Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MK Review: OSGR; ZOMBIES!!!

MK Review: OSGR; ZOMBIES!!!




Hullo!

The final week of our October Spooky Game Reviews brings us to one more Tabletop Halloween Evening gaming sensation: ZOMBIES!!! With game design by Todd and Kerry Breitenstein and production from Twilight Creations, Inc. we are quickly immersed in that classic Zombie realm. From the very beginning of the game you find yourself and the other survivors stranded in the town square. It is your job to be the one who survives...

The Game
 Due to the tile laying mechanic, set up is pretty easy. Put the "Town Square" tile in the middle of your play area (pick a good sized space, this game takes up room!). Pick your player piece and put it in the square. Shuffle the decks, deal everyone a hand. GO! As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of quick set up when it comes to my Tabletop. It is much more likely to get people to agree to play if you set the game up in five and make it look easy.

Luckily the game play is simple enough to keep the task of learning from feeling daunting. On your turn the first thing you do is flip over a tile. You can place it in any legal open space on the board. What this basically means is match up the road to more road and try not to purposefully create roads that end in buildings. Each tile will either have instructions on what to put there, or follows the basic Zombie placement rule. We will look at the Florist Shop in the tiles pictured, look in the top left hand corner for an example.

In that corner you see Z-3 L-1 B-1. What this translates to is: Within the three squares of the Florist Shop, place three Zombies, one Life token and one Bullet token. If there are no instructions on the tile like this than the basic rule is: Place one Zombie on every entrance/exit to the tile. So if you drew the same tile, but it had no letters or numbers in the top left corner, you would place three Zombies on the tile, one at each road leading into or out of the tile. After you have placed your tile and the corresponding pieces, you would combat any Zombies in your current space. After all, you can't do anything with a Zombie all up in your face! Combat is simple. Roll a D6, on a four or higher, you win! If you roll any lower than a four, you can use a card from your hand if it applies (it will say it right on the card), spend one heart to re-roll the die, or spend enough bullets to reach four, every bullet you spend counts as a +1 to the roll. Any Zombies you kill, make sure to collect the piece! Total Kill Count is one of win conditions.

You start with a hand of three cards. All the cards are quite self explanatory. Pretty much read the card and follow what it says. It will tell you when it can be played, and what effects it has.There is no specific card playing phase. Play the cards whenever you want to as long as the situation on the card is met such as in the "Adrenaline Rush" card pictured where it says "this card is played before making any die roll". Should you choose, you could play that card before another player rolls and effect that outcome.
After you handle any Zombies in your personal space, if you have less than three cards in your hand, than draw until you have three. Grab that D6 again and give it a roll. You may now move as many squares as the number showing (unless you have an item that says otherwise). You may not pass through Zombie filled spaces, you have to fight through them. Luckily it does not end your turn to fight a zombie. If you rolled a 6 and have six zombies in a line in front of you, should you desire (and are lucky enough) you could spend all six moves to walk that line and kill them all. After you have finished all of your movement take a hold of that D6 one last time. This time the number showing will give you how many Zombies will move at the end of your turn. Each Zombie can move no more than one space and can not occupy a space that already contains a Zombie, but they CAN enter a space that holds a player... yes, you can feed other players to the Zombies to better your chances of survival! At the end of the Zombie movement, should you decide to, you may discard one card. Now it is the next players turn! Play continues until someone fulfills the win conditions.

How to Win

As you can see in the picture, things can get pretty crowded, and it happens quickly! Before you decide to just carelessly wade into the oncoming horde, you might want to ask about the whole "mortality" thing. If you lose a combat and have no hearts to re-roll and not enough bullets to fend them off, you "die". Well... you never really die, so you do not get eliminated. You go back to the Town Square, lose half of your collected Zombie Kills and at the start of your next turn, you get three hearts and three bullets, as if you had just started. What is the point of slamming into the Zombie masses knowing that you could just keep re-spawning at the same spot losing your kill count along the way?

So now you ask, how do I win? There are two ways to do so. One is to reach 25 collected Zombie kills. The very moment you grab your twenty-fifth zombie and place it in your kill zone, you win! But what would be the fun of a game where there is not a chance to escape? That brings us to win scenario number two. The last tile in the pile (unless you shuffle it in to mix it up a bit) is the "Helipad". If you get to the Helipad and clear it of all Zombies, you win! The hard part? The Helipad is literally covered in Zombies. When it hits play, there is not a single free space. So have your weapon ready and hope you can kill them all before you get Zombie Slapped back to the Town Square!
The Wrap Up

One of the biggest factors for me in purchasing a game is the replayability. If you only plan to let it hit your Tabletop once, you might as well skip it. The replay value in this game is very high! Start with the fact that the game board will be different every single time and you have a great way to mix it up. Let's add in the many expansions they have that each add something unique to the game, and all of the possible combinations thereof and you have a game that could be getting play for decades to come. In my official findings, Twilight Creations, Inc. boasts a solid thirteen expansions on their site (linked above) topping it off ZOMBIES!!! 13 DEFCON Z. However I did dig around and find an interesting image...
I really enjoy the thematic feel to the game, as well as the quick and simple yet open for strategy game play. I only own one Expansion, ZOMBIES!!! 3 Mall Walkers, but I can tell I will be looking into many more of these fun additions to an already solid game. If you just happen to be a big Zombie fan (like my wife) or are looking for a good Horror/Halloween themed game I highly suggest you pick up a copy of ZOMBIES!!! 

I happily hand this game a good four stars! 

Until next time... Game On!
-MK

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MK Review: OSGR; Munchkin Bites!

OSGR; Munchkin Bites!


Hullo!

Here we are with another October Spooky Game Review! Today we are looking at another one of my long time favorite Tabletop games, Munchkin! To keep it in the proper theme, we are going with the standalone variant Munchkin Bites!, created and produced by Steve Jackson Games the Munchkin line has something for everyone. There are many options beyond even what is pictured here!

My first encounter with Munchkin came before most of these versions existed. It was the straight up original Munchkin. The basic premise is that you are all entering a dungeon in order to gain power, get loot and become the first Munchkin to reach level 10. Think D&D/Fantasy parody in a card game form. 

I must admit that the rules can be a little complex if nobody at the table has played and you are just reading them. After I purchased the original version years ago I tried teaching my wife and mother-in-law how to play. I hadn't played in years and neither of them had any idea. They were more Classic Board Game players, like Monopoly, Scrabble, etc. 

I had been explaining the rules as best I could (with many interruptions and questions) before deciding to just start playing and show them how it was played. Not even a full round later I decided it was best to put the game away and try it another day. I was being accused of cheating by making up the rules as we went along in order to win. On a happier note, I was able to play it a couple years later with the same group at the table adding a bit of help from another player who also had played before! My wife loved it and now we own almost every version as well as most of the expansions.

 Playing the Game

On your turn you "boot down the door" before you do anything. Once the door has been properly bashed from its hinges by flipping over a card from the door deck (pictured) you are now either staring at a monster who is upset you broke the door to their home and is about to express that feeling in a violent way, or you are trying to handle the trap you set off by kicking in the door. Should you be lucky enough to have avoided either of those potentially life ending situations on your card flip, you may now either start making a bunch of noise in order to draw a monster to you ("looking for trouble" play a monster card in front of you from your hand) or you are just going to dig through random stuff hoping to find something good in here ("looting the room" draw a card from the door deck into your hand). This would be how you get monsters into your hand so you can go looking for trouble, find a trap and throw it at another Munchkin, or grab one-use cards that have some fun effects in a fight. You would also find Race and Class cards in here, but we will cover those in a minute.

Defeating a monster will give you at least one level and usually some loot from their pockets as well. In the bottom right hand corner of the Monster card you will see how much loot you get ...if you win the battle. Loot helps you gain power, which helps you defeat monsters, which levels you up and gives you more loot, to defeat more monsters... you get the idea, right? The Loot deck (pictured) is separate from the door deck as it does not contain any monsters or traps. It has one-use items, weapons, armor, and even some "Go Up a Level" cards. The more frequent you dip into this pile, the more likely it is you will be able to defeat the bigger baddies and win the game.


Character Building

Munchkin Bites! pokes fun at the world of Horror. Vampires, Werewolves, Changelings, Mummies, you know, all that Spooky Halloween type stuff. Lucky for me, that just happens to be some of my favorite content! I have always been a fan of Vampires. NO. Not the Twilight books, those are not Vampires. They are Glitter Fairies. I am talking about the whole Interview with a Vampire, Underworld, Dracula type stuff that can keep you awake at night. There is only one expansion (plus a couple of booster pack cards) for Munchkin Bites!. It is called Munchkin Bites! 2: Pants Macabre.

After you have set up the game and are ready to play there is what we call a "Character Building Phase". Before the game begins, not a single door splintered as of yet, you are dealt a hand that may contain cards you can play. If you have any Race, Class or Item cards that you can legally place in front of you, go ahead and do it! Some cards have qualifiers like "Can only be used by a Female Munchkin". The cards never tell you your gender. You start the game as the gender you are. That can change! There are curses and traps that could alter your gender giving you penalties to your next battle. Hey, it takes a minute to get used to fighting with ...these in the way.
 
Technically you go around the table laying down your cards in order of play. In my house we all just kinda do it at once. I have not found that it has too much of an effect on the game, it just speeds up the setup/start a hint. There are Classes and Races. You may only have one of each unless you have a card that reads otherwise like the "Half-breed" card that allows a second race. 

Something to note is the "Power Rank". You can have powers! You will notice that each Power card in the bottom right corner reads "Power Rank" with a number following it. Simply put, your current level is your Power Rank. So at level one during Character Creation you could only have a power if the rank was 1 like "Celeritousness" in the picture. As you gain levels you can either add more powers up to a total of your level, or swap out low level powers for more formidable options.

Items are limited in a sense as well. The anatomy of the Munchkin body is exactly like your own. You have two hands, so you can only carry two hands worth of items, you only have one torso, so you can only wear one set of armor at a time, and so on. You do have a "Backpack" that allows you to carry other items outside of your hand. Again, a house rule that we have is that you can only carry five "slots" worth of stuff in your backpack. An item that needs two hands to use would take up two slots, while a suit of armor only covers the torso and fills up a single slot. It just made more sense to us that your backpack has a capacity limit.

Winning the Game

As mentioned before, the way to win is to be the first to reach level 10. There is slight catch to that. In order to win the game, you must reach level 10 by defeating a monster! You may not sell items or use level up cards in order to reach level 10. So if you happen to have a solid power base, an arsenal to fear, are at level 9 and boot the door to find a tiny level 1 monster looking at you, your chances of winning just went up a lot! I haven't gone over some of the intricacies of the game such as the inevitable knife in your back from a fellow Munchkin! There are cards that other players can play to interfere with your battles. You could also ask another Munchkin to help you beat a monster with a bribe ...although I doubt anyone will help you beat the monster that would give you the win. 

The Wrap Up

Without going into too much detail as there is a lot to read already, there is your basic overview of the game. I love the Munchkin-verse! My personal favorite of the bunch would be Super Munchkin, but Munchkin Bites! is very high on that list as well. Great humor, fun artwork and a game mechanic that breeds diversity in every play, the Munchkin line is definitely something for you to check out if you haven't already! Overall I love the game. Even with rules that might confuse some players of lesser experience, I give Munchkin Bites! a solid four stars!



Thank you for reading! Have you played Munchkin before? What is your favorite version?

Until next time... Game On!
-MK

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

MK Review: Betrayal at House on the Hill

MK Review: Betrayal at House on the Hill

MK Tabletop Talk is starting our October Spooky themed reviews today with one of my longest standing favorites, Betrayal at House on the Hill! This game has been a staple of our Halloween board game experience ever since the day I tracked down the out of print first edition. I had a chance to play it over at my friends house one fine October evening. I loved the game so much I began hunting it down as soon as I had the cash. To my unfortunate surprise, the game had gone out of print. I could not find a copy of it anywhere ...except Ebay.
While I may have spent a bit more money than the product initially cost, and received the first edition, complete with confusing rules and much needed online clarification erratas, I am still thrilled to say I own the game! I had no idea they would be doing a second edition printing as it was not on the books when I bought mine. Having done the whole "I'll wait until the price comes down/why did the price only go up" game before, I payed a bit more to assure I didn't have to pay a LOT more later. I am still OK with this.

Back to the topic at hand...                         The Premise

You and a small group of your friends decide/get talked into going to that old House on the Hill to have a look around. Sure, you have heard all of the rumors, but urban legend! ...right? Each Player chooses a character from the provided options. One of the fun parts of this game is that each character card has a variant on the back! Same look, different name and slightly different stats. It adds more options for start of play, which in turn gives it more replayability!
You have the old Professor, the buff Jock, the pretty Lady, the odd Woman, the little Boy and the Little girl, each with a variant.

Exploring

Your chosen group walks right into the House on the Hill and the game starts. After determining who goes first via chosen characters birthday (printed right on your character card) each player takes turns moving up to their Speed exploring new rooms. Your turn ends when either of two things happens first: you run out of movement, or you flip over a card.

This game is played with a tile laying mechanic. For those of you who may not know what that means, when a player Explores a room they draw a tile from the appropriate Floor deck. There are three Floors: Ground Floor, Upper Floor, and Basement Floor. The tiles will look something like the ones pictured here. Printed prominently on the card is the name of the room (Tree House or Bathroom). Any special instructions for the room will be written under that. In order to place the room, line up the doors as best you can without creating doors that open into walls like the Winchester Mystery House. Other than the awesome artwork, the only other key factor on the tile is the Symbol (if any). Both rooms pictured here have the Event symbol, so you would draw a card from the event deck.

The Card Decks


After flipping over the event card, read it aloud and do whatever the card says you need to do. In the case of the pictured Event card, "Bloody Vision" you would make a Sanity roll and take the results listed. Having now flipped over a card and handled the resulting effects, your turn would be over.

One of the most important symbols and cards to pay attention to are the Omen cards. These will tell you when the game scenario begins. You remember you entered with a group of friends? Well, it seems one of those folks wasn't actually so friendly...
For each Omen you find you make a Haunt roll. The more Omens you have revealed, the harder it is to succeed. Eventually someone will fail, and the Haunt begins! Taking note of the room it was triggered in, cross-referenced with the Omen card that triggered it, you check the chart in the rule book find out which one of the 50 possible stories you are about to be smack in the middle of. Most of the time one of the people you entered with has Betrayed you! From Vampires and Werewolves, to Black Magic Rituals and Holes Ripped in Reality, there really are 50 scenarios in this one game! Talk about giving a game longevity!

As with all Betrayals, located in a House on the Hill or not, you will almost always need to find the correct items, or equipment in order to take out the Big Bad. This is where the last of the card decks comes into play. Sometimes you find it in a weird place, other times you just took a moment to crack the vault and grab whats in it. Either way, you have found an Item! They all have a specific purpose in the game. The one pictured here, "Lucky Stone" gives you a one-time chance to re-roll any portion of the dice you just rolled. Each item is unique. Some like this one, are one time use items. Others, like "The Spear", you get to keep and use throughout the whole game giving you a great bonus to attack. There are scenarios that require certain items to be used in order to win.

How to Win

There are too many games where you know someone has played the game a dozen times more than you and will be winning before you have all of the rules figured out. This game makes that all but an impossibility. Even if you had played the game through all 50 scenario options, memorized them and knew every card and tile as if you had created them yourself, you would be no closer to winning than someone who is sitting down to play for the first time. You see, knowing exactly where these rooms are going to fall in the random tile placement on the board, where exactly in the deck the card you need to win is, precisely which of the Haunts you will play, and who will be named the Betrayer is not something you are likely to know. I don't care how many times you have played the game. If you can name all of those randomly generated results from the start of the game ...you stacked the decks. The only way to win the game, is to play the game. 

Final Thoughts

I have lost this game more times than I can count. I have never regretted playing it. I have never thought "I wish we had picked a different game". Every time I play the game, win or lose, I won the moment I sat down to play. Throw in the fact that we are in the perfect season for the Theme of the game, how can you lose? I have described this game as "Cabin in the Woods" the game. But if you think about who came first... "Cabin in the Woods" is the movie of "Betrayal at House on the Hill". A serious Five Star MK Rating.

One extra exciting thing about this Classic Horror/Suspense themed game? They knew how much content they had created. They knew it would take years to play it to the point where you might start wondering what else there is out there. Before we get to that point, they come out with the long awaited expansion! Hitting shelves (at least virtual shelves) in just a few days on October 14th, Prepare yourself for "Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow's Walk".


GOD I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR!!!
Until next time ...Game On!
-MK

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

MK Review: Cloud Kingdom Games Supplement Books

 MK Review: Cloud Kingdom Games Supplement Books



Hullo!

This week I am addressing a side of the RPG table that generally gets missed. We all know how to build a character who can dispatch multiple enemies in a single round, never misses their target, and can throw powerful blasts of magic leaving piles of ashes where foes once stood. However, the battle of the brawn is not the only fight before you in any good campaign. All too often does the other side of challenging the players get overlooked. People spend hours prepping beasts, building nemesis villains and trying to figure out just how they are going to keep their players on their toes without laying them on their backs with a TPK (total party kill).

This review must and will go a bit different than you are used to. Much like my review of Fluxx (find it here) there are many variations in this series and each review would sound quite similar, so one review to view them all! I will also let you know right now, I give no spoilers. These are books of riddles, tricks and traps! I leave the surprises and brain teasing for you!

When was the last time you set a puzzle in front of your party? When did you last have them picking their brains and desperately combing over the riddle written on the wall of the room they are currently locked in? Some of the best adventures, dungeons and quests I have faced in my years at the Tabletop had more or less and even amount of challenges that required no weapons. More a challenge of wits.

One of the foremost memories of this would be when our party decided to take on the "Riddle of the Gods" in my friends home-brew world. There were almost twenty different lines in the riddle. We had to research each part of the riddle individually to assure we were properly translating the instructions that would give us the "Gifts of the Gods". After working our way through it (in the end paying an entire group of scholars to double check our work and complete the translation for us), we set out to collect the items mentioned in the riddle. We then had to go to the correct location and preform what turned out to be a ritual to the gods. Each major God handed down a gift that represented their beliefs.

Sure in between all that we were traveling through the "Undead Forest" cutting a path to the keep my character had acquired (right in the middle of the forest, of course). There was battle, there was plenty of spilled blood and levels drained away by long dead creatures. But that was the side quest. We were purposefully tracking down a quest that required no fight. Only the use of our intelligence, wisdom and ability to apply the two.

I know, first you have to come up with the puzzle, or find a riddle that isn't so old and commonly known that they are answering it before you finish reading it aloud. This is never an easy task. Not unless you happen to have access to a wealth of pre-written puzzles, riddles and other brain racking options for an entire dungeons worth of content. Or two. Or more!

Lucky for you the good folks at Cloud Kingdom Games have already compiled many great options for you to use. This goes beyond the obvious "Riddle of the Sphinx" that most elementary kids can answer due to its popularity. Try Riddle Rooms #1, containing twenty puzzle or riddle filled rooms written without system specific rules in order to easily adapt into whatever situation and system you wish to drop them.

Need something a little more like a full module to keep the theme going throughout the entire campaign? How about "The Shadowman's Twisted Treasure"? If that isn't enough, follow that up with the Shadowman's return in "The Shadowman's Tricks and Traps". You get 30 riddles in the first book alone! Combine that with the tricks and traps and you will have more than enough content to fuel your quest of mental agility.

There are many different books in their library, and all of them are perfectly suited to be an easy booster to your Arsenal of weapons to throw mental challenges at your players! Don't need the fluff, but like the idea of a collection of riddles on hand? They have something for you there too! "The Riddle Treasury" gives you 150 riddles with answers. Talk about a serious source book! I highly suggest using these cleverly written play on words, use of double meanings, and the occasional misdirection to help to throw your players off the scent and force them think their way through the situation for once!

If you are having issues with that one player who just charges everything with their giant axe, remove all living targets. If you are afraid you can't challenge your players without using the same tricks and nullifying their effectiveness, it is time to play the mental game. Cloud Kingdom Games has all the content you need to achieve new heights without dropping a ton of high-powered loot after they take out your assassination crew.

Well written, and built for system neutrality in most cases, these books are an amazing addition to any RPG source book collection. I confidently drop a four star rating on these babies. Find them in the MKTabletop.com RPG Book selection!

Until next time ...Game On!
-MK