Hit List Games

Instead of going to GenCon like our own PyroFrog, I went to visit a gamer friend and we played many games on our “hit list” over our own “best four days.”

Here’s the list of games we played: Arkham Horror, Galaxy Defenders, The Grizzled: At Your Orders, Galaxy Trucker, Dawn of the Zeds.

What follows are my impressions of those games, in hopes that one or more of them sounds interesting to you, Dear Reader.


Arkham Horror

You’ve probably heard it said, but this is a long game. I believe our game lasted around three hours, but it is hard to tell, as we had to take some breaks in the middle to deal with other stuff: eating, taking care of kids, etc.

The sprawling map of Arkham and environs.
The sprawling map of Arkham and environs.

Nonetheless, the game provides an immersive experience with lots of moving parts. And monsters. Lots of monsters. Basically, monsters from another dimension are invading our reality, moving around our towns, and heralding the arrival of their big boss–unless we can stop them.

Yig's secret to global domination is that he's always angry.
Yig’s secret to global domination is that he’s always angry.

We played a variant with two investigators instead of four, where you would roll a die and determine if you would have a mythos event after each investigator’s turn. if you skipped one by rolling a 4-6 on a D6, you were sure to have one the next time. What this amounted to was usually two events in a row followed by a turn off (which the variant guaranteed). It felt fairly well-balanced, and added to the thematic uncertainty of the game.

As it was, we only won by one turn: I managed to seal the final gate just before Yig would have broken through.

Verdict: Great thematic fun, but lengthy, with lots of tokens/rules to keep track of.

Galaxy Defenders

Another game that we played with a variant. Basically, the roll of the “GD” symbol on the dice during an attack would give an agent fighting an alien a free re-roll, but the second result stood. Also, we added a damage to the attack.

At first, we thought these suggested modifications made our characters overpowered, so we removed the extra damage per attack. Then, we started getting overwhelmed as we tried to close the teleporters the aliens were using to come into the region.

The enjoyable part about the game was that your characters can receive experience and level up during the course of a mission. Getting new powers to face down the alien threat helped us feel like we had a fighting chance, and also gave us more strategic options to think through (although there were a decent amount of “fiddly” pieces in the game as a result, such as ammo, new ability markers, and damage counters).

Verdict: Like many cooperative games, the difficulty in this is relentless. But, I would definitely give it another play. Plus there is a campaign, which is always nice.

The Grizzled: At Your Orders

Continuing the string of relentless cooperative titles, we also played The Grizzled: At Your Orders. In The Grizzled, you and your fellow soldiers are trying to survive the psychological effects of war so as not to succumb to actual mortality as a result of being mentally and emotionally overwhelmed.

A Grizzled on a mission who has taken some "hard knocks" as the game calls them.
A Grizzled on a mission who has taken some “hard knocks” as the game calls them.

The major addition of the expansion is that there are mission cards to go on. Rather than simply having to call out a number of cards to draw to begin a mission, these mission cards provide some needed structure, and tell players how many cards to draw. Often, a mission will offer up an additional challenge. The mission cards allow you to calibrate the difficulty of the game to make it easier or harder (although, even the normal difficulty missions struck us as challenging).

The game also adds a two-player and solitaire version of the game. The new two-player version works well, as players take turns controlling a “novice” recruit with a face-up hand and their own character. I didn’t find this dummy player to require too much maintenance to be enjoyable.

This game, we made it to peacetime. We weren't often so fortunate...
This game, we made it to peacetime. We weren’t often so fortunate…

Verdict: Overall, The Grizzled: At Your Orders is a poignant, yet engaging, evocation of its WWI theme.

Dawn of the Zeds

This is the last cooperative game on the list. Victory Point Games is known for its solitaire titles. Many of the games the company releases are either playable solo or solitaire-only experiences.

In this latest edition of Dawn of the Zeds, the game is playable either cooperatively, competitively, or in its original state: as a solitaire experience.

Our four heroes in the town center at the start of the game.
Our four heroes in the town center at the start of the game.

The overall rules of the game take some getting used to, especially as they are spread across many rules manuals, which I had mixed feelings about. I was told to see one book for one rule, and then had to return to the other book to continue to find out about the other rule. The books were well organized, just not perhaps in a way that I enjoyed.

In any case, there are several paths on which the zombies will march into the town Farmingdale, laying waste to its suburbs and their inhabitants, and raising the infection rate.

Here you can see a zombie invasion track, and the hospital, where some people are in critical condition.
Here you can see a zombie invasion track, and the hospital, where some people are in stable condition.

Your goal is to keep the infection rate low and survive the zombie onslaught. You can heal people in a hospital, and you can also fight back the Zeds using a common pool of actions, as well as some variable player powers, and character-specific actions.

Overrall, the game was a tense, tower-defense experience. Again–even on normal mode– we struggled to keep the situation contained. I would like to try this again, and perhaps adapt my strategy in light of our first experiences. If you like returning to a game, and picking apart its various challenges and difficulty levels, this has a lot to offer. Each level of gameplay adds new mechanics as well as tougher zombies.

Verdict: Need more braiiins (and time) to scratch the surface of what this game has to offer. But, normal mode was fun, if difficult.

Galaxy Trucker

Galaxy Truckers is a game where players simultaneously put together ships out of tiles that represent space junk, while under a time limit (time is money in the galactic trucking business!).

My ship, in all its junkyard glory.
My ship, in all its junkyard glory, with lasers, engines, crew cabins, and storage. Oh myyy!

Then they use those junk ships to troll around looking for goods and abandoned ships that they can salvage for money, all while fighting off space pirates, disease, and the occasional meteor storm (all compared to various aspects of your ship, such as the number/position of lasers, or engines, or crew to determine the outcome).

All of these threats and opportunities are contained in a deck of cards. At the end of the deck that represents the galactic trucking route, players tally their earnings for goods they’ve collected or money earned along the way.

The two-phase nature of the game gives it a lot of variety. Putting together your ship and then seeing how it fares is a small joy–or a humorous catastrophe, if you get blown up.

Verdict: Galaxy Trucker is a game simple enough to play with family, yet fun enough to keep a hobby gamer engaged.

That’s a Wrap

Hope you all had a good GenCon or GenCant weekend. If you’ve got any games you want to give a shout out to, or have any questions, drop me a note in the comments!

— Dave
Twitter: @ptboardgames

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