A Touch of Evil – revisited

Hey everybody!
Tuesday is Game Day here at spalanz.com, and for today’s blog I’m taking a look at a game that has already come under the spotlight of awesome here: A Touch of Evil!

A Touch of Evil

I’ve been playing this game a lot recently with only the base game, something that I tend not to do with these kinds of games very much. And this is really what I thought I’d write about today. You can see all about the game in the earlier blog, where the mechanics are explained and whatnot. I’ve been really interesting in my own attitude to gaming lately, so I thought I’d explore this instead, and see where it goes. It might not end up being a very interesting blog, and I may not do many more like it, but let’s see, anyway!

A Touch of Evil

A Touch of Evil is a perfectly fine game in and of itself, and you can have a whole boat-load of fun without any expansions. However, I always find myself playing the game with at least one, and when I’ve played it without any in the past, I’ve always had something of a mediocre experience with it. I find this really interesting, and it got me thinking back to my very first games with it.

I was introduced to the game by an ex-girlfriend, and we played quite a lot of it (though she always preferred the same company’s Last Night on Earth). The fact that it can be played competitively or co-operatively, as well as the historical theme, has always greatly appealed to me. We bought it when it was new out, so obviously for a long time we could only play it with the base game, but we still did so, and we still enjoyed it. As expansions came out, we added them in, and always had a good time – but this is where the interesting thing (to me) comes in. Once Something Wicked had come out, we never went back to playing with just the base game. Even if we were using a base game villain, we’d still use the Echo Lake board.

A Touch of Evil

When I bought it for myself, I bought the entire line in one go, though still played the base game by itself at first, to get to grips with it once more. As I said, I’ve come back to just the base game a few times since, as well, but it has always felt a little lacklustre to do so.

But why?

The game didn’t fundamentally change when Something Wicked was released. Sure, there were more mechanics going on, but the components of the base game are still the same as they were when it was released, so why should something that posed a decent challenge and provided lots of fun suddenly stop doing so?

I suppose the obvious answer here is a change in my own skill level. As my familiarity with the base game increased, I could prepare and play accordingly. However, while this might be something of a knee-jerk response, I don’t feel that it really holds up to scrutiny. The fact that the game involves drawing from decks of cards and rolling dice means that any level of skill is mitigated by the high luck aspect. There are some location cards I’ve forgotten about because I haven’t encountered them all that regularly. There is too much random going on in this game to be able to properly assess the damage certain mystery cards can provide, meaning that almost any card is simultaneously both dreadful and an easy pass, depending on the game state right there and then.

Strategy in such games all-too-often boils down to stock up on items and then go after the villain, even if it means paying 12 investigation for a lair card. Sure, there can be micro-strategies happening, such as always sending your female investigators to fight the succubus, but in the main, there’s not a lot else that can be done.

However, if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’re not only an amazing person, but you’ll know that I am a huge fan of thematic play, and I will rarely go into this game thinking “I’ll just stock up on stuff and then go in all-guns-blazing”. I like to explore the board, and even when I’m drawing seemingly random encounters, I like to see how I can weave these things into a narrative that is telling the story of the game. Immersing myself in the experience, I like the fact that I don’t get to fight the villain until the end (more often than not, at least!) as it lends an air of mystery to the game. I keep coming across packs of wolves, and what was that succubus all about at the covered bridge? Oh no, it’s a vampire!

A Touch of Evil

However, playing thematically will only take you so far, and I think the issue – for me, at least – is just that I’ve been spoilt by expansions. The base game for any game line will invariably give you a good, all-round experience of the game, but it won’t be particularly mind-boggling (at least, not anymore). It falls to the line of expansions to enrich the gameplay experience further, once you’ve been pulled in by the initial purchase and like the basic mechanics. A Touch of Evil is no different to a whole host of other games in this regard, and I could have really picked any other game in my collection to write about in this sense. In the case of Something Wicked, we have more locations with complex encounters, we have more villains with more complex mechanics, the whole game is taken up a step by the addition of this board. If you add in The Coast, you’re in for the night with that game setup! However, once you’ve experienced that sort of craziness, by paring it back to the base game once again, I for one feel like I’m having a fairly basic experience, which I think is the crux of this entire issue here.

Expansions aren’t always necessary, and can sometimes feel like a real train-wreck. Other times, expansions are necessary to the continued enjoyment of a game, but fail to deliver as they only provide a more-of-the-same feel. Yet other times, expansions add a whole new dimension to a game that makes them virtually inseparable to the main game. While I’ve always been a great lover of expansions, this has always stemmed from the fact that I like variety, and new ways to play a game, though I am opposed to expansions for the sake of it. A game like A Touch of Evil certainly falls into the category of needing more expansions, and those that we have for the game have served to enhance the experience immeasurably. You don’t need expansions to enjoy the game for what it is, but I feel you certainly need them to ensure you continue to enjoy the game.

What about you? Can you play just a base game and enjoy it forever, or are you more of an expansion fiend?