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!
There were plenty of games brought my many friends! Most, however, were Richie’s games (thus the name …. RichieCon).
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 …
Great Games All Around!
Everything I played, I liked this year, so there were no losers for me!
Thunderstone Quest: Barricades mode (cooperative)
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!!!
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!
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!
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.
I still want to try DreamCatchers myself because I pronounce it …
My two favorite moments:
When Mike, me, and Joe spontaneously started singing the song Albuquerque (by Weird Al) in unison! (Sorry, no picture)
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!
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!
Opening it up, we find, The Shipwreck Arcana (with the Stars Below Expansion)! This is a cooperative deduction game for 2-5 players.
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.
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.
The cards and tokens are quite nice. The art reminds me a little of Tarot Card art.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
One 8-sided die (doesn’t come with the game)
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 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 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.
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!
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.
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?
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”.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Ya. The components are awesome.
These are the Barricades!! (Can’t you tell from the labels?? Oh wait, they aren’t labelled!)
Prestige Class Boards
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 …
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.
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
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
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:
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!
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!
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
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.
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!
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!
Here’s a couple of cooperative games that have struck my fancy for May 2019.
1.VENOM Assault Reprint, plus expansion: Villains & Valor
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
Where are the Icons? It should say “in the upper right corner”!
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???
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
Spoiler Alert if you are Junkerman or the Chamberlin family! I got three copies of the game!
For Junkerman, who’s an English teacher and finds games like this great for his classroom
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?
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?
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.
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).
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!”
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.
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.
Solo Play Thoughts
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.
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.
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!
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:
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
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.
There seems to be a flurry of interesting cooperative board and card games on Kickstarter this Month!
1. Venom Assault Expansion: Villains and Valor
Venom Assault is a cooperative Deckbuilder set in the world of something legally distinct, but highly reminiscent of GI Joe! Venom Assault made my 2017 list of Top 10 Cooperative Games (well, Honorable Mention, if only because it wasn’t clear if the release was late late 2016 or early 2017, depending on when you got your Kickstarter).
You can get the expansion and/or the original game! The expansion adds the new idea of medals, for adding something else to be working towards on your turn! Check it out!
This dice driven cooperative game has the players working together to save a species from extinction! The art by Beth Sobel and Ben Flores looks fantastic. It looks a little different than most cooperative games (not just a Pandemic reskin), so check it out here!
At the time of this writing, the game is very close to being funded! Don’t let this “Endangered” game fall away!
3. Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time
This cooperative game is blowing up right now! See here! I am not 100% sold on it, but it might be worth getting simply because there are so many stretch goals unlocked! And there’s a lot of buzz, so I admit to being a pawn to Kickstarter hype and have backed it myself! Check it out here and see if it’s something you are interested in!