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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Megabytes of Madness

Writer_smallerRobo Cthulhu

In actual fact, we did make a comic without having played the game. With a weekly schedule, and a limited budget, both time-wise and money-wise, this is often necessary. I would feel bad if we were reviewing a game on these terms, but as all we try to do is add some more humour to the hobby we all love, I feel it’s OK to poke some fun at games from a distance, particularly as we try to keep the comic topical.

I did read and watch a number of reviews on the new edition of Mansions of Madness, and oddly, I can’t seem to get a clear handle on whether or not the game improves on its first, original edition. It’s a game I have long wanted to play, so I was very curious about the new edition, and the changes made. Replacing the role of dungeon master with an app is actually a great idea for a game like this. Obviously, this could never be done with an actual RPG, but with the more limited scope of a board game, it is altogether more feasible. Fantasy Flight Games tried and succeeded in their first app-driven game, XCOM, which runs brilliantly, and fits thematically with being run by technology. Having an app to inject added chaos into a real-time game by timing events, interrupting players and throwing random spanners into the works is actually a brilliant conception.

Mansions of Madness doesn’t quite seem to work like this, though, and appears to simply replace the role of games master with an app in order to make the game fully co-operative. There don’t appear to be any integration issues (unless you count hyperbolic, unfounded, apocalyptic fear), and the game apparently runs smoothly. The issue seems to be with replayability, and the number of scenarios given with the game – which is a sparse four. There are add-ons and expansions, of course, but they seemed to be priced closer to full games rather than expansions. They are of course chock full of tiles, cards and miniatures, but that doesn’t really take the sting out of it for me.

Having said all of this, what I have written above is not a review, nor should it be regarded as such. This is not a game I have played, but while it is not really on my purchase list, it is still certainly a game I want to play. I enjoy Arkham Horror and Elder Sign, and Mansions Madness takes these games further, crafting a more immersive, spooky and mysterious play experience, all of which are steps in the right direction as far as I am concerned.

In the meantime, we have plenty of other games to fill the dark evenings in the run up to Halloween – Ghost Stories and Mysterium being top of the list in that regard.

Anyone played Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition? And more importantly, what are your recommendations for a good night of spooky gaming?

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Putting the “C” in CEO

Writer_smallerPutting the “C” in CEO

Games released by Fantasy Flight Games crop up a lot in our comics, you may have noticed. If you were wondering, this has nothing to do with anything as coarse as corporate sponsorship or paid content. Neither do we share their frankly, rather worrying over-interest in Cthulhu. Mighty as he may be, we do not see him as a being to be deified, worshipped, summoned, or even one to have a drink with of a Friday evening when no-one from work is coming out and gosh-darn-it it’s been a hard week doesn’t a man deserve just one drink, and  really he was the only one answering his phone and sure, he’s not the best conversationalist, and those tentacles can keep you out of more discerning establishments, but what’s the harm, it’s just one drink with an Elder god, right? What could go wrong?

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