Ghostbusters II: the board game

Following on from last week’s look at the two Ghostbusters games that were published by Cryptozoic, I have perhaps inevitably delved into the second box for today’s game day blog, as I’ve not yet tried this one out for size.

Ghostbusters II is all about slime, of course, and that’s no different here. The new game, and all of its expansions, all feature mood slime quite heavily, and that is, I think, the biggest difference between the two games. At their core, of course, they are the same game, but the second box has a number of additions that I thought I’d talk through today, as a sort of compare/contrast.

Slime is big, then, and this affects the game through Goo Piles – tokens that are placed on the board, and that need to be investigated throughout the course of the scenario. Each scenario has a Goo Timer along the bottom, which is basically the timer that ticks down each round as you can imagine. Investigating Goo Piles will increase the timer, however, buying you time to complete the scenario.

When you investigate the Goo Pile, you get to draw from the Goo Pile Deck – another new thing. This deck is mainly made up of cards that will instruct you to either draw from an event card pile, or an equipment card pile. Equipment is stuff that you can use, while Events are additional challenges to overcome.

There are new Ghost types in this game, called Plazms. These are denoted by pink miniatures, while the Ghosts are purple. Combat works the same as previously, in that you roll a d6 and compare it with the Entity’s to-hit value, then consult the card to see what happens if you hit or if you miss. The big, big switch up here though is that the Ghostbusters themselves now come in two varieties, regular proton packs, and the new slime blower version. Ghosts are not affected by slime, and Plazms are not affected by proton packs, so you need to plan accordingly! However, a character can spend an action to swap an adjacent buster’s pack between the two (or you can spend both action slots to do it for yourself).

Really, then, that’s all there is to it! We’ve got a raft of different ghosts, we’ve got goo and plazms, and we’ve got event and equipment cards. It does make for a bit more of a hectic experience, I think, but it’s still the same basic game underneath. Which is good, I think, because it means that you can throw the dice and have some fun, while playing as the iconic ghostbusters!

The Kickstarter version that I have does come with a bunch of extra stuff, but unlike the first game, this time a lot of the “base game” is actually really quite varied, and there isn’t a tremendous amount of “important” stuff left out this time. Of course, the deluxe edition does incorporate the Louis Tully expansion, which I’m not a huge fan of because I’m one of these people who prefers to keep things separate so that I know what I’m playing. It’s not a massive problem, but it niggles a little. The actual KS exclusives this time are some fairly niche additional ghostbusters from the Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon, which doesn’t seem particularly inspired, and sadly the KS campaign never made it to $850k to give us Dana Barrett, but she’s probably the only major movie character missing from both games.

Ghostbusters II is an interesting development from the first game, with some nice additions in the way that the event and equipment cards are implemented. With the added considerations of different entities needing different combat styles (proton vs slime), it definitely feels like the gameplay steps up. The fact that we have all the new ghosts, which include the Haunted Humans toy line, is just great, and definitely taps into the nostalgia factor for me.

It’s still a fairly light game, and with the timer element it can be over very quickly. If you like Ghostbusters, if you liked the first game, and/or if you’re a child of the 80s like me, then it’s all good really!

Ghostbusters: the board game

Yesterday’s post, talking about the Ankh Kickstarter game, has got me thinking about my own (tiny) collection of Kickstarter games – tiny, since I sold most of my games off between house moves. I have the massive Hellboy of course, but somehow the Ghostbusters game always flies under the radar for me.

I’ve played the original game a long time ago, and I do remember enjoying it rather a great deal, but I’ve made just a single attempt to play it again since it was delivered back in 2016. There is a lot of content that remains completely unknown to me, and I think that’s really quite sad.

The second game arrived in 2017 and until this week, I hadn’t even popped the tokens. I remember feeling a bit bummed by the delivery of the second one, principally because of the sloppy way it was presented. Sure, the big white deluxe box is lovely, but those bags on either side of the box in the above Instagram photo are also expansions in the same mode as the Slimer box. It’s like Cryptozoic had started to package things, but then just gave up and shipped it.

I think seeing how CMON package Ankh and others as full game systems with the proper boxes etc really drew a significant contrast, for me!

The second box seems to be all about the goo, and most of the additional Kickstarter content also makes that connection. I’ve only given the game a couple of cursory once-over glances in the last few days, but I like the fact that the slime seems to be quite pervasive here, as it seems to draw the content together somehow. It’s a shame everything doesn’t fit into the box, but if we’d had the Lewis Tully expansion boxed separately, like Slimer, I think it would have easily all gone in together. Anyway, I need to let that point go!

The second box is stand alone, so has all the stuff you need like Spirit World tiles and so on. What I particularly like about this one is the variety of ghosts this time around – even the retail version, I believe, has more variety than the core retail set. We also get the awesome 80s toys like Granny Gruesome and Mail Fraud as minis! Shame the quarterback guy doesn’t get a model, but I suppose we can’t have everything.

I’ve read some pretty negative reviews of the second game though, which is sad really because I do love the theme and all, but it’s not going to put me off, seeing as how I have it all. As it’s co-op, as well, I might see if I can convince my wife to try it out with me, but she isn’t a fan of the source material at all, so I’m not sure how successful I would be there!

Between it all, I have the two games, then enough content for four clear expansions, plus the raft of Kickstarter exclusives from each campaign. I think that’s going to be plenty of stuff to keep me occupied for a long time yet!

I’ll no doubt be featuring the further ghost-busting adventures here in the future, so make sure to keep an eye out for that! I have a week off coming up, so hopefully I’ll be able to give this game another spin sooner rather than later!!

Game Day!

Hey everybody,

As you all know, Tuesday is game day, and this week it’s particularly exciting as I recently had an actual game day! First time in almost five years that my buddy Tony and I sat down to play some games together! Much fun and laughter was had, and we got some cracking games to the table as well!

First up is Ankh, the Egyptian gods themed game from Cool Mini Or Not. The game was put out on Kickstarter back in May 2020, and was successfully funded within the first day – no surprise, really, as that seems to be CMoN’s business model, and this game is designed by the renowned Eric Lang.

In Ankh, you take the role of one of the gods of Egypt, and compete with your fellow deities for control of the land, aiming to be the god to inspire the most devotion. The game runs on a pretty fast timer, so even though it’s one of these huge miniatures-heavy things, it actually feels pretty streamlined and very straightforward once you get into it. This is something that I was immediately impressed with, because it has so much potential for replays.

You get two actions per turn, which you choose from a set menu of four – move, summon, gain followers, or choose an Ankh power. You need to spend followers to gain these latter powers, but in doing so, you can potentially also gain Guardians, which act as additional figures in your pool from which you can summon. It’s going to be useful to have figures on the board, of course, because that’s how you gain your devotion points, through claiming territory and monuments.

The elegant timer system is built into the actions track – when an action has been taken so many times, it triggers an event, which may allow you to claim a monument, or split up a region, or trigger a conflict. Conflicts are resolved by counting up the miniatures that each player has in any region, each mini being worth 1 strength, then by playing cards to potentially add strength or kill off an opponent’s models, or even build a new monument. When the dust settles, you might end up in the lead in the devotion stakes.

It plays really, really well. We made a couple of errors, sure, but nothing too dramatic. On the whole, the engine is quite easy to pick up, and the fact that the meat of the game occurs during timed conflicts means that overall the game doesn’t feel bogged down, turn after turn. It won’t appeal to everyone, I know, but there is a real possibility for you to make of the game as much as you want – spending the turns between conflicts either strategising like a Field Marshal, or just going with the flow and enjoying the game as it unfolds. I mean, we were hardly obsessing over which actions to take, when to trigger events, etc, but it was hugely enjoyable regardless!

I’m fairly sure that we barely scratched the surface when we played the game, but it was definitely a good game, one that I think I’d like to play a lot more to get a handle on. It’s odd to think that there’s a Kickstarter game that I’ve said this about, as a lot of my experience with games like this does tend towards the once-and-done, but then I suppose CMoN are a bit different, as they’re a professional games company working with an established designer, and merely use KS as their marketing and distribution model. It’s debatable whether that’s what Kickstarter is meant for, of course, but it’s working for them, I guess! I think that my mental image of Kickstarter games goes back to the days when anybody and their dog was putting out games on the platform, and while some turned out quite beautiful, most did seem to be turkeys.

There are five gods in the core set, with multiple expansions that came out at the same time, some of which feature plenty more gods and guardians, and a plethora of other shiny bits. Of particular note is the fact that one of the Kickstarter perks was 3D monuments, but we were only using the core set so hadn’t delved too far into any of the other boxes. It’s a very exciting way to deliver a game, for sure, but there is still that part of me that longs for the days when you’d not see an expansion for a game like this until a year or so had passed! It was interesting, talking with Tony about it, how he just wanted to play something else from the massive collection that he and Lee have put together, but I would have been down for playing this one a couple more times! I remember, years ago, playing games like Last Night on Earth 4-5 times in a game day with my ex, and not really thinking twice. Sure, we’d also have days where we’d play two or three different games as well, but I think Tony is in that situation where he has so many board games that it needs that constant churn just to get through them all. It almost begs the question, what’s the point of having multiple expansions for a game you barely play enough of with the core set?!

In summary, then, I really like this game, and have thought about it a lot since we played it. I think it represents what I used to love about Kickstarter games, getting an absolute ton of content for a game and then being really excited about trying it all out. I think, if I hadn’t been in the middle of so many life-changing events at the time, I may well have backed this one at the time, but these things happen! I’m definitely looking forward to trying it out again sometime soon, whether Tony wants to or not! 🤣

Anyway…

We also had three games with Warhammer Invasion, which was amazing, as it was like a return to the old days! Me playing Chaos, him playing High Elves, with all their nonsense! I won all three games, but I think that was something of a fluke because I’d recently looked up the rules again, and had looked at my deck as well, while Tony hadn’t looked at his elves since we last played this game, in 2016!!

Rounding out the day were three games of Magic, which I also won. I think I was very lucky at one point though, as I was playing a somewhat modified version of my Shadows Over Innistrad vampires deck, and was land-flooded so was down to something like 4 life before I got my first creature out! However, once he came out, I buffed him stupid and gave him lifelink, which got me firmly back in the game for the win!!

I also took my Kaldheim deck out for a spin, which was fun, though I think it could do with quite a bit more tinkering! It worked well enough, for sure, but I think the theme has overshadowed the potential for the deck to work well. If I were still as into Magic as I used to be, I would probably set aside an afternoon to do some research, but I don’t really have those luxuries anymore!!

After all that, I then had another game of the Star Wars LCG with my wife, once again Rebels (me) vs Imperials (Jemma). I’d tried to mix the decks up a little, so that they were predominantly objectives from the core set and Hoth cycle, to try and keep things simple. As it happened, I won this game as well, but I do think this game can be quite swing-y in how it plays, where you might have some luck and get a lot of key units out so you can launch offensive after offensive. I didn’t have that last time, but I had it in spades this time, which kinda surprised me, I’m not gonna lie! Jemma did blow up two of my objectives, but I won when the dial was at 9, so it could have been worse!

I’m not entirely convinced that Jemma likes the game, but she does seem to want to keep at it, which is encouraging! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to convince her to keep playing, though I don’t think she’ll ever be a fan of it like me!!

A board game ramble

Hey everybody,
My big news for September is that I’ve actually been playing real-life games with real-life people once again! We went away for a week with the in-laws, and my brother-in-law brought Ticket to Ride: Europe along. It’s something he’d mentioned back at Christmas time, but with all the lockdowns and whatnot, we hadn’t really pursued the idea. Being a gateway game, it was perfect for the whole family to get together (although with six adults and a five-player game, it did mean that there was someone left over to act as the baby monitor…) I have played it a few times back in my heyday of gaming, but had since sold off because I had so many games that were going unplayed. Well, it looks like my wife is a bit of a convert, and so we might be investing at some point! I still have the app on my tablet though, so can always get some games in with the pass-and-play function there. But it was tremendous to be gaming once more, I have to say!

Ticket to Ride is one of those games that is so delightfully easy to pick up, and the strategy comes in actually playing the game, and not hidden within a plethora of rules, that I find it really a lot of fun. Sure, you can end up with turn after turn of not being able to do anything, but I suppose that’s the luck of the draw. I also don’t find it all that super-competitive to play so that I end up getting stressed by those types of empty turns. It was quite refreshing to play, after having spent a lot of time with Warhammer 40k! 

It also got me thinking about my relationship with board games nowadays, and this is something that was reinforced when I read this blog at the weekend. I strongly suggest you read this, as it is a very insightful look into the state of board games these days, and I echo a lot of the sentiments quite a great deal. Kickstarter games seem to have taken over the board game market these days, leading to a saturation that leaves me a bit confused about the lay of the land today. Due to the way Kickstarter works, games are only available for a short space of time and then gone, with very few making it to the shelves of the local store. There’s no “catalogue” to speak of, just a continual raft of new games, selling this cult of the new and the shiny.

It makes me a bit sad, because I feel like we’ve left those days of board games like A Touch of Evil or Runebound, and nowadays everything needs to come with a bucket load of miniatures to have that sort of mass-appeal. I think that the Hellboy board game is a case in point for me here. True, it was put out by Mantic, who do make miniatures games, and was designed by the chap who led the redesign on Necromunda, so there is a provenance there. But I’ve got some pretty huge boxes of stuff under my bed, which I really need to take a look at. But isn’t that just symptomatic of these types of big games, which have a lot of set-up and a lot of effort for a game, whereas you could be playing something like Ticket to Ride inside of a couple of minutes? I do still enjoy the kinds of games that can take you a whole afternoon, don’t get me wrong – I mean, I’m a 40k player, after all! – but so often with Kickstarter games, it seems to be the case that the rules are complex and dense, making for a long game because you’re trying to work out how to play it. Games like Runebound can go long because you’re playing for a long time, not because you’re constantly referring back to the rulebook!

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the Hellboy game though, as it’s one of my favourite fictional universes, and one that I want to delve into more. The game seems a perfect vehicle for that, as we have a lot of elements from both the Hellboy and BPRD graphic novel storylines to discover. I think having a massive box of miniatures has put me off a little bit, though, as it has turned into something a little bit intimidating to work through. I can still remember my wonder when opening that honking big box of stuff, and seeing all of the various gribblies, and getting pretty excited for what this game was going to be, but then playing it seemed to fall a little flat as I just didn’t get the sense of exploration or whatever. I guess I need to give it more of a chance, but time is not something that I have a lot of these days!

For all that Kickstarter games have that allure, I have found myself selling them off because I don’t have the storage or the inclination to climb that mountain of miniatures that they come with! I’m not trying to bash these of course, and if you’re a Kickstarter fan, there’s no problem with that. For me, I find them pretty exhausting, and sometimes, they’re not even that good when it comes down to the actual gameplay. Shadows of Brimstone was a big case in point for me on that score, and I definitely had my fingers burnt with that one.

My regular gaming buddy Tony has long been a huge KS devotee, and together with his boyfriend Lee they’ve invested thousands into these types of big, miniatures-heavy, multiple-expansions-at-once sorts of games – to the point where they actually have too many games to ever really play and enjoy. Most of them have either never been played, or they might have been cracked open once to give it a go and that will be it. The half-dozen expansions that were part of the stretch goals are either still in the shrinkwrap or else have been looked at, and then returned to their boxes.

It’s quite sad, really, and I am also guilty of this, with the expansions for the Hellboy game that I’ve picked up still lying unwrapped under the bed. I definitely need to look at that one again, as I remember it being pretty good, but it seems so symptomatic of this whole situation – I’ve played that game three times, back when it was delivered in April 2019, but that has been it. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing Arkham Horror and Lord of the Rings quite a lot! Once that shiny and new has worn off, how great are these games in comparison with the old favourites?

I’m not about to launch into a sort of “back in the day” rant, but part of me does harken back to the time where you’d buy a game, then maybe 8-12 months later there’d be an expansion, then over the course of the next year you might get a couple more. With the Kickstarter model becoming seemingly more prevalent, you pretty much buy a game with at least half a dozen expansions in there as well. It seems a bit skewed and, in the case of me with the Hellboy box, it seems confusing when you have a whole bunch of stuff, only a small portion of which is actually meant to form the core game. But I do realise that is perhaps more of an issue with some companies, whereas others will provide a retail-level of game for you right off the bat, all nicely separated into their respective expansion boxes. I think the Hellboy box that I have is the equivalent of core set, two big expansions and about 4 smaller boxes.

The board gaming landscape has definitely changed, and I’m not so sure I want to keep up with it anymore. Like I said, though, if it works for you, then that’s great. I’m not really sure the new way is for me, anymore. I’ll pick up the Arkham Horror LCG for as long as that runs, but I don’t think there has really been anything that has grabbed my attention for a few years now in the mainstream (non-KS) market. Which I find weird, because I used to be such a fan of Fantasy Flight, but they appear to have really run themselves into the ground. Remember when the In-Flight Report would be an event at GenCon? When we’d have genuine excitement over what is going to come next from the company? Doesn’t really seem like there’s much going on now, outside of a couple of card games. Though I would guess that’s more on how Asmodee are choosing to run things.

There is also the other factor to consider, how my own circumstances have changed. I suppose I’ve moved from being a board gamer to being a wargamer, and have kept the small handful of games that I know I enjoy, but by and large I’m not all that open to buying a £40 game on a whim when that £40 could be spent on a new unit for one of my armies! I’ve become so much more invested in tabletop wargaming that I seem to prefer to spend my time marshalling the plastic crack, rather than playing board games. But the will is still there, of course, in the way that I enjoy stuff like Blackstone Fortress, how I’m looking at the new Kill Team and so on. I think I still want to play board games, and I will most likely still be writing about them here on the blog, though this has now primarily become a Warhammer 40k platform with the occasional card game thrown in!

I haven’t played games with Tony for years, and of course the pandemic hasn’t helped there, but we’ve been talking about recapturing the good old days, and I’m hopeful that soon, when things settle down a bit more with the kids and we can reliably have the evenings back, that we can maybe look at getting some games to the table. Perhaps play a few rounds of Magic as well, properly capturing the old game days (though with fewer 3am finishes…)

So, what was the point of this ramble? Well, I guess it’s just something that has been running round a lot in my head for a while now, and after reading Tavendale’s blog it got me thinking more and more about it. I’m not sure I have anything particularly enlightening to say, but it’s nice to get these things down on paper every so often, maybe spark some debate, or whatever!

Hellboy: The Board Game

Hellboy the board game

It’s birthday week, and it’s Hellboy week, so it’s only right for this week’s game day to take a look at the recently arrived behemoth of a board game! It’s Hellboy the board game from Mantic Games!

Originally touted on Kickstarter almost exactly a year ago, the game smashed through its £100k funding goal, eventually getting to almost £1.5million during the funding period. Ironically, of course, this isn’t really that impressive for Kickstarters these days, though I suppose for a licensed product from an established company, it is fairly standard. Designed by James Hewitt, the brains behind none other than the recent Necromunda Underhive from Games Workshop, the game is basically a dungeon crawl, with the heroes going through a series of encounters with enemy minions as they make their way through the board towards the final boss enemy. Pretty standard fare, I’m sure you’ll agree. The system is pretty straightforward as well, without anything as complex as the classic dungeon crawler Descent.

Hellboy the board game

The game begins with the Agent phase, where each hero gets the chance to make three activations. It’s a co-op game, so you can mix and match just how you make these activations – if you’ve got a better explorer character, they might be the best choice to look into a room, before the heavy hitter can then wade into the fray and start punching things.

Once the Agents have had a go, there is the Doom phase, where the Deck of Doom advances (basically the game’s version of an AI, responding slightly to the hero actions) and the Impending Doom marker advances – this can trigger the end confrontation with the enemy boss, so acts as a bit of a timer for you.

After cleanup, the new round begins with the Enemy phase, where any enemy minions on the board get to do stuff based on a keyword activation system. The whole thing is fairly slick, and there is a tutorial game included in the box to run you through the process to get started. I’ve played the tutorial twice now, and think I’ve got a fairly decent grasp of how things go as a result.

Hellboy the board game

The game isn’t really designed as a campaign system, but more as pretty much a traditional board game – you sit down, you play, you pack it all away. There are four Agents included in the game (a whole lot more in the Kickstarter edition, though I believe the game currently only supports four-player tops), each Agent coming with two Starting Gear cards. You also get to choose a piece of kit that might come in handy from the Requisition deck – each card has a cost (such as the Warding Talisman, above, costing 3), and depending on how many Agents are on the trip, you get a budget to spend on these cards. It’s fairly thematic without being overly complex. However, as far as customization options go, that’s pretty much it.

It’s worth noting, as well, that Agents can only shoot if they have a ranged weapon card, whereas they can usually always make a melee attack due to having fists or whatever. It’s something that I felt wasn’t entirely clear in the rules, and while it probably won’t always come up, you may find yourself trying to shoot with an Agent who actually can’t do so.

Hellboy the board game

The game leads up to a Confrontation, usually with the big bad guy of the scenario you’re playing – in the tutorial game, that’s the Giant Frog Monster. These chaps are quite beastly, but with some lucky dice rolling, I’ve managed to survive fairly easily. I think this is probably due to the dice mechanic of the game.

During the course of the game, you get the opportunity to examine clues, which will in turn allow you to advance the Information Gathered track. This track also contains tokens at specific points – if the track is advanced beyond these points, you collect the tokens which, during the Confrontation, allow you to upgrade dice you roll when attacking the boss. The dice system is probably the most unique thing about the game that I’ve come across. On the agent sheet shown earlier, there are four skills shown in colour-coded blocks in the top-left corner. Hellboy has a melee characteristic of red, a ranged characteristic of yellow, and both examine and defense characteristics of orange. The dice system runs from yellow dice (worst) through orange (medium) to red (best), with black dice for super-best. When making a test, you roll three coloured dice plus the blue effect die – this die can be brilliant for you, doubling the highest-scoring die result, or removing it, and all sorts in between. It’s really quite a cool mechanic, and all sorts of in-game effects can improve or reduce your dice efficacy, such as having monsters in the same board area as you, etc.

Having two information gathered tokens during the Confrontation meant that Hellboy was punching the Giant Frog Monster with two black and one red dice, however, and during my second game with Hellboy and Johan, I made some spectacular rolls for both of them, meaning that, even though Johan was nearly dead (well, dead-er), I was able to defeat the monster after only a single activation of the big bad guy.

Hellboy the board game

The miniatures are pretty decent for gaming pieces. Since I became a Warhammer nerd, I’ve become super critical of these things, but even the plastic pieces are really quite nicely detailed, overall. I didn’t get the resin miniatures, but I’d imagine they’re even more detailed.

The Kickstarter box is an absolute beast, and certainly the biggest game I’ve ever bought. It manages to fit the core game and two full expansions inside, as well as a host of the Kickstarter stretch goals unlocked throughout the campaign. I find this quite an exciting experience, and quite interesting in the way that Kickstarter games work. I’ve basically bought a core game and two big-box expansions, with maybe three or four smaller expansions on top. I suppose I’m just used to buying into games at a slower pace!

Hellboy the board game

In addition to the core game, we get the Conqueror Worm and the BPRD Archives expansions in here. Conqueror Worm is a new scenario, alongside Nazi minions and, of course, the giant Worm itself as a boss miniature. The BPRD Archives expansion is a curious beast, as it is basically a whole collection of standalone scenarios that allows you to create whatever game you want. Rules for setting up the board, including which minions and bosses to fight, are all included on tarot-sized cards, and there is a veritable menagerie of enemy miniatures included for you to battle. I’ve not tried that method of play yet, but from briefly looking through the process, it seems quite straightforward, and there are promises for future expansions to include stuff for this deck constructor mode, ensuring that you can always use this expansion to create new games with the mountain of stuff available!

So far as Kickstarter exclusives go, there seems to have been a bit of a redesign for their inclusion in the box, and I do quite like it. There’s a design blog from James Hewitt that talks about how these things work, and the original concept of villains with their own Confrontations has shifted to the more modular inclusion of Fiend cards that allow these Lieutenant-style baddies to show up without waiting for the very end. I like this because the game can otherwise feel like a massive swing – from one minute battling minions to suddenly having a huge beast to contend with.

There is part of me that wishes we could get some kind of reward for defeating such villains, though I suppose I’m just thinking on a simplistic level. It’s not like every bad guy is carrying round bags of gold that they drop as soon as you defeat them!

On a similar note, I’ve seen a lot of people express disappointment online for the lack of a campaign system, and the inclusion of the sandbox-type BPRD Archives expansion seems to have been an affront to such people, who feel it lazy or somesuch. Personally, I think it’s a terrific way to expand the game, allowing for a whole lot of replayability, and the random-encounter feeling of the game is very much in keeping with the fairly random-encounter feeling of the comics. Sure, the storylines do weave in and out of each other, but there are a lot of one-shot-style adventures our intrepid heroes embark upon, and that is quite decently replicated here. It’s great for people who want those kind of one-off games, and you’ve got to remember, Hellboy pretty much exists as he is  in the comics: he doesn’t really level-up and become better at what he does, he just does it all the way through. Not saying he doesn’t learn lessons of course, but that’s what the Information Gathered track is there for.

It’s also how James Hewitt originally envisaged the game design, being modular and customisable like this.

I like it, anyway!

Hellboy the board game

Backers still have the Box Full of Evil to come, which features some more Kickstarter stretch goals and two mini-expansions, not sure when we can expect that to arrive at the moment, but hopefully it’ll arrive soon. In the meantime, it’s not like I don’t have absolute masses of game material to wade through and enjoy!!

Shadows of Brimstone has arrived!

Well…

Following the end of the kickstarter back in November 2013, it’s been a long and boring wait for my pledges to be fulfilled. But now, they have, and I have to say: I’m really overwhelmed!

I’ve had a peculiar relationship with this game, going from overwhelming enthusiasm for it during the kickstarter campaign, to severe disappointment when the core sets were delivered. I’ve played it a couple of times, and I can’t work out if I actually enjoy it or not, so it has spent a very long time on the shelf.

However!

I believe I’ve now had everything delivered, though I’m not entirely sure about a couple of things I had added in the pledge manager, so need to try and go through it all again. Some things I’ve decided to sell off, as I have pretty much everything twice, so I’ve been separating off a few bits that are easy enough to do this with, but even so – wow!

Allure of the New
In doing all of this, I’ve been surprised at how I’m actually feeling a bit better-predisposed towards it now that all of the additional material has arrived. This is probably just the allure of the new, and I’m intrigued to see whether this means I’ll be playing with it anytime soon…

It’s a bit silly, really, to want to play with some of the new stuff so soon. I have barely scratched the surface of the core sets, so I’m hardly about to start throwing something like the Ancient One into the mix! I’ve played the game a total of 8 times, according to my stats on boardgamegeek, though the last time I played was in June 2015. I think it might be interesting to do something like build up some Targa stuff, then return to Cities of Death and introduce some of the new stuff that way. Maybe.

But that said, I really like the look of those Mission Packs…

I’ve only briefly looked at the miniatures, and they don’t look that better in terms of quality than the core set stuff, which is disappointing. But I love the fact that FFP have continued to include additional bits and pieces of cardboard to help with narrative stuff. It’s one of the things I always love about their games, and has again begun to draw me back into wanting to play with this stuff once again…

At any rate, I’m hoping to start going through this stuff soon enough, and will eventually get the long-talked-about game day blog on it! Stay tuned folks!!

Kickstarter Burnout?

Last week, I read this really insightful article on the place of Kickstarter games in today’s gaming culture, and was inspired to take a look at my own experiences and opinions on the pre-order system for today’s game day blog.

Now, I’m not exactly a kickstarter expert, although I have backed a modest number of such things over the years. A quick look at my boardgamegeek collection shows a total of 5:
Fallen
Ghostbusters
Journey: Wrath of Demons
Lagoon
Shadows of Brimstone

Along with 4 previously owned:
Blood Rage
Draco Magi
Nova Cry
Red Dragon Inn 4
(Additionally, I’ve bought games like Thunderbirds and Xenoshyft: Onslaught after the kickstarter backing period, though both of these games have since been sold on).

I’ve talked about quite a few of these games on my blog over the years, as it happens, and I’m still intending to feature Shadows of Brimstone at some point in the not-too-distant future (maybe when I eventually get everything that I paid for…) Looking at this list, however, after reading the article from The Opinionated Gamers, has made me think about my history with Kickstarter in general, from the heady days of 2013 when I was chomping at the bit for games like Fallen and Shadows of Brimstone. In particular, it’s made me consider how I feel about the system these days.

My brief history
So I actually used Kickstarter originally to support Christopher West, who made a lot of the maps for the Star Wars Miniatures game. I think I bought four of his map packs in total, and they were really nice, solid products that I was happy to include within my game collection. At the time, I wasn’t playing a massive amount of board games, having recently split up from my ex (who had initially introduced me to tabletop games like Carcassonne). I bought the maps, used them a couple of times, then slowly moved away from SWM anyway.

Then, somehow, I discovered Slugfest Games were making a fourth Red Dragon Inn game via Kickstarter, and so returned to the site to check it out. I think I managed to get in at the very end of the campaign, but still got all of the nice exclusive drinks and stuff. Score one for me!

It was RDI4 that seemed to set me off the rails, though, as I would browse KS for other tabletop games similar to those old stalwarts of my collection such as Runebound, and it was with no small measure of excitement that I discovered Fallen. There are a lot of issues with the company here, which I won’t get into now, but Fallen itself is actually a really good game. It has beautiful art, and plays fairly straightforwardly, though is really quite the immersive experience. Definitely a good card game.

Fallen

Over the months, I backed a series of other, progressively bigger games, including the behemoth that is Shadows of Brimstone. I’ve talked about this game extensively on my blog already, though still haven’t managed to do an actual game day blog on it. At any rate, you may already know that I dropped thousands of dollars on the game (I’m actually in it!) and yet, once the core games were delivered, I was distinctly underwhelmed. With the arrival of games like Blood Rage and Journey, I began to re-evaluate my relationship with Kickstarter and, while both these games have incredibly impressive miniatures, I found that there was a distinct lack of something to these games.

The Problem (I think)
The Opinionated Gamers talk about “the chrome” of these games, and the allure of the shiny, and I think this is a very valid point in this situation. A lot of successful games on Kickstarter have a lot of shiny parts. Be it the glossy fantasy art that graces the cards of Fallen, or the intricately sculpted miniatures in Journey, these games have gone all-in on their style. But how is the substance? Is it even there? Shadows of Brimstone uses a fairly simple game engine that Flying Frog Productions have used in pretty much all of their previous games, yet it has elements added on to make it slightly cumbersome. This is a bit of an exception, because by and large you know what you’re getting from FFP. Other games do feel a little bit hit and miss, and I think this could well be due to the home grown nature of Kickstarter games.

Journey Wrath of Demons

Take Journey: Wrath of Demons, for example. This is a co-op game where players have the option during combat of cleansing the soul of their demon opponent. It sounds like a really neat concept, and from what I remember of the couple of games I’ve played, it was quite interesting, but otherwise the game is the standard dungeon-crawl-style of game with an Oriental setting. Xenoshyft: Onslaught is a deck-building game where you buy cards and they go directly into your hand; otherwise, the game plays pretty much like Thunderstone. These games feel a bit like the designers came up with a cool idea during a game of something else, and decided to implement it on their own. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does often feel like, once you’re past that shiny new mechanic, there isn’t really a great deal of substance underneath the game – certainly not enough to compete with those games from established publishers.

The Opinionated Gamers article also mentions playtesting as being more rigorous with established companies, though many Kickstarter games have the promise of “years of development and testing” and the like, and not just those from companies like FFP or CMoN. Being an optimist, I’m inclined to believe them, and I don’t think I’ve yet played a game that doesn’t feel playtested.

Of course, new companies using Kickstarter are – in my experience – more concerned with showing off their beautiful components for their games, and I think this is the major problem with a lot of these games, that they’re all about style over substance. Journey does look beautiful, down to its anatomically-correct bull miniatures, but the gameplay hasn’t been good enough to draw me into playing it any more since September 2015. I haven’t touched Shadows of Brimstone in two years, save to move the box into my closet. Once I’ve seen all of the shiny new stuff, I’m actually quite apathetic towards these games – largely because there isn’t much actual game there.

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Cryptozoic’s Ghostbusters game was actually pretty decent, with some flavourful mechanics that did actually engage me enough to play a campaign with it, and while I’ve hardly been playing it every weekend, that’s probably more to a shift in my gaming life recently towards fewer large-scale games. Of all of the Kickstarter games that I have, Ghostbusters is probably the only one I find myself wanting to play more of. Though I freely admit that’s probably as much down to my nostalgia for the franchise.

Nowadays
These days, I avoid Kickstarter like the plague. I usually blame my burnout on Shadows of Brimstone, the game that I spent over $2300 on, as the parts that I have so far received, three and a half years after the campaign ended, were distinctly sub-standard. Tony, my regular gaming buddy and the chap who often encouraged my Kickstarter excesses, has completely embraced it and, together with his partner Lee, has backed dozens of projects in recent years. All of these games tend to be miniatures-heavy, though all of them tend to be consigned to the bottom of his pile of games, in favour of stuff like Last Night on Earth and Lords of Waterdeep.

This seems to be the problem with KS games for me. They look amazing, but looks aren’t everything, and I doubt anybody would want to play a dull-as-hell game just because it looks so pretty. There needs to be more than just awesome models to keep you wanting to play it, and even if you feel you need to keep playing it to get your money’s worth (like me and Shadows of Brimstone, for a while!) it’s eventually going to wear on you.

At the top of this post, I mentioned that I previously owned 4 games that I had backed via Kickstarter, and have bought more at retail that I’ve since sold on as well. In addition to this, I’m actually considering off-loading Journey, though I’ll admit that I want to try it again before I do. I think this attitude towards these games does say a lot for my current view, at any rate. There just isn’t enough substance to a lot of these things to make me want to keep them, despite the amount of money I spent in backing them.

I did back the second Ghostbusters game Cryptozoic put out last year, and am cautiously awaiting its delivery, but right now, I think I’m done with Kickstarter. I think I’m just not that interested in pledging my support for a game that is essentially something I already have, just with a couple of minor tweaks and a re-skin. I think I have enough games already, and I’m not really keen on adding more, even if they do come with a myriad of associated micro-expansion “KS Exclusive!” miniatures…

Who ya gonna call?

It’s birthday week again at spalanz.com, as my blog turns two on Thursday – aww! To celebrate, I’m having another theme-week, though not quite as expansive as last year’s Indiana Jones week unfortunately. But it’s still amazing, as we once again return to a beloved franchise from the 1980s – it’s Ghostbusters!

I’ve got a couple of blogs coming later in the week that will be waxing lyrical on the movies and such, so you can definitely look forward to those, but it’s Tuesday, so it’s time for a game day blog – and one that I’ve been really looking forward to sharing with you guys: it’s the new board game from Cryptozoic!

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Well, it was new back last November, but anyway. This was a kickstarter game that was funded in March 2015, and eventually found its way to me later that year. It’s a relatively straightforward game, where you play one of the iconic four Ghostbusters – Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, or Winston Zeddemore:

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

(Other Ghostbusters are available…)

During the game, you get the opportunity to level up your character by busting ghosts, which gives your character additional skills – it’s a simplified RPG-style system, and one that I am pretty impressed by!

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Ghosts come in different classes, which roughly denotes how difficult they are to deal with, and feature the mechanics used to both move and trap them (more on this shortly). The ghost miniatures are all this clear-blue plastic, with the exception of Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (white, obviously) and Slimer (in green). Something I think is really cool is that whenever a ghost moves into another ghost, they become a bigger threat, turning into a ghost of the next class up! Wonderful!

The game is played according to different scenarios, outlined on their own cards:

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

These cards show how to set up the map tiles, where to place ghost miniatures, etc, and feature the win conditions.

So let’s talk gameplay.

The game round is split between the Ghostbusters’ movement, any “end of round” effects, then the Event die is rolled. On a Ghostbuster’s turn, you have two actions to choose from, such as moving, aiding others, and combat. The main focus is of course combat, as you try to rid the streets of New York of all the paranormal manifestations!

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Importantly, to hit a ghost, you must have line of sight to it – so any terrain features outlined on the map can potentially block you. You also need to be no more than 3 spaces away from it. Each ghost has a to hit and to trap value on its card – when you’re fighting it, you roll a d6 and try to equal or exceed the hit value. If you’re successful, you’ll get to put a proton stream marker underneath that ghost (as shown above, Egon has hit the Boogaloo Manifestation once, so he gets to put one stream token under it). Class 1 ghosts only require one stream token to trap them, so if you hit them, you get to remove them from the board and place them on your character sheet; otherwise, the ghosts will continue to move around with that stream token under them until they are trapped – hit enough times to have stream tokens under them equal to their to trap value. When this happens, the Ghostbuster who put the final stream token on the ghost gets it, but anyone else who had stream tokens under the ghost gets 1XP. Ghostbusters also have some abilities to gain additional XP from their abilities.

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Once each Ghostbuster has had their allotted two actions, if the scenario card shows any end-of-round actions, they’ll happen, then the event die is rolled. This is a custom d6 with the Zener Card symbols (from Venkman’s test at the beginning of the movie?) – the scenario card tells you how many gates there are open on the map, represented by cardboard tokens as seen in the above photo. These gates also have the symbols on them, and if the symbol rolled matches an open gate, a new ghost will come out of it.

The way these ghosts come out is pretty nice, as well – there is another cardboard tile that represents a PKE meter, with numbers 1-8 around a central square. You roll a d8 to determine which square the ghost will emerge onto, imagining the gate tile as being the central square. The event die also has an eight-pointed Chaos star (if you’re familiar with Warhammer, you’ll know this one). This represents Chaos and each ghost on the map will move according to its reference card.

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

This is a really fun game, I like it a lot! The rulebook isn’t particularly great, which made my very first game a bit confusing as I tried to make sense of what I was doing in terms of the round structure or whatever, but once I got past that, I think it went pretty smoothly and I quickly got into it – after which, I quickly discovered that I really loved it!

The basic game that you can get at retail has a lot of fun, but the kickstarter version has got a whole ton of extras, and it would be remiss of me to not mention this. To be blunt, the kickstarter campaign was a bit of a mess. Almost all of the classic movie stuff was kickstarter exclusive, including the librarian, Gozer and the dogs, etc, which was something of a bizarre move from such an established game company. As of the time of this writing, there is a second game up on kickstarter, which has a lot of this kickstarter loot available in add-ons, and anyone who picked up this game at retail should definitely look into that. It’s not all of the content, unfortunately, but it’s a lot of it.

The scenarios are where the game shines of course, and there are plenty of them to keep you going through so much gaming, and they are a whole ton of fun.

Pick up a copy today!

New stuff Monday!

So this dropped today, and I have to say I’m finally thinking this might be worth looking into now. I’m not the biggest fan of Suicide Squad, I have to say – always found it a bit unnecessarily violent, to be honest, but after watching the new trailer, I’m really interested… Might even pick up a graphic novel at some point, see if there’s anything to it…

The Ghostbusters II board game has gone live on kickstarter today, and looks a lot of fun! I have a blog upcoming for the first game soon, but suffice it to say, it is great. The second game looks to be just as fun – I’m particularly pleased to see Jail Jaw and Mail Fraud, two of the great ghosts from the toy line!

So excited for these things!!

Thunderbirds: First Impressions

Hey everybody!
Time for another game day blog, and today it’s time for a first impressions of a game I picked up a few weeks ago. 5-4-3-2-1 – Thunderbirds are go!

Thunderbirds board game

It’s the new co-operative game from Matt Leacock, funded via kickstarter earlier this year. I actually had no idea this game was happening, but walked into my local store last month and it was there for sale. The manager’s enthusiasm for the game was infectious, and within a day or two I’d bought it. However, I wasn’t really in any rush to play it until this weekend, despite the numerous jokes from him about buying games but not even taking the cellophane off. At any rate, I’ve had a proper chance to try this game now, so thought I’d come along with some first impressions for you all! This is part of something I’d like to do with this blog, anyway, in providing more structure to the game day blogs I keep churning out: during the month, I’d like to get at least one first impressions (though I guess that depends on whether I’ve tried any new games that month) and at least one really in-depth review, with the other blogs falling somewhere in between. Well, we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway!

So Thunderbirds, for those of you who don’t know, is a British TV series from the 1960s, using marionettes to tell espionage-style rescue stories set in the 2060s. I remember the show from the repeats during the early 1990s, where my dad’s enthusiasm for the show prompted little 8-year-old me to take an interest. Ah, the memories!

Thunderbirds board game

The game takes this idea of rescue missions as its basis, and features a Pandemic-style game-play as you have to both stop the evil machinations of the Hood while also performing rescue missions across the globe. Other mechanics from Leacock’s previous games, notably Forbidden Island, also make an appearance.

Thunderbirds board game

Players take the role of one of the five Tracy brothers, or Lady Penelope, and move around the board in the Thunderbird machines performing said rescues and foiling the Hood’s schemes. On your turn, you have four actions, and can also perform however many “operations” that you like. So you can move, rescue, take special actions, draw cards, and so on, but to facilitate certain actions, you have these operations, such as moving between vehicles on the same space, or defeating the sinister schemes. If you defeat all three Schemes before the Hood figure gets to the end of his track, then you win! If you fail to do this, or if you allow too many disasters to break out, then you lose.

Something that, I have to admit, I found a little difficult at first was the fact that anyone can pilot any of the Thunderbird machines. I know it happened in the show, of course, but it still felt kinda wrong to have Virgil in Thunderbird 3 and John in Thunderbird 4, but it was something that I soon got over. I was also surprised at the level of planning needed to get this game moving. In order to perform rescues and avert the disasters, you need to be in a specific location and roll higher than the disaster’s number on two six-sided dice.

Thunderbirds board game

It’s theoretically possible for any player to avert any disaster, as 9 seems to be the highest number to beat, while rolls of 10 are possible. In the above example, John is piloting Thunderbird 1 in Asia, so he can use the +2 bonus listed on the card to lower the difficulty. Of course, if we’d been playing more efficiently, we’d have used Scott in Thunderbird 1 as well, as he has a +2 bonus to any air mission, as well as getting at least one of the pod vehicles on the scene. However, with a roll of 8, John alone was enough to avert this one!

Thunderbirds board game

When you avert the disaster, you gain the bonuses shown on the lower-left corner of the card. These bonus tokens have a variety of uses, from allowing you to draw FAB cards (which provide useful, one-time bonuses and other events) to giving you extra actions or allowing you to construct pod vehicles to help in future disasters. They’re also required to stop the Hood’s schemes.

Thunderbirds board game

The Hood track features a mixture of events and schemes, and when the Hood figure reaches a set point along the track, either the event will trigger – usually crippling player actions until something is done, such as discarding a bonus token – or the scheme will be completed. The Hood moves along the track whenever a player uses an action to draw a FAB card, or if the Hood is rolled on the dice. As it happened, in my first game the Hood barely moved at all, as John’s ability while in Thunderbird 5 prevents the latter from happening, and you can draw FAB cards through spending bonus tokens without any drawback.

The schemes are numbered 1-4, and get progressively worse as you move through – from having to spend tokens in one place, to having to do two separate actions at progressively wider locations. It’s a great scaling mechanism, anyway!

Thunderbirds board game

The game is a lot of fun, and requires a great deal of strategic thinking in terms of where you’re moving to all the time. A lot of the appeal of this game will come from the theme, so if you remember enjoying the TV series during any of its runs, you’ll likely get a lot more out of this than someone who is playing it as a rescue-style board game as-is. For me, it brought back a lot of memories (“Rick – ping! – O’Shea!”), and I had a real blast moving around the board trying to avert all these disasters. I also really like co-op games, so it has that going for it as well. If you liked Pandemic, or Forbidden Island, then you’ll probably like this one as well. Definitely worth picking up!