A Double-Take Review—The Resistance: Avalon

27 11 2012

It’s no surprise that we love The Resistance here at TOG. So a new version with some special powers sounds great. Is The Resistance: Avalon as good as it sounds? Well let’s find out.

We’re not going to explain the mechanisms of the game. You can read our review of The Resistance here, where we explain the game in detail. The new game is identical in basic gameplay; the difference is that there are roles in this game.

The whole thing has an Arthurian legend theme, so the roles are characters from the mythology. The game seems to assume you’ll play with at least the Merlin and Assassin cards. Merlin gets to know exactly who the Minions of Mordred are. When everyone’s eyes are closed, the evil players raise their thumbs, and Merlin opens his or her eyes. So they have perfect knowledge in the game…but, they can’t be too obvious about letting their teammates know who the baddies are, because at the end of the game, if the Servants of Arthur have won, the Assassin gets one last chance. He can talk things over with the other baddies, and then he assassinates the person he thinks is Merlin. If he’s right, the bad guys win.

Ever since I heard about that, I was troubled. It seemed awful that the baddies could win based on a complete blind guess. After playing, I’m less concerned. Usually the Assassin seems to be basing the decision on the way people acted, but there have been a few times when it’s a blind guess that happens to be correct. It’s really frustrating. Yes, the Loyal Knights who aren’t Merlin need to be doing more to make themselves seem like Merlin, but that doesn’t take the sting away.

There are some other roles, too.

Percival is a Servant of Arthur, and he gets to know who Merlin is.

Mordred is a Minion of Mordred (duh). He doesn’t reveal himself to Merlin at the beginning of the game.

Oberon is a Minion of Mordred, but he doesn’t show himself to the other Minions—nor does he get to know who the other Minions are.

Morgana is a Minion of Mordred, and she gets to show herself as Merlin when Percival is in the game. So both Merlin and Morgana will have their thumbs extended, but Percival won’t know which of them is Merlin and which is Morgana.

The Kickstarter copy also came with Lancelot, who might change allegiances halfway through the game.

Firestone—The first thing I have to comment on are the components. First, a couple of the cards have a misprint on them: the word unknown is spelled unkown. This is a small mistake that doesn’t affect the game at all. It’s just shocking that it wasn’t caught. The other problem is this: Instead of voting cards, as you have in the original Resistance, you have tiles you vote with. After just one game, these were showing considerable wear—and after many games they’re in awful shape. I’m not sure why they went with tiles over cards, but it seems like a terrible idea in retrospect.

Jeremiah—I couldn’t agree less! The first thing that I loved about the new version of the game was the tactile feel of the new voting tiles; it seems to  streamline the hands-on feel and it’s easier (along with the Leader tile) to keep track of each different component and stage of a round. With the first version, cards always seem to get shuffled into the wrong pile or mixed up, etc. The durability of the tiles is questionable, but even my sleeved cards from the first set are showing signs of wear (and they don’t fit in the box as well). I also really enjoyed the new set of tableaus that are included. There is now a separate tableau for your game dependent on the amount of players, and each quest is labeled with how many knights are to go on that particular quest. It again streamlines the gameplay and requires less squinting from across the table to see how many folks you are selecting for the next quest.

Firestone—Madness! 🙂 But I do agree about the tableaus. Those are super helpful and convey just the sort of info they need to.

The roles are interesting. I like the uncertainty Morgana creates. Percival seems hard to play well; there are times when he really should reveal himself—or help in some way—and new people still seem hesitant for some reason.

Oberon creates some fun situations: In one game I was Merlin, so knew the baddies, but didn’t know who was who. At one point a baddie put two Minions on a mission and I realized he had no idea he’d done that because one was Oberon. Of course, I voted that mission to go because I was more than happy to see them both on it; even if it failed they would almost certainly both vote to fail it, and now the group had a lot of information. The problem was that everyone noted that I’d voted for the failed mission to go forward, so now I was suspect! At any rate, I liked the mayhem that character caused.

The Lancelot promo comes with a few variants, and we’ve only played one so far, but I didn’t like it. Two people are dealt Lancelot cards—one of which is a Minion and one of which is Loyal. You play as your card, just like normal, but starting on the third mission you draw cards from a deck and there’s a chance the loyalties will switch. Sounds cool, but if you’re on the last mission, and your side is about to win, and you suddenly have to switch to the losing side because of a card flip? Blech. What should have been interesting was just frustrating for whomever was winning (and now suddenly wasn’t), and a cheap victory for the person who was losing, and suddenly wins.

Jeremiah—We haven’t delved too deeply into the different roles; it is stressed very clearly in the rules that you shouldn’t start adding more roles to the game if there are too many new/inexperienced players in the game, and as of yet, every time I have played there have been several folks new to the game. And grasping the roles, along with Merlin and the Assassin and how to play off of those roles, is quite the task, without muddying the waters too much.

Firestone—Overall, this is a mixed bag for me. I like this version better than regular Resistance. But I don’t think I like this better than regular Resistance with the plot cards. You can play Avalon with the plot cards from the original game (we haven’t done that yet), but it makes no thematic or aesthetic sense to mix the two. I’m not sure why they didn’t create plot cards for Avalon that fit that theme. They could be the same exact ones, just with new names and art.

I’m glad I have both, and we’ve certainly been playing Avalon exclusively since we got it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see us return to the original over time.

Jeremiah—With this I agree; I thought I would be more excited about this game than I actually am. I enjoy the level of strategy that Merlin brings to being a good guy; in the original it becomes a chore to hide your disappointment when you’ve been dealt an operative role. Trying to figure out who Merlin is, and then act as if you are Merlin definitely makes it fun for everyone at the table. The absence of the plot cards is palpable, even more so is the stark contrast in the theme when you try to add them in. The way the plot cards are played is a HUGE part of my strategy when playing a baddie, so I would LOVE to see them re-themed and offered as an add-on sometime soon.

At its core Avalon is The Resistance, with more options and different aesthetics; I have yet to introduce the game to someone who didn’t want to play again as soon as the first one was over. And Avalon is no different.

Thanks for reading!

Firestone Update—Well, we’ve played this a bunch more, and have had no desire to return to the original yet. Still lots to be explored with just the roles, and we’re having a great time. I recommend this completely.
You can find Resistance Avalon on Amazon here.

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A Review of Jungle Speed

13 11 2012

By Firestone

Remember the classic youth group game Spoons? What’s it known for? Bloodshed… Well if you like Spoons, you’ll probably like Jungle Speed—which plays up to 10 people. Once it’s out of the now-unnecessary box, it’s a simple cloth bag, a set of rules, a deck of 80 square cards, and a plastic “totem.” The goal is simple: Get rid of all of your cards. Like Spot It!—which we reviewed a few weeks ago—there are a few variants that mess around with how you deal out cards and how the game is played and so forth.
In the basic game, you place the totem in the middle of the table, shuffle the 80 cards, and deal them out as evenly as possible to everyone playing. In turn, players flip over the top card of their stacks—using only one hand—to create a face-up discard pile. The cards feature various designs of various colors. Whenever a just-flipped card matches the design—not the color—of another card on the table, those players are now in a duel! Both players try to be the first one to grab the Totem. The loser takes the winner’s cards, their own discard pile, and any cards that might be in the middle of the table (from other card effects I’ll get to), and place them face-down under their draw stack. Play continues as before, with the loser of the duel starting.

The insidious thing (and I mean that in a good way), is that the designs look VERY similar. So often people will incorrectly grab the Totem—and in that case they have to take all of the face-up cards on the table. That’s the same penalty you take if you accidentally drop the Totem as you’re trying to grab it. There are a few special cards, such as one with a bunch of arrows pointing in, and everyone is basically in a duel as soon as that comes up, with the winner placing his or her discards in the middle of the table under the Totem. There’s also one that changes what triggers a duel to matching colors, rather then designs—so one more chance for you to accidentally grab the Totem and mess yourself up.

That’s basically it. So let’s talk about the Totem. It’s just a plastic piece that you grab. You’re not worshiping it or praying to it or anything else related to the traditional Totem you think of in other religious traditions. Since it’s just a name, if you felt strongly about it, you could easily change the name of your Totem. Call it the banana, or the grabby stick or the whatever.

Bottom line: It’s not the best party game I’ve played, and it’s certainly not the worst. But it’s a fun, party game that everyone can play, and would be great for a group of teenagers.

Thanks for reading!

What You Missed…

19 10 2012

Well, we’re not sure why it happened, but it was a record-breaking week here at Theology Of Games! And we couldn’t have done it without you. (No, seriously. That’s how it works.) Thanks for reading. Here’s the week’s wrap-up.

First we told you about the 2nd Netrunner pack that’s coming (we haven’t even seen the first one!).

We reviewed that great, cheap, fun, and easily-found-at-Target game Spot It!

We gave you a bonus interview, with the folks behind the Extra Life benefit.

Then we interviewed the folks behind the upcoming deck-builder Pixel Lincoln—both Jason Tagmire and President Lincoln himself!

We gave you the news that Looney Labs is launching an iPhone version of their popular card game Fluxx.

This week’s Kickstarter spotlight was We are Dead, a zombie game—from the zombies’ perspective…

And finally, we revealed that the GenCon exclusive adventure in the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is now available as a print-and-play deck.

Again, thanks so much for giving us a chance. We’re doing everything we can to bring you fun, interesting, thoughtful, and useful posts regarding this crazy hobby of ours. Have a great weekend.

We Review Spot It!

16 10 2012

By Firestone

When it comes to board games, if there’s one question I’m asked more than any other, it’s “Where do you get these games?” Usually I have to tell people that they can get it on Amazon (if they’re lucky), and on online retailer or game store if they’re not lucky. That’s why it’s great when I can tell people that a fun game is available at their local Target store.

Spot It! comes in a round tin, and it’s just 55 cards with symbols on them. Each card has 8 different symbols on them—from a larger pool of more than 50 symbols. In the basic game, you’ll flip over two cards, and whoever can first spot the lone symbol they each share has to call it out, and then that person gets the card. What’s hard is that the symbols aren’t just different from card to card, but they vary in size, too. A ladybug might be gigantic on this card, and tiny on that one.

The game comes with many ways to play—but they’re all versions of be-the-first-to-spot-the-matching-symbols. Our favorite is called The Tower. Each player gets one facedown card; the rest of the deck is placed in a faceup pile in the middle of the table. At the same time, each person turns his or her card over, and then everyone has to find and call out the symbol their card and the center card has in common. Each person will have a different symbol that matches the middle one. If you win, you get the card and add it to the top of your pile. That will reveal a new card from The Tower, and you look for a new matching symbol. When The Tower is gone, you count up cards, and whoever has the most cards wins.

It plays from 2 – 8 players, the rules are super simple, and it’s really portable, so this would be a great game to play with a group of teenagers. Or your family.

So the next time you’re at Target, consider Spot It! It’s fast, fun, and cheap, and portable. What more could you want?! Thanks for reading!

Of Dice and Cars – A review of Dicey Curves

5 09 2012

-by Jeremiah
Matt Worden of Matt Worden Games was kind enough to send me a review copy of his racin’ and rollin’ dice game Dicey Curves. I finally had the chance to pull it out and give it a test drive. Want to know what I thought? Good, keep reading…
The Basics – The player’s turn breaks down pretty simply for this party game of up to 8 players: Roll Dice, Move Cars, and Gain Control Chips (if possible). Each player rolls at least 5 d6 (Six sided dice) on their turn, and for every 6 you roll, you get to add an extra d6 and re-roll both the 6 and the extra die. You then group them up in pairs, triples, doubles, etc. (pairs consist of either of matching numbers or sequential numbers). Having a triple allows you to move a race car along the track 3 “spots”, a quad 4 spots, etc. You can play a single, but it will mark the end of the movement of that car for that turn (players can -and should- control multiple cars in a game, if there are less than 8 players).

Control chips – allow you to do some nifty maneuvers depending on the phase of your turn. If you’re rolling dice you can add a d6 set to any number 1-5, or re-roll any amount of dice already in play. If you’re moving cars already they give you the ability to continue playing dice after you’ve played a single; juke, which switches spots with a car next to yours; or take control of another player’s car. I mostly found that using them to continue playing dice after a single allowed for optimal use of your dice in a turn and didn’t use them for much else while moving cars. You gain control chips by turning in unused dice at the end of your turn.

The Race Track – is made of cards revealed at random from a shuffled deck. There is no set length to the race, you simply tuck the finish line somewhere in the deck and fire up your engines. The track consists of three elements, Spots, Paths, and Gates. Spots determine how far you can go depending on the dice groups you roll, Paths determine how you move between spots, and Gates are essentially roadblocks that require a specific group to be played before allowing the racer to pass. The Gates simulate the degree of difficulty for certain turns or areas of the track, requiring racers to throttle down to navigate. There is also a suggested variant for setting up the track first in a circle around the table, but I found the uncertainty of not knowing what was coming around the next bend more exciting!

My Final Thoughts -I definitely recommend playing the game with as many cars on the table as possible. We found that with only 4 cars in the race it was very easy for a player to pull out to a lead and never look back. It’s also important that the deck gets shuffled well!! I can’t stress that enough, as a section of our first walk through yielded a Straight Away or Wide Open card 7 out of 8 pulls which added no challenge to the game. I wasn’t a huge fan of the artwork either, but the components were overall what you’d expect from an indie publisher and the game itself holds up well.

What I took away from Dicey Curves was a quick moving, fun party game, the control chips were well thought out, and remove a good chunk of randomness from the game and inject a healthy shot of strategy into a game that would otherwise be completely left to the luck of a roll.
The Dicey Curves expansion Danger! Was just released, I’ll be reviewing that soon, so stay tuned!
You can grab a copy of Dicey Curves right here!

Looney Labs Launches a Kickstarter!

29 08 2012

A few days ago the folks over at Looney Labs, headed up by Andy Looney, launched a Kickstarter campaign for the deluxe edition of “Are You a Werewolf?” If you haven’t played the original game, it’s essentially a werewolf version of the classic party game “Mafia,” but uses cards to assign roles instead of an Moderator-type person.

The deluxe edition, is actually pretty clever. It uses those little picture viewers they try to sell you at every theme park in the world. So instead of being handed a card, that could be marked/nicked up, you grab a picture viewer, take a peek and see who you are. I imagine these picture viewers could get nicked up too, but I would think they would be more durable, and it’s pretty much impossible for someone to “accidentally” look at another players role.

Personally, I’m a fan of the old school Mafia game, but this could be a cool way to facilitate a Mafia game, instead of the old “if I tap you on the head you’re the Mafia…” routine.

You can check out the Kickstarter page RIGHT HERE.

And as always, thanks so much for reading our little blog, we truly appreciate your support!

What’s It to Ya… The Winner is Announced!

7 08 2012

Well a few weeks ago we reviewed a nifty little game called “What’s it to Ya?”—a game that, on the surface, is a fun, laugh-producing party game. But for those in ministry, it can also be used as a powerful teaching tool. Click here to check out our review.

We also launched a contest for the game, and entries were taken through our Facebook Page.

Well today on Random-Draw.com we’ve selected our winner!

And the winner is!

Scott Cohoon!

…and there was much rejoicing.

Scott, thanks for entering, and please tell all your friends how nice the folks over at TOG are!

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