Monday, 9 December 2013
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlegamers. It's with much regret and a heartfelt apology that we have to announce a delay to "Part 2: Gamplay & Verdict" of our Sedition Wars vs Deadzone comparison, due to an unprecedented lack of opponents for both systems!
Usually when we post the box contents of a game, we've already played at least a couple of rounds and so are ready to press straight on to the gameplay side of things. With these two, on the other hand, we were so eager to get the ball rolling that we began the process before we'd even had a leaf through either rulebook! The expectation was that whilst you lovely folk were taking a peek at the difference between the box contents we'd be up to our elbows in mutant skirmishes, and the gameplay review would be ready to put up without too much delay. Unfortunatley as it's turned out we've been unable to find an opponent for a single game of either Sedition Wars or Deadzone, and so there's no immediate sign of this gameplay review on the horizon.
We did toy with the idea of taking down the previous two articles, but decided to leave them up as a box content breakdown may still be useful to anyone looking at buying one of the two box sets. At this point though, we don't anticipate the gameplay analysis being available this side of the new year.
We are chalking this up as a learning experience, as we are still a fledgling blog, and will make sure we've actually played games in the future before starting up the review process!
On that note, just because Sedition Wars vs Deadzone is on hold it doesn't mean that Games & Tea is going to be shutting down over the festive season! We've still got several games on the review pile which we have played thoroughly and are still yet to give our verdict on, so stay tuned for more excitable ramblings in the weeks to come!
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
A few days ago we posted Part 1 of a slightly different take on our usual review format; a direct comparison between Studio McVey's Sedition Wars and Mantic Games' new Deadzone. Both are 28mm hard sci-fi skirmish games, and whilst both are heavily rooted in the tabletop side of hobbying, both are also advertised as being able to run straight out of the box. To us, that allows them to be hit with the board game tag (even if only loosely), since the very nature of any board game is that you can open it up, play the game, and pack it all back into the box and shelve it when you're done.
As per usual with our board game reviews, Part 1 took a look at the box contents of both sets, comparing how the two of them shape up. There wasn't a lot to choose from by the end of the article, with Sedition Wars scoring points for more miniatures and a more practical box, but Deadzone winning some back for miniatures of a slightly higher-looking quality and some nice terrain sprues. We still haven't played games of either system yet, so Part 2 (gameplay & verdict) is still at least a week away, but due to the tabletop nature of these games we've decided to add in an extra article on how easily the models assemble (after all, model assembly is the very reason we haven't had a chance for a game yet!)
Sedition Wars contains a whopping 50 miniatures, which we mentioned in Part 1 may be a slight concern due to the inevitably long assembly time. We were also a little concerned about the amount of unsightly flash and mould lines on the models, as these would only further add to this. However, as it turned out, neither of these were particularly troublesome! There were no assembly instructions for any of the minis, and most of the Vanguard (human) models consisted of 3 or more parts, but they were bagged up in small groups and it was fairly obvious which parts matched up with which models.
We should stress at this point that enthusiastically tearing open all of the bags and upending them into the box would be a very bad idea! Open one bag at a time, assemble those models, and then move onto the next bag.
When it came to The Strain (mutants) on the other hand, many of the models were cast as a single piece, cutting assembly time down significantly. The larger Strain models were a little more complex, but once again the parts matched up in a nice, clear way, and there were (almost) no real issues in putting them together. Okay, we said "almost". The only issue was on one of the larger Strain models (our favourite model, actually!) there was a pretty bad miscast, which meant that two of the parts didn't fit together properly. We did the best we could with it and used modelling putty to hide the damage, so when painted up it should still look fine. This will, sadly, be a mark against Sedition Wars when tallying the final scores, as the requirement of slightly more advanced modelling skills, tools and materials does defeat the point of a game which can be played straight out of the box.
As it appeared at first glance, there was a fairly decent chunk of flash on almost every model, but these were very quick and easy to remove with a pair of clippers, and the mould lines were easily removed by tracing a modelling knife around the edges.
All in all, the 50 models were quite a joy to build. The level of detail is very nice on all miniatures (the large Strain models in particular), there were no issues with figuring out which parts go together. There was a small degree of customisation in the models; having choices of male or female bodies with or without helmets, which the arms and weapons could then be attached to. With the sheer number of models in the set it was inevitable that some would come out the same, but they are lost quite well in the throng and so this isn't a negative issue. They took one full evening to build (we weren't clock-watching, but we're probably looking at around 6 hours), and the results can be seen below...
|The only casting issue we had in Sedition Wars can be seen clearly on this model. A touch of modelling putty from The Hobbynomicon's Citizen Williams managed to straighten him out though!|
|The Strain's lower-level grunts.|
|...and their higher levels. These are particularly nice, with the two on either side having a very Resident Evil feel to them.|
|Two of The Vanguard's main characters - the sniper is our personal favourite out of the humans.|
|...and the other two main characters.|
|The Vanguards' grunts - with both standard and heavy weapons - and a handy little hovertank to bring some heavier firepower.|
By comparison, Deadzone is fairly model light, containing only 23 miniatures in total (actually ours contained 24 as it included a limited edition not shown here, but the standard box will contain 23). Once again, no assembly instructions were included with these miniatures, but they were bagged up in loose sets, so again we make the recommendation of assembling them in batches, rather than trying to tackle the whole set at once. The Deadzone models were blighted with the same unsightly mould lines as their Sedition Wars counterparts, but were just as easily tidied up with a modelling knife.
Unlike Sedition Wars, all models in the Deadzone set consisted of several parts. This allows for more dynamic posing on the miniatures, but the downside came in trying to match the parts up. The Enforcer (human) faction was especially bad, with several arms being bodged together quite sloppily, and by the end of it we were left with more than one miniature which we'd be embarrassed to be seen playing with. We have since learned that this is down to Mantic not being happy with the plastic Enforcer sprues and so issuing some of their old resin ones instead, with the intention of rolling out the plastic models next year. This does mean that any Deadzone boxes bought in the initial wave will suffer from this same problem, so it might be worth talking to your FLGS as they may be able to secure you some complimentary replacement enforcers upon their release. As with the miscast in Sedition Wars, this is going to be a mark against Deadzone, as it does effectively mean the box contains an imcomplete product.
The Plague (mutants) on the other hand, are a delight. The pieces fit together nice and clearly, and the detail is exquisite. One other nice thing about the Deadzone box is that whilst there is very little customisation available in the models, no two are alike. All are designed to have their own unique poses which help to identify similar units on the battlefield, and also make your squad look as though it really is comprised of individuals.
Due to the assembly issue with The Enforcers, the Deadzone miniatures actually took longer to build. Again, we weren't clock-watching, but with two entire evenings lost to assembly, it can be estimated that these 23 models took somewhere in the 10-12 hour region to put together.
|The Enforcer leader, with a couple of additional special units and some gun turrets.|
|The troublesome grunts.|
|The rather delightful Plague leader.|
|Some of the Plague grunts.|
|The Plague's larger units, in various dynamic poses.|
We have to say that on the assembly front, Sedition Wars does beat Deadzone by a small margin. Both sets have some fantastic models, and both sets have flaws, but Deadzone more than Sedition Wars. This results in a more enjoyable and quicker assembly process for Sedition Wars, even in spite of the greater number of miniatures.
So now that both sets are assembled, we can finally get onto playing some games! We're hoping to have at least a couple of models on each side painted up before the final part of the review goes up, to make the photos look a little bit nicer if nothing else. Come back in a week or two and see how the two systems fared!
Saturday, 30 November 2013
Last weekend at Birmingham Comic Con we were lucky enough to secure a copy of Studio McVey's Sedition Wars for the bargain price of just £10. It was an impulse purchase to be sure, but one that seemed too good to pass up. It had the look about it of board-game-meets-tabletop-system, similar to the previously reviewed Puppet Wars from Wyrd Miniatures - which had received a favourable score - but set in a futuristic, hard sci-fi world. Our first impulse was, of course, to tear open the box and start fawning all over our shiny new toys, but we hadn't forgotten that our copy of Mantic Games' Deadzone was due to fall into our laps in just one week, courtesy of our FLGS Titan Games, who had backed the game when it was still a Kickstarter project. Deadzone is also a hard sci-fi skirmish game which touches on both the tabletop and board game genre, so we knew that if we started off with Sedition Wars straight away then one system would inevitably end up being neglected or - even worse - abandoned in favour of the other.
It was about this time that we had something of a brainwave...
Rather than taking on each system in turn, we decided to tackle them both together! There are so many obvious similarities in styling that it made perfect sense to run their reviews as comparison articles, taking a look at box contents, material quality, casting quality and gameplay side-by-side. Obviously this will prove something of a colossal task, so other reviews will most likely be put on hold until this is complete, but we think we're up to the challenge, and it will ensure that both games get a fair assessment. Let it not be forgotten that we are first and foremost a board/card game review site! Although on a personal level we do love our tabletop systems, we will be assessing both games from a board gamers' perspective, so out-of-the-box playability is key here.
So, this afternoon we finally got our hands on the long-awaited Deadzone, so the box contents part of the comparison is ready to go! Seeing as we are looking at two games in one these articles will contain an awful lot of photos, so please bare with us as we spam your retinas with hobby goodness!
Both boxes are certainly eye-catching, featuring some gorgeous artwork. They both show at a first glance that these are combat-based sci-fi games, and the hefty sizes of both boxes do leave players feeling like they've certainly been given their money's worth.
Both are two player game systems, with Sedition Wars seeing players take on either the human Vanguard faction or the mutated Strain in a self-proclaimed survival horror game set aboard the remote Alabaster Station. In Deadzone players take on the roles of either the human Enforcers or the mutated Plague in a game advertised as "War in urban battlezones". In both cases further factions can be bought at extra cost, but as we're addressing these as stand-alone games, we won't be delving into the details.
Out of the two, Deadzone is the slightly larger product, having a deeper box than Sedition Wars. However, they both weigh a similar amount, so does that extra size mean more content, or does it just make the game more awkward to store? We'll just have to find out!
One thing we did find interesting is that out of the two boxes, Sedition Wars does have more of a board game look to it than Deadzone. It's a triviality which is not going to affect the final scores for either game, but it was an interesting point that from a board gamers' perspective we probably would have selected Sedition Wars if presented with an uninformed choice of the pair on a store shelf.
But enough with the boxes, it's time to find out what's inside them...
This may not be a standard review, but we'll still follow our usual process of showcasing the gaming board first of all, with Studio McVey and Mantic Games going down very different routes. Sedition Wars has gone with more of a board game feel, with the box containing a set of 5 double-sided modular gaming board tiles, which can be arranged to create different scenarios. These contain nice levels of detail and are printed onto thick, high quality card, much like standard game boards. If any readers have had the pleasure of playing Zombicide, they'll know the kind of thing we're talking about.
Deadzone's approach has been to include a 2'x2' fold-out gaming mat to represent the war-torn urban battlefields on which players will be facing off. Once again this is made of high quality material, and the level of detail on the business side is fantastic. At first glance this may look like Sedition Wars has the advantage with regards to customisation of the gaming area, but Deadzone isn't quite done yet...
Scenery! Lots and lots of scenery! The Deadzone box contains all of these scenery and accessory sprues as standard, allowing players to build a small city on their gaming mat and litter it with battlefield detritus and objectives.
Here's the finished product. The fact that these can be stacked and moved around the gaming mat allows for full customisation of the playing area, and Deadzone certainly racks up points for immersiveness by giving players a full three-dimensional battlefield to wage war on.
An interesting point to note is that the images in the Sedition Wars rulebook do show games being played on boards augmented with similarly well-detailed terrain pieces, but these aren't included in the starter set, so any straight-from-the-box gamers like ourselves are just left to the imagination on that front, being left with a flat gaming board to play upon. Of course this isn't a major objection as most board games are the same, but for comparison purposes it had to be said that Mantic scored some brownie points on this front.
Seeing as we just mentioned the Sedition Wars rulebook we might as well take a moment to look at the pair of them. Straight away Mantic have thrown down the gauntlet, with Deadzone's rulebook being very much a bound book in its own right. The Sedition Wars rulebook by comparison is still sizeable, but doesn't have that same feeling of opulence when flicking through its pages.
|Sedition Wars: She'd better watch where she's pointing that thing!|
|Deadzone: Cor! Rules!|
Inside, both are of a similar nature, containing exactly what you'd expect from a rulebook. Both give a rundown on the games' warring factions as well as a brief background to their respective universes. The rules are obviously covered, and both include details for running campaigns if you fancied something more in-depth than a simple one time game.
There are still a couple of elements to follow, but we'll move onto the big one now: gaming pieces!
|The many and varies bags of Sedition Wars.|
|The less many bags of Deadzone.|
From a first impression, Sedition Wars does seem to take a lead over Deadzone in this respect, with the box featuring 50 miniatures to Deadzone's 23. With both games having that tabletop element, these are provided unassembled and unpainted, with players needing to rely on their hobby skills to get them ready for action. This does make the higher model count something of a double-edged sword, as it's great to have more toys to play with, but obviously means more prep-time is needed before they're ready to go. Of course, Deadzone's scenery sprues will go some way to balancing this out.
The level of details on both sets of models is certainly very nice, but Deadzone claws some points back from Sedition Wars with regards to casting quality. Whilst both will need some filing before assembly to rid the models of unsightly mould lines, those in Sedition Wars do feature considerably more flash which needs to be clipped off before assembly. This might not sound like much, but with 50 models to trim back we can bet it's going to be a time-consuming process!.
One of the things which made the comparison between the two games easier to draw was the nature of the models. In both cases the factions seem to be split into futuristic human military on one side, and zombie-like genetic mutations on the other. At the time of writing this article we haven't finished any models on either side yet, but the following stock images from both manufacturers show the finished quality on their respective miniatures...
|Sedition Wars' Vanguard.|
|Sedition Wars' The Strain.|
Some lovely models here on both sides. From a personal point of view, we have to say we prefer the humans of Deadzone's Enforcers over those of Sedition Wars' Vanguard. The stylised oversized heads and hands of the models has never been something we're fans of, much preferring the normal human scaling favoured in the Deadzone range. However when it comes to The Strain vs Plague it's a much closer run thing! With no scaling standard when it comes to genetic abominations, these figure ranges boil entirely down to the detail level in the castings, and as you can see above there's not much between them! At a push we'd probably say we just about favour The Strain, but again that's personal preference entirely.
There are two further points that must be raised here, both in favour of Sedition Wars. First of all, the bases included with its models are scenic, making the miniatures look as though they are standing on the decking of a ship rather than the plain smooth bases of Deadzone. Secondly, the bases have handy little slots underneath them for clipping in plastic markers to signify status changes in the characters. This is a very nice touch, and makes a refreshing change from having to place tokens next to miniatures or beside their character cards. Kudos to Studio McVey for this simple, yet innovative idea.
|The character cards of Sedition Wars.|
|The faction decks of Deadzone.|
With any kind of system like this, sets of cards are usually a given. In the case of Sedition Wars, stat cards are provided for each miniature, giving players a quick-reference guide to their stats and abilities. With Deadzone it's a little different. Both sides have a 54-card Faction Deck. As well as statistics for each miniature, this deck also contains actions and objectives, mixing things up a little and giving an extra level of depth to the game.
|Sedition Wars certainly isn't shy on the token front.|
|...but neither is Deadzone, come to that.|
Both games feature a plethora of tokens, to signify all kind of weird and wonderful things (we could go into detail, but that would probably require a whole article to itself!). More isn't necessarily better when it comes to tokens, so there are no points to be dished out there, but in terms of quality the tokens from Sedition Wars are printed on higher quality card, and so will probably take more punishment before starting to go dog-eared. However, they are only printed on one side, which is unusual for game tokens, and so unless players are incredibly well organised it may be a nuisance trying to find the one you're after in a hurry.
The only unmentioned aspect of the box contents is the dice, as there's nothing particularly special about dice! Sedition Wars works on a D6 system, and so contains 8 standard D6's, whereas Deadzone is based on D8's, so contains 6 of these.
To end this box contents comparison we will make a quick note on the actual box interiors, as these can be something of a sticking point for us, as mentioned when we reviewed Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia.
Sedition Wars doesn't feature the greatest box insert in the world, but there's something there at least, and it features the same artwork as on the box cover. The channel down the centre is enough to contain the tokens and cards, although doesn't really provide much protection for the miniatures (especially once they've been lovingly painted!). The raised sections to the side allow the boards and rulebook to rest snugly on top, so all-in-all Sedition Wars is designed to be carried around as a self-contained unit.
Deadzone on the other hand, is a plain white box on the inside (hence us not bothering with a photo. There are no sections for keeping the cards, the dice, the tokens... anything, basically. It's a sizable box, and if you were to attempt to carry it around then we wouldn't like to imagine the state your various game components would be in when you reached your destination. It seems very much as though it's been designed to be discarded after opening, requiring the additional purchase of some kind of carry-case to make transport feasible. Again, looking at this from a board gamers' perspective, it's a notch in the negative column for Mantic's new release.
So that's the box contents of these two mammoth games! At this point it's difficult to say which of the two is coming out on top. Sedition Wars boasts more miniatures, and there's not a great deal between them in terms of quality. Deadzone's scenery looks set to give a more immersive gameplay experience, but Sedition Wars' modular gaming board allows for a decent degree of customisation. Deadzone has the nicer rulebook, but Sedition Wars score points for including a box which can transport the game as a whole.
From this initial comparison we'd probably say that neither games is shaping up to be a superior overall product, but Sedition Wars is in the lead as far as being a self-containted board game goes. With both systems looking very intricate it may be a couple of weeks before Part 2 of this comparison hits your screens, as we want to make sure we do both games justice! If you've been lucky enough to get your hands on an early copy of Deadzone though, or have played Sedition Wars in the past, we'd love to hear your opinions in the comments section. For now, take care, and happy gaming!
Monday, 25 November 2013
A few days ago we decided to try and make the Christmas shopping of some of you lovely folk a little bit easier with a short gamers' gift guide. One of the games featured was Fantasy Flight's Hey, That's My Fish! by Alvydas Jakeliunas and Gunter Cornett. At the time of that article we had played a couple of games but hadn't had the time to write a full review, so we're here now to rectify this issue and bring you our full thoughts on the game!
Hey, That's My Fish! is a strategy game for 2-4 players, the aim of which is to gather more fish than your opponents.
There were two things about Hey, That's My Fish! (we'll abbreviate it to HTMF! for the remainder of the review!) which instantly appealed to us. The first was the title/box art, which struck a chord with our daft sense of humour, and the two penguins on the box were soon given the permanent nicknames of Smug Penguin and Shatner Penguin. The second was the price (which we'll address at the end of the review as always), which made it too good to pass up.
Upon opening the box, we were greeted by a noticeable lack of gaming board, which might seem a severe oversight for a board game at first glance. Whilst we do still consider HTMF! to be a board game, the playing area is actually made up from a series of modular hexagonal Ice Floe Tiles, 60 of which are contained in the box.
These tiles are each illustrated with 1-3 fish which form the overall object of the game. The only other elements in the box aside from these tiles are the playing pieces...
While it's nice to support smaller, indie games, the nice thing about buying products from larger companies such as Fantasy Flight is the quality of the overall product. We were overjoyed the first time we opened the HTMF! box and saw that there were no wooden pawns or anything of that nature, but actual models of both Smug Penguin and Shatner Penguin for us to use during our games. There are four colours to choose from, and four penguins of each colour. During 2 player games each player will use all four of their penguins, for 3 players they will each use three, and in 4 player mode only two of each are used.
This summarises the box contents in their entirety! Simple? Of course. Does this mean it's a poor and unchallenging game? You should know better than to ask us that by now! Let's take a look at the gameplay...
Before HTMF! can start, the gaming area must first be laid out. The Ice Floe Tiles are shuffled up and placed in a grid as demonstrated above, with alternating rows of seven and eight tiles. The rules dictate that the tiles should be placed face-down to assist randomisation, and then flipped face-up afterwards. This seemed to us like an unnecessarily fiddly and time-consuming addition to the set up process, and we found that by simply selecting the tiles blindly from the box whilst constructing the grid meant that they could just be arranged face-up from the outset.
This is a little bit of a slow process, and if playing on a smooth surface it can get quite frustrating as the slightest knock to a single tile can upset the entire layout. We'd thoroughly recommend trying to find a nice, high-friction surface to play on - the rubberised back of a card-gaming mat has saved us a lot of aggro during our games.
With the gaming area set up, players must squabble amongst themselves over their favourite colour of penguins, and then they're ready for their initial placement...
At the beginning of the game each player must place their penguins on Ice Floe Tiles containing only a single fish. Players alternate, placing one penguin at a time until all of them are on the board, and then the game is ready to start!
As mentioned earlier, the aim of HTMF! is to gather more fish than your opponents. Each player takes it in turn moving a single penguin. Penguins can move as many spaces as they want in a single turn, but must move in a straight line, and cannot move through other penguins. When the penguin has completed its move, the player collects the Ice Floe Tile on which it started its move, and adds it to their pile. The next player then moves one of their penguins in a similar fashion, and the process repeats.
As Ice Floe Tiles are collected, the playing area begins to shrink around the penguins, limiting the players' movement options. When a player can no longer move any of their penguins they are out of the game, removing their pieces from the grid and collecting the tiles they finished the game on.
This is where the strategic element of HTMF! comes into play. The first instinct of any player is to start collecting as many fish as possible, but by cutting off your opponents' penguins you can cunningly find that you have the entire board to yourself! In the picture above the blue penguin has isolated the red penguin in the corner. Seeing as penguins can't move through eachother the red penguin has no movement options, and once the blue penguin moves away his Ice Floe Tile will disappear, stranding the red penguin on a little tile island until the end of the game. The term "deceptively strategic" did get thrown around a lot during our review sessions, and it is an excellent way of describing the game.
HTMF! doesn't actually end when only one player remains in the game, but continues until that player no longer has any legal movement options. This means that the key to victory is often outmanoeuvring your opponents, isolating and eliminating their penguins, and allowing you to slowly hop around the board collecting as many of the remaining tiles as is legally possible without backing yourself into a corner.
Although a group of strategically-minded players can give a game of HTMF! a very chess-like edge, the simple game mechanic and colourful, friendly game pieces make this an ideal family game, and for specialist gamers who want to introduce their young ones to the hobby then it's an ideal platform. Whilst the temperamental nature of the tiles on a smooth surface can cause frustration, HTMF! is an excellent game in all other areas, being easily accessible, quick to play, deceptively strategic (we had to say it again), and fantastic value for money.
The Good Points
- Visually, Hey, That's My Fish! is a very fun game. Amusing and colourful game pieces and a nice cover make it appealing from the start.
- The modular board keeps games nicely randomised, so that no two grids will ever be the same.
- The simple mechanic makes it accessible to players of all ages, whilst at the same time a group of adults can delve into deeper tactical thinking to make the game more of a challenge.
- Unlike many board games, HTMF! takes up a refreshingly small amount of space on the table, making it nice and easy to crack open for a quick game.
- A game of HTMF! doesn't take too long to play, making it a good wind-down game.
- It's such good value for money!!!
The Bad Points
- The modular board is very prone to being knocked during set up or whilst collecting tiles. We can't stress highly enough the benefits of playing on a surface with a little grip.
- Hardcore "serious" gamers probably won't enjoy this game due to it's colourful and family-friendly theme.
Recommended Number of Players: 3
HTMF! can be played with 2-4 players, and frankly it works just as well with any number! The number of penguins for each player decreases with the number of players, and so the gameplay runs just as smoothly. 2 player games can be a little bit more tactical as players only have to out-think one opponent, whereas 4 player games become more chaotic as the moves of three other people become harder to predict. Our personal preference is for 3 players as it gives a higher penguin count (9, as opposed to 8 in 2/4 player games) and thus makes the grid seem a little busier.
Average Game Time: 15 minutes
HTMF! is a short game, running for around 15 minutes (20 when you include set up time). This makes it good for younger players with short attention spans, and also for games nights when players just want a simple game to break up the evening.
Replay Value: Medium
The modular grid helps to keep HTMF! fresh across multiple games, and the simple nature of the game means that it's easy to introduce new players as well. The difficulty of the game always boils down to the strategic skill of your opponent, so unless you're evenly matched or can provide a stream of new opponents it will probably start to lose its shine after a while.
The Future: n/a
HTMF! is a self-contained game, but let's be honest, there's nowhere it could really go with expansions. Apart from the possibility of more tiles to expand the grid, and thus adding the option of a fifth or sixth player, HTMF! is very much it's own thing.
That's right! We hinted at it being a bargain, and HTMF! will set you back a measly £10! This actually makes it the cheapest game we've ever got our hands on at Games & Tea (technically Felinia and Sedition Wars cost us the same, but they were bought on clearence rather than having a low RRP), and we can't see why anyone wouldn't want to take a chance on it at that price.
OVERALL SCORE: 8.5/10
Tea consumed during this review: PG tips with milk and 2 sweeteners. Brew rating 6/10 (too much milk).
Saturday, 23 November 2013
'Tis the season to be jolly, apparently. Here at Games & Tea, on the other hand, we won't try to tell you how to feel based on the Earth's position relative to the sun, nor will we try to brainwash you with catchy songs. However, we can't deny that this is the time of year that our capitalist culture makes us feel obligated to buy gifts for our loved ones/friends/people we vaguely know, so if that person in your life is a fan of board/card games, we're hoping that this little guide makes the process a little easier.
Now not all of the games in the following article will be ones that we've reviewed, but in the cases of those we haven't played ourselves, we've heard from trusted sources that they are worth a gander.
So we might as well start with the cheap and cheerful options! Have you almost finished shopping for the gaming geek in your life, but just want to add one more little item to the gift pile? Then how about one of these pocket-sized and inexpensive offerings...
Looney Labs' Fluxx is a nice way to pad out a Christmas stocking. This simple chance-based card game is a pocket-sized gem - quick to learn, easy to play, and something that the whole family can enjoy. Some of the more complicated rules can easily be discarded for younger players, and it comes in around the thoroughly reasonable £12 mark. With a wide range of variants, including Zombie Fluxx, Pirate Fluxx, Oz Fluxx and Family Fluxx, there's pretty much a Fluxx for everyone!
If you're more inclined toward something to give the imagination a good workout then you can't go far wrong with Gloom from Atlas Games. Gloom is a storytelling card game in which players must weave a tale of woe for their family, heaping as much misery on them as possible, whilst bringing untold joy to their opponents' families. It's quite a dark game, but the storytelling makes for a nice group activity, perfect for those who like their Christmas a little bit twisted. A little more expensive than Fluxx, Gloom will set you back around £20.
Fluxx has already been mentioned as a family-friendly offering, featuring easy-to learn rules and multiple editions to choose from. Family Fluxx is the obvious choice for bringing the family together over the holidays, but regular Fluxx (or Fluxx 4.0) is the next logical stepping stone.
When it comes to family games, nothing has impressed us quite like Dixit. It requires players to use their imaginations in a similar manner to Gloom, but with a much more innocent nature. Once again this is a quick-to-learn game, and its beautiful styling and charming nature should make it a hit with family members of most ages. Dixit costs roughly £30, but would be a fine addition to any family games collection.
Another simple family game is Fantasy Flight's Hey, That's My Fish!, a strategy game which is simple to pick up but deceptively strategic. The aim of the game is to have your penguins collect more fish than those of your opponents', through collecting hexagons from the modular gaming board. HTMF requires only a small area to play, features a nice, basic ruleset, and at £10 isn't going to break the bank!
Big Box Games
Big box games are great to give as Christmas gifts, with their bulk looking fantastic under the tree. There are more big box games than we can even begin to imagine out on the market, so we're going to suggest a few of our favourites.
Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia from Plaid Hat Games certainly gives you a lot of components for your money, making for a hefty box and an impressive-looking gift. For fans of the videogame it's a great board game experience, and even those unfamiliar with the setting should be able to enjoy the strategic element of the game. It takes a good couple of hours to play through a session, and so two or four players will be able to war with eachother to their hearts' content on a chilly winter evening. As with most big box games, it comes with a sizeable price tag, and will set you back approximately £60.
If co-op's more your thing, then Fantasy Flight steps up to the plate once more, with Arkham Horror - one of their flagship games. Arkham Horror sees a team of up to eight investigators working together to prevent the incursion of a mighty eldritch horror into the world. It's another hefty game with a lot of components, and once again has a long run time, with sessions taking anywhere up to and beyond the 3 hour mark. The co-operative nature makes it a nice game to bring people together (or cause riotous arguments) over the festive period, and the reasonable £35 price tag should make it seriously worth considering. As the players are playing against the board itself, it can also be played solo, which can be handy when those family arguments have escalated beyond bursting point.
If you prefer you co-op games with a slightly competitive edge (make your mind up, will you?) then Fantasy Flight have another treat which may fit right in, in the form of Letters From Whitechapel. Rather than playing against the board, up to five players must team up as Scotland Yard's best and brightest, and work together to bring down the other player who takes on the role of the notorious Jack the Ripper. Dark subject matter aside, Letters From Whitechapel is a very strategic and challenging game, and is one of Games & Tea's favourite board games to date. A copy of this will set you back roughly £45, and a session will take 1-2 hours.
For The Tabletop/Boardgamer
If the board game fan in your life has a penchant for tabletop games, there are some wonderful options on the market which combine the two.
For a game which has an element of mischief and whimsy, you can't go far wrong with Wyrd Miniatures' Puppet Wars Unstitched. Set in Wyrd's fictional world of Malifaux, Puppet Wars allows players to build an army of puppets and voodoo dolls to fight a war for the future of their workshop. There are plenty of miniatures to build and paint inside the box, but it still retains that self-contained board game essence. Puppet Wars costs around £45 for the box set, and includes almost everything two players need to get going (a bag of dice or counters would also help).
Another one to cross that barrier between board game and tabletop system is Mantic's Deadzone. Unlike Puppet Wars there is no whimsy factor here, as Deadzone is a gritty, hard sci-fi skirmish game. The official release date for Deadzone is actually February 2014, but as it was a Kickstarter project, stores who backed the game will be receiving some stocks at the end of November. Check if your FLGS was one of them, and you may be able to secure a copy for Christmas. We've yet to play it ourselves, but have heard nothing but praise from our friends at The Hobbynomicon, and are very excited about picking up our copy next weekend. The starter set of Deadzone costs approximately £60, and features everything 2 players need to get going.
Mantic once again tick both the board game and tabletop boxes with Dreadball. Again, this is one we haven't played ourselves, but have watched a lot of games down at our FLGS Titan Games, and from listening to other players it does seem to be a lot of fun. From the outside it looks like a cross between American Football and the various games from Tron, but played by a combination of humans, fantasy races and robots. With extra teams available to buy, and additional players to augment the starting teams, it's a fully customisable tabletop system, but the beginners box features everything you need to get started (as every board game should). Dreadball will set you back £30-50 depending on whether you opt for the Kick-Off box, or the better value Deluxe set.
For Horrible People
Christmas is a time for party games, so we'll wrap up this feature with a nod towards our personal favourite party game; Cards Against Humanity. The hallmark of a party game is that it gives all players something to do on every turn, rather than each player taking their own turn whilst the rest wait. CAH achieves this by presenting the group with a question or incomplete phrase, and allowing all players to attempt to answer the question/complete the phrase using one of the many non-PC cards in their hands. Whilst not for the faint of heart or easily offended, CAH is great for a group of like-minded individuals, and is hands-down the most played game here at Games & Tea right now. Cards Against Humanity costs around £20 for the base game, which is great value for the number of cards you receive inside the box.
Links to reviews (where appropriate)