Monday, 29 April 2013

Talisman Prologue... Digital board gaming for the bored.

Talisman Prologue by Nomad Games (for Windows, iPad, iPhone and Android devices)

I really can’t make my bloody mind up about this one! This game appeals to one part of me but repels another! The price, theme and gameplay are all good but there is just something……..unknown about it!

Based on the Games Workshop property published by Fantasy Flight Games, Talisman Prologue is a single player, mission oriented take on the board game set to tide over the digital board gamers until later this year when the full multi player version is released.

Featuring Ten of the Fourteen characters found in the board game (Warrior, Troll, Druid, Wizard, Monk, Assassin, Elf, Dwarf, Priest and Prophetess, missing are the Ghoul, sorceress, thief and Minstrel) each character has five themed missions, on which up to three talismans can be earned depending on how many moves the mission took to complete. Each character has certain skills to aid them in their missions, such as the Warrior being able to roll two dice in combat and choose the best or the Druid replenishing his spell count when landing on the woods, and each characters missions are themed to suit them, adding a narrative to a universe that has, so far, been a simple roll and move affair with no story.
Character selection screen
Close up on a space
This point I quite like as the lack of story sometimes leaves me wanting a little more from an otherwise enjoyable game.

The interface is clear and easily understood, even for someone not familiar with the system. The tutorial gets its job done quickly and without prattling on for days! 90% of what you need to know is dealt with in the first mission for whichever adventurer you choose first and each of their special abilities are explained just as quickly and painlessly, leaving you free to roll your digital dice and get on ignoring the world again!

The artwork is essentially a digital duplicate of the standard board (and why not? The board is beautiful!) and when you roll your movement dice the board lights up each space you can choose from, from here you can tap on each one and see what effect the space has, if any, and make your choice of destination. Your playing piece is also, simply, a digital representation of the grey plastic miniatures provided by Fantasy Flight.
Ye Olde battle screen
The gameplay itself is really what you would expect from a single player, roll and move board game experience, that being not for everybody! It isn’t an action packed romp through a lushly animated fantasy land, more a screen tapping version of Talisman for those who can’t persuade their friends to play more often! For fans of the original I can see the appeal of this game, I myself really enjoy it but I can also see the other side of the coin and see how some would find this boring. Compared to other dgital board game experiences, such as Carcassonne(I’ll try and stop mentioning that game some day!) and Settlers of Catan, where the game provides CPU opponents and the option for pass and play multiplayer for you and your friends, Talisman Prologue could seem to some to be a bit of a cop out or cash cow! When, later this year, the full Talisman Digital Edition hits the virtual shelves with its online four player options as well as CPU players, for when social interaction is neither possible or wanted, I can see this game being forgotten for the most part but for now, with its low price tag (£2.99 on the android Play Store and iPhone/iPad) it’s a good little distraction.

I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone, if you are a hardcore Talisman fan or a fan of solo board/card gaming then this is worth a try, especially for the price, but if you like action or multiplayer, be they real or virtual, then I would say give this game a miss.
For me alone I would give this a 6/10, it’s a decent filler until the full game is released but I wouldn’t have paid any more for it!


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Oregon... Blazing a trail... In a wagon!!!


Published by Rio Grande Games and designed by Henrik and Ase Berg, Oregon was a random purchase from a discount store that quickly found itself becoming a regular feature on our table.

Having the pioneer era of American history as a setting initially drew an emphatic ‘meh’ from me but the art on the box is really nice, featuring a wagon train overlooking a rolling vista of unsettled America and bearing the legend ‘Oregon – The way the west was won…’. The quality of the box is equal to that of Carcassonne. It feels very sturdy and the inside of the box comes with an insert that divides the internal cavity into four sections for a less jumbled storage area.

The board is a great size and features a segmented board with four different types of space, grasslands, railroads, mountains and water. Across the top and left side of the board are symbols that work as coordinates (more on this in a few) these symbols are a wagon, a buffalo, some settlers, an eagle and a campfire. Finally around the outer edge there is the regular euro game style score tracker that goes from 1 – 100.

The cards are half sized, with a nice vinyl coating, and come in two flavours. Location cards have the same symbols as the coordinates on the board and the building cards which represent the buildings and structure tiles.

The structure tiles are made from good quality card and show the building on them and a point value for each. The buildings are a mall, a port, a store, a church/chapel, a train station, a post office, and two mines, gold and coal, which do not have point values but reward the player with a random value token, lower value for coal and higher for gold. The tokens are really good, printed centrally and punched very well, in fact I actually shook half of them lose without punching them out, such was the quality of the cutting done for boxing.

The player pieces are essentially cowboy meeple (dubbed cowboy-ples by our group!), they are little wooden fellas molded as silhouettes of people with apparently massive Stetson hats on their little wooden heads, and these come in four flavours, red, blue, yellow and green.
The players also have two extra tokens each to use, one is a joker token, which can be used instead of a location card if you need a specific one but don’t have one, and an extra turn token which the player can use to immediately take another go. These can only be used once per turn and can only be replenished by scoring on specific buildings.

The pieces and components for this game are simple but brilliant at the same time, much like Carcassonne part of the appeal is in the stripped down, simple presentation. It isn’t bogged down by a box full of gubbins and fluff like a lot of games, particularly American games.


To begin the game each player is furnished with a handful of meeple, one of which is kept aside to act as a score tracker on the board, and four cards, three location cards and one building cards.

Each turn players play two of their cards to place pieces on the board. Playing two location cards allows the player to place a meeple, usually in proximity to a building or mine in order to score. Playing a location and a building card allows the player to place a building on the board anywhere along the corresponding location. Placing a building next to meeple gives the owning player points so placement on a crowded board can become very tactical.

Scoring on mines gives the player a random token instead of an instant score. These are kept secret until the end of the game and many times our games have been won by someone revealing a stack of high scoring tokens at the end and storming into the lead from the back. I just wish once or twice that it could have been me! I’m not the luckiest Oregon player at our table.

It isn’t the longest of games, usually clocking in at around the 45 minute mark for the average game, adding 10 – 15 for teaching any new players as the rules are easy enough to grasp mid game with only the briefest of pre game run-throughs.
The pieces are good but not astounding and I had a little problem with a small amount of board warping, but this is more indicative of the storage by the aforementioned discount store and not the manufacturers.
I will give Oregon 7/10. It fits well with a full group of four but it loses something when you play with less. I couldn’t say that I would have paid full price for it but as a random find for less than £10 it is a great game to break up a day of more in depth, story driven games.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Relic.... Roll and move... in the DARK FUTURE *tremble*

Relic – by Fantasy Flight Games

Before I start I should point out that there will be a lot of comparisons between this and Talisman seeing as this game is based on the Talisman game system and there are a lot of elements which haven’t changed much, or at all! A lot of the reviews I’ve read so far have avoided this but I think that a comparison is needed to see where this game came from and where improvement has been made.

When this game was announced in the misty past of last year I was so excited I could have happily skipped to the shops to pre order a copy! Talisman is one of my favourite fantasy board games and although I’m not the biggest fan of the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, (I personally prefer a fantasy setting) the prospect of them being put together to form some form of hybrid game was an exciting one.
I decided to wait until the game was released, and I could get a play test of it, before I bought a copy. Coincidentally, not too long after release one of my gaming group picked the game up and brought it round for a game and a thorough rummage through the gubbins! (He even left the tokens unpunched for me to punch out as he knows I derive some form of childish enjoyment from it! Ta muchly Rich!!!).

The box is the same size as that of Talisman, featuring your regular 40k style artwork depicting an Ultramarines Space Marine on the box lid and the back has the usual fare of game and contents guff found on all Fantasy Flight Games.

Inside the box the board the board is very similar in arrangement to the Talisman board but this is to be expected but I have a slight issue with the colours. It’s a little dark! The cards are easily overlooked as the artwork on the board is very ‘busy’. There is a lot going on all over the board, as though the artists were getting paid on commission and wanted a new car. The quality of the work is fantastic, don’t get me wrong here, but they could have reined it in a little. The Talisman board had a good balance of detailed pictures and panoramic views with a great balance of colours, and I know that this is the ‘Dark Future’ but I think the brief was read a little too literally.

Power cards, Corruption cards, Wargear cards, Relic cards and Mission cards.

Threat cards, in strength, Willpower and Cunning flavours respectively!

Moving on from this, before I lose any more readers, the cards are brilliant. In a different approach than Talisman took each space has one of three coloured icons on it, representing Strength, Willpower and Cunning (Red, blue and yellow respectively). These three different icons have separate decks of encounter cards, making a large improvement on Talismans single enor-frickin’-mous pile of encounter cards which made shuffling a feat of endurance. Each colour has a balanced mix of events, which can have many random effects on the game and players, Places, which stay on the board and offer new ways to progress and move, random pieces of equipment and then enemies which must be defeated to progress further. There are also mission cards which must be taken by the players and completed to gain access to the eponymous relics, artifacts and weapons of a bygone era giving you fantastic power ups and allowing you to progress into the inner region of the board and go for the win. Certain enemies and events will force players to take Corruption cards, which can have positive or negative effects for the player but too many will kill you deader than disco. Equipment cards containing basic weapons and armour to aid you in battle. Finally we have the power cards, these are similar to magic found in Talisman but they have a value as well as an effect and can be used instead of a dice roll, for example if you have to roll a five to win a fight and have a power card with a value of five, you can use that instead. This, in my opinion, is better than the fate system from Talisman as that just gives you re-rolls, leaving the outcome just as random as the initial roll. This allows more control over certain events and gives you more of a chance.

The tokens are good, they have the usual vinyl effect to them so they feel sturdy, there are skulls in each of the four player colours, used for various purposes throughout the game. Charge tokens, for abilities and areas with limited uses and Influence tokens. These are basically your currency and I think they missed a trick here. In Talisman the gold coins are plastic molded coins, which add a really nice tactile element to the game. Here they are just little cardboard triangles bearing the Imperial Aquila. They could easily have done some imperial credits or some other currency unit and made some equally nice pieces but it’s nothing worth marking them down for!

The player reference material comes in two parts in this game. First you have the character cards which show any special traits they character has, starting strength, willpower, cunning and health values and a character portrait, which are a marked improvement on those found in Talisman, they are really good here.
The second part is a new addition to the system and a bloody good one. It is a level tracker. Each time you trade in 6 points worth of enemies (based on the threat values on the enemy cards) you progress to the next level and gain two bonuses, usually an increase in one of your skills and then your characters bonus which can range from extra influence tokens, power cards extra increases to stats and even completed mission bonuses. The stats are tracked with four dials numbered one to twelve (which gives the skills an upper limit this time) and this makes a great improvement to the countless plastic cones used in Talisman.

Finally we get to the playing pieces themselves, which was one of the main selling points for many people. They are incredibly well sculpted busts of the characters which can be affixed to one of the four coloured player bases. They are fantastic! The level of detail is very high and they fit the theme very well, and on top of that they look great on the table. Some people will hanker for miniatures as opposed to busts but these make a refreshing change to the regular slew of miniatures packaged with games these days, and if you want to have a dabble with some brushy business they look great painted, as a quick Google browse will show.


In terms of gameplay there isn’t much of a difference between this and Talisman, the core mechanic of roll a d6, move and do what the board or cards tell you to do, rinse and repeat remains but the changes make it stand apart. The leveling up adds more control to your progression and getting killed in combat no longer means getting lumbered with a new, weak character, you simply lose some of your gathered gubbins, influence and unspent enemy points etc. and simply move to a safe spot and carry on. The only way to lose a character is to reach your corruption threshold, which for most is 6 corruption cards.
Unlike the vanilla Talisman game, Relic comes with five different scenarios out of the box, making for more play options while waiting for the inevitable expansions and the changes to character progression means that the game runs considerably quicker than its predecessor which in turn means that a game of Relic can be fitted into a standard gaming day instead of being the sole event. This also works well as a two player game as it runs quicker and easier.

After playing Relic and looking back to my review of Talisman in which I gave it 7/10 I would say that Relic deserves 8/10. The improvements and changes to the system all work well and make for a great gaming experience. It would never replace Talisman but it makes for a quicker alternative and a different choice for those with a penchant for some sci-fi or just 40k fans. I’m not so sure that hardcore GW fanboys will take to this as fanboys of any material are hard to please, especially with seeing said material in a new format, but I would implore them to take a chance on this game as all of the lore and feeling of the grim future is present, along with many well known, famous and infamous, characters and beasts from the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and FFG have done a stellar job.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Cthulhu Dice... driving people insane one roll at a time!

Cthulhu Dice

This is a REALLY short game! Consisting of a single oversized D12 featuring Cthulhu Mythos symbols and a handful of glass pebbles you would be easily forgiven for overlooking this game as more a novelty item and less a game.
I would be lying if I said there was anything resembling strategy to this game but the simplicity is half of the fun and it makes a useful five minute filler game whether you are waiting for dinner, for a bus or the men in white coats coming to return you to Arkham!
My rule sheet is a little tattered as it features as a regular filler for us!
The rules are straight forward and you only need reference them once or twice until the icons are learned…..
Players begin with three of the glass markers. These are Sanity Tokens.
Each turn you choose a victim from among the other players and roll the die applying the result to their chosen player:
Yellow Sign = Your target loses one sanity to Cthulhu and pushes it to the centre of the table.

Tentacle = The caster takes one sanity from his/her victim unless they are already insane themselves in which case it goes to Cthulhu.

Elder Sign = You gain one sanity from Cthulhu’s pool in the middle of the table.

Cthulhu = EVERYONE loses one sanity.

Eye = Players choice from the above.

Once this is resolved, the victim immediately retaliates by rolling the die and applying the result to their attacker then play moves to the left and the next player chooses a victim, and so on.

One interesting element of play in this game is that if you lose all of your sanity you are NOT out of the game, instead you are merely insane! A gibbering maniacal servant of Cthulhu. When the turn comes back around you may attack anyone as usual, but you may not be attacked in retaliation, nor can anyone choose you as a victim. You may become sane again by rolling an Elder Sign to reclaim some of your marbles from the mighty Cthulhu but with the odds at 1 in 12 this is a slim chance and more often than not the game ends with you, mad as a sack of badgers, causing all kinds of grief for the remaining sane players until only one remains (in this game the Elder Gods seem to follow the Highlander rules!)

The game takes between five and ten minutes for a full group of six players and I would say that you should only play if you have four or five people as it doesn’t play well with less.

For a quick distraction and a mainly thinking free game to kill a few minutes this is worth the £5 price tag. I will give Cthulhu Dice 6/10, It is a really simple little game and there isn’t much to it, but it is still a fun little addition to a collection.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Kill Doctor Lucky..... Killing pensioners with your friends!!!

Kill Doctor Lucky

From the outset the art on this game is a big draw. The image on the box lid is fantastic and humorous and a good indication of the rest of the game.
The instructions are simple enough to understand and easy to follow, it took only a couple of turns for everyone to decide that the rules can be put away!
The board isn’t among the best quality boards I own due to some warping out of the box but the art on it is very good, the room images are well presented and a good size which accommodates up to the maximum amount of players in any one room at the same time.

The pawns are card standees with images of the would be murderers on them as well as one featuring the ill fated doctor and his little dog Shamrock, and they feature a semi cartoony image of each of them brandishing their weapon of choice. The maid wields her broom as if she held a warhammer, the military gentleman hefts his service revolver as if waiting for the hapless pensioner to wander into view. They are made of a nice thick card, the same used for the spite tokens, which themselves hold an image of the good doctor looking rather worried. These standees fit snugly into plastic stands which are a decent size and don’t increase the overall size of the standees, it can be irritating when the stands are so big as to hamper the placing of pieces on the board.

Finally, my personal favourite part of the package, the cards. The quality is some of the better I’ve seen even if the static from the wrapping kept the cards clumping together until they had been vigorously shuffled once or twice. The images on the cards are in keeping with the rest of the artwork. The weapon/murder cards feature a simple picture of the weapon at hand and the murder score and any bonuses are clearly printed, as some weapons are better when used in certain rooms. The location cards simply have an image of the room and instructions to move either yourself or doctor Lucky there and the movement cards have the number of spaces it affords you/the doctor printed on them. The best cards are the failure cards, played to prevent the other would-be murderers from offing your target before you. The images are usually of one of the characters looking angry or the doctor looking worried/smug/confused. The humour is in the text. From discovering that your weapon is in fact a useless banana, the doctor disappearing in a cloud of feathers up to a mysterious kung fu master randomly appearing and saving the doctor at the last second. These make for an amusing game of positioning yourself for a good kill while robbing your opponents of victory with a well timed random event.

The only down side to these wonderful cards is that after a few games and a few more shuffles the plastic coating has begun to fray at the edges of one or two which makes wanting to play with them conflict with my OCD habit of trying to keep everything pristine.

The objective of the game, as the title suggests is to Kill Doctor Lucky. In order to do this you must maneuver yourself and sometimes the Doc himself into a position where you cannot be seen from any adjoining rooms or corridors, and use your cards to try and snuff the codger out.
In our first game the first couple of turns were a tentative affair of moving around the board, picking up a few more cards, which you do by only moving one space and no other actions on that turn, and working out how to make your move against the Doctor who wanders around a predictable path through his house. It wasn’t until the first attempt on his life that the game showed its true colours.
If you have a group with an imagination and especially one with a knack for storytelling, then the act of ruining someone’s carefully planned execution with a series of random and ridiculous events becomes a treat for the whole group.
Listening to your friend describe how you discover your gun is actually a banana which you eat and discard the skin, only to slip on said skin and fall down a hidden trapdoor can only bring a chuckle to all and the combinations only get weirder.

Each time you are foiled in your scheme you receive a spite token, which grants +1 to any future attempts. When these build up and you are attacking the doctor with a stronger attempt on his life your fellow murderers have to do their best to stop you and combine their failures and the combinations of events that befall you become nothing but ridiculous!
The game is fun for a good sized group but I can see how a maximum of 5 makes for a better game, having 6 or 7 players would make getting the doc alone and unseen all but impossible and would make the game drag on too long. As it is a 5 person game lasts 45-60 minutes and is very enjoyable.

I would recommend this game to all but the hardcore gaming groups as the slightly casual nature of the game would not suit all comers. It makes an ideal introductory game for themed board games and newcomers can pick up the rules in a very short time.

The first time I reviewed this game sometime last year I gave it 8/10 and to be honest, if I weighed it against other games of a similar casual nature I will stand by it. It’s quite a cheap pick up at around £20 so if you are stuck for a new game for your group and you enjoy a dose of daftness in an evening you could do much worse than to give this one a go.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Talisman.... Roll, move, obey.

TALISMAN.... now with added relative!

For a game that was first released in 1983 Fantasy Flight have done a good job of keeping it fresh, and before anyone gets all uppity I know just as much credit for this edition is due to Black Industries so leave the pitchforks alone for now!
The box art is very evocative and suits the game inside perfectly and the box is sturdy and well made, as are most FF games (as I keep saying in my reviews, I may stop one day!).
 The board is MAHOOSIVE! That was the first thing I thought when unfolding it, it just kept going! We have a limited space for gaming and the board takes up almost all of it. Add one of the corner expansions such as the dungeon and we have a slight overhang. The spaces on it are clearly marked and decorated with an assortment of well drawn and thematic images. It is divided into three regions, the outer, which is the easy road and where you start, the middle region which is slightly harder but offers more chances to either gain strength and skill or die in equal measure. Finally the inner region, which has to be taken one space at a time until you reach the crown of command, at the very centre, and make a play for the win.
Now with added brother arm for scaling purposes!
The rules are well presented and easily understood, so much so that my entire gaming circle had them learned by heart by the end of the premier game. The cards, of which there are many, are well done with art of an equal quality to the rulebook and the rules and events described on them are easily read and understood. My only issue is the size of the cards. Having rather large hands I find the act of shuffling a deck of 100+ half sized adventure cards, with more to add with each expansion, is a taxing affair at the best of times! The spell cards and purchase deck are the same size and equally good and the fate tokens, simply decorated card discs, are thick and sturdy and will stand up to much passing from player to spare pile each game.

After the card board components we get to the plastic components. Starting with the 120 player counters, 40 red for strength bonuses, 40 green for health points and 40 blue for craft (magic!), these small plastic cones stack beside the players’ character card to show current health and any strength or craft bonuses they have earned so far.
The money earned in the game is represented by small plastic coins, which is a nice touch as most would simply opt for punched card coins such as in Descent V1.0 (I hate that game!)
Finally we get to the miniatures, which is the biggest update FFG made as the Black Industries version had card standees. These are very good, the scale is such that a full six players can stand on any one space with little to no overlap and are all easily distinguished from one another while playing. The sculpt quality is good considering the scale and the only issue I had was that the plastic is a little soft so thin sections, such as extended swords or staffs, can be bent while packed in the box so a little check is always needed when packing away to check for possible casualties. The character cards that reference the player pieces are clearly printed and easy to reference, the character portraits on them are not as good as the rest of the art in the box however so someone dropped a ball there I think!

Before play I would give the components 8/10, some small issues but nothing to damage a score too much, some parts could be better and the issue with the small cards is purely down to my dinner plate hands so there’s nothing I could do about that one!!!
Before I go on I need to make one thing abundantly clear.
If you are looking for an RPG style board game with plenty of strategy and decision making, where deals are made and people broken, look elsewhere, this game is not for you and if you still want to read on you’ll see why!
These are some great feeling dice
The core game mechanic is simple.
Roll the die
Move that many spaces
Do what the board or cards tell you
Rinse and repeat until you can make a break for the win!!!
The only kind of strategy or decisions you make throughout a game are whether to go left or right and finally, when you thing you are strong enough to handle it, when to make a move into the inner regions of the board and make a break for the crown of command, where you roll a die to see if you cast a spell, the only action you can take there, and if so everybody loses a life. Do this until everyone is dead and you win! Simple!
It’s not big (that’s a lie it’s bloody enormous really), it’s not clever but it is good. The randomness of the game will turn some players off but for those groups with slightly more casual members this game is a good one as the ease of play suits almost anyone.
After play the score I give is 7/10, the simple roll, move, obey sometimes leaves me wanting a little more but it is still a very enjoyable game and we still play regularly.

One thing in closing, if you are going to venture into the world of Talisman and drop some of your hard earned currency of choice in a retailers hands for an expansion or two (there are currently eight to choose from) then some form of storage solution is needed to reduce box rummaging. I would recommend fishing tackle boxes as a cheap option unless you want to create something more elaborate. It serves us well enough for now.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sorry I've been away for a while, I have been suffering from 'Exploded Computer Syndrome'. I aim to be back to a regular posting schedule sometime in the coming week!