I’ve been really enjoying a return to some of the board games lately, almost like it’s some kind of return to my roots or something! I distinctly recall that it was around the autumn time that I really got into this sort of “serious” boardgame lark, starting with Carcassonne and moving swiftly into stuff like Runebound, Arkham Horror, and A Touch of Evil. There’s something that I really enjoy about playing a big, table-spanning board game in the evenings this time of year!
It’s that last that I’ve been playing again recently, after a six year hiatus. I suppose it’s only natural, with Halloween and all! A Touch of Evil is a game that I have talked about many times on the blog already (such as here and here) so I won’t be launching into a massive dissection of the way it plays again. The game is relatively simple, in fairness, and it kinda surprised me how straightforward the gameplay actually is for it. I think, now that I’m steeped in stuff like 40k, it’s a really refreshing change to have a game system where you just roll to move, automatically take actions, and combat is a straight-up slugfest. It really allows a game like this, which is steeped in theme, to shine.
Well before the Shadows of Brimstone kickstarter, Flying Frog used to be really good with their small stable of games, expanding them with regular boxes of great content. A Touch of Evil had two big boxes, two smaller boxes, and two small card packs to increase the content, as well as four web-exclusive villains to fight against. It was terrific, and the gameplay options that each of these brought to the overall experience were just immense.
One of my favourite gaming experiences is to string all three of the game boards together, and have a massive game where you have heroes travelling the length and breadth on an adventure. You can just settle down to a rainy afternoon of colonial horror, and it is often really quite cinematic! Of course, the game does go very long, and you risk diluting the overall experience by getting too much out at once. In that sense, then, having a game with just one of the expansions is usually preferable, and for me it would have to be Something Wicked, because that is one of my all-time favourite boardgame expansions. Dealing with a sinister cult while investigating such areas as the Monastery or the Inn, or maybe travelling to the mysterious island at the heart of Echo Lake… It’s really the stuff of board gaming legend.
Last year, the Tenth Anniversary edition of A Touch of Evil was released, but aside from one or two nice additions, it’s otherwise a blinged-out version of the base game and I think I am overall not impressed. I think the idea to professionally print the web villains was really nice, and the epic villain stuff is an interesting idea as well. Having miniatures for the four corner locations just seems a bit silly though, and plastic tokens don’t really appeal to me either. Plastic busts of the town elders? Hm. I think, if anything, I would have wanted plastic models for the ally tokens in the game. But I digress. The anniversary edition was accompanied by some small card packs for each of the big box expansions, and I’m really intrigued in getting hold of these at some point, maybe when they have a sale. Importing this stuff to the UK can be quite extortionate, and I think I’m looking at around £40 for two 15-card expansion packs. Not really a worthwhile investment at the minute!
The two card packs that I do have are both really quite nice additions, though I haven’t really used them a lot in-game. They sort of work together, in that The Madness is a bunch of cards that can really mess up your plans and cause problems, while The Allies is a nice bunch of useful stuff. Should probably get those to the table more often, now I think about it.
One of the great things about the whole product line is just how much extra stuff that is included in the game. The additional tokens are a bit of a staple for Flying Frog of course, and you’re almost encouraged to make more content for the game around them. I remember doing this a long time ago with some of the tokens from Something Wicked, getting a fairly convoluted mini-game inside the main game through use of the five journal pages tokens:
“More than she knew…”
Setup: Randomize the Journal Pages tokens and place them in five Random Locations. Try to get as much of a spread as possible across the board(s) – feel free to fluff the card draw for this.
1. When encountering a space with a Journal Pages token, you may pay 6 Investigation to make a Cunning 5+ test. If you roll more successes than failures, you can pick up the Pages.
2. Having either Selina or Delani as allies reduces the Investigation cost to 2. Having Lucy herself as an ally reduces the Investigation cost to 0. The Cunning 5+ test must still be passed, however.
3. If you find Lucy’s Diary in the Windmill, and succeed at the test on that card, any further tests to pick up remaining tokens are reduced to Cunning 4+ tests.
4. During a Showdown, if you have more Journal Pages than any other player, you get to roll 2 extra fight dice during the first round. If you also have the counter with X on the back, you get 3 extra fight dice. If you have all five counters, you go first in the first Showdown round.
Some general points on theme:
1. I don’t think this variant will work with the Lucy Hanbrook hero, unless you take it that she is running around the countryside trying to recover her lost Journal Pages? I don’t like the idea, but don’t let it stop you!
2. I feel that it only works with some Villains, not all. The Unspeakable Horror is my favourite to use this variant with.
3. Selina and Delani are taken to know more about Lucy than the other Heroes, so help with the tests by their presence alone; their attributes don’t count for this purpose. Their ability to reduce the Investigation cost also doesn’t stack – having one or both will do the same thing.
Now, I’m not a game developer, but coming up with rules like this back in the day was a lot of fun, and given that games of A Touch of Evil can go on almost as long as you like means that you usually have the time to go faffing around the countryside on a weird kind of scavenger hunt like this! Of course, there is a lot going on in the game anyway, but I don’t think that adding in random bits and pieces necessarily breaks the game.
It’s overall one of the most immersive games out there, and I do love the fact that I have it in my collection. I just can’t believe it’s been six years since I last played it!