Winsome Lose Some

Winsome Lose Some

Before anyone leaves a comment: the title of this week’s comic is not a typo, it is a poor attempt at wordplay. You may not find this to be a preferable alternative.

Second note on this week’s comic is that I think Aileen really knocked this one out of the park. Since we moved house we now have a separate office space, so I don’t usually see the comic artwork until is it complete. Previously, due to a shared living/work space, I would get to see Aileen producing the artwork all week. I love not seeing it until it is complete, as it’s always an exciting surprise. She is really good at adding detail that I never thought of in the script, which is a constant delight. Opening up the art file to letter it is becoming a highlight of my week.

 

Arkham Horror LCG is designed as a campaign game. You play a scenario, note down your results, and then play the next scenario, carrying over your successes/failures so that they have a continuing impact. Your character can be injured or traumatised, bad guys you fail to kill will turn up again, and much more.

The interesting thing is, though, that you don’t play a scenario until you ‘win’. Each scenario has a variety of end conditions, including the investigators ‘resigning’ whenever they feel they have done enough, or from fear of not surviving. The consequences of a scenario ending this way will still carry over, essentially forcing the players to live with their defeat. Instead of chasing a victory, you find yourself taking whatever kind of win you think you can get. That can be as simple as surviving.

Forcing players to accept defeat, and to deal with it, rather than giving them the opportunity to try again and do better is not something that games do very often. In Pandemic Legacy, you get a second chance in every month, after which you move on regardless. A defeat stings, but the game doesn’t acknowledge it to the same extent as Arkham. It just adjusts the difficulty in your favour until you find a winning level. Which is a brilliant mechanic, but an altogether different feeling.

In Arkham, you have the option of replaying a scenario as often as you like, so accepting a less-than-perfect game is the player’s choice. Putting it in your hands is humbling, and frustrating-as-hell. You have to take the defeat, and carry it with you. You will not be a perfect hero, you will just be good enough to get by, and hopefully do more good than bad.

The video game L.A. Noire is the only other instance of this that I can think of. If you failed a case in L.A. Noire by accusing the wrong suspect, the game didn’t restart and make you replay the case. You got chewed out and demoted. It was horrifying and brilliant, and it made me love the game.

Noir is not a genre filled with clear-cut heroes and world-savers. And in allowing you to fail, L.A. Noire became the most authentic noir experience it could be. Similarly, in the works of Lovecraft, you won’t often find heroes. You will find failures, cowards, and people unable to deal with what they have seen and experienced.

Of course, facing down an Elder God with pistols and a book of spells isn’t exactly faithful to the source material. But the Arkham Horror LCG makes up for this by putting its players through hell, and making them really feel like they are fighting against forces that cannot be easily defeated. This flavour, this feeling of struggle, makes it Fantasy Flight’s best take on Lovecraft yet.

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Legacy issues

Writer_smallerLegacy issues

We are actually quite close to finishing up our Risk Legacy campaign. I’m glad I’ve played it, and love the concept, but don’t mind that it’s coming to a close. 15 games is big commitment, especially considering we are lucky to play games more than once a week. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of the campaign, but at times it has felt samey and frustrating. I think most of how I’m feeling about the game is more of a reflection of the group I’ve played with, and what we have brought to the game as a whole. That is part of the joy of board gaming, though. It’s inextricable from the people you play with, and that’s where the greatest experiences will really come from. Risk Legacy is a game that allows its players to imprint themselves on it, literally marking the board and changing it, game by game. It’s a one-off experience. While you can re-visit the map and continue to play on the world you have created, I don’t see our group doing that. At least not personally. Once we have completed the campaign, I know I will be through with it. And that is not something I hold against the game; not in the least. Even if it was only 5 games, let alone 15, the unique nature of the game, the experience I have had playing it, would mean it was still worth the money. It’s a brilliant concept, and the fact that we have been dragging our heels trying to finish it, doesn’t in the least dampen my enthusiasm for Pandemic Legacy or Seafall Legacy. Pandemic remains a favourite of both myself and Aileen, and I’m practically counting the days until I can see what the Legacy version will bring to an already absorbing game. Knowing that decisions in one game will have real weight across a whole campaign, that they can affect a whole world, and that you will have to keep on dealing with the mistakes you make in previous games – this is an almost natural extension of what Pandemic already manages to accomplish.

Meanwhile it’s time to start getting prepped for an Imperial Assault campaign.

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Descent into a galaxy far, far away

Writer_smallerStar Wars Descent

We had a lot of fun doing our last ‘Star Wars Descent’ comic, and figured a new year was a good enough excuse to return to our anachronically-challenged characters, and see how they were getting on in their dungeon.

We haven’t yet made the plunge and purchased Imperial Assault (the Star Wars themed dungeon crawler at the heart of this week’s comic), but there is no doubt that we will. I have talked about this game before, and if you’re not inclined to follow that link, I can sum up how I feel about it in one simple sentence:

I am very excited.

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Deleted scenes – Part I

Writer_smallerDeleted scenes

As mentioned last week, for the last two comics of the year, we are presenting something a little different. As the box lid is placed on 2014 and a new year comes down from the shelf, we have two weeks of the comics that could never be. Valiant attempts doomed to failure; strips best left on the drawing table. We present to you Tiny Wooden Pieces Season One Deleted Scenes.

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Inherent Risk

Writer_smallerInherent Risk

Back in the days when I played Games Workshop, Necromunda was always my favourite of their releases. Because of the campaign. Your army was but a small gang, who levelled up, took injuries, got more equipment, fought for leadership. From game to game a story was told. You were playing with characters, not just miniatures. If they were killed, it was a big deal. This was a named fighter, who had scars, skills, hates, experience and equipment uniquely his own. And a good gang fighter was expensive to replace. Unless you went with a juve, which was the Necromunda equivalent of a child soldier, I‘ve just realised.

Dark.

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A long time ago in a dungeon far, far away

Writer_smallerDungeon crawling

If you too don’t know what you are doing in the dungeon, read the help text here.

Dungeon crawling games aren’t my cup of tea (Early Grey, +1 to pomposity). In the same manner that MMORPGs like WoW give me a kind of existential dread, so the endless slog of fight the monster, loot the room, on to the next level holds no appeal for me.  Zombicide is the closest I’ve come to enjoying a game like this, as it essentially bolts a zombie theme onto a simple dungeon crawler. But it lacks ‘proper’ campaign and for reasons we have gone into before, I have been turned off it.

Imperial Assault, announced at Gen Con, is a Star Wars theme bolted onto Descent.

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Pandemic Legacy

Writer_smallerPandemic

A special thanks to board gaming legend Matt Leacock for agreeing to be part of this week’s comic. As well as a great designer he’s apparently a good sport as well. On top of this he’s designing a new Thunderbirds game, something I’m hugely excited to play.

Pandemic was an important game for us. We were getting into the hobby, or at least getting more interested in it. We didn’t have any friends who played board games, and there were no local gaming groups we were aware of. I spent a good deal of time online researching what game to get, and came across Table Top. My brother had told me about Pandemic, but the theme seemed so … not fun. Scientists? Curing diseases? Why would I want to play a game about diseases. On paper it was not my cup of tea. But with the episode on Table Top I decided to at least watch it being played. So I watched the episode.

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