#WhatDidYouPlayMondays #GameLog for 12 October to 28 October 2015
Stealing an idea from Rolfe for a bit of blogging content, here’s my next play log.
Card or Party Games: Quiddler, Two Rooms and a Boom (2 plays)
Board Games: Epic Resort, Galaxy Trucker, Elder Sign (Gates of Arkham), Battleship, Tash-Kalar, Between Two Cities (2 plays), Last Will
Unrecorded plays: We’re in the midst of our Kickstarter for Cromlech, a card and dice game of magical battle. I’ve decided I won’t be recording plays of that game until I have a production copy in my hand. Until then, prototype plays don’t count. That said, I’ve played a bunch of games of Cromlech, of course.
Mini-review of a game
Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham
Fantasy Flight’s dice game of Cthulhu investigation, Elder Sign is a favorite of mine. It has the excitement and surprise of dice-rolling, the collaborative element that keeps my son satisified, and is hard enough that you don’t win every time. So I’ve picked up both expansions for the game. The first–unseen forces–added a bit to the game and made it a little harder, but overall was just “more of the same.” But the second one is a different monster altogether.
Here’s a quick primer in Elder Sign. The players are supernatural investigators, working to stop the creeping horror of an Ancient One from rising up and destroying the world. Players do this by visiting adventure location cards and rolling dice, matching required symbol combinations through a selective dice mechanism familiar to players of Yahztee or King of Tokyo. The game is chock-a-block with cards and tokens that help players do better in their rolls. Succeeding becomes a process of balancing the end goal (of getting “Elder Signs”) with the need to keep characters in health and equipment. There is an end stage where the Ancient One awakens. It is possible to win the game after this point, but rare.
Gates of Arkham reconfigures the original game, providing all new location cards, heroes, monsters, and mechanisms that map, essentially, a second game onto the architecture of the original Elder Sign. This change is a welcome one, providing a variety of new challenges and differences that provide replayability for the whole system and also provide new challenges for players who have figured out how to game their way through the original game.
- The game adds challenges by making players go to locations blind — traveling there and only THEN finding out what they have to face. Thematically, this works very well to raise the tension.
- The new gate mechanisms are a great way to force players to deal with the other world cards which could, much of the time, be ignored in the old setup.
- Gates is much harder than the original Elder Sign. I subscribe to the idea that you should lose cooperative games at least as often as you win them, and this ramps up the difficulty again.
- There’s a lot going on in The Gates of Arkham. There are new event cards, two secret societies, gates, a different way to buy bonuses, and a bunch of new icons on the cards. Experienced Elder Sign players should be able to pick it up relatively quickly, but a new player would likely find a few games of the original more rewarding than trying to jump right into the deep end.
- We’ve discovered through a couple disastrous mix-in sessions that the new characters and Ancient Ones are well-balanced with one another, but far over-power the characters from the original game and first expansion. Thus, one is really handicapped if one tries to use a character from the original game in the Gates of Arkham. Likewise, an Ancient One from the Gates expansion brought into the original game would be unbeatable.
- Like the original, Gates suffers from the momentum problem. Namely, if you’re doing well, your character can stay flush in equipment and re-rolls, and finish lots of adventures. If you’re not, it becomes ever-harder to solve adventures and get caught up. I suppose this is thematic, but it can be despiriting, especially if you have two players doing drastically differently. (Our house rule to solve this is that players can, before another player’s turn, give any of their items to other players.)
Overall, Elder Sign remains a favorite for me. It’s got a healthy dose of luck, along with some tactical strategy, and the theme is involving and entertaining. It’s fun to play with the kids, or even by myself.