets to help move a little farther, resting, trading items, getting assets, or doing component actions. All these actions help prepare the player to face the upcoming encounters. These actions and encounters then assist the investigators in solving the three mysteries that will keep the Elder One from awakening. Sounds simple, but the Mythos card that gets turned over after the encounters only throws roadblocks up for the investigators by either spawning monsters, advancing the doom track, spawning gates or a host of other bad effects.

“The door exploded into the room with a thunderous crack, and the thing stepped past the threshold”

While the concepts of Eldritch Horror are simple, the gameplay is very challenging. It is one of my favorite cooperative games and we find ourselves at times on the verge of success only to be ripped to shreds as the Elder One steps through the threshold. Two things stand out for me about this game over Arkham Horror. First, the gaining of assets is different in this game during the player’s turn and is a nice addition to the game. Players roll dice equal to their player’s Influence stat and based on the success rolls, the purchasing value is determined. Players then gain Assets from the reserve equal to or less than the purchasing value. If a player doesn’t have enough value, he can then take Debt which adds some interesting impacts if you are not careful. The second addition is the ability to collect loot from players that have expired during the game…and players will expire, that is a given. Instead of losing their assets, players can claim them if they go and investigate the body. This is a great addition because some loot is epic and really helps along the way.

In conclusion, Eldritch Horror has the same feel as Arkham Horror but can stand on its own. If you already have Arkham Horror, should you get it?  It depends on if you need another “beat an Elder One” cooperative game in your collection. If you don’t, then Eldritch Horror is a great addition to a collection. I enjoy Eldritch Horror more than the other games in the series. I liked not having to fiddle with the stats of a character like you do in Arkham Horror and of course the challenge of the game exceeds Elder Sign. While the base game only comes with four initial scenarios, Fantasy Flight has already announced an expansion to keep the game fresh and thus showing their support.

For more details on this game, head over to the Fantasy Flight Games http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=244&enmi=Eldritch%20Horror or your local game store.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

Eldritch Horror
Type of Game: Cooperation
Game Design by: Corey Konieczka and Nikki Valens
Game Components Included:  

  • 1 Game Board
  • 1 Reference Guide
  • 12 Investigator Sheets w/ Matching Tokens & Stands
  • 4 Ancient One Sheets
  • 51 Mythos Cards (21 yellow, 18 green and 12 blue)
  • 16 Mystery Cards (4 backs, 4 each)
  • 14 Artifact Cards
  • 40 Asset Cards
  • 36 Condition Cards
  • 20 Spell Cards
  • 4 Reference Cards
  • 122 Encounter Cards
  • 8 America Cards
  • 8 Europe Cards
  • 8 Asia/Australia Cards
  • 12 General Cards
  • 24 Other World Cards
  • 18 Expedition (6 backs, 3 each)
  • 12 Special Cards (2 backs, 6 each)
  • 32 Research Cards (4 backs, 8 each)
  • 245 Tokens
  • 43 Monster Tokens (34 normal, 9 epic)
  • 1 Lead Investigator token
  • 1 Active Expedition Token
  • 20 Travel Ticket Tokens (8 train, 12 ship)
  • 30 Improvement Tokens (6 for each skill)
  • 9 Gate Tokens
  • 20 Eldritch Tokens
  • 36 Clue Tokens
  • 1 Mystery Token
  • 4 Rumor Tokens
  • 78 Health and Sanity Tokens
  • 30 (1 Health)
  • 12 (3 Health)
  • 24 (1 Sanity)
  • 12 (3 Sanity)
  • 4 Dice

Retail Price: $ 59.99 (US)
Number of Players: up to 8
Player Ages: 14 and up
Play Time: 45 minutes per player
Website: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=244

Reviewed by: Tony McRee

Mansions of Madness

Mansions of Madness

From: Fantasy Flight Games

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

As a horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft was no stranger to the ‘Creepy Old House’ premise. Admittedly, the stories he wrote which featured them usually weren’t among his better works (you’d be hard pressed to find a Lovecraft fanboy willing to couch The Lurking Fear in terms more favorable than a guilty pleasure). Still, many Call of Cthulhu adventures have prominently featured such structures. Mansions of Madness intends to convert such scenarios into board game form.

From the back of the box:
Horrific monsters and spectral presences lurk in manors, crypts, schools, monasteries, and derelict buildings near Arkham, Massachusetts. Some spin dark conspiracies while others wait for hapless victims to devour or drive insane. It’s up to a handful of brave investigators to explore these cursed places and uncover the truth about the living nightmares within.”

As implied in my introduction, Mansions of Madness takes an RPG-like approach. One player takes on the role as keeper, directing the monsters and hindering the investigators controlled by the other players. The base game includes five scenarios from which to choose. Each in turn has three possible objectives which determine victory and defeat conditions, effectively providing fifteen different scenarios. Add in the various ways the keeper can set up the clue trail and there’s quite a bit of replay value provided.

The eight investigators included with the game have similar modularity to them. The base character card lists the starting Stamina and Sanity of the investigator as well as starting skill points. Opportunities to replenish these stats when they’re expended are few and far between, so players should avoid such situations when possible. Each character has two sets of two trait cards to choose from, one for physical attributes and one for mental attributes. The trait cards selected also determine the investigator’s starting item as well as a one-use ability.

Gameplay consists of each investigator taking a turn followed by the keeper’s turn. An investigator’s turn consists of two Movement steps and one Action step, which may be taken in any order. A Movement step allows a player to move the investigator one space. An action step can be used to run (in effect treating it as a Movement step), drop items, use a card with an Action ability, attack a monster, or explore a room. Some actions require an attribute test. This consists of applying any described modifiers to the named attribute and rolling the ten-sided die. Before the roll, a skill point may be spent to apply the investigator’s Luck as a positive modifier. A result that is equal to or less than the modified attribute counts as success, while a result greater than the modified attribute counts as a failure. A one is always a success and a ten is always a failure, so neither result is guaranteed regardless of modifiers. Once all investigators have completed their turns, any sharing the same space may trade items.

The keeper turn starts with drawing threat tokens equal to the number of investigators. These then get spent on keeper actions. The available actions will largely depend on which scenario is being run. If there are any tokens left, they can carry over to the next turn. Should any monsters on the board share a space with an investigator, they can perform an attack. The keeper turn is ended by placing a time token on top of the Event deck.

Even when it’s not the keeper’s turn, he can still cause the investigators grief with mythos and trauma cards. Mythos cards are highly restricted in when they can be used, usually requiring the expenditure of threat tokens and/or that the target investigator be in a certain room. The reason for these strictures is that the effects of most mythos cards are really nasty. Luckily for the investigators, a mythos card gets discarded after being used. Trauma cards come in physical and mental varieties and can be played on an investigator when Stamina or Sanity damage are taken as appropriate. These usually stick an investigator with an attribute penalty that can be either temporary or last through the game.

The Event deck regulates the pace of the game. When there are a number of time tokens equal to the number printed on the back of the top card of the Event deck, the tokens are removed and the card is drawn and resolved. While the effects of an event card can vary, they’re rarely to the benefit of the investigators. When the final event card is drawn, the game is over and usually (but not always) results in the defeat of the investigator players.

Exploring rooms is necessary for advancing the scenario. Each room starts the game with at least one exploration card. Many will provide a useful item, while others will be blanks. The most pivotal cards are those which provide clues as to where to investigate next, with the final clue revealing the scenario objective. Often, all it takes is to spend an Action step to draw the card(s) in the same room as the investigator. But it’s not always that simple. The most critical exploration cards (including the clues) are hidden under obstacle and lock cards. Obstacles require that the investigator pass the requirements described on the card, which usually involves possessing a specific exploration card, passing an attribute test, or solving a puzzle. Once passed, the rest of the exploration cards may be collected. Locks are similar, but the room in question cannot be entered until its requirements are met. This means a Movement step must be held in reserve when resolving a lock card.

As is appropriate for a Cthulhu Mythos adventure, combat is not a tactic of the first resort (at least not if you want to win). However, there are circumstances where violence may be necessary. Cards are drawn from one of three decks (depending on the monster’s sub-type) until you get one that matches the investigator’s attack type (unarmed, melee, or ranged). Along with a bit of flavor text, the card will indicate the attribute test needed for the attack as well as the result of both success and failure on the top half of the card. While certain attributes are used more frequently (for instance, ranged attacks tend to use Marksmanship), just about any of them can be employed depending on the flavor text. Monster attacks are handled in a similar way, except they use the text on the bottom half of the card.

From the rulebook:
Investigators should also be careful to stay fairly close to one another. It is quite easy for the keeper to pick out and overwhelm lone investigators. If you’ve ever seen a horror movie, you know what happens when the characters say, ‘Let’s split up!‘”

An aspect I particularly enjoy are the puzzles. Many of the lock and obstacle cards require that a tile puzzle be solved to resolve them. The tiles are rotated and/or shifted until they form the appropriate pattern based on its sub-type. Now puzzle solving in RPGs tends to suffer from a disconnect between character abilities and player abilities. In a worst case scenario, a lazy smart-aleck will proclaim that his character solves the puzzle thanks to his high Intelligence stat. The GM then counters by telling him to roleplay it. Meanwhile, the puzzle fiend player roleplays his dull-witted brick character by not helping with the puzzle. Harsh words are exchanged, dice are shoved up inappropriate places, and Game Night ends in tears. Mansions of Madness features a compromise where a player gets a number of actions per turn equal to the character’s Intellect. So while it’s ultimately up to the player to solve the puzzle, the character stats matter. The only issue comes from the fact that the tiles are randomly dealt and can potentially result in a puzzle impossible to solve as is. Though tiles can be discarded and replaced, such a move costs two actions. This is presumably to discourage excessive tile discarding by lazy puzzle solvers, but can also be a rather harsh penalty for what might just be an unlucky draw.

Though the game can theoretically be run with only two players, this is less than ideal. Under such circumstances, the keeper is unable to accumulate much in the way of threat tokens. This results in most of the really good keeper actions and mythos cards becoming effectively unusable. On the investigator side, having only one investigator leaves little time for a thorough exploration of the house, forcing him to concentrate solely on following the trail of clues. While many games can become cumbersome when the maximum number of players participate, Mansions of Madness works a lot better by doing that.

In conclusion, despite some awkward aspects, the game does a reasonably competent job of translating RPG scenarios into a board game. The way the mechanics all but guarantee that a charging in guns blazing approach will end in disaster help encourage a proper frame of mind for a Cthulhu Mythos-style investigation.

Rating: 15

Product Summary

Mansions of Madness

From: Fantasy Flight Games

Type of Game: Board Game

Game Design by: Corey Konieczka and Tim Uren

Cover Art by: Anders Finer

Additional Art by: Henning Ludvigsen

Game Components Included: Rulebook, Keeper Guide, 8 Investigator figures, 24 Monster figures, 1 ten-sided die, 83 Exploration cards, 20 Spell cards, 14 Starting Item cards, 32 Trait cards, 12 Lock cards, 7 Obstacle cards, 35 Mythos cards, 21 Trauma cards, 65 Combat cards, 8 Investigator Character cards, 25 Event cards, 13 Keeper Action cards, 15 Objective cards, 15 Map tiles, 72 Damage tokens, 24 Horror tokens, 18 Room Feature markers, 4 Sample tokens, 12 Sealed Door markers, 24 Skill Point tokens, 24 Status Effect tokens, 13 Story Choice markers, 12 Threat tokens, 6 Time tokens, 3 Lock Puzzle Setup tiles, 15 Lock Puzzle pieces, 23 Rune Puzzle pieces, 3 Wiring Puzzle Setup tiles, 15 Wiring Puzzle pieces

Retail Price: $79.99

Number of Players: 2-5

Player Ages: 13+

Play Time: 2-3 hours

Website: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is a new Miniature Game from Fantasy Flight Games.

I have stated this before when reviewing other Star Wars products – I have a long history with Star Wars games.  I ran the d6 RPG as well as the d20 RPG for years.  I have played various board games as well as miniature games off and on.  But my Star Wars fandom waivered after the release of the prequels.  I was so disappointed, I sold a vast majority of my collection.

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniature Game is the first Star Wars game I have truly invested a lot of time and money in since I gave up on Star Wars so many years ago. However, this game is so complete, so easy to learn and so satisfying from a gamer-point of view, I would play it if it was Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or any other property (although I keep telling people FFG should consider BSG for this too).

From the page # 26:
“X-Wing has been a labor of love for the design and production teams here at Fantasy Flight Games.”

The first thing you have to get past before even learning the game is the price.  Even if I did not have an aversion to Star Wars games, the price kept me away for a while.  It wasn’t until I played it at a con that convinced me that the game is well worth the money.  The Base game comes with 2 TIE fighters and one X-wing and all the basic supplies you need to play the game.  That costs $40.  You couple that with the $15 single-ship expansions, and you are spending some considerable money, at least for my budget.  Most people I know that play it end up buying two basic sets to get two sets of dice, two sets of templates, and enough stuff to have a good battle.  So you have to really budget yourself before diving into this.

Getting past the price, the game itself is very easy to learn and play.  The basic mechanic came from FFG’s Wings of War series of games, which I love.  It uses a simple template system to measure out your movement and specialized dice to determine combat and damage.  A game round is made up of three major phases and the End Phase where you clean things up.

To start out, a player goes into the Planning Phase, where he secretly plots out the movement of each of his ships.  Each ship comes with its own unique (to each ship type) maneuver dial.  Each dial has a number of various maneuvers (straight, bank, turn, or Koiogran/180 turn), and associated to these maneuvers are speed and difficulty.   Speed is the length of the maneuver template. Difficulty can be simple, standard and difficult.   Difficult maneuvers apply stress to the pilot while simple ease stress.  Having Stress Tokens restricts future actions and movement.

The challenge in the phase is predicting what your opponent is going to do. The key in this phase is that you cannot pre-measure before committing the maneuver.  It is always a challenge trying to get your opponent in range, within your firing arch (for most ships), while avoiding obstacles (in some scenarios) and other ships.  To plan this out ahead of time, in secret and without pre-measuring, makes it even more a challenge.  When I played, the feel of a real dog fight started there.  It took me back to the time I used to play the X-Wing vs. TIE fighter video game.  The tension and the excitement in the game really begins to build up right away.

The Activation Phase is when the maneuver dials are revealed and executed and actions are taken.  Actions are key game effects that can help you or hinder your opponent.  Each ship can only take one.  Some examples are Focus, Evade, Barrel Roll and Acquire Target.  Specific ships can do only a specific set of actions.  Taking an action can easily be one of those things you forget to do, but forgetting can have devastating effects.  Always remember to at least do one of your available actions even if it’s just a Focus.  You do have the option to Pass but only do that if you have no other option.

From the page # 26:
“The X-Wing development team had a simple but ambitious goal: to produce a compelling miniatures game that faithfully replicated the tense starfighter battles of the Star Wars films.”

Not only does the game come with very nicely sculpted and painted minis, it also comes with a variety of cards (what FFG game doesn’t?).  Ship cards represent your ship in the game and might have abilities that require actions.  Upgrade cards add features to your ship and some of these features may require an action.  These all give you a variety of options for that one single all-important action each round.

The Combat phase is quite obviously the reward to all your planning and plotting.  There are attack (red 8-sided) dice and defense (green 8-sided) dice, and each side rolls a number of them based on stats of their ships.  Using a range template, you find your targets and roll your dice.  Previously executed Actions can affect these dice, as well as Abilities, Upgrade Cards and other combat factors.  Each side rolls dice.  Attack dice have special symbols that represent hit, critical hit, miss and focus.  Defense dice have symbols that represent evade, focus or blank (meaning unsuccessful evasion).  As an example of an Action’s importance, the Focus actions can change the focus symbols to something else (depending on if attacking or defending), if that action was taken and the player chooses to spend it.

Damage is determined, if any, and dealt to the target through cards.  You can take normal damage or critical hits, which affect the functionality of your ship.  Shields deflect either type of it, and if the ship has no shields the damage cards are consulted.  Another aspect I like a lot is the damage system.  You use the same cards for both regular damage and critical hits.  The one side of the card, displaying  generic explosion, represents regular damage and takes away from hull points.  On the other side are critical hits and you use those only in the case that critical hits have to be resolved.

The first time I played this, I was hooked.  I resisted it as hard as I could but the game is so simple and elegant that it is hard to hate this game.  Someone said to me when playing that the system “just felt right,” and that’s true.  It just feels natural for any good dog fight scenario.

The rulebook also supplies special rules for overlapping ships, obstacle collisions, squad building, and missions.  In FFG fashion, the rulebook is complete and covers just about everything you would want to know about playing the game.

In conclusion, it is a brilliant game.  It has pulled me back into the Star Wars universe when I thought I would never get back into it.  However, like I said, I would play this if it was Star Wars or anything else.  It’s just fun and easy to play.  It is also very satisfying as a game and, of course, has incredible replay potential.  It is well worth the cost.  It is not only easy to learn, it is also very fast.  A game might be 2 hours max, but more than likely will be less, depending on the number of ships.  I highly recommend this game.

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their new Miniature GameStar Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: Miniature Game
Executive Game Designer: Corey Konieczka
Game Design: Jay Little
Game Development: Adam Sadler, Brady Sadler, and Corey Konieczka
Producer: Steven Kimball
Editing and Proofreading: Julian Smith, David Hansen, and Adam Baker
Cover Art: Matt Allsop
Interior Art: Matt Allsop, Cristi Balenescu, Jon Bosco, Matt Bradbury, Sacha Diener, Blake Henriksen, Lukasz Jaskolski, Jason Juta, Henning Ludvigsen, Jorge Maese, Scott Murphy, David Augen Nash Matthew Starbuck, Nicholas Stohlman, Angela Sung
Graphic Design: Dallas Mehlhoff, with Chris Beck, Shaun Boyke, Brian Schomburg,  Michael Silsby, and Evan Simonet
3D Ship Modeling: Benjamin Maillet with Jason Beaudoin
Managing Art Director: Andrew Navaro
Art Direction: Zoë Robinson
Publisher: Christian T. Petersen
Number of Pages: 28 page rulebook
Game Components Included: Base set includes  3 Painted Plastic minis (two TIE fighter minis, 1 X-Wing mini), rules, Quick-Start Rules Booklet, 3 Transparent Plastic Bases, 6 Transparent Plastic Pegs, 8 Ship Tokens (double-sided), 11 Maneuver Templates (3 Turns, 3 Banks, 5 Straights), 3 Maneuver Dials (each consisting of a faceplate, a dial, and a pair of plastic connectors), 19 Action Tokens (4 Evade Tokens,  3 Focus Tokens, 6 Red Target Lock Tokens (double-sided)), 6 Blue Target Lock Tokens (double-sided), 13 Mission Tokens (8 Tracking Tokens, 1 Shuttle Token, 4 Satellite Tokens),  6 Asteroid Obstacle Tokens,  2 Shield Tokens,  3 Stress Tokens,  3 Critical Hit Tokens,  27 ID Tokens (double-sided),  13 Ship Cards,  33 Damage Cards,  5 Upgrade Cards,  3 Red Attack Dice,  3 Green Defense Dice,  1 Range Ruler
Game Components Not Included: There is enough to play in the base set, but there are expansion sets available that allow you to add to your battles.  This reviewer recommends buying at least two base sets.
Retail Price: $39.99 for base, $14.99 for expansion ships (US)
Number of Players: 2 in the base, more with expansion
Player Ages: 14+
Play Time: 20+ minutes

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire “Shadows of a Black Sun”

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Shadows of a Black Sun
From
: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Shadows of a Black Sun is a new Free RPG Day Adventure from Fantasy Flight Games.

Within the Star Wars community, few things, short of the Disney purchase of Lucas Films and the impending release of Star Wars VII, have had more buzz than the release of the new RPG by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG).  Back in 2011 when FFG obtained the license after Wizards of the Coast dropped it, I was skeptical.  I personally went through a long phase of my life with various versions of the Star Wars role playing game – from d6 to d20 – over several campaigns.  However, thanks to the prequels, my Star Wars fandom was severely diminished and I stopped running Star Wars games all together, selling everything I had.

Now my young son is getting into Star Wars rather intensely and I am not hindering it.  Slowly but surely, I am reliving Star Wars fandom through my boy.  But I never thought I would ever consider running the RPG ever again.  My question when I first heard about the new RPG was – can they pull me back in?

As I heard their design decisions as well as setting decisions, I was torn.  They were going to market it much like the way they had with Warhammer 40K RPG, starting with the “rogue trader” book, Edge of the Empire, focusing on the fringe and criminal elements of the Star Wars universe.  That did not thrill me because that just meant more books to buy.  Couple that with the rumors of custom dice used in the system, and my expectations were getting lower.  However, the focus was on the Rebellion era, which gave me, I dare say, a new hope.

The Shadows of a Black Sun Free RPG Day adventure has created a lot of buzz.  For a time, the hard copy of the adventure was selling for between $25 and $30 on Ebay.  Since FFG has now released it on PDF, the buzz has died down a little.

This is my first foray into the new Star Wars, so I will be reviewing not only on the Free RPG Day product but also the system itself.

What strikes you first is the stunning layout, art and quality of the product.  You just cannot believe it is free.  However, you should not expect anything less from FFG, especially in relation to the Star Wars universe.  It is full color with brilliant art that says that FFG understands the universe and what is expected of them.  I would even venture to say that it is better quality than the WotC release of the d20 version. I was never overly impressed with their art, but then again it may have been my bias against the prequels.

From the back cover:
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”

The book opens up with a general overview of the basic rules.  One of my main concern was the custom dice.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the first thing you see is a conversion table for standard dice to their special dice.  That alleviated a lot of concern up front.  They also provide an app for iOS and Android; however, they are not free apps.

THE RULES

The rules themselves are abridged, focusing on just what you need for the adventure.  It explains the dice, one by one, and then goes into the mechanics.  The dice mechanic is actually one of the praises I have heard about this game.  The dice, with the varying symbols, range from 6-sided to 12-sided.  Each die is colored, based on type, and each type has its own set of symbols.  For instance, the Ability Die has a Success symbol (a sort of burst symbol) and a Failure symbol (a three pointed star symbol).  Each symbol has its opposite – once cancelling the other out when rolled.

Every symbol has its own meaning and once you get used to them, I can see the game flowing fairly fluidly.  It is that period of adjustment I am most concerned about, however.  The longer it takes to get used to these symbols, the more likely people will want to play other games with more familiar dice.  The reward will have to outweigh the investment of time to adjust.

What all this means is that the dice not only decide success or fail, but decide severity as well as additional context and consequences during task resolution.  In game, there may be a call for a die to an upgrade.  Ability dice are upgraded to Proficiency dice, and Difficulty dice can be upgraded to Challenge dice.  This dichotomy coupled with the symbol pairing brings task resolution to a whole new level and adds much more storytelling to the dice mechanic.  I was impressed with that from the start.

The Difficulty of a task determines the number of Difficulty dice and/or Challenge dice you roll in your pool.  These range from Simple (no dice at all) to Formidable (5 Difficulty dice).  At any time, these dice can up upgraded (or in some cases, downgraded).  There are 6 Ability scores following the familiar pattern of 3 physical and 3 mental.  The Skill check dice pool is determined by skill rank and the Ability score is associated to the skill.  The higher number determines the number of dice and the lower determines the number of upgrades.   It is a very interesting and subtly elegant system.  It relies heavily on the custom dice but I feel the adjustment period is worth the reward in the end for a system like this.

From the back cover:
“Amid the backdrop of civil war, the Empire tightens its grip on the galaxy.  Yet, even the Emperor’s influence only extends so far.”

Aside from success or failure, the dice add other factors into the game.  The dice may roll Advantage or Triumph as well as Threat and Despair.  The player now must “spend” these on various options presented in a table.  In the abridged version, the table is shorter, as noted in the text.  The Core rulebook has a much more extensive Advantage and Triumph/Threat and Despair table.  Options include adding Boost dice to other actions, inflicting critical, causing strain, or adding setback dice to other’s actions.

There are also Destiny points that represent the Force’s influence on things.  They are basically tokens or coins with two sides – Light and Dark.  PCs can spend the Light side for help in a situation and when spent, the token is flipped to the Dark side.  The GM may in turn flip the Dark side point  to hinder the players.  I really like this aspect of the game.

Combat is simply an extension of the task resolution system, as one would expect. This booklet spends a little time explaining intricacies of combat as obviously it plays a big part in the Star Wars universe.  At first glance, it appears that it goes along the standard Roll Initiative/Roll Attack model, but there are some subtle differences.  Initiative is rolled once for each combat encounter but it is not static for each character.  Each initiative result rolled makes an initiative slot, either Player Character or NPC.  The players as a group decide each round who takes each slot and the GM determines who takes the NPC slots.  That also is an interesting take on initiative, making it more tactical.

I have played combat fairly abstract when playing d6 Star Wars and more tactical in the d20 version.  I prefer a flexible tactical approach to combat.  This new version of Star Wars is quite the opposite.  They encourage a more abstract approach, focusing on action and story rather than grid maps and miniatures.  Unfortunately, I would find myself wanting to favor my grid maps and minis over the abstract, but that’s a personal preference.

THE ADVENTURE

The adventure takes place on Coruscant and puts the players right into the heart of it.  They start out after they have already infiltrated a Black Sun facility and have to escape with stolen data.  It goes through three episodes, starting with a harrowing chase through Coruscant, followed by the search for the bounty hunter that betrayed the Pyke family, and ending with a confrontation of said bounty hunter.  It is an interesting journey through the underbelly of the once great capital of the old Republic.  It not only supplies enough required encounters for a fulfilling adventure, but also a few options are thrown in there as well.

The adventure also illustrates rather well the stylishness of the system, with its simple ways of breaking down NPCs to the ways it makes encounters flow smoother.  I can see how easily it can allow for a lot of adventure and storytelling without getting too bogged down into the system.

The adventure takes the characters through several locations on Coruscant, from the greasy speeder bike repair shop and seedy drug dealing clubs to high-stakes sabacc houses and high towers of weapons smugglers.  A nice addition (and also something that made this free adventure very sought after) is rules to play Sabacc in game terms.  Along with that, it provides 4 pre-generated characters that allow for immediate play.

In conclusion, like most anything out of FFG, this is a high quality product.  It is amazing that it’s free.  It definitely exemplifies what I envision Free RPG Day is.  It gives you all you need to play right away.  The only preparation a GM would need is to read the adventure and rules thoroughly.  My only complaint is that it only supplies 4 characters, but it does supply a means to download more for a larger party.

From a system point of view, some of my skepticism is relieved.  Some publishers would simply release a system with specialized dice just to make more money but honestly, I do not think that was the only motivation behind this design.  Star wars needed a totally new system and a new way of looking at it.  It needed something to revive its fans and play it again in a new way.  This system seems to accomplish at least some of that.  The rest remains to be seen.

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their new Free RPG Day Adventure
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Shadows of a Black Sun” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Shadows of a Black Sun
From
: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: Free RPG Day Adventure
Written by: Jeff Hall
Contributing Authors: Michele Carter, Christine Crabb, Mark Pollard
Produced by: Katrina Ostrandler
Cover Art by: Scott Schomburg, Mark Molnar
Additional Art by: Brian Schomburg, Jacob Atienza, Ryan Barger, Caravan Studio, Christina Davis, Tony Foti, Tom Garden, David Kegg, Adam Lane, Ralph McQuarrie, Jacob Murray, Matthew Starbuck, Christer Wibert, Lucas Film art archives.
Number of Pages: 40
Game Components Included: 1 booklet
Retail Price: Free
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Star Wars LCG: The Force Is Strong with this One.

 

Star Wars: The Card Game
From:Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: CJ Taylor

After watching the online tutorial, I found myself compelled to visit the local game and buy a copy of the Core Set. I have fond memories of hanging out on Saturdays with a buddy, popping A New Hope into the VCR, continuing to play the Star Wars CCG (Decipher) with the periodic switching of tapes until the credits rolled on Return of the Jedi. Could the Star Wars LCG possibly rival those old glorious days of game play? Plus I’ve been curious about this new LCG format. With more bills to pay in my current life, I found it appealing I could buy a card game that doesn’t require a second mortgage to “keep up.”

There’s little reason for me to get into the basics of how to play. FFG has already provided a good beginner’s tutorial.

The overall strategy decently reflects the action found in the Star Wars Universe. The Dark Side (DS) plays very aggressive, drawing more cards, burning resources and damaging everything in sight as frequently as possible. Meanwhile the Light Side (LS) plays defensively while patiently waiting for pinpoint opportunities to strike against the Dark Side typically only a few times in a single game. But if played well with timing, such strikes are powerful and devastating – to one side or the other.

Sitting down with a buddy, it took about 2 hours to thoroughly rake over the rules and go through a phase or two to learn the game. Once you know the phases, it takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes for a full rotation between two players; with two seasoned players it’s closer to 5 minutes. The bulk of complexity is found in the battle phase. There’s nothing really abnormal about it other than it being broken up into two segments: Edge Battles and Striking. The bulk of absorbed time initially poured into getting some specific rules clarity on card abilities and special conditions, less the actual mechanics of the game. I did find myself referencing FAQ/addendums/forums on two occassions so far and not just on rules clarifications. For instance, can the Rancor “eat” himself? (Answer: surprisingly, yes!)

Deck building is interesting. First, you build your deck not by selecting individual cards, but what’s called “objective sets.” Each set consists of one objective card along with 5 other cards that come with that set. They can be units, events, etc.. Objective sets are numbered at the bottom along with “x of 6” (the actual objective card is always #1). The other interesting aspect is the Affiliation card. When you choose LS or DS, you also choose a primary affiliation. For DS there is Imperial Navy, Sith, or Scum and Villainy. For Light Side you have Rebel Alliance, Jedi, or Smugglers and Spies. There are also neutral sets for each side. Choosing a certain affiliation doesn’t restrict you to affiliation sets only. However, most affiliation cards do require at least one resource token of it’s “type” to be used to play (called a resource match). So if you split across three different affiliations, you may find some challenge getting some of your cards into play. This isn’t totally a downside. I’ll explain why in a later article when covering strategy. Lastly, an official deck must consist of at least ten objective sets.

Pros

  • The strategy is fantastic. I discovered the Edge Battle to be a lot of fun. It’s rather intense and not to be underestimated. The same goes for Balance of the Force. Either of these can quickly lead you to victory or defeat.
  • LCG means this doesn’t make you a cardboard crack addict constantly needing another “hit.” The way it works is you buy expansions, but it’s not random collectables like you find with booster packs. However, you still get the benefit of customizing your decks. If you have a buddy to play with, you only need one purchase to get started, not one core set each. However, there is a caveat (see my “cons”).
  • The game gives a great portrayal of the struggle in the force. Both sides play like you would imagine they would and they typically win or lose also accordingly. Being a Star Wars fan, I greatly appreciated this. Star Wars fans will definitely “get it” on this point.
  • Original Artwork. They trumped the Decipher SWCCG here. Not just photos from the movies. Though some of the artwork may be based on a still frame, you don’t feel it was just “copy and paste” to make a card. You’ll get the fantastic artwork FFG has developed in reputation.
  • Unique. Good strategy but not a rehash of its predecessors. If I were to try to relate this I would tag it closer to the original by Decipher. But honestly, it’s not the same game. I personally found the fresh approach a plus.

Cons

  • Prepare to buy two sets of everything. An official deck consists of 10+ objective sets. You can have up to 2 of any single objective set in your deck, some (specified on objective card) are restricted to one. With the exception of doubles on a neutral set, one for LS and DS, the Core Box has a single set of each. So the price to “get serious” is more than one box. Prepare to spend $80 in retail to get two Cores! When I discovered this I felt a bit duped in the sense I didn’t feel I owned a complete game. But then I have also considered past investments in any other CCG I’ve ever played which far overshadows this. Still, the initial price is indeed deceptive.
  • As I said before, I’ve had to visit the site for two separate clarifications, not on rules but cards. So it’s not a terrible “con,” but anytime I find I have to search a forum for an answer, it’s an inconvenience. And to be fair, both times the search resulted in basically what the card says it does. Yet the Rancor having the ability to pull off a forced suicide still seems questionable.
  • The Light Side has a higher learning curve. So initially the decks don’t appear equal. After getting beaten without mercy three times in a row, I was about to declare that the DS deck was just massively overpowering the LS. But then I won one, then a few more with the LS to finally discover what I was doing wrong. In the famous words of Yoda: “Control. Control. You must learn control!” That’s what it’s all about. But it’s definitely easier for a noob to pick up a Dark Side deck and beat someone with less strategy. Keep this in mind when teaching friends so you don’t beat the crap out of them in their “introduction.” Keep more friends by letting them play Dark Side their first time. If “they” are not your friend(s) or some troll then by all means this is an effective way to humiliate and destroy them.
  • Smugglars and Spies and Scum and Villainy are sales points in the Core Set. Yes, you can theoretically place these in your deck strictly from the Core Set and there is a particular neutral set on DS and LS each to make integration of them “less painful” to achieve resource matching. But for the most part they’re just there to wet your wistle to buy expansions. And yes, as always Han Solo is awesome.

I personally give two lightsabres up. My personal gripes are in the game’s favor: a) not enough people are playing it (yet) and b) because of work, I can’t make it out to the tournaments at my local game store.

Here’s the official page: Star Wars: The Card Game

Rating: 16 – Great

Summary: In Star Wars: The Card Game, light side and dark side players duel for the fate of the galaxy. While the light side player races to make tactical strikes against dark side objectives, the dark side player works to reinforce his position of command.

Star Wars: The Card Game
From:Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: LCG
Developed by: Eric M. Lang
Game Components Included (Core Set): Rulebook, 1 Death Star Dial, Plastic Dial Connectors, 48 Card Rebel Alliance Deck, 48 Card Jedi Deck, 48 Card Sith Deck, 48 Card Imperial Navy Deck, 6 Force Cards, 6 Affiliation Cards, 36 Additional Cards, 1 Balance of the Force Token, 44 Focus Tokens, 42 Damage Tokens, 10 Shield Tokens
Retail Price: $39.95 (US)
Number of Players: 2 (later expansions allow up to 4 players)
Player Ages: 10+
Play Time: 30-60 minutes
Item Number: SWC01
IBSN: 978-1-61661-381-5
Website: fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: CJ Taylor

May the Force be with You

Talisman: The City

From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Talisman: The City is a new Board Game Expansion from Fantasy Flight Games.

Talisman City was one of the classic expansions put out for 2nd edition back in the day.  Originally it had some very innovative additions to Talisman and we always played the game with it.  When I saw this expansion for Talisman, I was curious how Fantasy Flight had changed it.

From page # 2:
“Long ago, a powerful wizard reigned over the land, ruling with the power of a magical crown that he forged in the Valley of Fire.”

The City expansion to Talisman is the third corner expansion for the game.  Previously released, The Dungeon and The Highlands both added a lot to the game.  What I mean by corner expansions is that the board fits on one of the four corners of the game. This is the same concept for The City expansion of second edition, the edition I am most familiar with.

The rules themselves are straightforward.  You enter the City through the City space on the main board and can traverse the streets following the arrows. There are streets, where you primarily draw City cards (Adventure cards equivalent for the City), and there are shops where you can do a variety of things.  My first advice about the City to any player – be sure to have a lot of gold.  As they say, however, the devil is in the details and the details in any Talisman game are contained in two places – on the board spaces and in the cards.  There are several new aspects introduced in this expansion and most center around commerce and gaining more gold.

From page # 2:
“For the traveler with some gold to spend, a visit to the City can give him the edge to survive in the most dangerous regions of the land.”

The first new aspect that stood out to me is the Wanted Posters.  This shifts the dynamic considerably.  With all the other expansions, I have spent whole games dirt poor, this gives you one of the first opportunities to gain a lot of gold.  In general, you can claim a bounty one of two ways – buying a poster at the gate or claiming a bounty at the gate.  When you buy it, you actually claim the bounty when it is fulfilled no matter where you are.  There are usually 3 posters at the gate that anyone can claim the bounty from if they can fulfill it with any of their trophies.  In most cases, you claim a number of gold equal to the trophy value of the creature – which could be quite a lot in some cases.

Wanted Posters are among a new classification of cards called Shop Decks.  Also included in the Shop Decks are the Armoury, Magic Emporium, Pet, and Stables as well as the standard Purchase deck.

The Armoury is what you expect but it has a few never seen before weapons and armor. These can be purchased when you visit the Armoury shop on the board. The Magic Emporium Deck, associated to the Magic Emporium shop on the board, is a small deck that includes 6 different items (2 or 3 cards each) for a magic user to use, including a Psychic Crystal, Spellbook, or a Magic Ring.  The Stables deck is just like the Stables Deck from Sacred Pool Horse, Horse and Cart, Warhorse, and Mule are available for purchase.  These three decks with the Purchase deck can be perused by a player who needs something from it.  They are not limited to the top card on the deck.

However, the player always draws from the top of the Potions and Pets Decks as well as the Wanted Poster deck.  The Potions deck has a varied array of interesting magic potions which include Potion of Strength, Healing Potion, and Elixir of Wisdom.  The Pets Deck , another new aspect added to the game, are Followers that one can purchase at the Managerie space on the board.  These include Luna the Owl, Lucky the Panda, or Terrance the Turtle.  Each have a variety of different abilities that help you along the way.

There are other interesting shop spaces on the board including the Warf where you can buy passage to any space in the Inner or Middle region, the Rogues’ Guild where you can choose to be turned neutral, the High Temple, where you can pay 1 to 3 gold to roll on a chart where the number of dice is determined by the amount of gold you spend.  The one place you don’t want to go is the Jail. You can be sent to Jail by various City cards or events on the board.  You get out of Jail by rolling on a chart and bribing the Jailer to add to that roll.

The meat of any Talisman expansion is the encounter cards.  The City is full of perils and adventure if the player so chooses to enter.  But there is a significant difference between these cards and the cards found in its other corner expansions brethren.  The worst you can fight here is a Strength 7 creature and there is only one of those.  There are a lot of ways to lose or spend gold, however, which is why it is important to have a lot when you enter.

The City also comes with six interesting player characters – The Elementalist, Tavern Maid, The Cat Burglar, Bounty Hunter, Tinkerer, and the Spy.  My first reaction to this list was “What?? A Tavern Maid??”  However, she turns out the be one of the more interesting characters as she can really strip characters of their gold and get them drunk at the same time – almost a travelling tavern, if you will.

Also included are three new Alternative Endings – Merchants’ Guild, Assassins’ Guild and Thieves’ Guild.  Like other Alternative Endings cards, these cards put their own twist on the way to win the game and in this case have a tone that fits the expansion – gaining gold, Wanted Posters, or objects.

In conclusion, this is a great expansion for Talisman and to be honest, for the corner expansions, they should have led with this one.  The other two were so challenging, it seemed hopeless to enter unless you were really buffed up.  Now there is a place one can go and not worry about getting killed too quickly.  Here you worry more about going broke or getting thrown in jail.  I did notice that they watered the expansion down since 2nd edition.  There used to be templates one can gain that would beef you up, like Master Thief and Sheriff.  However when one obtained those, it did effect the game balance considerably, so I can understand why those were left out.

If you have the other corner expansions, this is almost a must-have.  The characters need a haven where they can spend or gain gold and not worry too much about getting slaughtered.

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their new Board Game Expansion “Talisman: The City” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary

Talisman: The City
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: Board Game Expansion
Expansion Design and Development: John Goodenough
Talisman Revised 4th Edition Design: Bob Harris and John Goodenough
Producer: Christopher Hosch
Editing: Mark O’Connor
Flavour Text: Tim Uren
Graphic Design: WiL Springer
Cover Art:
Ralph Horsley
Interior Art: Ryan Barger, Bruno Balixa, Nora Brisotti, Massimiliano Bertolini, Filip Burburan, Christopher Burdett, Felicia Cano, J.B. Casacop, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Anna Christenson, Julie Dillon, Carolina Eade, Tom Garden, Alexander Gustafson, Suzanne Helmigh, Paul (Prof) Herbert, Ralph Horsley, Anna Ignatieva, Nicholas Kay, Matt Larson, Sam Manley, Mitchell Malloy, Jeremy McHugh, R.J. Palmer, Ricardo Robles, Thom Scott, John Silva, Lee Smith, Alyn Spiller, Florian Stitz, Fredrik Tyskerud, Adam Vehige, Frank Walls, S.C. Watson, and QipengZhang.
Additional interior art by the artists of Talisman Revised 4th Edition and its expansions.
Managing Art Director:
Andrew Navaro
Art Direction: Mike Linnemann and Zoë Robinson
Number of Pages:
12 page rulebook
Game Components Included:
Rulebook, 1 City Board, 82 City Cards, 12 Armory Cards, 12 Pet Cards, 16 Magic Emporium Cards, 16 Potion Cards, 8 Stables Cards, 18 Wanted Poster Cards, 4 Neutral Alignment Cards, 3 Alternative Ending Cards, 6 Character Cards, 6 Plastic Character Figures
Game Components Not Included: Talisman 4th Edition Revised
Retail Price: $39.95 (US)
Number of Players: 2 to 6
Player Ages: 9 yo+
Play Time: 60+ minutes
Item Number: TM02
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung