Ever wondered what it feels like to be a crying child? Well, we’ve all been crying children once in our lives, but in today’s review, we’re checking out Edmund McMillan’s The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls, which was shipped to Kickstarter backers at the end of 2018. Having received mine, I was itching to give this one a try, as I absolutely love The Binding of Isaac video game. Would this new card game meet such high expectations, or should it be forever locked away in The Chest? Join us as we check out the gameplay, the artwork and more in today’s review.
So long 2017! You were mostly terrible but there were a few redeeming qualities, not least of which the advent of GeekOut Shrewsbury. On Thursday we rounded out the year in true geeky style, a mountain of board games, Callum’s Nintendo Switch (thanks man), and our first super secret santa.
The Little Dessert Shop Pre-Meet
This was my first trip to the recently opened Little Dessert Shop, and I am not disappointed by what’s on offer, I thought I’d grown sick of sweet foods over Christmas, enough to skip the waffles, but not enough to resist a brownie and custard. The table size was a little small for some serious gaming, but there’s always space for a quick game of Love Letter between coffees. Thanks to the lads behind the counter, you were nothing if not entertaining.
A Very Busy Montgomery’s Tower
To say that Monty’s was busy is an understatement, in fact we had a while to wait before we could claim our seats, and no other table was available for us apart from the little ones we use to rack up the games. But we’re nerds, and never short of something to do. Callum and Murray settled into a Pokemon battle, while I played some pinball and chatted with Ben until we managed to occupy some furniture and bust into a game of Magic.
I also broke out some of my new Christmas presents, including new favourite Rhino Hero courtesy of our very own Timlah (cheers Tim, expect your presents soonish) which will need to be expanded upon at some point; and the DC Deck Builder Heroes Unite, featuring the D-list of DC heroes, but some of the better mechanics from any iteration of the game I’ve played thus far. I did not get to try the Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle deck building game brought in by Harley, who ran an RPG later in the evening.
Around 21:30 the music began, because it’s the bizarre half-formed space between Christmas and New Years where time is irrelevant and no one has to work unless they’re retail, service or emergency services. I neglected to consider this possibility, and may have to restructure next December’s GeekOut Shrewsbury to account for it. Still, it didn’t stop the progress of the Christmassy roleplay taking place in the corner, which I hear involved a murderous reindeer, and Mad Max elves. No doubt I’ll hear the rest of the story another time.
Thanks to everyone who put in to the Super Secret Santa, especially whoever brought the Trumpisms book, which shall take pride of place next to my volumes of George W. Bushisms. I can also say that whoever put in the Ferrero Roche, your present was equally well received. We wound down early as the music only got more intrusive, squeezed in a quick game of Surakarta on a custom board made by John, which cracked spontaneously in the middle of the game surreptitiously moving my pieces allowing me to gain the brief advantage I needed to turn the horrible losing streak I’d started on.
Munchkin is a game that strips the Tabletop RPG to its foundations, separates out the memes, in jokes, and instantly recognisable features, and parodies them mercilessly. The Steve Jackson game has not only gone wild with no fewer than fourty-two expansions varying from boxes of a few hundred cards to blister packs of about fifteen, three or four re-releases, and about twenty spinoffs with their own catalogue of expansions, and I haven’t even touched upon the assorted merchandise, Munchkin themed game-rereleases, a board game or… several… look it’s getting really difficult to keep track of all this now.
Not a bad back-catalogue for a board game released in 2001, right on the cusp of the reviving board game market. So why have we never reviewed it before?
How to Play
The premise is that the players are a party of adventurers trampling through a dungeon, bashing down doors, killing the monsters, gathering their loot and levelling up.
The game begins with two decks of cards (heights may vary depending on number of expansions; number of decks may vary depending on expansions or spinoffs; there may also be a board, bobbleheads, entirely fictitious miniatures…) one Door deck, one Treasure deck. Players begin as level 1 humans with no class (seriously that joke is in every rulebook) and start with a hand of four cards from each deck.
During the game the door deck will offer you the chance to gain classes, or change race to a classic fantasy species, throw out curses to debilitate you, and monsters to challenge you. Defeating monsters raises your level and earns you treasure, items or abilities that make it easier for you to progress, or make it harder for your “friends” to win. The first to reach level 10 wins the game.
As a D&D fan and lover of all things nerdy – or at least classically nerdy – the decks are jam packed with jokes that I can appreciate on an esoteric level. They’re my jokes, in-jokes for the in-crowd, mixed in with a few that are easier for other people to get, not many. But the sheer variety of sets means there’s something for everyone to laugh at and feel very clever about. I know nothing about westerns, very little about the old wuxia martial arts films, but there’s a set for those who geek out about them. There’s a few puns I get in The Good, The Bad, and the Munchkin, but what the hell are The Eyes of Texas?
Once you get past the comedy and into the game there are some very simple mechanics that are easily built on to create a game that’s interesting and different every time you play, moreso the more you add, detract, change and mix. While there is such a thing as not being “in the mood” for Munchkin you can always pick up and play and expect something interesting. The simplicity of the basics and universal appeal also make it a great game for bringing in new gamers who may never have tried anything of the sort.
It’s an elegant blend of strategy and chaos, building your character up to the heights of power, only to be torn down when you get too big for your own good. Negotiating for help during a fight can be a cutthroat time, as players bargain for treasures, threaten to worsen the situation, and choose their allies carefully. It’s a thrill to toppling someone before they win, but there’s a method to tearing one player down without exhausting your resources so that someone else can snatch victory from someone else’s defeat. Depending on the cunning of your opponents, the second rat is often the one to get the cheese.
I’m a harsh enough critic to admit that Munchkin is flawed, despite its success.
My biggest grievance is an issue with any game dependent on random chance, and that is that bad luck seems to dog certain players, despite the odds being even every turn. Too often I’ve seen one player get stuck around level three or four through no fault of there own, while everyone else toughs it out around levels eight and nine. Lack of creatures you can defeat, lack of creatures altogether, means no levels, no treasure, and a handful of broadly useless cards.
To balance this there is the charity rule, meaning that the lowest level player gets the cards discarded by those who’ve reached their hand limit, although it’s fairly uncommon occurrence it can help to gather the hand-me-downs. Your biggest advantage as a lower level player is that the guys who are winning become the victim of every screw-over and cut down the deck has to offer, where you get a fairly easy ride. Ultimately you may very well find yourself catching up, or even getting to a point where you can win, but in the mean time it’s boring and disappointing round after boring and disappointing round.
More sets means more mechanics, ones that are rarely of use to you once they’re diluted by the other cards. Stripping down the sets to the core, picking and choosing some favourite expansions makes the game a lot more manageable, and if you’re savvy you can put together custom decks designed around your favourite game elements.
Final flaw, and this one’s very nit-picky. Once you’ve browsed the deck once and played the game a couple of times the humour is rather lost, you may find yourself buying the decks to try and find a new joke to laugh at. As I say, nit-picking.
This is a must-have for any games cabinet, at least one copy of any variety. You can happily spend the absolute bare minimum on this game and expect a lot of fun times to be had from it, and if everyone has their own favourite version at home then you’ve got the chance to try out a few things. It may not be a game to every one’s taste but it’s a definite crowd pleaser with no great limitations on maximum numbers of players, making it a great one to bust out at parties, conventions, or just a night when no one wants anything too serious.
Shameless promotion here, my friends at e-Collectica games will be celebrating the store’s 10th birthday on October the 15th with their longest ever Games Day. 10:00 – 19:30 at the Darwin Community Centre in Shrewsbury. If you’re in the midlands and want to join us for nine and a half hours of games come on over. We’ll be featuring a Ticket to Ride tournament, a couple of roleplays and your chance to learn some new games, or just play some favourites. More info at the event page on Facebook.
Ah yes, the companion. Unlike the sidekick, the companion is something that might not necessarily follow you because it believes in the same things as you do. Instead, a companion is there because it wants to be by your side, for whatever reason. (more…)
There’s something weirdly therapeutic about shuffling a deck of cards, and for enthusiasts of all stripes there’s an ever increasing number of games to choose from across a wide variety of genres, so many in fact that I for one do not remember the last time I played a game with the classic four-suite deck. The combination of a randomised deck, the resource-management elements of a hand, and the sheer volume of options afforded by the printed space on cards make them a versatile utility for any game designer.
But with such an array of choices, how do you know what’s right for you?
The structure of decks, and how those structures are reached can vary wildly:
Pre-built decks are the most common by far, and most frequently multiple decks control different elements of the game. For example, in Munchkin the Door deck describes your encounters, and the Treasure deck rewards you for your efforts. In Bucket of Doom (a recent acquisition of mine) players are required to formulate escape plans drawn from the Situation deck using one of their Item cards as the most essential component. Or to take it one step further, in Boss Monster, you have a Dungeon deck with which to built your evil lair, a Spell deck that grants you special powers, and all players are at the mercy of the Hero deck.
Deck building games most commonly feature a single deck around which the entire game focusses, which is slowly divided amongst the players. The DC Deck Building Game is a favourite of mine, in which players begin with only a handful of powers, and must gather more powers, as well as allies, equipment, and even a few enemies in order to strengthen their chances of securing better cards as the game progresses, and work their way through the super-villains. Smash-Up takes a different course, where the deck is built right at the beginning by combining any two of the large choice of factions together, using complimentary tactics to compete for control of the bases.
CCGs (collectible card games) offer players a library of cards from which they can collect and horde, and building a deck from what cards they amass from booster packs and boxes. Whoever can build the best deck wins. This type of game lends itself to victory through study, knowledge, and yes, more than a little cash spent on cards that can assure victory, and this can create a rather elitist type of gamer, or just a bunch of people who really enjoy testing their strategic thinking.
The real beauty of the deck structure is that it is easy to expand upon. As a perfect example, Cards Against Humanity having such a simple structure allows the creators to bring out new decks based on what’s funny to a geographical area (or hand us some lazy British stereotypes, cheers lads) or simply add more material to keep the game fresh. Smash Up gains more factions to mix and mash, and CCG’s expand upon the ever growing market, changing with the time so as to prevent older players gaining too strong an advantage over new players. It never quite works out like that though…
Your only resource is the cards in your hand. Games may differ, changing the way cards are played depending on other elements of the game, but ultimately you can only control what you do with what you have. Card quality can vary, and you can end up with some hands offering you next to no choices, while others grant you significant bonuses in any situation. You’re frequently limited as to how many cards you can hold, and almost always limited on how many you replenish, so managing this precious resource is a tough balancing act of weighing pros and cons of each play, calculating the best order, but leaving yourself prepared for what may come.
It’s little wonder it can take some people an hour to make up their minds.
The random nature of a well-shuffled deck can be a blessing and a curse. Some players may find that the cards they draw just aren’t good enough, or are stuck with the agony of choosing which of their incredible choices would be best used in the moment, only to find another, better situation arise soon after. Magic the Gathering players will be familiar with the terms Mana-Screwed or -Flooded referring to having too little or too much of the essential resource card. Fans of Cards Against Humanity or Dixit will know the sting of picking up “The Perfect Card” the moment they made an inadequate play.
This level of chaos can put some people off playing, but sometimes it’s best just to make the best of what you have and hope for a change of fortunes. And if it never happens you can always blame the cards.
Another games day come and gone and what a fantastic day it was. And another huge thank you to everyone who attended and took part in the many games and competitions.
The two role-plays drew a surprisingly large audience, as well as interested players. Viking Tomato was held on the main stage in the afternoon, it was a parade of heroic vegetables and terrible… terrible puns as it ever is. Daring feats by the Cranberry Saucerer, and Rhubarbarian saw victory over a band of militarised Pringles. Mike, my co-conspirator at Quotes from the Tabletop DM’d, he recently started his own YouTube channel, Bassios!
My game started in the morning in a separate RPG room, I used Kerplunk to build an ever mounting sense of dread, and dread it most certainly created. While my attempts to implement sound failed due to technical difficulties, it didn’t stop the look of abject terror on the face of the young lady who caused a catastrophic loss of marbles.
Here are a few pictures from the rest of the day, thanks to the owners of e-Collectica and CEO Darwin T. Dodo (I’m fairly sure T. stands for the) for providing them. These pictures will be uploaded to our Facebook page, so if you see yourself, tag yourself.
The party carried on to a local pub for the die-hards who just couldn’t let go. The after-party is one of my favourite parts of the day, and I hope that even when the event starts extending into the evening that the after-party still happens.
Wheels are already in motion for e-Collectica games days next year, and we want to make them bigger and better than ever. Not to mention that the the October Games Day of 2016 will be the store’s 10th birthday, so they are looking to make it a real party. We’ll keep you up to date with the plans nearer to the time, or you can follow e-Collectica on their Facebook page for up-to-date news and info on the massive array of games they stock.
We’ve had a fantastic month here at GOSW, and we want to extend our thanks to all of you for keeping us going and encouraging us to keep going. I look forward to meeting more of you to thank you in person, and April looks to be the time to do it. I have a busy month ahead of me, and a lot of plans that were put off that I’m starting to get time to accomplish, with a few minor diversions along the way:
e-Collectica Games Day
And it just so happens (as if by some bizarre coincidence) that e-Collectica are hosting their next Games Day on April the 11th, what luck. If you’re in the Shrewsbury area at the end of half-term swing by the Morris Hall on Bellstone for a little of the following:
- Krosmaster Arena
- Star Wars X-Wing
- Viking Tomato
- King of Tokyo
The cost of entry is the same as it ever was, £3 to get in on the door, or £2.50 if you get to e-Collectica and book ahead of time. Only a week and a half to go, so head on up to the market if you want to save yourself a little extra cash, and get a look at what’ll be on offer on the day.
The last few Games Days have been incredible, and the latest was an amazing success. Sadly this time, I won’t be there…
So begins a new era in the British convention circuit! Last year at KitaCon, the Kita committee announced a union between themselves and Ame to run a cycle of events, each taking it in turns to run one large and one small event annually, beginning with AmeChibi (and KitaCon in August). From April the 10th onwards, I will be there! Instead of at Games Day. Not entirely certain how I feel about this yet.
Come find me on Saturday in the games room. Don’t know where it’ll be, but I do plan on running something special in D&D 5th edition! I’m going to provisionally say I’ll start at 14:00, but keep an eye on the GOSW Facebook page because – as with all plans where RP is concerned – that time is subject to change. Either way, it’ll be after AmeChibi’s own ITTD celebration, because I’ll inevitably be joining that too.
As a final note, we’ve been up to something for quite some time now, something that we’ve not been ready to share with you, but we’re getting close.
Very close now…
My local games shop host regular events where people can come and play board games, take part in events, meet new gamers and try something different. They’re a lot of fun, and I’m not just saying that because I’m on the committee who runs them. Helping to manage events is one hell of an opportunity for me, and I’ve learned a great deal in the process, and though it’s been a long fight for us to make games days a success, they get better every time, and everyone who comes enjoys themselves, and ultimately that’s what is important.
We are Shrewsbury’s biggest games event, and we are still rising. In fact e-Collectica itself is currently looking likely to move from it’s current stall in the local Market Hall and into a high street premises, and next years’ events are going to be bigger and better than ever.
If you’re local to the area, keep an eye on Facebook and GeekOut South-West for updates on when the next games day should be. For now though, take a look at what you’d be missing out on:
A huge thank you to everyone who attended and an even bigger thanks to those yet to attend! We look forward to seeing you.
And once again, a huge thank you to e-Collectica for every opportunity they’ve given me.