Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Ogre Cave Christmas List 2012

Come the end of the year and as has been vaguely traditional for the past decade that in December, OgreCave.com runs a series lists suggesting not necessarily the best board and roleplaying games of the preceding year, but the titles that you might like to receive and give. Continuing the break with tradition – in that the following is just the one list and in that for reasons beyond our control, this list is not appearing at OgreCave.com – Reviews from R’lyeh would like present its own list. Further, as is also traditional, Reviews from R’lyeh has not devolved into the need to cast about “Baleful Blandishments” to all concerned or otherwise based upon the arbitrary organisation of days.

Nevertheless, Happy Gaming and enjoy the suggestions. Consider them perfect for purchase for yourself. If the world is to end in 2012 – and the denizens of Reviews from R’lyeh doubt that the stars have come right as yet – then at least enjoy a few last rolls of the dice with a favourite new game…

Lords of Waterdeep
(Wizards of the Coast), $49.99/£39.99
One of the best and most accessible board games of the year came from the most unexpected publisher, Wizards of the Coast. Lords of Waterdeep combines the classic Dungeons & Dragons theme with tried and tested Eurogame-style “worker placement” mechanics. For between two and five players, the game casts the players as masked lords vying for control of Waterdeep, the City of Splendors, the most resplendent jewel in the Forgotten Realms. They send out their Agents to acquire Buildings and access to better resources; gain Gold to make the many purchases necessary to ensure their rise to power; the means to Intrigue with their fellow Lords; and hire Adventurers whom they can send out on missions or Quests that once completed will spread their influence and gain them true power. The game scales nicely, being as challenging to play with two players as it is with five, plays easily in an hour, and forces a player to make difficult decisions when presented with numerous options! (Read the review here).

Midgard Campaign Setting 
(Open Design) $49.99/£29.99
The bad news is that in 2012, we lost Kobold Quarterly, the only Dungeons & Dragons compatible magazine to be available on the shelves at your local friendly gaming store. The good news is that we finally got to see an introduction to Midgard, Wolfgang Baur’s home campaign previously best seen in the Zobeck Gazetteer and the numerous articles that appeared in Kobold Quarterly’s twenty-three issue run. Now with the release of the Midgard Campaign Setting, we no longer have glimpses, but a full introduction to a dark fantasy world that at its heart is steeped in a mittel-european sensibility, whilst still leaving room for fantastical, even weird elements. Designed for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, an appendix also includes rules for the adventure game engine, allowing players to use Green Ronin Publishing’s Dragon Age RPG to visit a very different and a very original take on the fantasy setting.

Glory to Rome Card Game: Black Box Edition (Cambridge Games Factory), $35.00/£25.00
AD 64 and Rome has been burned to the ground. Answer Emperor Nero’s call and bring Glory to Rome as you compete to rebuild the heart of the ancient world’s most powerful empire. This is a strategic card of city building and resource management in which every card can act as a building, a patron, a raw material, or a valuable resource. This clever mechanic combined with the fact that the card a player gets to play is often dictated by his rivals, gives the game a pleasing elegance and forces difficult choices on a player. Redesigned from the original edition with new art reminiscent of the 1980 classic board game, Civilisation and mechanics reminiscent of more modern games like Puerto Rico, San Juan, and Race for the Galaxy, this is a great game that should be on every gamer’s shelf.

Night’s Black Agents (Pelgrane Press), $44.95/£29.95
You are an ex-secret agent. You just discovered that your former employers are controlled by vampires. So quite possibly is your government, your bank, and that NGO you always felt great about donating money to… This is the set-up for Ken Hite’s Night’s Black Agents, the Vampire Spy Thriller RPG he describes as “The Bourne Identity meets Dracula.” It brings 007-esque high action to the clue driven GUMSHOE System, but when it comes down to it, Night’s Black Agents is not Ken Hite’s game, but yours. It gives the means and tools for the GM to create any style of espionage RPG, from James Bond to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and lets him it slam it up against the vampires and the vampire conspiracy of his design. As a genre mash-up, Night’s Black Agents is a combination that sells itself, but as a toolkit, Night’s Black Agents is your Schweizer Offiziersmesser. Just add dice. 

(Read the review here).

Cthulhu Fluxx (Looney Labs), $16.00/£12.99
An award-wining, classic, quick playing card game for over a decade now, Fluxx is all about chaos and winning means adapting to that chaos as the game and the rules change through play. Now Looney Labs has upped the ante and introduced the forces of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and an almost primordial unstoppable force to the chaos of Fluxx. In Cthulhu Fluxx, you are not just up against your rivals, some of whom might be in the thrall of one of the Great Old Ones, but also the Great Old Ones too! You can win Cthulhu Fluxx, but sometimes the influence of the Mythos is just too insidious meaning that Cthulhu himself wins!
(Read the review here).

Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition 
(Paizo Publishing) $59.99/ £39.99
Five years ago, Paizo Publishing launched its Adventure Path series, each a campaign for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game in six parts. To celebrate that anniversary, Paizo Publishing has collected the very first Adventure Path series, Rise of the Runelords, in hardback and in the process taking advantage of five years of player feedback and the chance to revise, and add to, a campaign that will take the adventurers from first to eighteenth level. Beginning in the sleepy coastal town of Sandpoint, in course of defending against an attack by crazed goblins, the adventurers learn of a greater evil. If they to prevent it coming to Sandpoint, they must track a cult of serial killers, fight backwoods ogres, stop an advancing army of stone giants, delve into ancient dungeons, and finally face off against a wizard-king in his ancient mountaintop city.

Snowdonia (Surprised Stare Games) £31.99
The year is 1894, and the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Limited has been formed to build a branch line from Llanberis to the summit of Snowdon. Each player controls a work gang providing the labour for the construction of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, each trying to outdo the other in excavating the railway line, laying the track, constructing stations on the way up, and fulfilling Contracts that will score them those all important Victory Points. This a well-appointed worker placement game in which the game itself demands that the gangs of labourers get busy building the line up the mountain or the game will do it all by itself and deny you Victory Points. All this and having to deal with the fog and the rain on the mountain that only slows your labourers down!

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game 
(Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd.) $19.99
What happens when the inmates from The Raft, the island prison facility in New York City for psychopathic superhuman criminals, escape? You already found out how in early issues of Marvel Comics’ New Avengers series, but with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game, you can team up as Captain America, Cyclops, the Human Torch, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and more, in order to return the escapees to prison. Or alternatively, create heroes of your own with this dice driven narrative RPG of super heroic action. Comes with the datafiles for twenty three heroes, numerous villains, powers, action, and more in a rulebook that could easily be mistaken for a Marvel graphic novel!

Escape – The Curse of the Temple (Queen Games) $59.99/£39.99
There are games about exploring ancient temples and avoiding their dangers, but Escape …from the Curse of the Temple is truly a different game. You and your fellow adventurers have been trapped – trapped in a cursed temple, and the only way to get out is by working together. IN REAL TIME. You have just ten minutes (a timer soundtrack comes with the game) to explore the temple, activate the magic gems in the temple chambers in order to banish the curse, and then escape! All this done by rolling dice as quickly and as continuously as you can in order to get the right combination of symbols that activate the gems, move from room to room, lift you from under the spell of the Black Mask (which stops you rolling dice), and more. Get the right combinations? Use them up and then starting rolling for the next. Ten minutes though, otherwise you and your fellow adventurers will find yourselves crushed inside the collapsing temple. Everyone gets out, or nobody does in this frantic game.

(Cubicle Seven Entertainment) $39.99/£26.99
Anomalies are appearing and opening everywhere, allowing us to step through doorways into the past and into the future. As amazing as they are, the anomalies are also a danger as they let others from the past and the future into our present – including dinosaurs! A mammoth on the motorway? Velociraptors in the velodrome? These threats and more have to be dealt with before the public are placed in danger or learn too much. As part of the government run Anomaly Research Centre, the characters will track dinosaurs, research the anomalies, and more to keep not just the country safe, but the timeline too. Based on the TV series of the same name, the Primeval RPG uses the same mechanics as the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG, and thus emphasises talking and thinking first before combat. This still leaves plenty of room for action and scares in facing down not just the dinosaurs, but those that would use the anomalies for their own ends.

Leagues of Adventure 
(Triple Ace Games) $39.99/£24.99
In Leagues of Adventure the world of the Victorian Age is as fantastic as you would imagine – H.G. Wells’ Martians invaded England, Professor Challenger has found the Lost World, Phileas Fogg made it around the world in eighty days, and Sherlock Holmes has solved untold numbers of crimes and mysteries. The player characters follow in their stead, the members of various “Leagues of Adventure,” travelling the world, unravelling mysteries, righting wrongs, and all in the name of Her Majesty. Using the Ubiquity mechanics previously seen in Hollow Earth Expedition and All For One: Régime Diabolique, this is a pulp action RPG of derring-do and honour that adds in the Steampunk and the fantastic of the era too.

RuneQuest 6e 
(The Design Mechanism) $62.00/£40.00
RuneQuest is back and in one volume! The new sixth edition updates and presents a set of rules that has been a classic for over thirty years in a single book that provides GM and players alike with everything necessary to create and build a campaign of heroic, gritty, fantasy. Characters – Barbarian, Civilised, Nomadic, and Primitive, are all covered; as well as five types of magic, ranging from the classic Runes to Theism; belonging to a Cult; and both monsters and playable character races are all covered in this thick softback book. It feels complete, and best of all, it feels loved again.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Swim for your Limbs!

Get Bit! has been around for a while, but this “robot-swimming and robot-chomping-shark” game has been just a little difficult to get hold off as it went in and out of print. Now it is back in print – but for how long? – and available outside of the USA, I finally got to play it thanks to my friend Dave, and now, thanks to my friend Dave, to review it too.

Designed by Dave Chalker and published by Mayday Games, Get Bit! is a fast playing filler game for four to six players, aged eight and over, that can played through in about twenty minutes. It is light enough to be played by non-gamers, whilst just about everyone will enjoy both its theme and its components. The game’s idea is that you and your fellow “buoyant” robots are out for a leisurely swim when you are attacked by a robot-eating shark. Fortunately, most of the robots can swim hard enough to stay ahead of the shark. Unfortunately, this means that the shark will have a chomp at the limbs of the slowest robot swimmer – and the shark does love his robot limbs. As long as a robot has a limb, he can keep swimming and even keep swimming ahead of his fellow robots. It is all a matter of effort. Yet if he loses all of his limbs, a robot can no longer try and outswim either his fellow robots or that hungry, hungry shark!

The game consists of six Dismembermen robots, each in a different colour; a set of seven cards for each colour, for a total of forty-two cards; the rules leaflet; and the hungry, hungry shark with its jaw already to open and then clamp down on the slowest robot! The rulebook is plain, but it is an easy read and it explains the game well. The game’s physical components are terrific though, being high quality and durable. The humanoid robots are identical, bar their different colours, and are easily handled and posed, and of course, their arms and legs come off. The shark both charms and menaces simultaneously. Each of the sets of card is identical apart from matching the colour of one of the robots. Each set is numbered one through seven and is illustrated by an image of the robot swimming closer and closer towards the viewer. So the “1” card has the robot in difficulty and far away, whilst the “7” card is closer and making headway…

Get Bit! is an easy game to play. Each player receives a Dismemberman robot and a matching set of cards. All of the robots are laid out in a line, one after the other, with the shark at the rear. Each round of play consists of three phases: Choose Cards, Move Robots, and Get Bit. In the Choose Cards phase, each player selects one of his cards and places it face down on the table. Once everyone has chosen a card, they are revealed simultaneously and the Move Robot phase begins. If any of the cards played have the same number, then their players do not move their robots, whereas the player who played the lowest untied card gets to move his robot to the front of the line, furthest away from the shark. Then the player who played the next the lowest untied card gets to move his robot to the front of the line, and so on, until all of the robots that can move have done so.

Once all of the robots have moved, or not moved if there were tied cards, the robot last in line is subject to the Get Bit phase and loses a limb to the shark. He also moves his injured robot to the front of the line and gets to pick up all of his cards on the table and return them to his hand. A player also picks up his cards and returns then to his hand if he only has the one card to play. Then the next round begins. The Get Bit phase does not occur at the end of the first round, but do so after that. Play continues with any robot losing all four of its limbs being eliminated until there are only two robots left. When this happens, the shark eats the robot at the back and the one at the front gets away to swim another day.

Unsurprisingly, game tactics are as simple as the game play. This is a game of counting what cards that your rivals have played in order to try and work what the best card that they have their hand is. If you can play a card higher than that and it is not tied with any other player’s card, then you just might find yourself at the front of the “not losing a limb” queue. Included in the game are rules for four variants that allow two or three participants rather than the minimum of four; for a longer game; and a memory aspect to be added to the game. Expansions are available that allow for a seventh player and let a player control the shark!

Personally, Get Bit! is too light for continued play for my tastes. I would not want to play more than twice before it loses all of its limbs as far as I am concerned. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable game, a fun game, an easy to teach game, and a good looking, very tactile game. Plus everything fits into the game’s very nice box.