Wednesday, November 30, 2016

MK Review: Aeons End

MK Review: Aeons End


Welcome back from our little holiday break. We will be reviewing a game that has just started landing on Tabletops across the US and Canada, with international shipping in progress. Yet another game birthed through the crowd funding site known as Kickstarter, we welcome Aeons End by Action Phase Games to our list of games reviewed. It is set to be released this December, just in time for the Holidays! As an extra bonus, this is our first review of what they can't quite call a "Living Card Game" (LCG).

First we should probably define the term for those of you who are not familiar with the LCG style. It is a relatively new category that has been created and defined by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), so as they own the term, we will use the definition given on their site
"A Living Card Game® (LCG®) offers an innovative fixed distribution method that breaks away from the traditional Collectible Card Game model. While LCGs still offer the same dynamic, expanding, and constantly evolving game play that makes CCGs so much fun, they do away with the deterrent of the blind-buy purchase model that has burned out so many players. The end result is an innovative mix that gives you the best of both worlds!
The Core Set is the heart of a LCG. Each LCG’s Core Set is a completely self-contained game experience packed with content, including high-quality game pieces and immersive game aides designed to enhance play. Additionally, each Core Set contains multiple decks that provide an exciting and infinitely replayable game experience right out of the box."

 Aeons End Can not officially be called an LCG for the same reasons that Champagne is only Champagne if made in the traditional method, both using grapes from, and created in the Champagne region of France. Even if done in the exact same method, using cloned grapes to assure flavor profile perfection, it can not be called Champagne because the French will not allow it. Thus no game other than one owned, created and distributed by FFG can officially call their game an LCG. So Aeons End is a cooperative build-as-you-play deck building game!

The story and lore behind the game are quite intriguing. Mankind has been driven underground. The end of the world has already happened. Now we are not much more than vermin, scared hiding in our holes. There are some who have learned to wield the magic of the breech. Precious gems once used as currency and personal decoration are now infused with the power of the breech that unleashed hell upon our world. These "Breech Mages" are our last ...only line of defense.

The time for heroics is all but past. Choose your character and grab your tiny deck of starting cards. As the game progresses you use the gems to power up by purchasing spells, relics and more powerful gems in order to increase the size and potency of your deck. I find the mechanic to be highly unique in comparison to classic Tabletop games and not all too hard to learn. If you can count and read, you can play this game! I played the very first suggested scenario with four Breech Mages on a solo play. I do this often with new games to help learn the rules before bringing it to the Tabletop. It is always easier to get folks to play if someone at the table has an idea of how to play.

The first Big Bad? The Rageborn. Not much more than rabid beasts destroying everything in their path. Each Nemesis has their own small deck that also gets beefed up with the "basic" nemesis cards. Note in the bottom left corner where it reads "Rageborn", notating that these cards are only encountered when facing the Rageborn Nemesis. All other cards read either the nemesis it belongs to, or basic in the corner for easy separation at the end of the game.
Three types of cards can be found in the Nemesis deck. The Rageborn has a secondary deck called the "Strike Deck" that relates to his personal abilities. You will find "Minion" cards that are the beasts either trying to remove your throat, or attacking the poor city of Gravehold. There are "Power" cards that unleash devastating abilities on either you or your home. The last card type in the nemesis deck is the "Attack" card. This one will most often be direct damage to a specific target.
I will admit right here and now, that I lost my first game. I was so interested in increasing my gems and buying power that when the hits really started landing I was facing a full-health boss with half-health mages and much damage already spreading through the city. I should have been paying more attention to charging my powers and increasing my ability to do damage.

The cards you can buy come in three types as well. Relics will help you in many ways and take immediate effect once played. Spells can be "prepped" in your open breech spaces and initially do damage, some have fun secondary effects as well. Gems can be purchased in order to boost your buying power to get those high-powered spells and relics. I found out pretty quickly that having the correct balance of these in your deck can make a huge difference! Each Breech Mage has it's own power and it's own unique starter deck. The many different combinations of Mages, Relics, Spells and Gems mixed with the slew of Nemesis options leaves a very high replay value on the game. Even if you play the same mage, against the same Nemesis, using the same "market" of gems, relics and spells, you can not guarantee the same outcome.

The core game box comes with enough to keep you interested for a countless number of play-throughs. Six mages, four nemesis and plenty of options for scenarios. The box leaves more than enough room for growth. Although the Kickstarter version came with two expansions that barely made a dent in the boxes storage capacity making me wonder just how much more they plan to release for this game in the future.I do have a few minor annoyances with the game...
 The packaging as I mentioned leaves a ton of empty space in the box. Normally I am quick to say how awesome this is, but in this particular case I am more inclined to ask: why? The amazing art on the cards and Mage/Nemesis play boards is definitely solid quality. The boards they are on are nice, thick cardboard stock, so longevity is provided. The size of these boards does not seem to have been a factor in box creation. The boards, even placed at an angle inside the box do not allow enough room for the box to close. Instead they must be balanced on top of the three inch (too much dead space) wide cardboard divider in the middle of the box. The rules book is basic paper pamphlet material about an inch short of filling the square of the box and sags down whatever side the player boards do not support. It is just my opinion, but the packaging should be designed to store all the game pieces in an organized and least possibly damaging way. This is more like a big box they had on hand with a quick cheap divider placed inside.
The only complaint I would have about the game itself is again a personal preference. I am not too fond of overly complicated set-up or breakdown of a game. I like to open a box and play with minimum delay and when the game is over, I want to put it in the box and walk away. The game set up requires some building of different decks dependent on the different characters and Nemesis chosen, as well as many different options for the "Market" of cards to buy into your deck during game play. While each and every one of these factors increases the replay value, it also increases the set up time, and the time it takes to separate and return the cards into the box.

The Wrap Up
Overall I have to say I am extremely happy that this game has found its way onto my shelf. I know that it will get plenty of play. The game is a lot easier to learn than it looks, and I love the vast amount of material available to play with. Even with my own opinions on the packaging, and preferences in time taken outside of play, I would recommend this game for anyone! New gamers will not be overwhelmed with rules and old Tabletop Pros will be happy with its wealth of content. Beautiful artwork mixed with high quality production. Fun to play and easy to learn! Four Stars.

Until next time ...Game On!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

MK Review: Story, Please! An Adventure Building Deck

MK Review: Story, Please! An Adventure Building Deck


This is technically a preview! Just to assure you are up to date with all of the information we are about to cover, I suggest you read my review of the original game, No Thank You Evil! here. Go ahead. I'll wait... Back? Ready? OK! Let's do this!

In the Core Tabletop Game of No Thank You, Evil! you are already given so much material to introduce your youth to the imagination rich realm of the RPG in the Land of Storia. You have a basic, story driven system that is easy to learn and fun to play. What more could you possibly want? More story options? For those of us who can't always create a masterpiece from scratch, there are now tools available! 

After the very successful Kickstarter campaign in June of 2015 there has been nothing but amazing reports from both children and adults in regards to No Thank You, Evil!. MORE. That was the one resounding reply from the masses! Beginning on October 26th and ending on November 11th, Monte Cook and the Gang have not only answered the call, but upped the ante with their newest Kickstarter Campaign No Thank You, Evil! The Adventures Continue (find it here!). No worries, this one is already fully funded!

Today we are going over the Story, Please! Adventure Building Deck that is offered in the new Kickstarter. I have to admit, I have only had the cards in my hands for 24 hours and I am already bursting with excitement! Let's cover the basics first. This deck is meant for the person playing the role of the Guide. The cards drawn can be shown to the players as they come into play. The Adventure Building Deck is made up of 100 cards broken into seven types. 

Story Cards

There are 20 "Story Cards", that offer a total 40 of different options (each card has two scenarios) to have a reason for adventuring. In the example we have here, "Sweet Tooth", you have two different options that are cake related! Each Story card has different artwork on the reverse side to show the players. You can either look through and pick out one you like, or just draw one at random and run with it.

Place Cards

There are also 20 "Place Cards" giving a total of 40 locations to choose from giving your story some direction (literally). Each of these, like the Story Cards, have two choices. Again let's take a look at our example; "On a faraway planet" your astronauts have two out of this world places to add for your gaming pleasure. On the back of the cards are fun images and advertisements for the place you are going so you have something to show your players.

Person Cards

Now we look a the last set of 20, the "Person Cards". Each one has one person per card. On one side, as you can see in our example: the Guide will find their stats just in case you need them. On the other side, a "Sheriff Lucy Lawful" (or whoever you choose) image to show the players when they meet her.

Stuff Cards

There are 10 "Stuff Cards" that give you some incentives, goals or maybe just a some random loot as a reward for success. With the example we have here, "5 Coins" you get some loot. This can be used to buy some new clothes, or a sword, maybe some anti-gravity gum! This is the kind of thing you would offer as a reward for completing the task your players have been given. You could just know you want to give them coins and have the card ready, or you can make a random draw as all of the backs on these cards are the same.

Twist Cards

10 cards are "Twist Cards". These could be random things that your players encounter along the way with a blind pull from the deck, or you could remove a few of your choice to have ready when they hit the hurdle. The card gives you the problem and the target goal needed to get around the obstacle. In the card pictured, "The Door is Locked" your players encounter a locked door and must find a way to get through or around it with a goal of two in order to defeat the issue and advance in their travels.

Map Cards

Need a quick map for an area? The 10 "Map Cards" have you covered. You have ten cards that you can use with the tile-laying mechanic for a randomly created space (just line up the cards as you explore new areas), or use the reverse side where you will find an entire layout just waiting for your players to explore! These give your location a bit more depth. It is not much more than visual aide, but let's face it, the ability to visualize the exact scenario is a lot easier with something to look at!

Handout Cards

There are only 10 more cards in the Adventure Building Deck and I am sure you are wondering what they could possibly be. Everything has been covered right? Remember what I just said about being immersed into the realm of imagination through visual stimulation? The last set of cards, are called "Handout Cards". These serve as an actual invitation to the party or the ticket they will need to enter an event, those kinds of things. Ten of them! As you can see in the picture our example is an invitation to "Princess Strike's Bowling Ball"! The details are left blank so that you can fill those in yourself, although I would suggest giving them verbally, not writing them on the card. I only say this because I am a "clean game" person. There are bits of paper and such that can be more disposable, or at least less damaging to your cards.

The Wrap Up

Made in the exact same dimensions as the original "Monster Cards" in the core game, these cards can either be a few details to get you started writing your own amazing adventure, or they can randomly generate the entire experience as you draw out cards and let them guide your story! The Story, Please! Adventure Building Deck on its own is enough to make me buy into the latest campaign. The added components give even more replay value and versatility to an already stellar product. You could leave out the Core Game entirely and use this deck as a story telling game all on its own if you really wanted to. As a stand alone game I would have teetered between two and three stars, but as an added element I am happily placing a Four Star rating on it!

But... That's not all there is in the bundle! I only reviewed one small portion of the content available through the crowd funding project. There is also the Uh-Oh, Monsters! Adventure Pack that gives you more pre-written adventures and unique monsters to add to the ever growing list of awesome source material within your grasp. You could also get some more No Thank You, Evil! dice, "wipe-away character sheets" and many other fun and useful extras.

If you are already kicking yourself for missing the first campaign, worry not! There are a few backer levels that include the core game, even one for the Deluxe Box! ...and the Core system is scheduled to arrive in time for this Christmas! It makes the perfect gift for any family. Just as they have achieved mastery of the game and start wondering about ways to add to it, BAM! No Thank You, Evil! The Adventures Continue arrives as the bonus gift. Or you could save the extras for Birthdays! You only have about a week to get in on this before the campaign ends! I highly suggest you do. You will thank me after your family has played it.

Until next time... Game On!