Missing in Action
Lately, I’ve still playing board games, but they’ve been the same games. I’ve made trips to game stores and come away empty-handed. And, there’s not much to say about the same games, is there? I suppose I could write an article entitled: “Those Same Old Games are Still Great,” while I’m waiting for the latest batch of Kickstarter games and preorders to make their way across the ocean to me. But, where’s the fun in that?!
That sort of attitude means I’ve gotten old in a gaming sense of the word. Let me explain. Think about whatever decade you grew up in, and ask yourself what the best kids’ movies, cartoons, stores, and toys are. Chances are, most of them came from the same decade you grew up in, give or take a few years. I feel the same about games: the games from the time when I started playing board games are the ones I feel are the best, easiest to learn, and have the greatest shelf life.
But, upon reflection, I came up with a list of five games I am anticipating this year!
1. Too Many Bones Undertow
The first time I played Too Many Bones, I felt a bit overwhelmed in the same way I feel when engaging with an MMORPG like World of Warcraft. In such a game, there are so many classes to choose from, and within each class, there are different skill trees to learn with your character. In Too Many Bones, your character(s) develop by means of rolling lots of dice and allocating them in a player mat with different slots.
The basic goal is to progress through a series of encounters with baddies culminating in facing a Tyrant (boss), and emerging victorious. Along the way, you will accumulate skill points and be able to improve your character in ways of your choosing.
Why I Like it: The character customization appeals, as well as the encounters with different enemies and bosses. The small playmat (four rows deep and four wide) where you fight enemies makes for some tactical combat, but not on a scale that is too daunting (it feels almost like the front row-back row mechanics of a Final Fantasy game, where ranged characters fight from afar, and melee characters start up front in the action). The nostalgia for the video game mechanics that seem to parallel–if not directly inspire–the game is also a plus.
2. Heroes of Terrinoth
Heroes of Terrinoth reimplements the system previously used in the Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game, where players cooperate by controlling different classes of heroes to achieve certain objectives before a quest timer runs out. The system grants heroes four basic abilities, and these vary slightly from class to class, while retaining the same general function. Attacking, for example, always deals damage to enemies, but your melee attacker will not hit enemies in the distance, while your mage might be able to.
There is also a campaign; whether you win or lose individual scenarios in Warhammer Quest ACG, you progress along with the story–which was an element I loved, because every game session had lasting consequences, and no play time was wasted play time. I am hopeful to see this implemented in the new game.
Why I Like it: Heroes of Terrinoth promises more of the cooperative gameplay I enjoyed from the first time the system was used in Warhammer Quest ACG: more scenarios, characters, abilities, gear, and locations to explore. Plus, it takes place in the same universe as Descent: Journeys in the Dark, and the popular RPG-like story game Legacy of Dragonholt, which means that some of the lore and characters from those games just might make their way into this.
3. Sentinels of the Multiverse Oblivaeon
The Avengers aren’t the only ones facing a Big Bad with tough-as-nails henchmen and a plan to end it all (ok, so there’s a bit more to Thanos’ plan, but spoilers!). Oblivaeon is seemingly invincible, and the Sentinels (and even some former villains) of the Multiverse band together to address this threat.
Why I Like it:
Sentinels of the Multiverse was one of the first cooperative games that really created a story for me. The locations, characters, and villains felt quite cinematic, and I expect this final set will pull out all the stops. It will be neat to control the villains that have plagued me in previous sets, and to finally see if my favorite heroes have what it takes to beat the ultimate challenges included in this set.
4. Gloom of Kilforth
I’ve heard people mistake Gloomhaven and Gloom of Kilforth; really, the two games are quite different. While Gloomhaven is this expansive fantasy world that you explore over many scenarios, Gloom of Kilforth is contained to one play session, and you get all the adventure of a fantasy story arc in one game.
Why I Like it:
There’s a lot going for this game! There are several bosses, each with their own unique behaviors, as I understand it. In addition, each character starts with humble beginnings, and has a personal quest within the world. So, you aren’t just setting out to be altruistic and save everyone else: your character’s personal interests play into the game. Even within that overarching goal of fulfilling your personal quest and facing the Big Bad, there seems to be a lot of variety of where you will go and what you will do–or leave undone! Having to analyze which threats and opportunities to pursue was a great deal of fun, and it played quickly too, for a game with interesting decisions.
5. Argonauts 2nd Edition
This is another game I kicked myself for not backing the first time around. It’s fifth on my list of anticipated games, because I think it’s a good game, but I haven’t experienced it in the way I have the others. I backed it, not having played it.
Nonetheless, there are some qualities to recommend it.
Why I Like it:
Greek mythology is something I enjoy, but seldom see as a theme in any games (I think there was a Hera vs. Zeus game, and the sci-fi Lords of Hellas also comes to mind), let alone a cooperative one. The crew encounters creatures and other events inspired by the quest to get the golden fleece. Perhaps, there’s a bit of nostalgia for the Jason and the Argonauts movie I saw on TV as a kid, but I still think there could be a compelling game in managing crews of sailors with various strengths in order to deal adeptly with threats.
Teaching an Old Gamer New Tricks
If there’s anything I’ve learned from this exercise in focusing on new games, it’s that adventure is out there! It’s surely fine to like “classic” games from your collection, and to find them fulfilling. But, there are still games being made to cater to my tastes. And some of these games look quite good! In another several years, I am sure I’ll be looking back fondly on one or more of these titles as a part of “the good old days.” But, I hope I’ll be savvy enough to not get stuck in a moment I can’t get out of.