Top 10 Cooperative SuperHero Board and Card Games

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I’ve been reading Comic Books since I was very young (7? 10?  years old?)  and SuperHero comics were always my favorite.  I wanted to be Batman (with cool gadgets) or Superman (with his flying and heat vision) or Spiderman (flinging webs) or Quasar (who? Read The Pegasus Project) or pretty much ANY SuperHero.   When I first discovered cooperative board games (like Arkham Horror, 2nd Edition) in the early 2000s, I was excited but disappointed!  Why weren’t there any cooperative SuperHero games?  There just weren’t any …

Fast-forward to 2019!  The Avengers: Endgame movie just came out and is one of the biggest movies of the year!  If not the decade!  SuperHeroes are definitely in vogue, and there are a bunch of SuperHero games now!  And a good number of them are cooperative games.  Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Cooperative SuperHero games!

Preamble

Before we get into the list, let’s talk about a few that didn’t quite make it for one reason or another.

  • Justice League Hero Dice (Flash or Batman or Superman or Green Lantern set): This game is really hard to get a hold of.  I “happened” to just find the Flash version at my local game store!  But, this game is out of print and so very hard to find in the US for any reasonable price.  I did get a German version of the Batman version though (for too much money).  The dice are pretty awesome, and there are some great ideas in here, but it’s too hard to get, and the gameplay is perhaps a little too simple.  I think if this game had been better supported, it might have inspired some expansions which would have made the game better.  The components were just dice and cards, but they were pretty awesome quality. I just wish the game were better.
  • Heroes Wanted: (with Champions and Masterminds I or II): The base game of Heroes Wanted is NOT a cooperative game.  It’s a quirky and silly game of building silly SuperHeroes with different parts (almost like paper dolls) and getting victory points.  They came out with two cooperative expansions (Champions and Masterminds) … and they were just okay.   They replaced all the funny, quirky SuperHeroes with just 4 Heroes that you HAD to play with.    Part of the fun was just the silliness, and it felt like the game was stripped of a lot of its core mechanisms to make it cooperative.  I really wanted to like the cooperative versions a lot more, but it’s just okay.  The competitive version is better.

Okay! Let’s get to the Top 10!  As usual, we will  quickly discuss whether the game plays solo (Does it follow Saunders’ Law?)

10. DC Deckbuilding game with the Crisis expansion(s)!

Plays Solo?  If you play two decks.

By default, the original DC Deckbuilding game is a competitive deck-building game.  As of now, there are 4 Crisis packs (see picture above) that turn the game into a cooperative game.  It’s still, at its core, a deck-building game.  It adds cooperative mechanics as each player takes the role of a SuperHero from the DC Universe (with fairly simple powers) and players try, as a group, to work their way through a set number of crises.  If the players make it through the last one before the deck runs out, they win! The mechanics are a little clumsy and the “crises” feel a little pasted on into the deck-building game, but in the end, it was pretty fun.

Image result for DC Deck Building Rebirth

As of this writing, they are “rebooting” the game. The deck-building engine of the DC Deckbuilding game is called the Cerberus engine, and apparently has evolved through quite a number of products, including Attack on Titan.  The new Rebirth is supposed to add some legacy elements, add movement around the city, and is the “best” version of the Cerberus engine!  Time will tell if it’s significantly better!  You KNOW we’ll review it here on CO-OP Gestalt!

9: Batman: The Animated Series – Gotham City Under Siege

Plays Solo?  If you play multiple characters.

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This is a real fun dice-chucker by Richard Lanius (designer of Arkham Horror 2nd Edition!) and Michael Guigliano.  Each player takes the role of a Hero from the Batman (the Animated Series) universe: Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, etc.    You are trying to stop the Villains from blowing up the buildings!  Working together, you role dice, mitigate dice rolls, and move/position your Hero around the city to stop exploding buildings!

The game has a real high “toy factor” with the little minis and the buildings you can move to.  It’s a fun, it a little lucky (with so much dice-chucking)!

8: Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War

Plays Solo? No, unless you play multiple leaders (but then it’s clumsy).

So, this is another dice-chucker (like the Batman game at number 8).  Each player takes he role of a hero who is a team leader (become Captain America for the Avengers team or Gamora for the Guardians of the Galaxy team or …).   The players role dice to try to recruit characters for your team, with the ultimate goal of collaborating and defeating Thanos (using the same dice you are using to recruit)!

Like Batman, this one also had a nice “toy factor”, with a Thanos figure who rotates and “attacks” 1 of 3 sectors per turn.  As the game proceeds, Thanos progresses and finds more and more Infinity Stones (gaining more powers for each gem he acquires), until he finds them all and wins!  You have to stop him!

This game is a dice-chucker and arguably more lucky than the Batman game, but I still had fun!  Even when I was rolling bad, I was rooting for my friends who were rolling MUCH better than me!  Fun cooperative game.

7. 5-Minute Marvel

Plays Solo?  No.  This game is really about the interaction with multiple players. You could probably technically play two different characters.

This game is by far the lightest game on this list, but it was so easy to play and so easy to get into!   Each player takes the role of some Hero (each with a different, simple power to manipulate cards).

You all work together to draw cards and try to get all the cards you need to defeat the all the bad guys.  It’s all real-time!  You play cards, take out villains until you finally get to the big bad! But you only have 5 minutes!  If you run out of time, you lose!

The game is slightly misnamed, as you have 5 minutes PER VILLAIN!  You start off with a simple villain, try to beat him in 5 minutes!  Then repeat, with harder and harder Villains until you get to Thanos!  If you take out Thanos, you win!

This is a very light game, but really fun!  And the cooperation REALLY comes through in this one, as you have to share cards in real-time.

6. Oblivaeon!

Solo Play?  Inasmuch as Sentinels is: see this blog post for how to play solo.

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Soooo … this is by far the heaviest game on this list.  This is the “final” expansion for Sentinels of the Multiverse (a cooperative SuperHero game), but it is a very different game in many ways!  It adds so many new mechanics, it is no longer the simple, straight-forward card game but a deep, deep game!

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Oblivaeon: starting set-up! It’s huge!

The players work together together to take down Oblivaeon (who looks NOTHING LIKE THANOS) as he and his forces shift between realities, and heroes die (!) forcing the players to on the role of new players (who will also die).    Players have to go in knowing that your hero will die, because it might be too much to handle in the heat of the game!

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This is real fun, but do not attempt it unless you are ready for a 3-4 hour game which is not unlike Avengers: Endgame!

5. Kick-Ass: The Board Game

Solo Play? Yes.  Really good solo!

This one really surprised me.  I don’t like this comic series.  But the game is really great.   It’s probably the second heaviest game on this list.

Each player takes on the role of a character from the Comic Book.  Their powers are set by some starting cards, which are VERY DIFFERENT for each character.  Players move around the city, keeping crime under control.  They are trying to find the “Big Bad” Villain to fight at the end of the game.  The players have to keep the events (upper part of the board) in check, otherwise the city just gets overridden with crime.

The game has a 18+ rating, as there is some language and imagery that is mature.  That’s consistent with the comic and movie.

But this game is really good!  You feel like you “level up” as you play the game, so you feel like your character is getting better and better as you play!  You become better at Social Media (seriously), hit the gym, buy better equipment, cheer yourself up.  There’s even a smidge of deck-building (your main action cards, but you can only ever have 5 cards)!  But you still work with your compatriots to fight crime, keep the city under control, keep the events under control, all while leveling-up so you can fight the Big Bad at the end of the game.

I really liked this game.

4. Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game

Solo play: Yes.  You can play 2 hands, but there are multiple rules for solo play on BGG.

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Legendary is a Marvel-themed cooperative deck-builder.  In this game, you don’t play a particular hero, but you play more like a “manager” as you recruit Heroes to your deck, all while trying to stop villains from moving across the city and escaping!

The game has TONS of expansions and tons of different scenarios in this simple deck-building system.   It feels good to build up your deck and get better and better heroes and take out the Villains as they escape from the Villain Deck.

Strictly speaking, this is NOT a cooperative game, as you are supposed to add up the victory points (of all bad guys you defeated)  and the winner is the one with the most victory points.  We NEVER play like this: we always play purely cooperative, and everybody I know plays it cooperative.  I wish they would just make it official!

3. The Reckoners

Solo play? Yes!

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The Rulebook for The Reckoners

By all measures, this game shouldn’t be this high on the list!  At the end of the day, the core mechanic is “really” just a Yahtzee “reroll dice up to 3 times”!

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The dice: this is really just a Yahtzee game, but the dice are SO nice!

The game has amazing components, and these components really bring out the theme of the game!  The city locations are these amazing dice trays!

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Game Setup from Rulebook

The game has Player Selected Turn Order, (one of my favorite game mechanics), as you can activate your dice in whatever order you like after rolling.

The game feels complicated the very first time you play, but once you get into it, it flows quickly.  Players MUST work together to decide how to help each other.  Do we take out a villain at a location?  Do we do some damage to Steelheart (the big bad you have to defeat to win)?  Do we have to clean up the streets?  Do we go shopping for better gear?

The game is real fun and the component quality is just amazing.

2. Sidekick Saga

Plays Solo?  Yes.  The solo player plays two characters.

Sidekick Saga is Seven Wonders meets Sentinels of the Multiverse meets Pandemic Legacy!  Like Pandemic Legacy, Sidekick Saga has an ongoing story that unfolds over many plays.  Like Seven Wonders, Sidekick Saga has Simultaneous Action Selection, so everyone can play at once (keeping the game moving quickly).  Like Sentinels, each player plays a SuperHero character with very different powers (and these powers can upgrade and change as the game evolves!)

At the end of the day, Sidekick Saga has an ongoing story, city exploration, fast-moving play, great art, and probably my favorite feature: you can make your own Super Heroes!

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1. Sentinels of the Multiverse

Plays Solo?  You can, but it’s not built-in to the game:  See this blog entry for how to play solo

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This is not really a surprise to anyone who knows me.  I bought the game sight unseen off the Greater Than Game website in 2011 (I have the original version with the original art above!)  I knew nothing about the game.  After I played it, I never looked back … I loved it!

Each player takes the role of a Superhero with their own deck!  Each SuperHero is VERY different and plays VERY differently!  Of all the games on this list, this is the one where you really feel like you are playing that hero and nothing else is like you!

The gameplay is simple: play a card, use a power, draw a card.  That’s it!  (Well, you have to draw a card for the environment and the Bad Guy too ..)  What makes the game interesting is what the cards do!

There are SO MANY expansions to the game and so much content, you could play this game for years!  It also has the best App of any game I have played (if only because you can rewind a turn or two!)

Some  people think this game is too fiddly (in which case, the app is definitely for you), but it seems to bring out the SuperHero genre better than any game I have played!  Even when you lose, it reminds me of old Spiderman comics (“I lost to the the magic guy!  Maybe I’ll go recruit Doctor Strange to help me!”) where you rethink how you go after a Villain NEXT TIME!

Sentinels make me feel like I am playing a SuperHero.

 

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RichieCon 2019! Another Year! Another Blast!

So, RichieCon 2019 came and went last weekend.  We played games for 3 days in a row up at the Rec Center in my area!

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There were plenty of games brought my many friends!  Most, however, were Richie’s games (thus the name …. RichieCon).

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Richie’s games on the left …

Food!

Thanks again to Jeremy for making AMAZING BBQ Butts and Brisket for everyone on Saturday!  Will came in a close second with his chocolate chip cookies …

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Great Games All Around!

Everything I played, I liked this year, so there were no losers for me!

  • Thunderstone Quest: Barricades mode (cooperative)
  • Kick-Ass
  • Dinosaur Island
  • Ygdsrasil
  • Flotsam Fight
  • Shipwreck Arcana
  • Spirit Island
  • Sidekick Saga
  • Crosstalk
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Spirit Island!  Always a hit!

The clear winner, though, of RichieCon 2019 (even though I didn’t get to play) was “Spirit of 77“!  Junkerman ran this game, and everyone who played it had a blast.  I think Junkerman ran 3 sessions with different sets of people.  Far and Away this biggest hit of the convention!

One game of Battlestar Galactica ran 6 hours!!!

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A lot of people also played Exploding Kittens and they all seemed to enjoy it.  I saw Kingmaker being played (very old), Awaken Lair,  and some Deckscape games.  No Unlock games, which surprised  me, because I brought all 12 (?) of them up!

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Awaken Lair

Underwhelming Games

I didn’t hear about too many games that didn’t go well this year, but I did hear about two:

  • Bears vs. Babies:  Apparently, this was terrible, at least according to my friend and his 7 year old son!

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    Bears vs. Babies!
  • DreamCatchers!  I bought the game because of this review,  but had not one, but TWO sets of friends tell me it was just too random and too generic.
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DreamCatchers!

I still want to try DreamCatchers myself because I pronounce it …

Favorite Moments

My two favorite moments:

  1. When Mike, me, and Joe spontaneously started singing the song Albuquerque (by Weird Al) in unison!   (Sorry, no picture)
  2. Seeing two of my games (CO-OP: the co-op game and Sidekick Saga) being played next to each other at two different tables!  The games came out organically (I never suggested anything), and just so happened to be played right next to each other!
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Sidekick Saga on this table (Will wanted to play the Tinkerer because he voted for her!) …
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… and CO-OP: the co-op game being played right next to it!

Conclusion

RichieCon 2019 was a success!  We will be doing it again next year!  We’ll probably start planning in April, so we can reserve the clubhouse in June again.

Thanks to Josh for designing this year’s token, and Max for printing it!

P.S. As I write this article, Bob sent me an email saying he just purchased Shipwreck Arcana because he liked it so much!

 

 

Review of The Shipwreck Arcana: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions

I was SO BUSY all day Saturday with Thunderstone Quest: the Barricades Expansion (see previous post), I barely noticed a new package that arrived that day.  What is it?

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What is this?

Opening it up, we find, The Shipwreck Arcana (with the Stars Below Expansion)!  This is a cooperative deduction game for 2-5 players.

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This is a very small box, which is VERY DIFFERENT from the Thunderstone Quest box.  It’s so tiny, the rules are just on a fold-out sheet of paper.

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The front side of the rules, just a single foldout

What’s In the Box?

The box is actually pretty jammed packed!  It has the rules, some larger cards, a bunch of colored tokens, and bag.

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Cards, cards, cards!
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Bags and Tokens (and the cards)

The cards and tokens are quite nice.   The art reminds me a little of Tarot Card art.

No Solo Rules?

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Only 2-5 players? No solo rules?

So, this is a cooperative game for 2-5 players.  They do not follow Saunders’ law.  So, I developed my own unofficial solo rules: see below.

Overview

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Basic Set-up (for a solo game): After a few turns where the DOOM token has moved up to 3, and the Guesses token is only at 0! I haven’t guessed anything right yet!

You set-up a line of 4 Arcana cards next to the HOURS card.  The hours card tracks (a) how many guesses you’ve gotten right and (b) the DOOM.   You win when you guess 7 Fate tokens correctly and you lose if the DOOM token makes it to 7!  (You can see I am not doing well here: the DOOM is already up to 3, and I have 0 guesses right!)

Every player has a Number Line in front of them.  (Notice the blue tokens in front of the player).  They are just the numbers 1 to 7.  They are ONLY used to note deductions after clues are given.   If a clue allows you to eliminate some possibilities, you notate that by turning them.  In the example above, I have been able to eliminate 1-6, so I will be guessing “7” at the end of the turn!

Clues

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Arcana Cards

Every player has a hidden Fate token.  On the start of a player’s turn, that player draws another Fate token.  He now has 2 Fate tokens and MUST play one of them below one of the Arcana cards: this is how clues are given.

An easy clue: If a play a “3” on the “<=5” Arcana card, that immediately tells you my hidden clue is either a 1 or 2 (anything else is too big).   At that point, we’d flip all the Numbers in the number line EXCEPT 1 and 2.

You can make a guess now (“Is it 1 or 2?”), but you have a 50-50 shot.  If you get it right, you get a guess right!  If you get it wrong, the DOOM token advances one space.

Fading

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Two more Arcana cards

The game keeps going like this, but after too many Fate tokens are places on a card, it “fades” and is replaced.  Fading is BAD! If a card fades on your turn, the DOOM token advances twice!   (Unless you happen to guess a hidden Fate that turn, then no DOOM!)

How does a card fade?  Notice the moons on the bottom of the card: there is 1 on each above.  That means when the 1st Fate token is placed on the card, that is the turn thaty card is fading.  (The cards above have 3 Moons, which means the 3rd Fate token will cause the card to fade).

Watching when fading happens is essential!  You almost HAVE to guess on a turn when a card fades!  If you don’t you lose 2 DOOM!

Conclusion

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Neat cards!

I spent all day (the previous day) playing Thunderstone Quest: the Barricades Expansion because there’s so much to the game, and I only played only one game. I ended up all playing The Shipwreck Arcana all morning in (my) solo mode game because I played so many times!  It’s a quick game!  I played probably 8 times this morning and had a blast!

Even though I haven’t played the official way yet (co-op mode with 2-5 players), I suspect this will be a big hit.  It’s easy to teach, quick to play, and pretty fun and thinky.  I’ll get this out at RichieCon 2019 and see how it goes!  Stay Tuned for more!

In the meantime, check out my solo rules below.

Solo Rules: The Unofficial Variant

These are unofficial solo rules for The Shipwreck Arcana.

Needed:
One 8-sided die (doesn’t come with the game)

Premise:
You will be playing one player in one position (you DO NOT simulate playing multiple characters). The solo player plays Fate tokens as normally, trying to do the best he can to whittle down the possibilities. Instead of “guessing” when needed, the player will roll the 8-sided die to do the guessing for him. Of course, the player may decide to ONLY guess when he knows exactly which Fate token is hidden, but it’s unlikely you can do that for all guesses.

Set-up:
Set-up the game normally, but just for one player (i.e., only one player has 1-7 Number Line tokens). Turn them all to the 1-7 side.

Play:
Play normally. The solo player alternates between two modes: clue-giver and guesser.

When you are in step 1 (DRAW) and step 2 (PLAY) of the game,  you are in clue-giver mode and you know what the hidden Fate token is. As normal, do the best you can to play the Fate token to help future you.

In step 3 (PREDICT), you are in guesser mode. You pretend you DO NOT know what the hidden Fate token is! All you can do is turn over your Number Line tokens based on the information played by you as a clue-giver. In other words, you are ONLY using the information based on the Fate tokens/cards played to eliminate possibilities.

Resolve steps 4 (RESOLVE) and step 5 (FADE) normally.

Win/Lose:
You win if you get 7 guesses correct. You lose if the Doom track goes to 7. Just like the normal game.

What’s the 8-sided die for?
At some point, you may want to make a guess, but you may have it down to a few choices. Let’s say you have been able to deduce that the hidden FATE token is either a 6 or 7. You could try to get more info later, but you may not have time to waste.  More importantly, if a card is fading this turn, you WANT to guess (or your DOOM goes up 2!!!). If you get it right, you DO NOT lose 2 DOOM, so it probably makes sense to guess.

Roll the die until you roll one of the possibilities. That’s your guess! Follow the rules normally for your guess!

Thoughts:
You can’t cheat. (Well, you can). The idea is that you know what the hidden Fate Token in in clue-giver mode, but all you can do is deduce the Fate token SOLELY on info given by clue-giver you to guesser you.

Think of this as a puzzle where you know the outcome, but you are practicing how you would get someone else to the proper outcome.

 

Review of Thunderstone Quest: The Barricades Expansion (the cooperative expansion) – Part Ia. The Unboxing and First Impressions

Wait, didn’t we do this already?  Oh ya, here: Review of Thunderstone Quest – Part I. The Unboxing and First Impressions

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Barricades Expansion to Thunderstone Quest! I think … it’s not labelled very well on the box that it’s a different Thunderstone Quest …

Oh, that’s right!  No, this unboxing is for The Barricades Expansion.  This expansion adds a bunch of cards and a cooperative mode.  As you might recall from the last unboxing, I didn’t want to finish a full review until we got the co-op expansion in (after all, this is a cooperative board and card games site).  I was even a little grumpy because the original Kickstarter implied there would be a cooperative mode built in, but there wasn’t.  This is the second Kickstarter for Thunderstone Quest … adding the cooperative mode.

Expansion  or Stand-Alone?

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The original competitive Thunderstone Quest (left) and the cooperative Thunderstone Quest (right). It’s very unclear, but the RIGHT box is an expansion for the LEFT box!

If you look at the box, it’s HUGGE!  Well, at least the Kickstarter version is!  It’s as big as the original game!

And the original game is HUGGE!   Almost as big as the Sentinels box and Gloomhaven!  This is NOT a small expansion!  For purposes of this review, we’re going to call the expansion “Barricades”.

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The Expansion we will refer to as Barricades mode, just like the rulebook shows you …

If you just look at the outside box, NOWHERE does it say that it’s an EXPANSION!  Really! You might think you can buy this and play it standalone.  Nope!  You need a some things from the original box (honestly, not that much: the gear tokens, the board, and some treasure).  If you ordered the Kickstarter version, you get a few overall “Thunderstone Quest” expansions:  “What Lies Beneath” and “Frozen in Time”.

With those, you get lots of new monsters, items, spells, weapons, heroes, ALMOST enough to play standalone.  Without those expansions, you do need a lot from the original box.

It’s a bit surprising how big the Barricades box is!  It holds the base Barricades mode and the two expansions that came with the Kickstarter, and there’s still plenty of room to spare!

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Adds 5th and 6th Player

The Barricades expansion also adds two more boards and starting decks so you can play 5th and 6th player.  Honestly, we’ve wanted a 5th player the last few times we played, so this is definitely a good thing.

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5th and 6th player boards! Plus, the game comes with starting decks for the 5th and 6th player!

 

Rulebook

The rulebook is pretty good.  The graphic design is quite good, and it reads well.  It also describes all the changes needed for the co-op mode.  But here’s the thing: I had both rulebooks open the entire time, and these are BIG rulebooks!  So, sometimes I’d be thumbing through the main rulebook, and sometimes I’d be thumbing through the Barricades rulebook.

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Need to have BOTH rulebooks open to play! The original rulebook from base Thunderstone Quest (on top) and the new rulebook for the Barricades on the bottom!

Since the barricades mode is quite different, or at least different enough, I wanted something that “integrated” the two rulebooks.  The back of the Barricades rulebook had a summary of this, which helped, but I really wanted a summary card!

Given all the amazing production in this game, a game summary card for (a) competitive mode and (b) cooperative mode would have gone a LOOONG way.

Components

Ya.  The components are awesome.

I had to add stickers to the Gameboard to update it: apparently, the second edition fixed this, but the original Kickstarter had problems.  So I had to a “legacy” change and add two stickers to the Marketplace and the Guilds.

No pressure!  I added the two new Stickers …

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Stickers added to update the 1st edition board to 2nd edition board!

Gameplay

Thunderstone Quest (the competitive version) is a deck-builder: as soon as I tell you that, you know a lot about the game.  Then it adds some village visiting and dungeon delving to round out the experience and make it feel much more like a Dungeon Crawl adventure.

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Original TQ (competitive) deck-building game

The cooperative version adds a bunch of rules to this.  It’s a lot more complicated than I expected: this is both boon and bane.  It’s complex enough to have rich gameplay, but it’s complicated enough to be confounding and confusing sometimes.  There are a lot of new rules.

New Rules: Guardian Dice

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The Guardian Dice: roll at the start of each turn!

For a new added element of randomness, some dice (Guardian Dice) are rolled at the beginning of a turn.  The further into the game you get, the more dice you rule.   There are bunch of things these do, but usually, they set “how many monsters attack the town” (there’s much more to it, but that’s basically the idea).

Your job: Beat the big bad and protect the town!  If too many monsters attack the town, they destroy it and you lose!  Basically you lose if the town is destroyed.

New Rules: Barricades and Destruction Chits

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These are the Barricades!! (Can’t you tell from the labels?? Oh wait, they aren’t labelled!)

The reason the name of the expansion is called “Barricades”: there are 5 barricades, one at each Village Location on the board.  If you want, players can spend 10 Gold to erect a barricade on a Location.  This is a way of “preventing” monster attacks.  The green side means the barricade is active (and can withstand one monster attack).  The red side means the barricade is down (inactive).  Here’s the set-up, showing the default barricades in inactive mode:

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This basic idea (protect the Village) reminds me a lot of Battle for Greyport, another really good cooperative game.   Which do I like better?  Check back later … I don’t know yet …

Oh, when a Location is hit by a Monster, you put a destruction chit on the board.  Here’s my first solo game, near the end of the game: only two Locations of the village are active! the Bazaar (1 space!) and The Temple (1 space).   The rest of village has been destroyed by Monsters!

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A solo game with most of the Village destroyed!

How do you prevent Monsters from destroying the village?  Basically, you head to the dungeon and hunt some monsters before they can get to town!

Village: “The scouts tell us that three Monsters are coming to the village to ruin us this day!”

Adventurers: “Well, we’ll go the dungeon and head them off … if we let some through, we’re sorry …”

New Rule: Guardians and their Lairs!

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To win, you need to defeat the Big Bad, er .. the Guardian … a number of times.  Thematically, he keeps coming back even after you defeat him.  In the game above, a solo game, you need to defeat the Guardian 3 times to actually win.  How many times really depends on the number of players and the Guardian.

The Guardian’s Lair is new: it’s at the bottom of the dungeon, and the Guardian has a whole bunch of rules.  Remember those  Guardian Dice we rolled earlier?  They trigger some special abilities on the Guardian, which basically beat you up. The number of dice you roll is notated the upper right corner of the board (7 after turn 12+).

Although it looks like I am about to win … I lose on the next turn, because the Monsters destroy the Village!

New Rule: Prestige Class Boards

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Prestige Class Boards

This is probably my favorite new set-of-rules in the cooperative version.   Each player chooses a prestige class board and puts it to the right side of their player board.  As you “level up” in the game, you gain new abilities.  And there are a lot of new abilities!  It’s fun to try to level-up your character!  The XP, which were essentially victory points in the original competitive version, are now used to power your level-ups.    The main choice you make in the coop mode: do you use XP to level-up you class board or to upgrade a hero?

The class boards are still available in the competitive version, but it’s a much harder decision!  Your hard-earned XP are victory points needed to win!  But, do you want to use them for your class?  Or upgrading a Hero?  What to do?

In only one game, I found these boards added a LOT of flavor, and since there’s 12 (!) of them, there’s a lot of variety.

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A really big box! With a tray!

Conclusion

After one solo play (and congratulations for adhering to Saunders’ Law),  I liked it!  The major downpoint: It was a lot of work to get through one play! I basically spent all day sleeving, getting through the rules, and playing my first solo game.  And I lost.  But I liked the game.  A lot!

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My first solo game: I’m just about to lose!

I am looking forward to getting it to the table (hopefully at RichieCon 2019, coming next weekend!) and trying it as a full co-op game!  Stay Tuned!

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My solo game just before I lose!

Cooperative Board and Cards Games on Kickstarter in May 2019

Here’s a couple of cooperative games that have struck my fancy for May 2019.

Up again for a second try, this expansion for Venom Assault (a cooperative deck builder with a GI Joe theme) adds more cards and gives you the opportunity to get the base game as well as the expansion.  It didn’t quite fund the first time, so I am hopeful it funds this time: this game made my honorable mention of Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2017!  Give this one a try, I think you’ll really like it!

Check it out here!

The art in this game really captured my attention, and you all know I am a sucker for a co-op, especially with variable player powers!

Raid Boss: Incarnate is a 4-player cooperative boss battle designed to feel like an MMORPG dungeon encounter with all of the teamwork, strategy, and collaboration, but none of the endless grinding!

It looks like it has a comic-booky vibe and looks to be fun.

Check it out here!

 

Review of Crusoe Crew Part II: Final Thoughts

After feeling lackluster about a solo play from Part I of the review, what do we think now that we’ve played it with more people?

Components

One of the things we were worried about, happened: the binding isn’t great.

After a single play, one of the pages fell out of one of the books!  It’s not a deal-breaker: you can still play the game.  It’s just sort of frustrating.

Icons

After reading through the rules again with a big group, I understand the icons on the edges of the panels a little better now.  Sometimes, to make sure you have “solved” a puzzle, the Icon on one panel corresponds to the Icon on the “solved” panel.  So, that made more sense after playing some more.   The down arrow in the picture below is an example of that … the “K” .. is something else!

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What didn’t make sense it why the instructions didn’t include just a few more Icons? For example, in the instructions below, the rules say:

…If a player sees a panel with their character’s initials in the corner of the panel …

So, there are at least 4 things wrong with these instructions!

  1. Why not show the 4 initials?  They are actually very stylized in the game, and don’t “quite” just look like initials (see picture above with the “K”).  This is an opportunity to just show 4 Icons in the instructions.  When I go looking for Icons in the Instructions, my eye would catch those 4 Icons, and I would know what they are.  Instead, I am scratching my head.
  2. They say “initials”, but they are really more “stylized” Icons, so it wouldn’t catch me the first time (or second) that they are initials … I would just think they were some random Icon!
  3. Where are the Icons?  It should say “in the upper right corner”!
  4. What are my initials?  I know each character is playing a different character, but the name is NOT actually on the front cover!.  It’s on the back, but kinda tiny.  As we played, I don’t think any of us ever “knew” our characters name.  I feel like it should have been more “prevalent”: In bold on the cover?  On each page at the bottom?  Something to emphasize or more!  Or maybe just the Icon on the bottom of each page?  The Icon that we don’t know???
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If you look VEEERY closely, you can see your name on the upper left back of the book!

Score

Holy cow was the scoring complicated!  There were several math majors/minors, engineers, computer scientists at our table and we had to re-read the scoring a few times to get it!  And it’s a tiny font!

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I like that the scoring tries to adjust for age, number of players, etc.  At the end of the day, though, I think this game just probably just be played for “fun” and just compare how many gems you got for last time.

Interaction

Okay, this is where the game shines: multiple players!  When we played, we all interacted, made decisions together, congratulated each other when we solved puzzles, and had fun!   This is really the best part of the game, exploring as a team, being excited by finding stuff.  It really worked well for that.  We felt like we were exploring an island and solving puzzles.  And the time flew by! It was a blast!

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The map!

Set-Up

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One of Sarah’s favorite things about this game: there was almost no set-up: you pulled out the books and the maps and you started.  That’s it!   A few minutes the first time to read the instructions, but then it’s just “jump right in” after that!

Replayability

Even though the books are “smallish” (not giant tomes), we still don’t feel like we saw too much.  I was worried, because the books weren’t huge, that the replayability would be diminished.  Nope!   After playing through for an hour, there was still a TON of stuff to see!

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Conclusion

My group really had fun!  We lost track of time for that 1 hour, playing and having fun! Everyone said they would play it again!   The cons (lackluster binding, small margins, wonky Icons, weird scoring) brought the group’s rating of this down, but we all ended up between 6 and 7 (on the BoardGameGeek rating).  I think in the end, it gets about a 6.8.

 

Review of Crusoe Crew Part I: Unboxing and First Impressions

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The Crusoe Crew!

The Crusoe Crew was a Kickstarter from Van Ryder games  back in late 2018 (Nov. 12 2018 to Dec. 3).  It just delivered this last Friday (April 19th, 2019) when it was supposed to deliver in March 2019.  A month late?  That’s great by Kickstarter standards!

The Crusoe Crew is a cooperative adventure game for 1-4 players.  It’s a story telling game!  Each player takes one of 4 roles and works through an adventure together.  Let’s take a look at it!

Unboxing

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Spoiler Alert if you are Junkerman or the Chamberlin family!  I got three copies of the game!

  1. For me
  2. For Junkerman, who’s an English teacher and finds games like this great for his classroom
  3. For the Chamberlins: A family of 4 who loves games!

I had a good experience with Van Ryder’s previous work and wanted to share the love.

What’s going on with the box?

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The box has one of the magnetic clasps and a little ribbon that you use to “pull” stuff out of the box.  It’s very nice quality.   The back of the box shows 4 players reading the 4 books together in unison: that’s the nature of this game!

Notice the 7+: this is perhaps aimed at younger players.

What’s in the Box?

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4 Books, a Map/Instructions and the box itself!

The game’s main components are the books.   There is a map, which underscores the explorative nature of the game, which has has the instructions on the back.

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Instructions on the other side of the map

The instructions are a little sparse, (and the font a little small for my taste), but I got going pretty quickly.

You probably want to make a copy of the instructions, or print out another copy (the Van Ryder web site has more) so you can mark it up and note things (days, inventory, rubies, etc).

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The map!

Play

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Backside of the books describes each character in more depth

To play the game, 1-4 players each take of the booklets and assume the role of that character!  The players then read the books “together!”

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In my first play, I played a solo game (yes, this game adheres to Saunders’ Law) and played the Grey Guy.  Each character has a special ability.  The Grey Guy is strong and can kick down/smash some things.  Other characters are taller, can climb, and solve puzzles.    This special ability gives each player an advantage and allows them different options in the game.

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The game works by each player looking at their storybooks in tandem.  They all “basically” see the same frame on the same caption: note the numbers in the upper left of each picture.  So, players all turn (generally) to the same number and “see something”.  There are typically numbers on the picture which give you options: do you go to 55 or 77?  The players decide together and all turn to that caption.

What makes this different is that each player sees something “slightly” different. The Grey character is strong, so he might something that can be smashed, so he might see a different number hidden in the picture (43 is hidden in a wall).  That means he can do something the other characters can’t!  So, you decide as a team, do you want to do there? Does just one person go there?

You move through the story, picking up items and rubies.  You try to get the best score picking up as many gems as you can.

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Solo Play Thoughts

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This game reminded me a lot of Robit Riddle: I reviewed it about a year ago here and here.  It’s a story telling game which is much more text based.  It’s aimed at a younger audience.  The main difference was Crusoe Crew had more puzzles and much less reading: Crusoe Crew is a graphic novel!

I had the same problem with  Robit Riddle that I had with Crusoe Crew: I don’t think it works well with 1 player.   I am just flipping through pages by myself, just going through the motions.  I am looking forward to trying this with a group, because I think it will work much better!  Which is where Robit Riddle shined.

Inner Margins

I have a lot of Dungeons and Dragons Books.  My group just recently moved to D&D 5th Edition, but I was reminded of an issue that D&D 3.5 had that  Pathfinder fixed.

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Top: Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Bottom: D&D 3.5 Player’s Handbook.

Look closely at the inner margins on the two books: Pathfinder has plenty of space, but the D&D 3.5 book has text smashed into the inner margins, so it’s hard to read!

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Pathfinder: plenty of space to read!
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D&D 3.5: text on inner edges is hard to read!

Unfortunately, Crusoe Crew has the same problem: it’s kind of hard to look at the pictures who are smashed into the inner margins of the book:

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Hard to look at part close to spine!

It wasn’t a deal breaker by any means: I could see stuff I wanted, but I had to “force” the book open a little.  I am very worried this will cause the spine to crack and pages to fall out.  I am worried for the longevity of the books because to see things (“wait, is that caption 46?”) you have to kind of jam open the book.

The game still works, it’s just worrisome.  It’s also a little annoying and a surprising problem.

Thoughts For Now

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So, this game has really great art.   Except for the margin issues, it’s easy to read the text in the book.  I wish the instructions had a little more info (What are those Icons in the picture above?  Nothing in the directions tells you that!  I supposed more plays will help me figure them out, but why have Icons if you explain them NO WHERE??), but in general it’s easy to jump right in.

I admit I am a little disappointed in a few aspects (margins, quality of binding, solo play, lacking instructions), but the art is really great and does really bring you into the game.  This game feels like Robit Riddle: I think it will shine at 2-4 players.  Stay Tuned for more plays.