Welcome back for Week #2 of our newest segment: Your Week in Gaming. In case you missed the introduction last week, this is a series of short blogs (by various members of our team) about the games that we played over the last week or so. Of course, we all have our favorite games, or at least a few games that seem to make it to the table more often than others… but we thought it would be neat to create a space where our readers could, perhaps, learn a little something about games they may not have heard about before.

Also, joining us for the first time today is our newest blogger: TJ! He’s come on board just in time for our second Game Night Recap and will have another post for your reading pleasure very soon!

Ok, now that you know why we’re here…

Bring On the Games!

PyroFrog’s Friday Gaming Bonanza!

Last Friday, we had a great group that started as 5 guys and ended up with 6 of us. Thankfully, we were ready and had a plan for the evening.

~The Opening Act – Oceanos~

We started off with Oceanos (by Iello), a game that is easy to pick up but does require a bit of forward thinking. A few weeks ago, we broke Oceanos open for the first time and things started off a bit rocky (as many new games have on their first play) but things quickly fell into place. But this time, I wanted to dive deeper into the game.

Oceanos is a game about deep sea exploration, specimen collecting, treasure-hunting, and ship customizing that takes place over the course of 3 rounds where each player has the chance to act as expedition leader (aka, active player).

Here, you can see my play area just after the start of the second round. You can see that I’ve been focused on upgrading my sub (pink rectangle – you’ll need 1 crystal and 1 base to upgrade from lvl 1 piece to lvl 2), as well as collecting unique sea creatures for double points (red rectangle.)

As the active player, you deal out 1 card to each other player + 1 for each periscope their ship has (up to 3 additional cards.) Players then select 1 card from their hand to keep (face down), in effect, piecing together their own section of the ocean. If they still have a fuel token on the engine section of their sub, they can spend it to keep an additional card that turn. Finally, all players give their remaining cards to the expedition leader, who follows the same steps. Once everyone has at least 1 kept card in their play area, everyone flips their cards at the same time and, if the requirements are met, they are able to upgrade parts of their ship.

Here’s what the exploration cards in front of a player might look like at the end of the game. Note the large chain of coral (worth 1 point per coral icon at the end of the game), diverse sea life (worth 2 points each at the end of round), upgrade crystals and bases galore, & treasure chests (stacked if possible so that a single diver token can collect multiple treasures). Don’t forget though, great cards often come with Kraken eye symbols, which could lead to negative points.
Here is 1 set of submarine board pieces. The one at the top is your starting sub, and all pieces can be upgraded up to level 3. Each part of the submarine has a specific function, from giving you more options, to higher scores, more divers or longer exploration rows.

Play continues this way until all players have been expedition leader, at which point they are encouraged to upgrade their ship (if they have the resources to do so), and then score points based off of the number of unique sea creatures and the level of the tail-section of their ship and whomever has the highest incidence of Kraken eyes will lose points. All three rounds of the game play in a similar fashion, but the ocean cards from rounds 2 & 3 are placed in their own rows beneath the cards kept from round 1. At the end of the last round, players score on sea life, tail-section (minus points for Kraken eyes) in addition to the longest continuous chain of coral icons on their cards, and the treasures they collect by using their diver tokens.

 

Once you start playing, the game is really pretty simple, I’d say the most complicated part is the upgrades to your ship, but players should be able to pick it up relatively quickly. Something I like about this title is that, while it is a competition amongst all players, there is never any direct conflict between them, so no one will ever feel discriminated against and, for those playing with significant others or relatives, there really shouldn’t be any cause for the hard feelings that are common after many other competitive games.

~Intermission – Joking Hazard~

Thankfully, about the time we were finishing our last round of Oceanos, our 6th player arrived. We finished up the game and cleared it away. On this night, we had a second table ready to go, so I set up Joking Hazard on that table, while a friend prepped the other table for a game of Zombicide: Black Plague.

I won’t take up our time here with an overview of Joking Hazard, as I recently reviewed it and the game we played was intended to give the group something to laugh about and get to know each other before we entered the main event. If you’d like to know more about Joking Hazard (which, while very crude in its humor, the majority of my group tends to enjoy) here’s a link to that review.

~Pyro’s Grand Finale – Zombicide: Black Plague~

Once we finished up with some pretty hilarious rounds of Joking Hazard, it was time to go back to the main table and start our trials as medieval heroes in our attempt to escape the zombie-filled streets, find the key to the vault, where our best chances lie in weapons to defeat the worst of the zombie horde and then, escape.

Who knew the wizard from a Monty Python film had such a rad sword!? (One of the items we found locked in the vault.)

Zombicide is another game you might find on our Reviews page, this one was tackled in a joint post by Dave and myself. For more in-depth information regarding how the game plays, again, I’ll refer you to that review. I still stand by my comments in that review: Zombicide is, first and foremost a Cooperative Gauntlet-style Zombie Survival game—there are a variety of missions both in the rulebook and online that add variety to the game, but I tend to prefer the ones that force players to do more than simply hack and slash.
That said, sometimes you just want to fight some zombies and gain that sweet, sweet experience.

Surrounded by a throng of difficult zombies to defeat (and a necromancer just passing through), one of our comrades has fallen. His avenger was also promptly eaten 1 round later. *Sadness* Meanwhile, the rest of the survivors fled to safety.

This was probably my favorite session of Zombicide so far. All players work working well together; separating off in pairs, we balanced each other out and explored the ruined town. We had a number of close calls, masterful combat (dice rolling), and found the weapons we needed to survive. This time was a slight variation on the mission that we usually end up running, and I enjoyed the changes, however small. I have since found a number of very interesting scenarios on the CMON website and I’m looking forward to checking some of those out in the future.

@PyroFrogTJP


Without further ado, I’m happy to introduce TJ and his thoughts on two games he’s recently enjoyed…

Introductions & Twists on Classic Tropes

I don’t currently have a regular gaming meetup of hardcore gamers, which means that nowadays I get much of my gaming fix by playing with friends or family, in whatever context that makes sense. The games I got to play recently are perfect for these kinds of setting – easy to explain, attractive theme, low stress level. It’s no coincidence both of these games are cooperative – these provide a particularly attractive entry way to the game for reluctant participants. Sometimes, one or two of the players aren’t super keen on the game and are playing along because they’re family or their spouse is your family, or something else of that sort. For these situations the infamous ‘alpha gamer’ problem of cooperative games provides an opportunity: it allows reluctant players (or children) to ‘hide’ behind a stronger player, not think too hard about the game and play along with minimal effort. If the game is good – and these are good games – before it is over, it will charm the reluctant player, immerse them in the gameplay and convert them to the cause.

Mysterium – 2-7 players

Mysterium is a cooperative game that brings players to a deserted mansion where a murder took place. One player takes the role of the ghost – long gone but lingering, with full knowledge of the dastardly deed, while the other players are investigator psychics who are trying to decipher the case. The only catch is that the ghost, being dead and all, is in the sorry state of being unable to speak or write letter. Instead, they have to communicate by sending visions – giving out cards with dream-like illustrations, trying to direct each player to their own set of suspect, weapon, and location.

Mysterium can be taught in minutes, is gorgeous on the table and works well with almost all people. Take note though: it takes a bit of time to set up.

Mysterium shines in a four or five player set up – the typical family and friends set up, and it scales pretty well. It has very little downtime, as players try to help each other decipher the cryptic dreams the ghost sends. The role of the ghost is a bit more stressful and difficult, but you can usually take it upon yourself or make some other talkative person spend an evening in silence, while the rest of group laugh and wonder what the heck is going on in that brain of yours/his/hers.

The Grizzled – 1-5 players

The Grizzled has an unusual theme: players take the roles of French soldiers during the first World War I, heroically serving each other tea or whimpering under the blankets in fear of gas. Unlike other games that are set up in war, players are not trying to kill anyone but rather than focusing on the fighting, the game focuses on what the soldiers while away from their front to keep themselves and each other sane, or at least – sane enough to keep going until the sordid war finally ends and they can go back home to their families.

As innovative as the theme and feel of the game, the mechanics are anything but: a pretty simple game of hand management where you’re trying to get rid of cards in your hand, and in the deck, while not ‘busting’ by getting too many cards with the same symbol in the center. The game suffers from the fact it relies on players not to share information about the content of their hands and some other decisions they make. But the game is difficult enough of a puzzle, and it’s often pretty fun to struggle with the fact you’re not allowed to tell your friends you have a whistle phobia.  Moreover, the game is so immersive and evocative that you eventually end up wondering what’s worse, being panicked and absent-minded when you spill coffee all over the bunker or just forget you wanted to give it to.

First I was panicked so I gave random people coffee but then I became absent minded so I dropped the coffee I selfishly gave me

One last comment: though I typically don’t like it when an expansion fixes issues with the base game, The Grizzled is a small and cheap enough game that it doesn’t bother me as much. And the expansion, At Your Orders, is kind of a necessary feature for playing this game. Among other things, it makes the 2 player mode much much better so if you often find yourself playing with just one other person, the expansion makes it fun and possible.

@tpoliticalgamer

PyroFrog is a gamer through most every medium as well as a father, novice blogger, hopeful game designer, and hopeless Kickstarter supporter. His blog is dedicated to gaming news and tends to focus on interesting and high value opportunities. He regularly organizes game nights where he and 3-8 friends frequently try out new games, playtest new IP's and enjoy popular favorites.

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