Results for category "Review"

Game Review: Battle Wizards

My favorite game publisher isn’t one of the huge ones (although they are fairly prolific thanks to licensed properties). And they’ve made a few great games but nothing that’s blown up to huge proportions (though that may change thanks to Wil Wheaton’s show Tabletop playing a game of theirs in an upcoming episode). You may not recognize their name or any of their content (yet), but in my humble opinion they offer some of the most fun and funny gameplay in modern gaming. This is the first of their games I have reviewed, but it certainly won’t be the last. Not Mayfair. Not Steve Jackson. Not Parker Brothers, God not Parker Brothers. And not even Rio Grande! The publishing company I love the most (besides Proud Mammal (in potentia) of course) is Cryptozoic Entertainment.

taken from http://kastorskorner.com/wp/2013/02/15/cryptozoic-toy-fair-2013/

And their logo is cool too.

This love affair with Crytozoic started with the game that I’m going to review today. Already, before I’ve even mentioned what game it is (aside from the title of the article), you can tell that I’m going to be giving this game a big thumbs up, but don’t worry because I’ll tell you what I think is wrong with it too. But there’s really not much for me to complain about, this game has everything that I personally want from a game. It’s simple enough to teach in 2 minutes but has complexities that only come with knowing the entirety of the game, it puts an emphasis on humor in card art and writing AND gameplay, and to top it all off… it’s fun. Welcome to my review of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre.

Battle Wizards, as I will refer to the enormously titled game hence forth, is a card based combat game where the goal is to completely annihilate your opponents with silly sounding spells. As I mentioned before, the gameplay is very simple. All you have to do is pick 3 (or less) cards to add to your spell with the only caveat is that you can only have a maximum of 1 of each category of card (Source : Quality : Deliver). That’s all you need to know! First time players will need to be shown what that means, but it’s very easy to grasp and the art of the cards reinforce the order better than any rulebook ever could. There’s also some stuff about rolling dice that might need explaination, but it’s included in that 2 minute prep course, so it’s really not that complex.  It’s all very intuitively designed, just take a look at these cards.

taken from http://boardgaming.com/games/card-games/epic-spell-wars-of-the-battle-wizards-duel-at-mt-skullzfyre

A thing of beauty.

But I didn’t even get to the best part yet. How damn funny the whole thing is. Some more squeamish players might not find the art as humorous as I do, but I’ve been a watcher of horror movies my whole life, I just get a kick out of over the top gore. For the person with the right sense of humor, this game will make you laugh every time you draw a card. And there’s one more cherry on top of this sundae… “Wizard Voice”. This is the rule that will let you know if you should be friends with the people you’re playing with (or if you should no longer be friends). Players, when they cast their spell, have to assume their best “Wizard Voice” and it’s just the best when people really get into it. It’s enough to give everyone a laugh every time someone plays a spell, which could potentially be every 45 seconds if the game is moving swiftly. Which is damn good for a combat based game. See below for an example of Wizard Voice (kind of).

I can’t remember a time when I played Battle Wizards and didn’t have a great time. It’s a perfect game for beginners but can get really cutthroat if you play with a group who know what they’re doing. I love it. It’s absolutely in my top 5 games (I didn’t really think about what the other one’s might be, soooo… it could rank even higher).

That said, I’m often a nitpicky person and it’s not hard for me to find things in any media I consume that could be changed for (what I believe to be) the better. Just a short list, but here you go.

#1 Include more Health Markers and dice with the game. 1 marker and die for each character sheet would have been very convenient. The game never mentions a player limit, although the ingredients of the box limit you to 6 players. I suppose the players are limited to keep the game moving at a brisk pace or to make sure you don’t have to shuffle the deck every single round, but that burden is on the player, the gameplay itself could handle that many people and there have been times that I wanted it to, but couldn’t because there weren’t enough parts in the box. The same goes for dice, while you’ll never NEED more than the 4 that come with the game, just a couple extra dice would help the game move faster when somebody plays a card that requires everyone to roll. Which brings me to…

#2 Downtime. The game can have lulls where either players who don’t know the game well enough are trying to build spells from their hand (and everyone is waiting on them) or where you’re dead and waiting for the next round to begin. The game tries to nullify the waiting when dead problem by making you stronger the next round (via Dead Wizard Cards that boost your power in the next round), but it’s not fun to die in the first round and have to wait 3 rounds for the game to catch up to you. And when it comes to the player who doesn’t know the deck, well, just wait for them. Eventually they’ll get on level with you, but until that point, cut them some slack.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about Battle Wizards. It’s a great game, from a quality company, that you should play all the time. If you have 20 spare bucks and you already own the entire Proud Mammal line of games, books, movies, graphic novels and comics, t-shirts and also have at least a six month supply of our energy drinks, then I wholly endorse giving your money to them instead.

One last thing, I want to give a shout out to the artist of Battle Wizards. His name is Nick Edwards and he does some really righteously cool shit (click the awesome picture below to link to his tumblr site).

taken from http://nick-edwards.blogspot.com/

Nick Edwards is awesome.

Game Review: Cards Against Humanity

Already, in my second review, I regret establishing a rubric to grade the games that I play. Some games simply don’t fall into the appropriate headings. So consider that grading system repealed. I never want to be beholden to the system when a game that doesn’t fit comes along. And that’s what I’m going to be talking about today, the popular funny-word-shouty game called Cards Against Humanity.

Image Taken from Amazon

This game.

Yes. I invented the genre classification of funny-word-shouty game and I’ll use it quite liberally throughout the article when making comparisons. “But you don’t shout anything out in Cards Against Humanity”, someone might angrily point out. Well you’re right, but the core concept of every game that I’m going to classify as a funny-word-shouty game involves promoting (or provoking) fun and humor through the use of words or actions especially via other players. Some of them involves shouting things out, some of them don’t, but they all have the same end goal with their style of play. Perhaps I could have come up with a better genre title, but I’d rather write about the games than build complex taxonomies. Does that appease you? “Well, yes.” Good. Then lets get started.

The whole funny-word-shouty game genre seems to have emerged in the mid 1800s with the extremely well known game Charades. Charades, as far as I can tell, is the mother game of the whole genre. The omnipresent acting game that everyone should know about is all about being both competitive and silly at the same time, which highlights the great thing about this genre; it means that you don’t need to winning to be having fun. Every single one of these funny-word-shouty games core conceit is fun for the sake of fun. See if you agree with me.

Image taken from www.obeygiant.com

^ What he said. ^

Another influence for my subject this week is certainly Mad Libs, the game-book where kids install their own nouns, verbs, and such into stories to humorous effect. Mad Libs presented a shift in the genre, for 100 years the game had been played physically with people moving around and acting and guessing. It moves us into a more sedentary lifestyle of sitting around a table rather than standing in the living room. Which is great for board gamers, because we love to sit.

The next few games I’m going to mention are obvious influences for Cards Against Humanity and they’re much more alike than the originators of the genre. They are: Balderdash (With the right group, it can be even more offensive today’s topic), Pictionary (the funny-word-shouty game that in my opinion best represents the genre), and finally Apples to Apples. Apples to Apples is so similar to Cards Against Humanity they may as well be identical cousins. They differ in very few regards, of course their text is different and they look different but in the important gameplay aspects they’re almost the same, the biggest most egregious difference is… only one of these games has a real win condition.

The Cards Against Humanity rulebook is literally one page and only half of that is actual content. And that’s great! I love games that take seconds to teach someone. It means we can get to the game all the faster. My problem comes when there isn’t a way for the game to end. “Hey Jerk”, someone out there is saying right now, “I like that Cards Against Humanity doesn’t make me stop playing, it’s not the boss of me, I’m the boss of it.” Good point anonymous name caller, games are often bogged down by the ideas that their creators instill into them. Like last week with the game Ikusa, they forced a convoluted dice rolling system into a game that could have been simpler. If they asked players to come up with a fighting mechanic, I bet nearly every polled player would have come up with something simpler. Some people don’t like to stop playing games, and that’s absolutely up to them. I love them for it, but at some point… during my first ever game of Cards Against Humanity, going into the second hour or play, I found myself thinking ‘why can’t this game just be over?’

“I’m going to come to your house and beat your brains in! Cards Against Humanity is my favorite game in the whole world, bro!” Settle down, man! I’m not saying you have to stop playing. Just build a fatigue buffer into the system. That is my main issue with the game; the people who play it just never want to stop and it seems like everyone wants to play. I don’t know how they captivated their audience like they did, but they targeted a fiercely loyal and obsessive demographic. The same groups of people that love other mediocre things that are good at the start but quickly peter out, like Family Guy, Starbucks, and every single restaurant chain on the planet. And just like those things, I never find myself wanting more after the first serving.

Image taken from Wikipedia

Especially this one.

Is this a personal problem? Quite likely, but this is also a review filled with opinion. So suck it up, crybaby. “Brodudeski, you didn’t read the House Rules section of the rulebook! They talk about ending the game over there!” Ahem, bro, they talk about ending the game after everyone is tired of playing, not because someone has won. “Then just make up your own rules, making shit up is totally ham!” Sure, I could, and I certainly would if I owned the game and organized a group to play. But that isn’t me, I’m never the guy whipping it out at a party and it would be rude on top of presumptive of me to enforce my own rules on the situation. So it’s really up to the truely ham bros out there to elicit their own changes. I’m pretty sure they won’t. “Me and my bros at the frat house play every night, all 15 of us!” Really? And what do you guys do while you wait? “Wuh?” You know, because having 15 people play Cards Against Humanity just becomes an incredible time sink of listening to people read cards that quickly lose their humor. “Dude, it’s hilarious every single time.” To each their own.

I can’t put this under the review headline when I’m just complaining about one poor aspect of their design, so I’ll shove a couple of things in here that make me smile. I love the fact that they put their game online for free, good stuff. I really wish more companies would take on that try it before you buy it mentality. Also I loved the first hour and a half I played of this game. It’s funny and dark and worth a try. “That’s what I like to hear!” You’re welcome.

Bottom Line

Cards against humanity is a funny-word-shouty game that will make or break a party, and nothing in between. It catches attentions and it holds them for an inordinate amount of time.

If you want my suggestion, play until someone wins 3 cards, then just play again if you’re not sated. Otherwise it becomes a Möbius strip of mildly humorous word diarrhea with half the players eating it up and everyone else just hoping someone else is brave enough to leave the table first.

 

95% unrelated Post Script! – Our friend Mariko over at Artsy wants everybody to know that the Say Yes Cover art up there is a work by Shepard Fairey. You can see/read/learn more about him over at their dedicated page https://www.artsy.net/artist/shepard-fairey Check it out!

Game Review #1: Ikusa

Hello everyone, and welcome to the very first Proud Mammal Chronicles review.  Be forewarned, take everything I say with a grain of salt, because I’m only presenting my own opinion (except where stated) and I won’t be posting any sources (except for direct quotes and images). This month I’m focusing on a war game that attempts to mix equal parts luck and strategy, did it succeed? No. Well… Sort of. Depends.

In 1984 Milton Bradley started their Gamemaster series of board games with a re-release of a 1981 game that most people will at least recognize, Axis & Allies. I don’t think anyone would argue that Axis & Allies has a reputation for complexity. Not necessarily in mechanics, though first timers may have issues with figuring out how everything works in time to save their own life, and not necessarily in strategy either because someone should be able to help you plan at least a basic tactic. The complexity of Axis & Allies really comes from finding someone to play it with (HarHar, just kidding). Seriously though, it’s a game that can last all day, literally from sunrise to sunset, and you have to be hardcore and have hardcore friends to finish a game. This seems to be the common theme for the Gamemaster series (he says speculatively due to his never having played Conquest of the Empire, Broadsides and Boarding Parties, or Fortress America). But that hardcore attitude is certainly true for the final game released under the Gamemaster heading; the game that I played recently. Originally called Shogun and later changed to Samurai Swords, and currently, due to naming rights, the game goes by Ikusa.

Image sourced from magisterrex Retro Games

72 hours worth of game, in 3 boxes.

Ikusa is the anglicized version of the Japanese word for battle, and boy is it appropriate seeing as most of your time playing the game will be working your way through the protracted combat system.

Whoa whoa, hold up, I’m getting ahead of myself; I really don’t want to shit on Ikusa because I actually had fun playing this beautifully produced board game. The first thing you’ll notice when you open the box is how wonderful the artwork is. The board itself is a nice period representation of Japan, the secrecy screens are all fantastic illustrations and even the little plastic soldiers have nice detail.

Image sourced from Vintage Ninja

Just look at the attention paid to that itty-bitty castle

Now that you’ve seen what’s in the box, it’s time to play, and as with the other Gamemaster games, it has quite a lot of set-up for you to do. But actually, it’s very smooth during the set-up phase. Ikusa starts you off by passing out territory cards in much the same way that certain version of Risk will have you do. Then you just take turns setting out your armies and provincial forces. It’s slick and it’s fast and gets everyone to the game quickly. So I like it.

Ikusa also has a money allocation system that is both intuitive and flexible. There are quite a few ways to spend your money and they’re all useful at some point during gameplay. That’s all fine and dandy, but I particularly appreciate the mind games you can play with the other people at the table. Some of the things you can put money towards, only one player can use each round, and the players that don’t put the most money towards those items (i.e. win) just lose the coinage that they bid towards it. The bluffing, low balling and outright lies could get pretty fun to work around in this section of the game.

That’s not to say that the money allocation system is infallible. The actual way that you gain money in the game is based on how many territories you hold. Which ends up just kicking a guy when they’re down. One strategic mistake or a streak of bad luck can put you out of the running as early as the first player’s turn. The game is supposed to take a long time to play, about four hours according to the box, and it just isn’t fun to get knocked out of contention for victory immediately. If you’re on the defensive and losing, there is just no way to come back except through an incredible string of lucky combat rolls, or by having everyone else take pity on you and just ignore the crippled guy in the corner of the map.

Speaking of lucky combat rolls. Lets talk about the combat, the part of the game that I liked the least. The entire game is spent rolling the dice, not because you’re constantly making progress or having a fun back and forth but because you’re being forced to drudge your way through 6 different sequences of combat for each player. And not to sound entitled, but if you pay as much for Ikusa as they charge, they could include a few more dice; just so each player could roll at the same time. Doubling the amount of dice in the box would cut the playtime of the game by a third.

The way that combat works is, first your ranged units attack each other, and then your melee units attack each other. Sides take simultaneous casualties and correct unit removal can make the difference between winning and losing a skirmish. All good so far, right? The problem is that every class of soldier attacks at a different time, they must attack in a specific order, and they all have different die values that you’ll, likely, have to keep checking on a regular basis (at least at the beginning). The worst part is that only two people can do this at any one time. Who knows how long you’ll be sitting, just waiting, while a battle an entire board away is fought between two players you never interact with. It’s not poorly designed; it’s just needlessly long and convoluted when everything else in the game is so smooth and easy.

Image sourced from W. Eric Martin @ Board Game Geek

Combat Sequence is listed on the right. I’m not exaggerating.

The game has so much going for it that despite these problems just about anyone could have a good time with Ikusa, and with the right group of people and the right setting it could be a blast. In fact, I’m going to give you some recommendations on how best to enjoy Ikusa. First off, pick yourself up some samurai movies. Get something classic like Roshomon or something more modern, like my personal favorite samurai inspired movie, Ghost Dog. The movie you pick to show will give everyone something to do with all of their downtime. It’ll fight boredom of having to wait for people to finish their excessively long dice rolls. Next, get something to eat that everyone can enjoy. Something thematic and satisfying. Pick up some Wasabi Peas and some Sake, maybe some gas station Sushi if you think you have enough sake to make your guests brave. Just go with the theme of Ikusa, it’s the best part of the game, and it’ll be the best part of your game night as well. It won’t fail you.

Final Thoughts: Ikusa is a good game with issues that will cause some players to hate it. But don’t let those party-poopers dissuade you, because if you like feudal Japan, beautiful art and a mostly fun strategy game. Then Ikusa was made just for you.

 

Rating

  • Luck Aspects                  C+
  • Strategy Aspects            B
  • Production Value            A
  • Fun                                B-
  • Theme Quality                A

 

  • Overall                            B