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Wizards ‘n Zombies II

Wizards ‘n Zombies II published on 11 Comments on Wizards ‘n Zombies II

Wizards ‘n Zombies Part 2

This week’s comic is a continuation of the story begun here in last week’s comic. We are playing Fantasy Flight Games’ ‘End of the World’ RPG series. As I alluded to in last week’s blog post, the USP of this RPG is that the character you play is based on yourself. In fact, it’s more than just ‘based on’. The character you play is yourself.

You can find a complete (and very interesting) article on character creation here but, briefly; there are three categories: physical, mental, and social. Each of these categories has two different stats: physical, for example, has dexterity and vitality. Working from a limited number of points, you assign values to each of these stats. Then, the group you are playing with votes on whether to adjust these, i.e. they decide that no, you aren’t an Olympic level athlete and reduce your vitality to a reasonable number.

Even more fun is then introducing a unique characteristic in each of the three categories. What this will be is up to you. Short-sighted, grumpy, tire easily, great sense of direction, martial arts.

The only thing that then remains to decide is what gear or equipment all of your characters have. As the game begins with everyone sitting around a table at their current location, your items are easy: what is currently in your pockets?

Of course, this kind of character creation is absolutely not going to be for everyone. Typically, roleplaying is about creating a character from imagination. It’s about playing a role, after all, and this is exactly the opposite of that. It’s an exciting, funny, and fun prospect for me, but I understand it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

The system does allow you to just create a character from your imagination if you choose, but if you want to do that, there are probably 100s of other RPGs to better suit your taste. In the coming years, I hope to explore more than a few of those RPGs myself.

Wizards ‘n Zombies

Wizards ‘n Zombies published on 7 Comments on Wizards ‘n Zombies

Wizards ‘n Zombies

Fantasy Flight Games’ End of the World line is an incredibly cool sounding series of RPGs. The different manuals in the series each focus on a different apocalypse scenario: zombies, aliens, robots, petting zoo uprising, that kind of thing. Regardless of how The End came about, the scenario you find yourself in will be familiar: a ragtag group of survivors trying to escape the city/find help/make it home.

What’s different about these books is the character creation. In the ‘End of the World’ series, the character you play is yourself. The character creation process is an honest appraisal of your own strengths and weaknesses, which are distilled into usable attributes in the game. The game you will be playing is as if the apocalypse had actually landed on your own doorstep, and you and your actual friends need to get to safety, with nothing more fantastic than the tools that might actually be to hand.

More on that next week though, as this is part one of a two-part comic! Wooh story arc! Kind of. While I don’t want to spoil what’s going to happen next week, long time readers will know that both Gary and the word ‘zombie’ appearing together can really only mean one thing. Here’s a hint or two, if you are unfamiliar.

Continue reading Wizards ‘n Zombies

Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted published on 7 Comments on Girl, Interrupted

No new comic this week!
Sorry everyone – we just moved house and I have only just put together enough office/desk space to write out this post. Comics will (should!) resume next week, once we have unpacked and are back to our normal routine. Hopefully one that doesn’t involve rummaging around in boxes for twenty minutes just to find a knife to butter some bread to eat only to realise you have no idea which box the bread, butter, or plates are in…

Girl, Interrupted

Once Upon a Time is a game we have owned for years and never played. It’s my fault we never played it, if I’m honest, so I was pretty embarrassed to discover how great it was when we did actually play it.

As the name suggests, it’s a storytelling card game. In fact, having been originally printed in 1993, it might be the original storytelling card game? Anyway, it consists of a deck of cards that each lists a standard fairytale element or trope: a crown, a monster, a kingdom, a knight, a stepmother, a princess, and so on.

You are dealt a hand of these cards, along with one ‘ending’ card – something along the lines of ‘and then they married and lived happily ever after’. Sprinkled in amongst these are some ‘interrupt’ cards in different categories – time, place, or person.

One person begins telling a story using the cards from their hand, until they get stuck or interrupted by another player with an interrupt card, or a player that has an element that they mentioned. That player then continues the same story, but now they try to integrate the cards from their own hand, until they get to their ending, or are interrupted. Simple, and altogether brilliant.

Once Upon a Time is one of those great games that provides a simple framework of rules that allow the players to make the game, and make it as fun as they like. The hand of cards you are dealt is small, so the game doesn’t drag on, either. The situation as described above is only one of many ways that the game provides for laughter and ridiculousness, as the story gets dragged in wildly different directions depending on who is telling it. Although it’s quick enough to be a filler game, I think its true place is as an opener. Something to warm up a group before a longer game, or even RPG.

RPGs are something we are still eager to explore, but thus far, our group has only had a few games of Fiasco. Brilliant as that is, we are looking to dive deeper. We have Pathfinder and Ten Candles, so now what I am looking for are resources for running a good campaign. Story and play ideas for a Games Master. If anyone could recommend a good podcast, article, website, or anything else, I would greatly appreciate it.


On a final note, we are in the process of moving house at the moment, and I’m not yet 100% sure we will be in a position to put up a new comic next week. As well as time constraints, we literally might not have a desk and internet to actually make and put it up. Fingers crossed we will figure something out in the meantime, but apologies in advance if we don’t.

Levels of Strategy

Levels of Strategy published on 14 Comments on Levels of Strategy

Levels of Strategy

I had wanted to play Rhino Hero for a long, long time, and had built up really high expectations for it. Luckily, and unusually, it absolutely lived up to those expectations. This game is great.

Ostensibly, it is a kids’ game (ages 5+) so the premise is simple. Each player gets five cards, and the first player to get rid of all of their cards wins. You get rid of your cards by adding them to the ever-growing tower. You first lay down horizontally one or two folded cards to form ‘walls’, and then add a card from your hand as a ‘roof’ to the walls. This roof will have markings on it instructing the next player on how they must place the walls on their turn. And so the tower goes up, and up, and up.

Some cards instruct players to pick up an extra card, reverse the order of play, or most interesting of all, add the eponymous Rhino Hero to the tower. He takes the form of a solid wooden meeple. Exactly the kind you don’t want to have to balance precariously on a tower of cards that might be 10 layers high.

The first player to use up all of their cards wins, but more likely, and more often, the game ends when the tower collapses. In fact, in quite a lot of games, I have never actually seen anybody manage to place their fifth card. When the tower collapses, once you are done making fun of the person who collapsed it, you gather up the cards and play again. Because how could you not play again?

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Watch It Played

Watch It Played published on 8 Comments on Watch It Played

Watch It Played

A couple of things to note about this week’s comic. Firstly, this is a true story, just not one that originally starred Aileen. This was a story told to us by our friend Emer, who walked in on her partner Chris trying to set up Euphoria and having a full-blown argument with poor Rodney from Watch it Played. So thanks to Chris and Emer for allowing us to steal this for a comic.

Secondly, this is not meant in any way as a criticism of Rodney or Watch it Played – we just thought an angry reaction was such a stark counterpoint to Rodney’s genial, friendly, practically soothing manner that it was too funny not to go with. So calming are the video presentations of Rodney, in fact, that I have been known to put them on before bed just to unwind.

Sometimes I dream of meeples.

Continue reading Watch It Played

Push Your Luck

Push Your Luck published on 18 Comments on Push Your Luck

Push Your Luck

The Kickstarter was a huge success, so now Tabletop Cork is only a matter of time, and of finding the right venue. And while they are sourcing good locations, Chris and Emer also have all that Kickstarter money to spend on shiny new board games for the cafe. While we like to think of ourselves as generally being good, honest people, board games are so expensive, and we only have so much furniture, family heirlooms, and clothing we can sell to pay for them.

Chris and Emer, you are probably both reading this, so I would just like to say, we would never do that to you in real life.
But also have you guys seen the Heroes of Land, Sea and Air Kickstarter?


In all seriousness though, games becoming more expensive does seem to be a trend. As the hobby grows, and the market becomes ever more crowded and competitive, this would appear to be counter-intuitive. More competition should mean more competitive pricing, and not the reverse. So why are board games bucking the trend?

While it’s impossible to give conclusive answers when dealing with such a large market, there are some definite culprits. Firstly, I think the trend towards miniatures has had a part to play. It’s the big Kickstarter trend in board games, and has been for a while – pack the box with minis and charge accordingly.

This isn’t to say that companies who produce miniature-heavy games are ripping people off. The point here is that it has become ‘normal’ for a board game to cost 100+ Euro/Dollars/Gold Coins/Victory Points. Five years ago, I would have laughed at the idea of a board game that cost that much, but now it’s not that unusual. This trend has allowed for games like Kingdom Death Monster, and Mechs Vs Minions – boxes that cost literally hundreds.

Again, that is not to say that these are not good value games, but rather, as higher pricing becomes the norm, so other manufacturers are more likely to follow suit. To include miniatures in their box, or higher value production and components because that is where the market is trending.

Another culprit here is definitely the huge number of mergers and acquisitions that the hobby has seen in just the past three years. While there might appear to be as many competing publishers as there ever was, the reality is that these publishers are in fewer and fewer hands, and are not actually competing in the same manner that we think they are.

In the past three years, Asmodee has acquired Days of Wonder and Fantasy Flight. Last year it bought F2Z Entertainment, which owns Plaid Hat, Z-Man, and Filosophia. That is a huge number of publishers, brands, and games all under the one roof, and there is no reason for Asmodee to consider reducing its prices.

A company the size of Asmodee can exert such an influence of its market as to distort it – hence the laws against monopolies that exist. Recent reprints from Fantasy Flight Games have shown this. Citadels went from a small box, sub-20 Dollar game to a 30-dollar game in a much larger box (now published by Asmodee). Of course, you get so much more in the box now, in terms of game and components, but it’s still a worrying trend. The same thing can be seen in the shiny, lengthened, hardback new edition of ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen.


One small positive to be gleaned from this is the also-growing trend for micro games. As an answer to the ever-growing price tag and box size of popular games, some publishers and designers have seen an opportunity to stand out by doing the opposite – tiny boxes with equivalent price tags.

Love Letter is of course the flagship of this movement – containing just sixteen cards and with a price tag well under sixteen dollars/Euros, it presents phenomenal value and great gameplay. Star Realms is our most played two player game. At well under 20 of your local currency, its tiny box is packed with variety and replayability. While it might not technically be a ‘micro game’, it is a cheap game in a tiny box, and that’s good enough for me. I think a reduced size means a game has to be stripped back to its bare minimum – no frills, excesses, or unnecessary complications, and that can turn a good game into a truly great game.

On a final note this week, I want to give a mention to Our Turn Podcast: Women in Gaming, who as of this week are part of the Dice Tower Network. Co-host Sarah Reed is a friend of the comic, and an all-round great person too. The current episode focuses on ‘gaming challenges’ – such as the 10×10 (which we tried last year but failed appallingly), which Sarah was the original architect of.



All Points Towards Success

All Points Towards Success published on 12 Comments on All Points Towards Success

Victory Points

Theme matters. Of course theme matters. I’ve talked about how important theme is to me before, often at length. When I am playing a game, I want to be immersed, involved, enchanted. I want to be transported to its world; whatever that world may be.

When I play a game, I would rather the mechanics not to be naked. Rather than thinking about collecting resources and managing my hand, I want to be struggling to get enough food to feed my villagers, and agonising over what the best use of my time is in order to keep them fed into the next turn.

You can draw a perfect analogy with story here, whether it be film, television, comics, or movies. They all have a plot – a series of mechanisms to move things forward, interest us in the characters, and help things to make sense. But the plot should be hidden behind the story. If the story is good enough, it will draw an entrancing veil over the plot.

A game is a much more of fun experience if I am immersed in it, and engaging with the other players in it, rather than outside or around it. Some games do this well, and occasionally games do this exceptionally well.

There is an odd blind spot, though, even in games that are otherwise excellent examples of marriage between theme and mechanics. And that blind spot, that bane of so many board games, that spoiler of theme, and destroyer of worlds is so often victory points.

Small though that element is, it is what ties up the game; it is what everyone aims for, and thus thinks about during the game. It is not confined to the end, but seeps into the whole experience. If, during a game, you are building a civilisation – be that village or empire – there is surely a better metric for success than ‘victory points’.

I understand the difficulty that is presented here. In any reasonably complex game you will be playing towards several goals – building, gathering, exploring, currency – and there has to be some method of measuring everything together at the end. And neither am I saying that adding together elements at the end is a bad thing either. Games where the winner is obvious before the end become boring and frustrating for the other players.

The idea of a victory points track in and of itself is a solid mechanic. But like every other mechanic in thematic games, it needs to fit into the world of the game. In a thematic game, players should not feel like they are playing cards or rolling dice, they should always feel like they are committing crucial resources and hoping to beat the odds. So it is odd to me that victory points is so often overlooked, as though it is just a given, a mechanic set in stone that is not thought about during development.

In other news, we’re on Instagram now! We’re putting up pictures of games we play (if we enjoy them and they look pretty) so you can follow us there.

False Economy

False Economy published on 13 Comments on False Economy

False Economy

Well, I couldn’t not make a pyramid joke. I am only human, and a pyramid scheme joke while playing ‘7 Wonders’ is as inevitable as a wood for sheep joke during ‘Catan’. Except of course, being a pun, I would argue that the pyramid scheme gag is a far, far higher form of humour.

In a continuing theme of playing our way through some of the more glaring omissions in our board gaming lives, we finally got to play ‘Lords of Waterdeep’ a few nights ago. I was dubious going in. As much as I had heard what great game it was, I had also heard that it was a rather average worker placement, and it was just the D’nD dressing on top that got people so excited.

After one playthrough, you could categorise my level of surprise as ‘pleasant’. It looks top notch, with a very nice board, solid components, and enough artwork and flavour text to make the theme feel more than just mere set dressing.

We played a six player game with (I believe?) all of the expansions rolled in. There were enough options open every round to keep your mind on the board during down time, and the ratio of players to spaces available on the board was just about enough so that while you couldn’t wholly rely on your plans, you didn’t find them in tatters every other turn.

On top of vying for board space, there were a few player interaction elements – although more than some of these might have come from the expansions. Again, the balance between being able to hamper your opponents while not being able to completely derail their game seemed to be finely tuned.

Despite lacking the opportunity to use pyramid-based puns, it is a game I want to try again. One play is enough to interest me in more, but I don’t yet feel I have a handle on its depth or replayability.

Family Economy

Family Economy published on 11 Comments on Family Economy

Writer_smallerFamily Economy

I got Agricola over Christmas, but haven’t had the opportunity to play it yet. Not for the usual reasons, though – the usual reasons in our case being not enough time to play board games. The reason we haven’t got Agricola to the table is too many other board games. Two sides of the same coin, perhaps.

Anyway, new games piled up a little over Christmas, and that was on top of an already substantial shelf of shame, alongside a few friends new to the hobby with their own growing collection of games to try. All of which are of course amazing things, and as good a reason as you could want to not have played a game. What has been taking up our time is Star Realms, 7 Wonders, Pandemic: The Cure, Skull, Pandemic Legacy, Scythe, Splendor, and Movable Type.

We both work full time as well as making the comic, and are involved in other comic projects, so actual free time is rare. We have been trying for a long time to put aside more time to play games, and so far this year we seem to have been managing our time better, meaning more board games for us. The Kickstarter for Tabletop Cork was a huge success, meaning in the coming months, we should have a local board game cafe. What this means is a social hub for playing board games, and access to even more board games. All told, 2017 is looking like a good year for board games.

Regarding the website, we have long talked about overhauling the website. We haven’t been happy with it for years, and we wanted to completely change it. After more than a year of never finding the time for this, we have started down a different path, which is making small, incremental changes over this year. Tasks we can manage in a small amount of time, which, when added together, should make the site a much more pleasant experience.

We have started by changing our hosting package, so you should now find the site much quicker to load, something we are really happy about. We will be making more back end changes for a while, but hopefully within a few months you will start to see the difference on the front end as well.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for improvements, please do let us know. All the changes will be geared towards making the site a better experience for our readers, so let us know what you want!

Pandemic: The Cure?

Pandemic: The Cure? published on 12 Comments on Pandemic: The Cure?

Writer_smallerPandemic: The Cure?

This is, more or less, a comic about how there very nearly wasn’t a comic this week. Moreover, it is a comic about why this is a comic featuring just one character in a simple setting talking to a bed, as opposed to another ‘actual’ character. In other words, it was as much as could be done once Aileen had recovered.

It is also a true story. Thankfully, Aileen is entirely better now, thanks in no small part to board games. So from here on out it’s regular, weekly updates. Also, in case anyone is concerned, the stick I wield in panel 5 is not normally used to test the level of sickness/wellness in Aileen. It is actually my editor’s stick, and is generally used to make sure comics are made on time. The manner in which the stick is used for both purposes is, however, surprisingly similar.

Started 2017 by kicking a big game off our bucket list – we finally played 7 Wonders. Not the all-new, all-fancy Duel, mind you, just regular old-fashioned 7 Wonders, which is one of those games that we had somehow managed to avoid playing up until this point.

I enjoyed it. It’s a really nice engine-building system, with a great theme and artwork to back it up. There’s interesting decisions to be made with almost every hand, and it has a surprisingly fast play time for how much ‘game’ you get out of it. The game goes through three ‘ages’, wherein you pass your hand of cards around the table, picking one card to keep at a time, laying each chosen card in front of you to further your civilisation. Sort of like Sushi Go, but with pyramids.

Cards will earn money, resources, or just take you straight to victory points. As the ages pass, the cards get more expensive, but if you’ve been doing your job right, your earlier efforts will have laid a sufficient foundation of resources to pay for these cards. As you expand, you can choose to specialise in science, commerce, civilisation, or war. It’s a mix of planning, and adapting to your hand as you are dealt it, and it’s a mix that it gets right.

After two plays, it’s a game that I do want to go back to, but I also feel its lifespan will be somewhat limited for me. On paper, it’s a game with huge replayability – there appear to be a lot of viable strategies, and what will work in any given game will depend on the cards you are dealt, and of course the cards your neighbours will choose to either take or pass along to you.

Where it falls down for me is player interaction. 7 Wonders does have it, but it feels almost like an afterthought – just a box that was ticked, rather than an element that was integral to the design. You can purchase resources that you don’t produce yourself from your direct neighbours (i.e. the players to your left and right), but it’s a set transaction they have no choice in.

At the end of each age, military strength is compared to your neighbours, and victory points are either rewarded or deducted. Interaction is present, but it just doesn’t feel very deep, even for a relatively quick card game. It is definitely a game I like, and one I want to play and explore more, it’s just not a game I’m super-excited about. Maybe it’s just a game that suffers from its own hype, and had it not been built up so much I would have enjoyed it more? Impossible to tell, but maybe it will grow on me over time.

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