Saturday, December 21, 2013

Puzzles as board games - a guest post from Matthew Yeoman

Hello to Jani’s readers. My name is Matthew and I’m the writer and researcher for Puzumi.com. We’re a puzzle company with a board game twist to our puzzles. I know you’re much more use to coming on here and reading about board games and card games that are great for one person, but I’m here to talk about what was likely the first board game you ever played - a puzzle!

Puzzles are board games for one as well!


The acceptance of puzzles as board games is one which hasn’t taken a hold. But, when you think about it, a puzzle is a game you play against yourself. The game of it all is to complete the ‘broken’ puzzle and make it whole again. Like 52 card pickup, but without an angry friend. Come to think of it, it is also likely the all time worst single player card game...

For more advanced puzzle users there are even puzzle competitions where they attempt to see who will complete their puzzle the quickest. You can even include others in your ‘game’ of puzzling as many people can work together to solve the puzzle.

How we learn from puzzles to build our game skills


From when you were very young, you began to build your skills in gaming by completing puzzles. This
usually happens with your first puzzle that is a collection of simple shapes that fit into an exact cut out of the shape. These puzzles are forming the basis of your most used skills:

  • Physical skills - from holding the puzzle pieces themselves and turning them around until they fit, helping you learn spatial relations
  • Cognitive skills - your young mind is working away to figure out how things fit, these are the beginnings of your problem solving skills
  • Emotional skills - you are learning the value of patience and the reward of sticking to your goal

Without these skills you’d have a hell of a time ever playing a game, plus they have the benefit of not having rules to learn and follow. Try teaching Monopoly to a 2 year old!

Puzzles are a lot more than jigsaw puzzles


The puzzling community is a lot larger than jigsaw puzzles alone. The nerdiest of us are also into things like burr puzzles, stacking puzzles and packing puzzles, which is what we sell at Puzumi.

These types of puzzles are more closely related to board games for one person to play than any other type of puzzle. They usually feature multiple challenges and different outcomes each time you play - two key features of board games as most people know them. They fall under the same general category as the highly regarded Rubik’s Cube which is a type of 3D puzzle.

Some puzzles even feature the chance for you to play strategy games with them against a friend or 3. The puzzles which we sell at Puzumi have just such a feature. Most of the games are in a ‘Connect 4’ type of style, but numerous playing styles keep it interesting.

Jani has dozens and dozens of excellent suggestions on here for those who are looking for a solo gaming adventure. The next time you’re looking around and trying to figure out what it is you’d like to play the next time you have free time to yourself, try out a puzzle - the first board game you ever played!

I’d like to turn it over to Jani at this point so that we can see what he has to say about his first puzzles and anything else he’d like to say about puzzles as board games.



I like puzzles very much, and I think I have liked them since before I can remember.

Nerdy as it may sound, I have played with the Rubik's Cube ever since my very early childhood. Of course, back then it was only playing (and yes, I had more traditional kids' toys as well), but still I seemed to enjoy it even if I didn't quite understand the whole concept of it.
So maybe the fact that I had access to toys like that really did play a part in who I am now. By no means am I saying that everyone should give their children puzzles as toys, but I am happy that I grew up with them.
I like to think that puzzles and board games have helped me with my skills of logical thinking and concentration, and these skills have served me well in my life.

Most board games are also puzzles. They just tend to be so much more thematic, and sometimes the puzzle is masked somewhere beneath the beautiful artwork and sophisticated mechanics.
If we think about my favorite board game - Mage Knight – I think it is fairly obvious that it really is ”just” a one big puzzle. Every action I take in Mage Knight is an action that I hope will somehow help me to reach my ultimate goal (taking over the two cities). If I were to forget my logic and just start playing out my cards randomly, I would never ever complete the game...
And the same goes with many other great board games.

My blog is all about actual board games and thematic card games, and that's because I enjoy the stories that a good imagination can conjure up from them. I couldn't write much about solving the Rubik's Cube...
But I do appreciate the challenge of a good puzzle, and that's why I want to give Matthew this opportunity to tell you about his products, as well as his viewpoint about puzzles.


- Jani

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island

ROBINSON CRUSOE:
ADVENTURE ON THE CURSED ISLAND

by Portal Games

Published in 2012

Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island is a cooperative adventure game where the players try to survive on a mysterious and dangerous island, while simultaneously struggling to complete a certain objective.
Robinson Crusoe himself isn't a part of the game, and the characters are usually not alone on the island - there may be up to four of them. Still, the very survival is perhaps the greatest challenge that this game has to offer.

As for the game mechanics, RC:AotCI (phew, what an acronym) uses a curious mix of worker placement, dice rolling and resource management, topped up with a very innovative story system where the players' decisions may affect the events of the future game rounds. This is a simple mechanic, yet it works quite well and it gives the game a nice touch of additional strategic depth.


The game board depicts the island, which is slowly revealed as the characters explore it, but it also has spaces for many of the cards and decks that are used in the game. And as a worker placement -game, the board also has many spaces that are there to remind the players about the different actions that they can (or must) take during the course of the game.

So the game is about shipwreck survivors, and their first priority is to ensure their survival in a dangerous environment: A shelter must by built, enough food must be acquired, and some wood would defnitely come in handy too... When all this is down, the survivors may also start building other items that will make their lives a bit easier. But the beach doesn't offer much resources - the survivors need to explore the island if they are to build more complicated items.
And let's not forget that this is a Cursed Island! If the weather is calm, them something else will probably go wrong... And the island may even have some dark secrets that the survivors have to deal with.

The game comes with 6 scenarios, each of which have their own special rules and a different objective. There are four characters to choose from. This time the situation is as follows:

Two people and a dog have survived a shipwreck, and managed to swim to the relative safety of the Cursed Island. A Carpenter, and a Cook.
The ship went down fast, and the only things that the two survivors saved from the ship are a flask of rum, a hammer and some nails.


But there is a third survivor! A woman called Jenny is trapped on a lonely rock out in the ocean. She is way too far to be rescued without a raft.

The objective is to first build a raft, which can be used to rescue Jenny and bring her to the island, then upgrade the raft into a real lifeboat that can carry the three survivors back home...

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS:

1st day:

The survivors find themselves on a beach. It's just the two of them, and a dog... Jenny is out there, but she won't survive for very many days on her own.

Some fish and wood are gathered from the immediate surroundings.

A wrecked lifeboat is spotted. It's stuck in between some rocks a few miles away.

The Cook sets out to take a look... maybe there is something usable to salvage.







The Carpenter begins to build a shelter. He doesn't have much wood to work with, but his knowledge in economical construction allows him to build a decent shelter.
He uses about half of the nails he had grabbed from the Ship.

After the shelter is done, the Carpenter decides to use the rest of the day to explore deeper into the island.

He heads east with the Dog, and finds a nice lake in the middle of some hills. This looks like a good place for a camp...
However, upon exploring the area, he stumbles upon some slippery rocks and twists his ankle. Nothing too serious, but still - it hurts!

As the night falls, the Cook returns from her salvage mission, bringing with her as much wood as she can carry.

The Carpenter arrives with the Dog, and with another pet as well; a small wild animal seems to be following him.
The survivors decide to keep the animal nearby - after all, it is food...

In the darkness of the night, the camp is moved to the shore of the newfound lake. The weather is good and the survivors have a relatively comfortable night.


2nd day:

Heavy clouds cover the sky... It's going to rain.

The survivors quickly gather some wood and the Carpenter begins to build a roof for the Shelter.




A fish is caught from the lake, and the Cook also heads back to the beach to fish more.
She also explores southwards. The Dog comes with her.

The Carpenter stays in the camp and finishes the roof - it's not much, but it should be able to take the rain.
He then takes some more precautions to prepare the camp against harsh conditions. He uses up all the wood they had gathered, but now the survivors should be able to get a good night's sleep.


Meanwhile at the beach, the Cook manages to catch more fish.

She also finds something else from the sand: A spanish gold coin! It's very beautiful and she takes it with her.



After fishing, the Cook explores the area south from the camp. She comes across small mountains, and a valley where an ancient cemetary is hidden. The place is somehow very foreboding, and the Cook returns from her journey in a considerably worse mood than before...

The night comes, and the rain begins to fall - but the shelter stays dry, thanks to the new roof.
The survivors have enough fish to eat, and the Cook uses one of her special recipes to actually make the food taste refreshing and invigorating.

In the middle of the night the survivors wake up and realize that a storm is passing right over the island!
The roof stays intact, but the near-horizontal rain is still making the night less than dry...


3rd day:

In the morning, everything feels strange... The survivors gather wood and fish, but somehow everything seems so difficult.
The gold coin in the Cook's pocket feels heavy! As if the coin was cursed, and now the curse is all over the survivors, and all of their efforts are doomed to fail.
But maybe it's just a feeling...

The survivors drink the rum that they had taken with them from the Ship. It makes them feel stronger.


The survivors then proceed to build items.

The Cook builds a shovel from some of the scrap she had found from the beach, while the Carpenter builds a little something that can be used as a weapon...






The survivors then leave the camp.

The Carpenter takes the Dog and heads southeast to look for something that could be used to braid a rope.

The Cook tries to gather more wood from the nearby mountains.
While collecting wood from a particularly dense thicket, a spider drops onto the Cook's shoulder and bites her!
She can only hope that the little thing wasn't too venomous...

While exploring the south shore of the island, the Carpenter comes across remains of masts and spars of some very old ship. He finds a small amount of usable lumber, as well as some ropes!
This is very good, as the ropes are essential in building the raft.

The sun sets, and the survivors return to their camp. They decide that it's time to slay the animal that had been following the Carpenter since the very first day. The survivors eat well, and some warm skins are also harvested from the little critter.

During the night, storm hits the camp again.

Also, both of the survivors feel a little sick. They determine that some of the fruits they ate during the day must have actually been poisonous...





4th day:

When the fourth day dawns, the survivors realize that they really need to take action and try to save Jenny - she has been alone for three days on that little rock.
Fortunately now they have rope to build a raft.

The survivors begin to build the raft together. It takes time, as well as most of the wood that the survivors had gathered, but they do succeed in building a raft that seems sturdy enough to support three people.
It's getting too dark to go out to the ocean now, but the survivors decide that the first thing tomorrow will be an attempt to rescue Jenny.


Before calling it a day, the Carpenter uses some of the ropes that were left over to build a snare.
This trap is of his own design - he knows that it will work.




However, the survivors are hungry now... They spent the whole day at the camp, and now they are running out of fish.
The Carpenter feels weak from hunger.


5th day:

When the survivors wake up at morning, they learn that the small river nearby had flooded: Their camp is a mess.


The Cook also finds out that the spider bite in her neck is badly swollen.

It doesn't seem life-threatening, but the Cook feels very sick. She must be careful not to exert herself too much today...





The survivors decide that the Carpenter sets out to rescue Jenny, while the Cook stays behind and tries to dig a moat or something to clear the water out of the camp. At least she does have a shovel to dig with, so this shouldn't be too exhausting...

The Carpenter comes back later, and he has Jenny with him! Both Jenny, and the Carpenter are in a very bad shape - apparently the rescue mission didn't go quite as planned.

But there is no time to rest. The raft needs to be upgraded into a proper lifeboat, and the Carpenter still has some strength left in him. He takes the Dog, and heads north to expolore a new part of the island in hopes of finding something useful.

The Carpenter stumbles upon a forest, where he finds remains of a wrecked hot air balloon.
What a stroke of luck! The skins from the balloon can be used to build sails for the lifeboat!
Also, the Carpenter gathers some wood from the area.



The survivors - now three of them - get in their shelter for the night.
The food is very scarce, and Jenny and the Carpenter are very weak... The hunger, as well as the overall fatigue is taking its toll, and the survivors are praying for an easy night.

But the night is not easy, as a new threat appears: In the dead of night, some hungry animals attack the camp!
The survivors manage to fight the beasts off, but it is clear that they do not flee far... They will probably show themselves again during the next night.


6th day:


In the morning, the survivors notice that a small part of the nearby forest is on fire!

The Carpenter hurries to extinquish the fire before it spreads to the camp. He digs a firebreak with the shovel to stop the fire from spreading.


The Carpenter spends the rest of the day organizing the camp.

The Cook tries to build a knife from some sharp stones found from the mountains, but she only manages to hurt herself...
She then explores towards northeast. There she finds a river and a good amount of fruits that she carries back to the camp.
The snare has also caught a small animal, so the survivors probably don't need to starve this night.

Jenny rests and sleeps. She almost died out at the ocean, and she is still very weak.


Everyone gets to eat enough food, and the Cook even manages to make the Carpenter feel a little better with her special recipes.


Hungry animals are seen circling the camp, but they do not attack.


7th day:

Time is running out. The survivors know that they can't survive for much longer. The Carpenter explains that they still need a knife to build the lifeboat, as well as a lot more wood and some skins...
Time to start gathering these supplies!

The Carpenter begins with the knife. He works fast and comes up with a sturdy knife, but cuts himself in the process.

The Cook and the Carpenter then go out in the forest to gather wood.

They are very successful, the Carpenter even manages to find some additional wood that the recent stormwinds seem to have gathered in one place...
Upon returning to the camp, the survivors determine that they almost have enough supplies for the lifeboat...

Almost.

The 7th night comes, and the survivors eat. The snare has successfully caught something again, but there is still very little food for three people.



During the night, hungry animals attack the camp again. The survivors fight back with the Carpenter's knife, but they are simply too weak to survive the night. The trio of castaways never see the 8th morning, and the Cursed Island has once again claimed the lives of those who have had the misfortune of setting their foot on its soil.


CONCLUSION:

Still no success with this scenario. I have never been able to complete this one - in fact I only have completed the first two of the six scenarios. Yes, the game is difficult, or at least it seems so to me.
This game was a fairly typical one, in which my confidence slowly but surely fades away along with the health of my characters!
That's how it usually goes in RC:AotCI: There is a good start, but then everything starts to go wrong and either I run out of time, or then one of my survivors just die. This is a ruthless game, but so well designed that I always feel like the game did give me a chance - I just happened to make some wrong choices and blew my chance.

The game has a lot going on, and some interesting elements didn't even appear in this run: For example, usually the characters also hunt to get food and skins, but this time I felt like I didn't have the time for that...
The game also features a "mystery card" -deck. These cards are rarely drawn, but they have some of the most intriguing events and encounters that the survivors can come by.

By the way, I always play with modified solo rules. The rulebook instructs to use one normal character, the Dog and Friday (from the actual Robinson Crusoe -story). Friday is a special character with simplified rules, but for some reason I don't like to use him... I rather go with two characters and the Dog. Works fine that way.

The artwork is very simple, except for the island tiles, which are actually pretty beautiful. Other pictures are somewhat crude black-and-white illustrations. Of course one could say that they look like something that the shipwreck survivors themselves could have drawn with a piece of charcoal or something - so they kinda work in a Robinson Crusoe -game.
Most of the cards in the game only have text on them.

RATING:  9 /10

SOLO RATING: 9 /10

Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island is a challenging and innovative strategy game with a high replayability. Good for anyone who generally enjoys playing cooperative board games.
Works very well in solo as well as in small groups.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Level 7 [Escape]

LEVEL 7 [ESCAPE]

by Privateer Press

Published in 2012

Level 7 [Escape] is a survival horror board game (if such a thing can exist) set in an underground research facility. The players are unwilling test subjects who attempt to escape the facility - by any means necessary.
This sounds like a great setting for a video game or a horror movie, but how would it translate into a board game format?

Surprisingly well!
Level 7 [Escape] does manage to come up with a strong enough theme to be taken seriously as a horror board game - which is something that in my opinion is a very difficult thing to do.


Level 7 [Escape] is a scenario-based game. The original game comes with a scenario booklet; basically a story that spans over 7 scenarios. For this game I made a standalone scenario of my own. Creating custom scenarios for Level 7 [Escape] is rather easy, which greatly increases the replayability of the game.
The scenario I'm using can be found at boardgamegeek.com - link for the pdf-file can be found at the bottom of this blogtext.

The different scenarios have different objectives and special rules, but the ultimate goal is always to escape, usually with an elevator. Most scenarios also have a lockdown-condition at the end - when the lockdown begins, the player characters only have a few turns to escape before the game ends.

The game board for Level 7 [Escape] is modular, which means that rooms and corridors are tiles that will be drawn randomly as the characters explore more areas. That's why in the picture above there is only one small tile in the middle of the table - that's the game board to begin with!

One of the key things to consider in Level 7 [Escape] is the fact that the inhabitants of the facility may also fight against each other. It is important to use this in your advantage - if you can get your enemies to kill each other, maybe your chances of survival increase...

The player characters - test subjects - receive two special skills at the beginning of the game.

Otherwise the characters are identical; they all have the same base stats.

In this game there are two test subjects, who I will refer to as the Man and the Woman (in the situation they are in, their names are irrelevant).

The Man has received self-defense training, and he is generally a tough guy, capable of withstanding a bit more damage than an average person.


The Woman is cautious and sneaky. She is smart, resourceful, and she actually feels safe in the cover of shadows, hence she is not as afraid of the dark corners of the facility as others might be.

(oh, the characters became quite clichéd!)



THE HORROR BEGINS:

"The last thing you can remember is being subjected to some sort of medical experiments. The room you are in resembles a morgue... Who ever did this to you seems to have declared you as dead, but then something unexpected must have happened: You feel very much alive! This is your chance to escape. Get moving and find a way out of this horrible place."


The survivors don't know each other, and the situation they find themselves in is very strange...
They decide to go different ways. The morgue has two doors.

The Man leaves the Morgue, and finds some sort of a Squad Bay. No one inside.

After a quick look-around, the Man finds a locker with something very useful; a stun stick! This stick - combined with his self-defense training - will surely help him to get out of dangerous situations...





The Man continues through one of the doors in the Squad Bay and enters an ominous corridor with some blood on the floor...

The Woman leaves the Morgue through the other door and finds an Equipment Depot, filled with boxes.

She finds a flashlight.
She is actually not so much bothered by the shadows, but she takes the flashlight with her anyway.




The Woman pushes forward, entering a room that seems to serve as an archive. She finds a map fragment that depicts some parts of the complex.
The room is somehow very scary - she can feel her heartbeat rising...

The Man turns around a corner in the corridor and hurries through another door. He finds a room that is labeled as "Purple Lab". Some scientific equipment is lying around.
Then he hears a strange sound from the corridor he just left! There is something moving in there, right behind the door...
And the sounds indicate that this something is not quite human...

The Woman leaves the archive-room and enters a corridor with two possible doors to go through. While pondering about her options, the door behind her suddenly slams shut and locks itself!

The Woman has never felt this kind of horror... She feels like running! Huge amounts of adrenaline is pumping through her veins...



Meanwhile, the Man thinks about leaving the Lab, while all of a sudden a guard walks in!






Without giving it a second though, the Man lashes out at the guard. A few swift and hard blows with the stun stick, and the guard is on the floor. Though still alive, this enemy should be out of the picture for a while.


The Man leaves the Lab quickly, and arrives at an Auxiliary Station.

A control panel attracts his attention: This panel could apparently be used to connect to the security systems of the complex.




The woman hastily exits the corridor... Something seems to be moving in the ventilation duct - watching her though a vent. As if it could smell her fear...
She enters a "Yellow Lab".

Peeking from behind the door, she sees something horrible: A grey humanoid crawls out of the ventilation shaft...
This must be a creature of extraterrestrial origins - an alien! It seems to sense her fear.

But at the same time, a human guard enters the room as well. Speaking to his headphones, he gives a short report about "a Clone", then opens fire at the creature.
The Clone seems to be able to somehow dodge most of the bullets fired by the guard, but after a long burst from his assault rifle, the alien is finally hit.
The guard reports the Clone neutralized.

The Man hears the gunfire! It was very close, right behind the door he was about to go through next. There are now guards behind both of the doors that lead out of this Auxiliary Station: The one he attacked earlier, and the one who just fired...
He is surrounded!
Securing his stun stick, he decides to push forward, hoping that the guard ahead is still reloading.

The Man rushes into the corridor and savagely attacks the guard. Using his self-defense techniques, he swings the stun stick with great efficiency.


The guard is killed.

The Man searches the body and finds a Med-Pack.








The door to his right is locked, so the Man enters the door to his left. He arrives at the "Yellow Lab", where the Woman is exploring some of the lab equipment.


Then another guard walks in!


He reports about making contact with the "high-threat test subject"...






The Woman decides to use her cautious nature and her considerable sneaking skills to outwit the guard and to leave the room.
Without much difficulties, she sneaks out of the Lab and finds an Armory. But another guard is waiting for her there! The Woman drops her flashlight and grabs a scalpel from the nearby table, readying herself for an incoming attack... 


Meanwhile at the Lab, the Man continues his rampage. He engages the guard with his stun stick and kills him. He is getting used to this... The Man considers about taking a pistol from the dead guard, but decides to stick to his trusty stun stick; no need to attract more attention with loud weapons, when a silent one is doing the trick as well...

The Man decides not to follow the Woman. Instead, he doubles back to the corridor where he killed the first guard, takes the door to his right and finds himself back at the Auxiliary Station.
He hears gunfire coming from two directions...

The Woman is attacked by the Armory-guard. She survives the attack, but gets hurt.


She then outwits the guard and pushes forward.

She arrives at another Armory. 
There she finds a Med-Pack, which she instantly uses to treat her injuries.


The guard follows her.



The Man also faces another guard. This guard seems to be the same one he attacked earlier in the first Lab... He should've killed the guard when he had the chance!
But after a short skirmish, the guard is down again. This time the Man makes sure that this guard will not bother him again...

The Man finds a map fragment from the body and continues to retrace his steps. He stops at the corridor with the bloody floor.

Still not wishing to attack the guard, the Woman sneaks out of the guard's reach again.

She comes into a corridor that turns left. It is difficult to be certain of the directions in a complex like this, but this way seems to take her towards the Morgue again... there must be a lift here somewhere, but where!

At the same time, the Man finds the answer.
He comes across an "A-Lift". It was right next to the Squad Bay, which in turn is adjacent to the Morgue where the survivors woke up!

The door to the A-Lift is open, and there seems to be blood on the floor and on the wall of the car...




The Man runs right into the car and pushes the button that says "Surface level". Nothing happens. The Lift is broken or disabled...

Meanwhile, the Woman hears the guard walking away. Acknowledgements given by the guard indicate that he was called away to take care of "a greater threat". This must mean that the guard is heading towards the Man, who is responsible for killing three guards so far...


The Woman then enters an Environmental Control Room. The room seems quiet and relatively safe, so she takes a little time to access some of the control panels found in the room.

The panel grants her with a security key.





She then opens another door and finds a generator room. She gets a gut feeling that she shouldn't be there, and quickly retreats back to the Control Room...


The Man leaves the A-Lift and desperately tries to find another way out of this place! He finds a Central Command -room - this looks promising!

The Man begins to examine the systems in the room...

He can hear some alien voices coming from behind him: There is something in the Squad Bay...





The Woman is running out of ideas. No sign of a way out can be found. She walks around a bit and tries to come up with some kind of a plan... At least she is alone now: She has seen no guards or aliens for a while. Apparently they have found something more interesting than her.

She has managed to fight off her fears, and the guards don't seem to consider her as very much of a threat.

For the first time she feels that she could survive this yet...

If only she could find a way out!



The door behind the Man opens, and a Clone comes in. The Man tries to access the control panels in the Central Command and doesn't notice the alien until it attacks! The Clone injures the Man a little bit.

The Woman figures out a quicker way to move around; the vents! She gathers her courage and enter the first vent she finds. After a terrifying crawl in the dark, she finds herself in the same corridor where she spotted the alien creature.
She realizes that the monster came through the very same vent just a little while ago! However, now the Clone lies dead on the floor. There is also a dead guard...

The Man, enraged by the alien's attack, makes a counter-attack. The stun stick seems to work against the aliens as well, and he manages to beat the Clone down with relative ease. The creature appears to die from the attack.

The Woman uses her security key to open the door that was mysteriously locked the last time she was in this corridor.

She enters the archive-room again and locks the door behind her, then proceeds to the Equipment Depot.



A horrible scream can be heard... A guard is killed somewhere in the complex - there seems to be more Clones sneaking around!

The Man continues to work with the Central Command panels, but gets nowhere. He has never been very good with computers.

The Woman exits the Depot and finds herself back at the Morgue. Clone-related sounds can be heard from behind the other door.

Finally, the Man gets into the system!
He can't find a way to fix the A-Lift, but instead he disables the main ventilation fans. This should allow him and the Woman to use the ventilation ducts to climb to the surface!


Unfortunately, the Clones also notice this, and they begin to gather around the vents!


The way out is open, but it will be a very dangerous one...




A voice announces that the fans have stopped. The Woman quickly realizes that this is her way out! She turns around again and begins to make her way back to the corridor with the vent. Her security key had only one use, so this time she needs to hack the door open - with some difficulties, she succeeds...
She doesn't enter the corridor yet, as she spots an alien there. A moment later, a guard also arrives from the "Yellow Lab".

The Man leaves the Central Command in search of a vent. Out in the Squad Bay, he stumbles upon two Clones. He raises his stun stick and rushes out of the room, into the Morgue. He gets some minor scratches from the rush.

The Woman makes it!
First she watches another Clone crawling in from the vent. The Clones attack the guard and kill him. Then the Woman enters the corridor and uses her stealth skills to outwit the two aliens. She reaches the vent and makes the dangerous climb...
She reaches the surface and quickly runs away...

The Man tries to reach the same vent. He runs past the Equipment Depot, past the archive-room and into the vent in the corridor. Numerous Clones are blocking his way, but the stun stick proves to be a great tool for bull-rushing right past the flimsy aliens...

However, this is very taxing for the Man, and when he finally reaches the vent, he feels very tired. He begins the climb to the surface, but falls down!
As he falls down to where the Clones are waiting for him, he bangs his head on to something... The world blackens in his eyes and he knows that this will be his end... Hopefully the Woman got away. The world needs to know about this horrible place. It needs to be shut down for good...



CONCLUSION:

One got away, another one didn't - so I guess this game was 50% successful! A fun game anyway.
Nothing especially difficult or challenging happened in this game, but I think I got a good story out of it. Neither one of the characters got knocked out. Usually it happens a couple of times in each game. Normally a third knock out means the death of a character, so keeping that in mind, the characters in this game didn't have such a hard time.
According to the rules, the Man should actually have only been knocked out at the end, but it's my scenario and I decided that he didn't make it! Much more realistic ending this way...

Level 7 [Escape] has dice, but there are a number of ways to manipulate and/or add dice to your rolls. This means that the game is not completely void of strategic choices, and sometimes the players really need to weigh their options: When to fight, when to sneak, when to walk another way, and so on...
The survival horror -side raises its head when more and more enemies are getting spawned during the course of the game. Sometimes there may be so many enemies that you simply can't deal with them all, and then it will require both good choices and luck to get out alive.
It must be said, that usually the enemies don't die quite as easily as how it appeared in this game... This time I had luck; first the discovery of the stun stick -item, and then some really good dice rolls.

Artwork in the game is all-and-all pretty cool. The cover picture is great, don't you think? At least for me, it really works - when I saw it for the first time, it really made me want to know more about this game.
The room tiles are all unique, and there is a decent amount of nice little details to be found.
The enemies are represented by thick cardboard pictures in plastic stands... It's cool, they look very nice but must they really be so large? Now they completely dominate the rooms they are in, sometimes I need to move them around just to check the icons and doors in a room.

The rules of Level 7 [Escape] are not very easy to learn. The game has a lot going on, and sometimes it feels as though there is a few too many things to remember. Things that you may easily forget or overlook.
Also, the rules are far from being unambiguous... I guess it is understandable; a highly thematic game easily gets drowned under all the fiddly little rules. A price that I am willing to pay, but that still annoys me every now and then.

RATING:  8 /10

SOLO RATING:  8 /10

Level 7 [Escape] is a very nice game for small groups and solo players alike.
The game is mentioned to be "semi-cooperative", which means that while all the players work towards the common goal - the escape - they may very well end up betraying each other in order to gain some kind of an advantage (or perhaps just for fun!).
This aspect is of course taken away in a solo game, which pretty much makes Level 7 [Escape] a full-cooperative game for solo players.

The custom scenario that was used can be found from this link:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Relic

RELIC

by Fantasy Flight Games

Published in 2013

Relic is a board game set in the awesome Warhammer 40000 universe - to me, that pretty much is enough to make me buy the game!

The game is built on the well-known mechanic from the game Talisman. The game board has a number of spaces that are organized in three tiers. On their turn, player rolls a die and moves their character clockwise or counterclockwise, and then resolves whatever it is that their destination space has to offer.
The victory condition awaits the players in the middle of the board.

Relic is not meant to be played as a single-player game. The rules doesn't offer much in terms of player interaction, but there are a few cards that refer to "another player", and a game of Relic is essentially a race towards the middle of the game board... and racing alone is boring!
But my desire to play this game solo was great enough to make me write a single-player variant on top of the Relic game rules. The following session is played using that variant. A link for the variant can be found from the end of this blogtext.


Relic has 10 characters, heroes if you will, each representing a strong individual belonging to the Imperium of Man. These chracters are sent to investigate a distant Antian Sector, where a Warp Rift has opened and brought evil forces into our plane.
During the course of their adventure, the heroes must battle numerous enemies from the Warhammer 40k universe, including Okrs, Eldar, Tyranids, and the forces of Chaos. And as they gain more experience and influence, they become stronger and stronger until they are ready to travel through the Warp Rift and face the final challenge...

The character for this adventure is a Ratling Sniper, serving under the command of the Imperial Guard.

The Sniper is a very crafty fighter, capable of evading enemies he doesn't want to face.
Those enemies he do decide to fight, he usually kills, as his sniper rifle allows him to deal critical hits more often than most other characters.

The Ratling has a high cunning, making him very strong against the Eldar... but his willpower, and especially his strength are low. This means that the brutish Orks and the terrifying Tyranids are likely to offer much more difficulties if faced in a combat.

The characters have missions to complete. The first mission for the Ratling Sniper is to "Cleanse the Hive World". The communications are down in the Hive World Vaulgast, and someone needs to go there and clear the threat.
Through completing missions, the characters will eventually gain access to Relics. A Relic is needed to travel through the Warp Rift, but the Relics also grant powerful abilities to their owners.

A part of the single-player variant is a "dummy player", that will be referred to as The Rival. The Rival will also be present at the Antian Sector, and he will also try to reach the middle of the sector...

The final challenge that the Ratling must overcome is a creature named Corruptis.

Corruptis, A Daemon Prince, awaits at his citadel deep within the Warp Rift, and spreads corruption through the Antian Sector. If the Ratling Sniper ever reaches the citadel, he will have to fight a desperate battle against this monstrosity, but in order to get that far, he must be able to resist the daemonic corruption that will constantly try to take him over...

THE GAME BEGINS:

The Ratling Sniper starts from the Burning Mountain, and begins to make his way towards the Hive World Vaulgast.
He stops at a location called Soul Trap, and meets an Apostate Preacher. The Sniper kills the heretic with a relative ease, but while fighting him, the Ratling already begins to feels the corruption spreading! Nothing major yet... but every bit of corruption is going to make the final battle against Corruptis that much harder.

The Sniper continues, only to face a Chaos Fury. With great cunning, the Sniper effortlessly destroys the Daemon.

The Sniper reaches the outskirts of the Hive World. A group of Plague Heretics engage him in a battle of willpower. The Hero wins.
Defeating these heretics, the Ratling gains some influence. He also completes his mission.

He immediately receives a new mission: "Survey the Area". This mission sends the Sniper to survey two specific locations; Vaulgast Spaceport and Omnissian Shrine. Luckily these locations are nearby...

While trying to get to the designated locations. The Ratling comes across another Daemon, A Flamer of Tzeentch.
The Ratling determines this enemy to be a little bit too powerful for him, so he uses his stealth skills to evade the Daemon.
Just a moment later, the Rival comes forth and destroys the Flamer...

The Sniper reaches the Vaulgast Spaceport.

No threats can be found from there, so the area is easily surveyed. A useful piece of armor is also found - a Hexagrammic Ward. This piece of technology will help the Ratling to endure future attacks against his willpower.





Pushing towards the Omnissian Shrine, the Hero finds himself in a Core Cogitator. There he is attacked by a champion of the Thousand Sons traitor legion, and a Fallen Inquisitor. The heretic Inquisitor is evaded, but the Chaos Space Marine is not so easily tricked.
A furious battle is fought, but the Sniper manages to kill the Thousand Sons Chosen with his Iron Discipline.
This act earns the Sniper his first level! His cunning improves.

Still looking for the Omnissian Shrine, the Sniper searches the Vaulgast Spire in the middle of the Hive World.
Another Chaos Space Marine - an Emperor's Children Noise Marine is found and evaded.
The Ratling Sniper feels Corruptis' corruption spreading... Luckily no visible effects are yet to be seen.

But then something bigger appears! A greater Daemon of the chaos god Slaanesh, Keeper of Secrets, attacks the Hero. The ensuing battle is a battle of cunning, so the Sniper has a chance, but the enemy is very powerful indeed...
When abominations of this magnitude are faced, old feuds must be put aside: The Ratling calls for his Rogue Trader Rival to help him. The Trader answers the call, and together they manage to fight off the Daemon.
Both of them receive a great deal of honor from this deed, and as such, the Ratling may soon be able to claim his first Relic...

After the encounter, the rivals part ways again. The Sniper finds some some Orks from the wastelands of Vaulgast, and attempts to kill them.
But these Deathskull Mekboyz fight back and manage to drive the Ratling away, injuring him and sapping away some of the power from his Hexagrammic Ward.
Generally, the Ratling should avoid Orks... Their strength-based fighting techinques make is very difficult for the physically weak Ratling to fight back.


Finally, the Omnissian Shrine!

The Ratling is about to complete his second mission...





But the Shrine was occupied.
A heretic known only as "Warp Dabbler" is inhabiting the location, and he opens up a gateway to the Warp! A Seeker of Slaanesh comes through, as well as a Feral Chaos Renegade.
A battle of cunning begins, and the Ratling is confident, for none of the enemies seem particularly strong.

However, the Sniper doesn't manage to slay his opponents. The enemies are unable to damage him as well, but the mission will have to wait... The Omnissian Shrine is full of enemies, and they must be dealt with first.

The daemonic energies of the Seeker of Slaanesh causes strange things to happen to the Ratling Sniper! The spreading corruption causes the Ratling to receive Unnatural Vigour, imbuing him with a durability far beyond his normal limits...
The powers of Chaos are strong - without a doubt - but with what price..?

Retreating from the Omnissin Shrine, the Ratling faces a Tech-Witch heretic. This enemy is easily killed and a powerful Force Sword is found from the dead heretic's possessions.
This sword will come in handy when facing enemies in willpower battles.

There is no rest for the Heroes of the Imperium of Man:
A Howling Banshee attacks the Ratling. The horrific battle cry of this Eldar Aspect Warrior nearly ends the fight before it even starts, but the Sniper's high cunning allows him to find a way...

The Eldar loses the battle.

The Hero gains another level.


But somewhere far away, the influence of Corruptis can be heard... The Ratling's physique gains more unholy abilities, this time a Rapid Regeneration! Some of the Ratling's wounds seem to close themselves with a supernatural speed.
So far the corruption has only given more power to the Hero, but how much more can his mind take before it succumbs to the Chaos?

A sudden Warp Storm wreaks havoc across the outer tier, banishing all the current threats... The Rival may have somehow triggered this...

The Ratling spots a Tyrant Guard. Cautious as he is, the Sniper decides to evade this massive Tyranid, and continues towards the Omnissian Shrine once again.

The Sniper visits the Grey Knights Envoy.
These mysterious Space Marines help the Ratling to power up and to ready himself for the future encounters against the enemies of the Mankind...






At a Titan Manufactorum, the Sniper is attacked by a Corrupted Servitor. He easily defeats this mechanical opponent, and manages to load his Force Sword with some more charges.

Back at the Omnissian Shrine!

Thanks to the Warp Storm, there is no sign of the Warp Dabbler or the demons...
Instead, an extremely dangerous Biel-Tan Autarch, an Eldar who has mastered the art of warfare is found at the Shrine. Playing it safe, the Ratling evades the Autarch and finally completes his surveying mission.

This rewards him with his first Relic - he is given the Reverent Fist, an item that greatly boosts his strength.
This will surely be useful, considering the otherwise weak physical strength of a Ratling.

The Sniper receives a new mission: "Navigate the Phantom Stars". Phantom Stars is the name given to an area located in the middle tier of this sector - an area that currently houses one of the Space Hulks. Something is going on at that area and the Ratling must investigate...

The Sniper comes across an Eldar Falcon Squadron. Fighting the Eldar is a Sniper's speciality, and so the Ratling decides to try and take out the Squadron's leader, the Farseer. His attempt fails, however... The Farseer damages the Hero and flees to her Craftworld.

A word spreads that the Rival of the Ratling Sniper has just reached the middle tier... The Ratling should hurry after him.

There are some ways to get to the middle tier.

The Ratling consults the Battlefleet Antias for this.
He donates the practically unused Hexagrammic Ward -armor to the battlefleet, and in return the fleet transports him to the Antian Shrine World, which is located in the middle tier.
The Phantom Stars -area is very close...

Before exploring the Phantom Stars, however, the Ratling has some unfinished business. The Eldar Craftworld is not too far way, and the Sniper knows that this is where the pesky Farseer fled after humilitating the Hero back in the outer tier.
The Ratling enters the Craftworld, very carefully evades his enemies, and assassinates the Farseer! This heroic act rewards the Ratling with a level, which further increases his cunning. He also finds an ally from the Craftworld:
A Navigator had been imprisoned by the Eldar, and the Ratling decides to take him along.

The Ratling returns to the Antian Shrine World to pray. He feels the corruption weighing heavily on his mind, and the prayer does seem to ease the corruption a little bit.

The Sniper enters the Phantom Stars. He explores the Space Hulk and faces a number of threats:
He easily kills off a group of heretic Plague Cultists, then evades an imposing Death Guard Hellbrute, and finally meets a Possessed Psyker. The Pysker doesn't exactly attack the Hero, but his psychic presence still manages to subdue the Ratling, interrupting the mission... The Ratling loses some valuable time trying to recover from the Psykers influence.



The Psyker also exposed the Ratling's mind for more of Corruptis' corruption. To fight off the corruption, the Sniper visits the Apothecarium Sepha located nearby. There some of his corruption is treated, easing the Hero's burden and allowing him to endure more chaotic influence.

Back to the Phantom Stars. This time the Ratling explores an asteroid belt named Tebian II. There he finds Lucius the Eternal, champion of Slaanesh and the Chaos Lord of the Emperor's Children traitor legion.
This immensely powerful creature beats the Sniper in a fight, but the Sniper still completes his mission.
The corruption-induced unnatural vigour keeps the Ratling in a great shape, despite the fact that his body have suffered deadly wounds...

Another mission is given to the Sniper. Two more locations to survey: Shadowed World right next to the Eldar Craftworld, and Blasted Nebula, which is located at the territory of the Ork warboss Deffsnaga, close to his massive Kill Krooza.

The Shadowed World is easily reached.

After defeating some of the lesser Eldar troops found from the site, the Sniper completes the survey on this area.

The Ratling gains his fourth level.





The Ratling reaches the Blasted Nebula, only to be fought off by a Flesh Hound of Khorne. Forced to move on, the Ratling visits Blackstone Fortress. There he spends some of his considerable influence to learn new tricks with which he can outsmart and defeat his enemies.

After recuperating at the Blackstone Fortress, the Ratling heads back to the Blasted Nebula to fight the Flesh Hound again. This time the creature is destroyed.
The Sniper completes his mission and gains a level.
His next mission is "Find the Traitor". This mission charges the Ratling to find the Rogue Trader and to investigate his level of corruption. However, it may be difficult to catch this man...

But an opportunity arises quickly: The Ratling finds another Greater Daemon, a Masque of Slaanesh... And just like earlier with the Keeper of Secrets, the Rogue Trader arrives to help the Ratling in the hopeless fight...
The Sniper and the Rogue Trader aren't able to defeat he Daemon, and the Ratling's unnatural vigour is tested once more, as the Daemon injures him.
But in the midst of all the fighting, the Ratling manages to come up with his report about the Rogue Trader's intentions - the mission is completed.


The Ratling gains another Relic, a powerful artifact known as Telican's Wellspring.
This Relic will keep the Ratling powered up for the rest of his days...







The Ratling kills another Chaos Space Marine, but the time is running out. He should soon start thinking about moving into the inner tier, through the Warp Rift, and to begin his mission to slay Corruptis...


Another level is gained, but the Ratling isn't ready yet...

A couple of more levels are needed to give the Ratling a fighting chance against a mighty foe like Corruptis.

Yet another Chaos Marine - a Death Guard Missile Launcher - attacks the Sniper. The Sniper draws his Force Sword and defeats the foe - and another level is gained.

The Ratling then visits the Antian Shrine World again. This time he finds his Rival there as well. The Ratling steals some valuables off from the Rogue Trader, and then begins to pray again. The prayer "cures" the Rapid Regeneration out from the Ratling, but at the same time his level of corruption becomes relatively low...
Maybe now is the time to face Corruptis.

The Rival leaves the Shrine and enters the Warp Rift, reaching the inner tier.

Fighting through ranks of lesser enemies, the Ratling earns his eighth level.


The only way to the inner tier is through the Warp Rift, guarded by Eldar warriors.

As the Ratling approaches the rift, a Warp Spider appears and tries to stop him, but the Ratling easily kills the enemy.





The Ratling makes haste through the Rift.
He uses his influence and his experience to move fast through the first few of the wretched places that lurk behind the Rift, racing past his Rival, and finally stopping at Daemon World Braxas. There his ally, the Navigator rescued from the Eldar Craftworld, is lost.

Now the Hero must withstand the Ruinous Powers, one after another, to reach the middle of the inner tier where Corruptis is waiting...


Palace of Slaanesh. This is where the Prince of Pleasure will try to make the Hero lose their way with his Whispers of Desire.
The Ratling's high cunning allows him to push through...

Garden of Nurgle. Here the Plaque Lord's Pestilent Miasma will ravage both the body, and the mind of a Hero who tries to make his way through.
With great effort, and some help from his Telican's Wellspring -relic, the Ratling passes unhindered...

Fortress of Khorne. In this maddening fortress, the Blood God's Fury will destroy any Hero foolish enough to come this far.
The Ratling Sniper suffers grievous injuries, but survives...

Maze of Tzeentch. The Changer of Ways has laid his Web of Lies to make the Hero lose his resolve and be forever forgotten.
The Sniper gets lost... Time passes, his powers wane, and the Rogue Trader reaches Corruptis first...

But there is still time - the Ratling comes to his senses, and charges after his Rival to challenge Corruptis.

The first strike is a successful one. Corruptis suffers damage, and the Ratling feels his corruption giving up!

And another successful attack!

The Sniper lost many of his powers to the Maze of Tzeentch, but the Telican's Wellspring empowers him with new ones.

With Iron Discipline, he fights against Corruptis.

The Ratling is now free of corruption! Damaging Corruptis causes the corruption to withdraw from the Ratling's mind and body.

But then Corruptis fights back, and injures the Sniper... The unnatural vigour is long gone, and now he is really beginning to feel all the damage that his body has sustained.

More damage! Corruptis is turning the tide of the battle against the Ratling. The daemonic onslaught of Corruptis causes the Ratling to fall into a Blood Rage...

Then it's all over!
The Rogue Trader delivers a killing blow and ends Corruptis' reign of terror. All the glory is taken away from the Ratling Sniper, while his Rival, the Rogue Trader claims to have defeted the Daemon all by himself.

However, the sector is saved, even if the Ratling Sniper failed to achieve his goal!
A game lost, but the Mankind saved!


CONCLUSION:

A very close call! I could have just as easily defeated Corruptis and won the game, but then my luck changed at the end. So I would say that this was a tough and a very interesting game, although maybe a little one-sided; I didn't find many encounters, and most of the enemies I fought were creatures of Chaos or Eldar. There are a lot of cool Ork and Tyranid enemies in the game, and I didn't get to see them at all in this session.
But then, maybe that's just good strategy! The Ratling Sniper is all about killing Eldar...

The luck-factor in Relic is high, there is no denying that. After all, the threats are mainly dealth with dice rolling, and the threats themselves are randomly drawn from the decks. Still, there is an element of strategy somewhere behind all the dice rolling: My performance in this game has significantly improved over the time.
Actually, I can't even explain it very well, as the game rules do seem to point towards a simple, luck-based game with a little chance for actual strategizing... Somehow I have gotten better in this game, and it means that there is much more to Relic than just luck.

The game components are very nice - I especially like the chracter boards, where the character sheets are inserted and the skills of the character are tracked by some really nice dials. A very clean, cool and - above all - effective way to keep track of your character's progress.
The cards have very Warhemmery artwork in them and serve their purpose well.
The game board is interesting... I think I'm going to write; the game board is a mess! But it is a very thematic and artistic mess. It has a lot going on, but after looking at it for some time I begun to like it.
Somehow it seems to represent the Antian Sector very well - a huge, chaotic and colorful place!

RATING:  8 /10

SOLO RATING:  7 /10

While Relic definitely is not the best of games to be played solo, it can be done. Practically Relic could be played solo even without any variant rules, but I would imagine that to be a bit dull... However, a decent solo variant can be made, in which case the game becomes enjoyable even without other players.

The single-player variant used to play this particular solo game can be found from this link: