Well, it wasn’t the best of holidays, considering my family of four shared a nice flu amongst ourselves and collectively had a temperature of over 400 *F on a few horrible days. Still, I managed to convince one friend to come over to our charnel house once the Tamiflu (TM) had kicked in. I got a ton of new games for Christmas and finally got to play a few of them. While none of them are as new as today’s rising sun, they’re all first plays for me. In that spirit, I’ve put together a few mini-reviews to whet my appetite for more gaming and to ease back into the world of people without temperatures.
I’ve heard a lot about this game – mostly that it was a great family game, but I’d never had a chance to play it. Finally, it arrived on Christmas morning and I was able to break it out a few times over break. What a fun game!
The premise: All of the players share a castle with six walls and six towers. Rather than idling away the days composing ballads and dropping breakable stuff from the towers to see what happens, you must defend your walls and towers from a vast hoard of nasty creatures. Orcs, Trolls, Goblins, largish boulders and four boss-type monsters thrown in for good measure. If you manage to keep at least one tower intact after all the monsters and events have been played out, you win! Cooperative gaming is something fairly new to me and introducing it to my kids has been a lot of fun.
The game play is fun and fast. You start off with six baddies heading towards your castle. Three Goblins (1 Hit Point each) two Orcs (2 Hit Points each) and 1 Troll (3 Hit Points). The game board is divided into zones. The Forest (where no monsters can be attacked), Archers, Swordsmen, Knights and your Castle. The initial six bad guys start in the Archer zone, all other new monsters start out in the forest. These six zones are also divided into three colors – green, red and blue. Two zones per color.
Each player gets 5 cards, composed of archers, knights, swordsmen and other cards. If you have a red archer, and there’s a monster in the Archer zone in the red portion of the board, you can hit that monster for one point. At the end of each players turns, all the monsters move forward one zone and then two monster tiles are drawn. The monster tiles either add new monsters randomly to the board (rolling a d6 to determine where) or cause events to happen. Like all of your archers dying of plague, or massive boulders coming out of the woods to squish monsters and flatten parts of your castle.
If a monster reachers your wall, it takes 1 point of damage but destroys that wall. If a monster breaches your walls and hits your towers, it’s bad news! They destroy one tower per turn (provided they’re in a castle space with a standing tower) taking 1 point of damage as they do this. They then move around clockwise, tearing down your towers. If you lose all six towers, the game is over and the monsters win.
You can trade cards, discard to draw a new card and are generally encouraged to play your hands open and discuss with other players how best to survive. It’s a very fun game for us adults, and my kids (especially my youngest) absolutely love it.
King of Tokyo
My absolute favorite new game (of the last month). We got it to the table on Saturday evening last, and with two adults and two kids playing, it was a lot of fun!
The premise is simple, and the ‘board’ for this game is tiny. You all play the parts of giant monsters (think any Japanese scifi flick from the early atomic age) and your goal is to become the King of Tokyo. Mainly by either acquiring victory points (you need 20 to win) or stomping the other players until they stop moving around.
There are only two places to be in this game – in Tokyo (or as I like to call it, standing on a giant bullseye) or outside of Tokyo. If you’re in Tokyo, you get yourself a victory point for moving in, and every turn you manage to stay there, you also earn 2 more victory points. Any attacks you pull off, affect everyone outside of Tokyo (i.e. all the other players) But… you can’t heal yourself, and anyone outside of Tokyo who gets an attack, attacks only you!
On to the mechanics! You have six dice, which you can roll up to three times each on your turn. They have the numbers 1-3 on them, a power symbol (lightning bolt), a heart for healing 1 point of damage and a claw representing an attack. If you roll three of any number, you get that number in victory points. Three 2’s would earn you 2 victory points on your roll. If you get four 2’s, you’ll get 2+1 (3) victory points and so on. The power symbol allows you to collect little green cubes, which you can then spend on cards that give you either wicked cool abilities, or victory points. The attacks equal 1 point of damage per claw, and the hearts let you heal 1 point of damage per heart.
It’s a fast paced, fun, often shifting slug fest that someone called “yahtzee with giant monsters”. This game is fun! Fun, fun fun! At one point, my 9 and 7 year olds had eliminated us two 40-somethings and were slugging it out between themselves. This is a great family game and a great game night game all in the same package. It plays out in 30 minutes or less and will certainly be finding its way back to our table!
Here’s my second favorite new game of the year, and one that’s less of a family game and more of a superheroes kicking ass kind of game.
Legendary is a cooperative deck building game in which you take the roll of one of a whole bunch of supers from the Marval universe. You’re fighting against one super-villain and their cronies, henchmen and other assorted bad guys. You randomly select all of this, and also pick a Scheme that the bad guy will use. These are fairly wide and varied and when you mix them up with different villains and heroes, offers a tremendous amount of replay-ability.
The game is very well constructed mechanically, very appealing to the eye, and we were able to pick it up and play (and also lose) our first game in less than an hour. Our second game took about 50 minutes and we were able to defeat the board! It plays about as fast as Ascension would, at least with two players. It was a bit daunting to unbox, and my one chief complaint about this game has nothing to do with game play, but rather with getting started. If you’re going to publish a game that has hundreds of cards (think Thunderstone Advance, this game and others like it) please, please for the love of all that’s lovely include a quick and dirty breakdown of how to seperate the cards! A quarter page text box in the first two pages of the instructions would have saved me an hour of head scratching.
Other than that one minor complaint, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game. Once you get the hang of it, which for us only took a few turns, it’s a smooth system that plays fast. You begin with a deck of 12 standard cards, some doing a wee bit of damage and others allowing you to recruit various hero cards. You select 5 heroes to be in your team – each of them comes with 14 cards which end up in the hero deck. To start the game off, you turn over and lay out the top 5 hero cards. You’ll also select a bunch of villains from various factions and minion cards to go into the villain deck. These you turn over once per turn and do what they say. You’ll attempt to not only fight these villains and minions through the city as the game goes on, but build up enough power to hit the super villain 4 times. Do this, and you’ve won the game!
If you’d like to include a competitive aspect as well, you can then add up all of the points of your rescued bystanders and defeated villains. The one with the most points is the most heroic of the heros involved.
I’ve still got a few more games to play through, and I’m hoping to do this in the next few weeks! For now though, I can easily recommend any of these three games. Castle Panic is fun, and to me seems a bit more family game night oriented. Kings of Tokyo works well as a family game or among adults. Legendary is a smooth deck builder that requires a bit more subtlety than the previous two games, but can be picked up quickly and plays nice and fast.