My coworkers and I have made a bit of a tradition over the past few months — Friday at lunch is tabletop game time. We’ve played countless different games and I recently went on a weekend vacation that translated into 48 hours of beer, steak, and games. Here’s a little rundown of the dozen or so games I played this past weekend.
Letters from Whitechapel
Letters from Whitechapel is an All vs. 1 game pitting a group of constables against Jack the Ripper himself. Jack must decide which of the girls (white pawns) to kill and escape to his hideout, the location of which only he knows, while the police attempt to find him. The police are allowed to move and ask if Jack has been through a space and Jack must be truthful. Multiple rounds allow the police to hone in on the location while Jack has special tokens allowing him to move multiple spaces or through buildings. It’s a fun take on the traditional whodunnit.
Bang! The Bullet!
A sheriff, deputies, outlaws — oh my! In Bang The Bullet, there are four different Western roles to play: the Sheriff, who wants to kill the Outlaws and the Renegade, the Deputies who want to protect the Sheriff, the Outlaws who want the Sheriff dead, and the Renegade who only wants to be the last one standing. One twist is range — you can only shoot characters within one seat of you, unless you equip a gun that grants you extra range.
There are cards to shoot, miss, heal (with beer!), hide behind barrels, and more. The cards are all in Italian, too, which really feeds into the spaghetti Western feel.
In Chrononauts, players must try to twist the timeline to their advantage. Players can win one of three ways — a player completes their role, their mission, or if a player has 10 cards in their hand. Roles normally involve three specific points in history, maybe two assassinations and a war not starting. Missions normally involve collecting certain artifacts, like the Mona Lisa or dinosaurs. Players draw and play cards, manipulating time to their advantage. Certain points in time, like Lincoln’s assassination or the Titanic sinking, are linchpins which ripple forward in time and cause paradoxes which can be patched. If there are 13 unpatched paradoxes, the game is over due to time being completely unstable.
A giantkiller of a card is the linchpin that causes World War III. When in play, no points in time after it can be used to win. Chrononauts is really fun to play, since you never know how close other players are to winning, and other players don’t know if their actions are moving you closer to victory.
RoboRally seems like a simple enough game — play cards that move and rotate your robot to grab the numbered flags in order. But, after each movement, robots fire lasers in front of them, damaging anyone their path. Robots can also ram into each other, so the priority value on each movement card matters. There are also board spaces to move, rotate, and damage robots.
I had more fun playing this game in teams rather than as a free for all, as some strategy comes into play.
The one and only game I contributed to the weekend, Munchkin, is one that I’ve been playing for years. All characters start at level one and the first to reach level 10 wins. Combat boils down to simple addition. Your level plus all your bonuses, your gear plus any in-play one-time-use cards, must be greater than the level of the monster plus any one-time-use cards played on the monster. If you can’t beat the monster, you can ask for help from one other player. That player may ask for a piece of the treasure in return. But, other players can add to the monster’s total, causing you to lose and be at the mercy of a monster’s “bad stuff.”
Munchkin is a funny, tongue-in-cheek take on D&D. Wizards can equip items like the Pointy Hat of Power (above) while Clerics can equip gear like the Mace of Sharpness. A typical game starts off with general friendship up through level four or five, slight douchebaggery until level seven, and straight up knife-in-the-back from that point on. I absolutely love it.
Legend of Drizzt
Speaking of D&D, The Legend of Drizzt is a straight up co-op RPG. All players are on a team fighting against the game itself. Players choose roles, like the tank or the assassin, which have different stats and abilities. As the dungeon is explored, monsters must be defeated. Experience gained is thrown in a pool which can be used to either counter surprise cards, which may be anything from a curse to a trap, or to level a player up from level one to two if they rolled a natural 20. After a certain period of time, the boss monster appears who must be defeated for the players to win.
Throughout the weekend, I think this was my favorite game. It involves a lot of strategy and coordination. We played twice and only won once. It also brought back a lot of World of Warcraft nostalgia, which is never a bad thing.
Pandemic is another cooperative game, pitting players against a viral outbreak poised to wipe out the planet. Players must not only stop each city from becoming overrun, but also find a cure for each of the four viruses, cure that virus at a lab, and wipe out the remainder of that virus to win. Each player has a role with special abilities, which may allow them to move other players on their turn or create labs at will.
It’s similar to Forbidden Island or Forbidden Desert in that cards are drawn to increase the virus count in a city. But, those same cards are put back on top of the deck when the water/sand/virus level rises, so you know those same cities are going to be hit again. This game was a tough one, but really fun.
Deck building and RPG elements combine to form Thunderstone. Players start with identical decks, draw a hand, and play that full hand. Some cards have attack value, some have a gold value, and others have special abilities like card draw. If you decide to enter the village, you can use your gold to buy either an item card or upgrade a basic soldier to a hero. Conversely, you can enter the dungeon and face a monster who, if defeated, is added to your deck. Monsters (and some village cards) have victory points, which you must have the most of to win.
An interesting twist is that you must play your whole hand each turn and draw a completely new hand on your next turn, so there is no saving of cards for the next turn. If you play carefully, you can count your cards and chance drawing the one card you need to defeat that certain monster.
Money flies in Vegas Showdown as players try to build the best casino. You start with a simple board consisting of 12 casino spaces, 12 hotel spaces, and 15 neutral spaces between. Players go around a circle and bid on different additions, like slot machines and restaurants, which must be fit into your casino. Prices on expensive pieces fall each turn, so it may be better to wait a turn to bid on a tile that you really want. There are also only a fixed number of each tile, and late-game pieces require earlier building block pieces to be played, so you may have to overbid on something now to get a big payoff later. Playing different pieces earn you fame (stars) and the player with the most fame wins the game.
There are many end-of-game bonuses in Vegas Showdown — highest population, fully furnished hotel/casino, connected hotel/casino, etc. Rooms must be connected to the beginning of the casino and some rooms have special markers on them which can form diamonds, giving you bonus fame at the end of the game, so room layout really matters. In fact, I only won because of my bonus diamond points.
Puerto Rico is an interesting game. Players go around a circle, taking turns playing one of the eight roles in the game. Whatever role you choose gives you a bonus for that turn, but each player plays the same role after that bonus is applied. The aim of the game is (again) to get the most victory points by shipping crops and rebuilding San Juan.
A chess-like aspect is involved in Puerto Rico, as you have to think what role the player next to you will pick if you pick a certain role and how that will impact you. Full disclosure — I sucked really, really badly at this, but everybody else seemed to have a great time playing!
You’ve played Risk, right? Shogun is similar to Risk in that you have armies and territories. It takes place in Feudal Japan and adds two important distinctions. One, players are given an amount of money to privately bid each turn on permanent soldiers, powerful rent-a-soldiers, defensive castles, and more. Secondly, each player has three generals on the field, who command large, powerful armies. Combat boils down to dice rolling.
Pro tip: if you get a stranglehold on the left-most islands, be sure to defend yourself from a naval attack. An attacking army can move across the entire bottom of the board in one turn and slowly destroy everything you’ve worked for. To answer your question — yes, that is how I lost.
Colossal Arena is a pretty easy game. Creatures enter a fighting tournament as players place bets on which will survive through to the end. Bets placed in the early rounds are worth more at the end than bets near the end. Determining which creature is eliminated each round is simple — the creature with the lowest 0-10 value showing is out.
Each creature has an ability for the backer of the creature, i.e. the player with the most profitable bet, which activates when that player plays that creature’s card. For example, the Unicorn’s ability allows for cards to be swapped from prior rounds while the Daimon lets a player place a bet on a past round.