Epic Death—A Preview

23 07 2013

By Jeremiah

“You only live twice:
Once when you’re born
And once when you look death in the face.” 
― Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice

And thrice when you get brought back to life by a resurrect card…

epic death boxToday we’re looking at a prototype of the card game Epic Death, from Waits in Graves; the game was successfully Kickstarted by Springboard—Game Salute’s Kickstarter juggernaut.

Let’s talk about how the game plays…

Read the rest of this entry »


Princes of the Dragon Throne—A Review

4 06 2013

photo (10)– By Jeremiah

Clever Mojo Games has, along with designer Fred MacKenzie, put together a large-scale board gaming experience that is truly unique…while somehow familiar.

In Princes of the Dragon Throne players assume the role of one of the overlooked princes of the recently deceased Dragon King in the land of Lo’en. Beginning with a small amount of loyal followers you’ll attempt to gather resources, persuade prospects to join your forces, and earn favor of the guilds throughout the kingdoms. Which prince among you and your siblings will rise to power and take the throne? Only time will tell.

The Components

The game comes with oodles of game bits, cards, and a huge game board. To be more specific there are:

216 custom miniatures
– 80 Supporters
– 60 Dragon Lords
– 4 Dragon Princes
– 72 King’s Guards

179 Punchboard Chips
– 84 Guild and Score Markers
– 95 Resource Chips

157 Cards
– 36 Dragon Prospects
– 36 Citizen Prospects
– 40 Starter Deck cards (4 decks of 10)
– 36 Guild Favors
– 6 Clan Favors
– 2 Deck Title Cards
– 1 Bargain With the Giant card

4 Player Aid Sheets

2 Custom Sorcery Dice

1- 22″ x 33″ Game Board

And of course the Rule Book

There is no apparent sign of either a partridge or a pear tree.

Setup and Overview

photo (9)The board is separated into 6 kingdoms (Humans, Elves, Sorcerers, etc.); each kingdom is made up of 6 guilds (Merchants, Shepherds, Warriors, etc.). There is also a space for a prospect card (either dragon or citizen) in each kingdom. Surrounding each guild in every kingdom are 5 slots for Supporters or King’s Guards.
To setup the game:
– Place 2 King’s Guards in every guild (this will use all of them).
– Give each player their starting deck of 10 cards.
– Take 3 Dragon and 3 Citizen prospect cards, shuffle them, and place one in each kingdom.
– Give each player three of each resource type (Gold, Sheep and Influence).
– Each player then takes 5 of their Supporters (placing the rest to the side for now),all of their Dragon Lords, and their Dragon Prince.

Players shuffle their starting deck, draw five cards, and the game begins.

There are lots of stacks of cards, and resources, and so forth, so the bigger the table the better!

photo (8)

Game Play
On a player’s turn he or she can perform one of a possible four main actions, and a number of additional “King’s Guard Actions,” provided they have a King’s Guard to use.

The four main actions are as follows:

Gather Resources—All the cards have two main functions, and gathering resources is one of those. On their turn players can play up to three cards from their hand and gather the amount of resources listed on them from the pool. If there are none left in the pool, you start pillaging them from other players, taking one at a time from each player moving counter-clockwise.

Recruit a Prospect—Once you’ve gathered enough resources, you can then begin to recruit prospects from the game board, by paying the value listed at the very bottom of the cards available. When you recruit that card, you snag another Supporter from your reserve pile; you also potentially score points (if there is a claw icon next to the cost). And if that wasn’t enough, you get to remove a card from your hand or discard pile from the game!

Deploy Supporters—You can deploy up to 2 Supporters a turn, using two different cards from your hand. A Citizen card will give you two icons, which offers more flexibility; you can play a Supporter either in the matching Kingdom, on any guild, or on any matching guild in any Kingdom. Dragon supporters are locked into one Kingdom, on any guild, but they remove a King’s Guard from the guild they are placed in (which goes into your reserve for later). Dragons also require you to feed them a number of sheep from your resources when you deploy them. You also can’t deploy them where there are no King’s Guards…

Maneuver Supporters—Finally if you choose to maneuver Supporters, you can move up to two of your Supporters from anywhere on the board to anywhere else on the board. This is great for taking over guilds, but also leaves guilds open for being taken over by other players… Speaking of taking over guilds…

If at any time you have more Supporters than any other player (or King’s Guard) in a guild, you gain control of that guild. You get to place a spiffy token on it, score two points, and gain a guild favor card into your deck to use one time (and then it goes back into the general supply of guild favor cards). And you get to place one of your Dragon Lords into one of the houses around the Dragon Throne (either matching the color of the kingdom or guild that you just took control of).

After (or before) you’ve done one of those four main actions you can also use a King’s Guard action (as many times as you like… provided you have a King’s Guard to use).

The King’s Guards that you gain by deploying Dragon Supporters allow you to do a few things.
– Place 2 new prospects (if you don’t like any that are out there).
– Place 1 prospect card back on the top of a stack (if someone covered up one that you like).
– Discard any number of cards (you still don’t get to draw back up until the end of your turn, but it gets you through your deck faster).

You may also play one, and only one, Guild Favor card during your turn.

When your turn is over, draw back up to five cards (if you’ve played any) and the next player begins their turn by placing new prospects from either the Dragon deck, or the Citizen deck (their choice) if there are any empty slots, and then they proceed to take their turn.

Parliament—One last feature of the game is Parliament. Whenever a player’s scorekeeper passes a red spot on the score track (at 6, 13, 21 etc.) parliament is held and players take turns placing their Dragon Prince in a house (starting with the player in last place). Each house has its own house bonus, which will give the player a special edge, or action, on their turn. When the next number is reached you do it all again.

The Goal and Game End—The goal is simply to score more points than everyone else; the game ends when all the spots in the Houses around the Dragon Throne are filled.

photo (11)Thoughts and Recommendations –

Family/Party Game? Uhmmm about that. No. The game isn’t hard to learn, but there are tons of aspects to grasp before even beginning to strategize. This one is not for the kids.

Youth Group Game? Not really. The setup is lengthy, the gameplay is lengthier (about 2 hours, once you’ve learned the game), and it doesn’t lend itself to a big group setting.

Gamer’s Game? Absolutely! This may be the very definition of a Gamer’s Game! Intricately woven mechanics, rich back-story, and tons of pieces-parts—the more I learned about the game the more I loved it!

Components—I can’t really speak to the final quality of the components; I was sent a prototype of the game with good ol’ fashioned wooden meeples. But I will say this: Even the “rough draft” style of the meeples was pretty fantastic, and the renderings of the finished minis look splendid! Clever Mojo is going all out for this one, folks!

Gameplay—There’s a lot to take in. I’ve played with 2 players and with 4 players, and if you’re in a 4-player game it can get a little sluggish if folks don’t plan ahead. That being said, there are a ton of different decisions to make on each turn; just choosing which of the four main actions you’re going to take can be a painstaking process! “Do I buy up that card before someone else does, or do I deploy Supporters while I’ve got this dragon in my hand, or do I save up resources so I can get that awesome dragon??” There’s a ton of planning and a ton of decisions to make on each turn, so be ready to make threats of bodily harm to those who are lagging behind.

If I had any small complaint about the way the game plays, I’d have to say I don’t know how well I like the Maneuver Supporters action. It seemed a little too free, with being able to (in a Risk-like fashion) move your Supporters around and conquer guilds. Yes, there was a risk (pun intended) to getting that reward, but I felt it could have used a little tweaking.

Artwork—Again, what I had my hands on was a prototype, and I don’t know how close to final everything was. But the cards already looked fantastic—lots of great detailed illustrations, and not one was like the other. Each Dragon and Citizen featured a name and a bit of flavor text; a lot of work went into the thematic realm the game is placed in. Beautifully done.

Overall—With elements of deck-building, worker-placement, and area-control—and finding a great balance and synergy between the three, while throwing in a pinch of resource management—Princes of the Dragon Throne combines the best of your favorite game genres into a large-scale board game. Simply put: It’s epic!

We’d like to thank Clever Mojo Games and Game Salute for loaning Jeremiah a prototype of the game; this had no effect on the content of this review.

If you’d like to back Princes of the Dragon Throne on Kickstarter, you can do so here.

Have you backed it already? Let us know!

We get ever-so-excited when folks sign up to get our posts via email, right over there, on the right!

Also you can find all kinds of Theology of Games goodness on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Check back soon as we interview Fred Mackenzie and his brother David Mackenzie, the brains behind Clever Mojo, Game Salute, and Princes of the Dragon Throne! Coming tomorrow! (June 5, 2013!)

The Card Game of OZ—Kickstarter Weekly

21 02 2013

Scarecrow220The folks at Game Salute/Springboard have made their way to Kickstarter again, with The Card Game of Oz. The game looks gorgeous, with a full complement of wonderfully illustrated cards, and some cool-looking story dice.

The game uses a new “Storyline” engine, which, according to the campaign, works something like this: “A storyline is laid out before you. It is your job, as Author of your own Oz story, to populate it with characters. Each character’s vitality is worth so many points to the story. At the end of the game, the Author whose characters have the greatest total vitality wins the game.”

004NewPrintLike most Kickstarter campaigns, you can get in for as little as a dollar, and at the $40 level you get a copy of the game (shipping included). Game Salute and Springboard have a long history of bringing great games to market and this one appears to be no exception to that rule!

You can check out the Kickstarter page right here!

Thanks for reading and as always we appreciate you liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and subscribing to the blog over on the right!

What You Missed

9 11 2012

It’s been a busier week than usual here at TOG; here’s a quick look back at this week’s posts!

Monday’s news: Or maybe this wasn’t really news, but we brought you a little more info about the new reboot of Wizkids Pirates of the Spanish Main.

Tuesday we brought you a special Election Day review of Pixel Lincoln!

Wednesday we didn’t have an interview for you, but there was some exciting news about the new data pack for Fantasy Flight’s Netrunner.

Thursday’s Kickstarter Weekly this week featured Lost Legends.

And today we brought you a bonus review, which is also our first Double-Take Review, of the Kickstarter project Ruse!

Thanks so much for reading; feel free to write us if there are any games you’d like us to review.

Have a great weekend!

A Double-Take Review: Ruse

9 11 2012

– by Firestone and Jeremiah

Earlier in the week we were both sent advanced copies of Bonsai Games’ latest endeavor, Ruse—they’re Kickstarting the game in collaboration with Game Salute’s Springboard program. So today we’re both giving our thoughts on the game in this Double-Take review of the steampunk, who-dun-it.

The game takes place in the very steampunky Victorian city of St. Sebastian. A murder has taken place, and the players spend the entire game pointing fingers, placing blame, and weaving convincing tales so as to prove their innocence, and find the true killer.

The Game Play—The actual game itself is quite simple. The deck is based on a traditional 4-suited deck of cards. Two suits are accusations (split into 3 types: motive, method, and opportunity), and two suits are alibis. Each player chooses a character card,  is dealt five cards and the game begins. On their turn players draw a card and then performs one of the following actions: Play an accusation, provide an alibi, or simply discard. If a player cannot provide an alibi, once per game they can turn their character card over to a portrait that has pretty shifty eyes, and simply cover up an accusation… If you have a number 9 accusation in front of you, the only thing that can get rid of it is the 9 card from one of the two alibi suits. So hand management is fairly important here. Do I save that alibi for myself? Which card should I discard? They might want that one! But if I put that accusation on top, they’ll just draw it right away and play it on me… The game is full of interesting decisions on how to manage your hand and discards.

End Game—The game ends when you’ve figured out “who-dun-it,” and that happens when, at the end of a player’s turn, that player has one of each accusation type played on them, and can no longer provide an alibi for any of them. That player is then given the spotlight to tell their tale, and why they had no choice but to do the dastardly deed.

Our thoughts:

Jeremiah—The mechanics of the game are ultra streamlined—they seem well-thought-out and tested. When I read the instructions, I thought for sure it was going to be a pile-on-the-weakest-player situation, and it almost never got to that.

Firestone—Our game got to that a little. Two of the four suits are for accusations, and in our 4-player game, three people had one of those suits in front of them, and I had the other. I think because I was all alone in that suit, it made it easier for me to be a target. I don’t blame them; they smelled blood in the water and came after me. Surprisingly, I was able to fend them off and not lose.

Jeremiah—The game takes its charm because of the storytelling aspect, and the steampunk world it is set in. The meat of the game lies in the fact that instead of just simply trying to play 3 accusations in front of someone, the whole time players are telling a tale of lies and deception while trying to pin the crime on everyone but themselves.

Firestone—That was my group’s favorite part. There was a lot of smiling at the table as someone would happen to pull just the alibi they needed for an accusation in front of them, and they could dramatically say, “Ahhh! You may have thought I was the last person to be seen with the victim [throws down just-drawn alibi], but in fact, she was seen alive afterwards, so it couldn’t have been me!” Truth be told, there were a few cards our group thought didn’t make a whole lot of sense. For instance, I’d been Exposed As a Fraud, and then later I played the alibi Sold Out. I have no idea how selling out was an alibi for being exposed as a fraud—and I certainly didn’t have a chance to think of it in the middle of the game. So I just kind of awkwardly played it down, read the card, and we moved on.

Jeremiah—The art is super cool, I’m a fan of the steampunk look in a lot of things. It brings back fond memories of the old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons in that retro future-y Magnetic Telescope kind of way.

Firestone—Love the art. I was a fan of steampunk before it got popular—anyone else love Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates? Awesome book! Anyway, the art is great, and goes a long way to keeping the morbid theme from being too dark.

Final Thoughts –

Jeremiah—This is a game where the players truly make it or break it. It’s a great game for those who are creative souls but maybe aren’t hard core gamers yet. Even with the potentially dark subject matter of the game, it never got too creepy to me. Even the opportunity card “Victim’s Medium” was played off as cheesy, with the medium character obviously wearing a false nose. We had some really good laughs, coupled with pretty tense moments during the games we played. It’s a game that does what it set out to do very well!

Firestone—As I said, my group of hardcore gamers liked the storytelling aspect a lot. And while there are some interesting decisions to be made, they felt it was a little light for their taste. But I’m SURE I’ll be bringing this out with my family over the upcoming holidays. It’s light enough that it won’t put them off with heavy rules, but still full of decisions and luck and fun and storytelling and creativity. My biggest concern is that—with only two accusations and two matching alibis—stories will quickly start to look just like they did last game. Still, this is a fun game for families and nongamers (and the occasional filler for gamer-groups).

Thanks to Bonsai Games and Game Salute for sending review copies, and thank you for reading!

Interviewing Ruse designers – Sarah Sharp and Levi Mote

31 10 2012

Bonsai Games has partnered with Game Salute’s Springboard program to launch their first major release, Ruse. Today we take a few minutes to sit down with Ruse’s designers and co-owners of Bonsai Games, Levi Mote and Sarah Sharp.

Sarah, Levi, first of all thanks so much for taking some time from your schedule to answer some questions for us! Can you tell us how you decided to work together on RUSE?

LM – Thanks for taking the time to talk about Ruse with us. It really is one of the most special things we’ve ever collaborated on.
We’ve been a couple as well as co-owners of Bonsai for 4 years now and we work together to one degree or another on every project we tackle; games, stories, screenplays, etc…
SS – I will also thank you Jeremiah for wanting to talk with us. We’re always excited to share our games with anyone who’s interested.
In addition to what Levi has already said, we’re very lucky that we collaborate so well and that we share the same passions and interests. It really is a perfect partnership both personally and professionally.

So, whose brainchild was RUSE? And how did the idea first comes to you?
LM – Growing up, my mother’s favorite board game was always Clue. One day Sarah and I were having a conversation about what we liked and didn’t like about that game. I wanted to design a murder mystery game that went beyond deducing what was in an envelope. The best part of Clue is in choosing what to show the other players and using what you know about other people’s cards to deduce what they have learned from a guess. We decided that the most fun way to convey a murder mystery was to allow the players to make accusations against each other and keeping the truth about the murder a mystery right up until the very last card played.

SS – Let’s be completely honest here…Ruse came from an early morning conversation while Levi was in the shower and I was doing my hair. He had been thinking about Clue and we just got to talking. By the time he was toweling off we had the basics of the game laid out, along with a few mechanics. It’s been a very fun and relatively easy endeavor ever since.

Levi, Ruse is not your first game design; is Ruse the first title you’ve co-designed? How was this experience different than flying solo?
LM – I’ve designed several games and as the super-supportive-love-of-my-life she is, I’ve always collaborated with Sarah to some degree. This game in particular was much more a partnership as we worked out the nuances of a storytelling game. Ruse, more so than most games, had to be more than a collection of mechanics; it needed to evoke a feeling of having your back against the wall and scrambling to pin the murder on someone else before it got pinned on you. As a writer, evoking that feeling from the audience is more along her line of expertise.

Sarah, if I’m incorrect, please tell me, but this is your first experience in game design; tell us a little bit about the experience and working with Levi.
SS – Well, I’ve been exposed to game design since Levi and I got together. I’ve seen all the steps from an outside point of view and have always been, along with a few close friends and family, a sounding board for ideas as well as an avid play tester. This was the first game I’ve really been able to get my hands dirty with and have loved every minute of it. Levi is very gifted when it comes to thinking up premises and working out mechanics. I love being able to come in and help him flesh out story elements and the like.

What is your favorite element of the game?
LM – I love that you don’t know who will go down until the last card is played. I love that even in losing you get to be a star and give your dramatic explanation of why you had to do it.
SS – I love the interaction between players and how they really get into the descriptions on the cards. I also love the versatility of the cards themselves. Since Ruse is built on a traditional 54 card deck (Jokers included) it’s easy for anyone to pick-up and can be a “gateway” game for those who aren’t hard-core gamers. I’m also a sucker for Kelly’s art…it’s amazing.

Give us your top 3 games and why?

LM – Twilight Imperium 3rd edition – Epic 4x game

Ad Astra – Extremely underrated resource collection game

Risk – Secretly I want to rule the world.

SS – Rune Wars – It’s totally epic and I love fantasy.

We Didn’t Playtest This At All – We just got this and it’s so addictive! Always looking forward to playing it!

7 Wonders – The scoring is crazy, but the mechanics are stellar.

I just wanted to note that a top 3 isn’t fair…a top 20 would’ve been more like it!

Ruse is a game of accusations; ever accuse anyone of a murder? How’d that work out?
LM – Who told you about that?!? The FBI said the Witness Protection program was airtight!
SS – Look, that’s not something we like to discuss. It was a very dark period and details are a little sketchy. Next question…

Tell us a little bit about the relationship between Bonsai Games and Game Salute; how did the two come together on Ruse?
LM – I approached Game Salute through Springboard. I was looking at self-publishing some games using Kickstarter for funding and I kept seeing these “Springboard Approved” games funding successfully. I emailed them and got a reply from Dan Yarrington to call him the following day. Dan left a meeting to take my call and we talked for over an hour about why we loved games. They looked through our portfolio and picked Ruse as a project they wanted to get involved with.
SS – Yep, what he said. Oh, I will add the Game Salute has been awesome and that it was wonderful to see Levi be able to concentrate on just designing great games and not suffer the headaches of production and distribution anymore.

At the end of the day, when all the games are back on the shelf, what matters most to you?
LM – Family, I think we all define what that word means to us in different ways. Games bring families together and if we can help do that even one night a week; I’m doing work I can be proud of.
SS – I second that notion, except I would add friends to the mix too. There is something about face-to-face interaction around a game table that just makes life better. Like Levi said, it brings our family together and we have met amazing people through sharing this hobby and in return have made some really great friends and made other friends into family. It’s incredible, really.

Ruse will be crowd-funded through Kickstarter; what would you say to a potential backer who may be on the fence right now?
LM – There are few things cooler than watching multiple generations play a game together and this game appeals to multiple generations.
SS – Get off the d**n fence and pledge already! We’ve play tested this game with hard-core gamers, people who hate games, even random people in airports! Everybody loves it and you will too. Do yourself a favor and get two or three copies, because someone’s going to “borrow” your copy and it’ll never come back. Yeah, it’s that good!

Now for our favorite feature of the interview: Answer the next questions with a single word or phrase! Your answers will speak for themselves!

Dr. Strangelove or Dr. Who?
LM – Dr. Doom
SS – Dr. Who

Who wins the fight, a Jawa or an Ewok?
LM – Jawa
SS – Ewok – they won the Battle of Endor!

Favorite artificial flavor?
LM – None!
SS – Blue Raspberry

Favorite viral video?
LM – Cat-Jump-Fail
SS – Gangnam Style (thanks kids!)

Frodo or Bilbo?
LM – Bilbo.
SS – Bilbo

We would like to thank Levi and Sarah for taking some time to chat with us about their upcoming game! You can check out their Kickstarter campaign here! Check back for a review soon!

As always, thanks for reading!

%d bloggers like this: