Tag Archives: card game
You know when you get a song stuck in your head and it goes on and on, round and round, until you’re driven half cracked by it? Normally referred to as an earworm, it’s one of the most awful things your brain can do – it’s like having all of the RAM inside your head devoted to one single process and you can do NOTHING else until the cycle wears itself out. I’ve noticed recently that the same thing happens to me with games. I play something, then replay certain sections of the game over in my mind. Whether it’s a satisfying round of Amerigo or something dumb I’ve done in an online game of Carcassonne, it can get annoying. Sometimes, though, I find myself going back because I’ve simply enjoyed a game and want to play again: Hello Mob Town, you splendid little bugger!
A while ago, Phil from 5th Street Games sent me a prototype copy of his currently running Kickstarter campaign which – as of earlier on today – managed to hit its funding goal. I hereby guarantee that every single person who receives a copy of Mob Town is going to have a bloody good time because I honestly reckon that this is going to be in my end of year best-of list for 2014. Quite the statement for a game that’s not even been properly published yet, but I stand by it; Mob Town is dirty, low down, sneaky and straight-up awesome fun. You WILL want a copy when you play it, if only because it pretty much gives you a license to freely hurl abuse at your fellow players.
Between two and four people can play, each one taking control of their own gang. Over the course of three rounds, you’ll look to score points by taking over properties in randomly generated towns, with whoever has the highest total at the end of the game crowned the best mobster. There are five different property types, each of which have four cards numbered from 1 to 4 – so, twenty cards in total – but not all of them are used in each round; it’ll be between twelve and fourteen, depending on how many are playing. There’s also a draw deck that is filled with the animal hench-beasts that you’ll use to exert your influence over the towns, each of whom are also given a numeric value, as well as a set of Agenda cards for each player. We’ll cover those shortly.
On your turn, you have a whole bunch of options available to you – however, you can only do one action when play comes round so the game moves at a pretty decent pace. Most of the time you’ll be drawing cards from the deck or trading one in to grab a bunch from a face up selection in order to boost your options. Should you see a property in the town that you like, you pay its cost by discarding from your hand, but you can’t just put down anything. You see, each of the property types can only be “bought” by two different animals: Hotels can only be taken over by Snakes and Foxes, for example, while Weasels and Rats are used to grab Factories. When taking over a property, you can use any combination of the necessary cards to pay the cost, then you put one of your tokens on the card to show your influence over the property. Unfortunately, just because you’re in control of a place, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way… Your opponents can wrest a property from you by paying its value plus however many tokens are on it. This can lead to plenty of back and forth battles for certain cards in the town, especially if a couple of players need it to meet an Agenda.
Oh yeah, Agendas! This is where they come in. At the start of each round, you’ll need to choose two of them then work towards fulfilling them by seizing control of the right places. Some of the Agendas demand you control the majority of a certain building type, while others are all about focusing on having the most connected properties or simply more than anyone else. Manage to meet the requirements of your Agendas and you’ll score a bonus at the end of each round – sure, it may only be three points for each one met, but that can be the difference between first place and last. Thankfully, should your plans go awry, you also have the option to switch an agenda out from your hand for something that could potentially bring in points. Should you get trapped in one section of the town, you can also pay other players to pass through areas they own in the form of cards from your hand – you always have options!
Finally, players each have three Briefcase tokens at the start of the game that can be traded in to introduce a new building from the remaining town cards – very useful in to bring in even more extra points and get those valuable Agendas met, but there’s a catch; each unused token is worth a further two points at the game’s conclusion, so spending them is a big decision. Rounds finish when “The Law” card appears, whether it’s drawn from the deck by a player or added to the line of those available to pick up. Each owned property earns the controlling player the amount of points printed on it, Agendas are checked and scored, then a whole new randomly generated town is made.
(A quick aside about how each town is created – it may be the most ingenious way I’ve seen to make a randomised playing area. Each of the town cards has an arrow pointing either north, south, east or west, and once the first card is put down, it’s simply a matter of following the arrow and placing the next one. If there’s no space right next to the card, just keep going in the signified direction until there is space! This simple process creates all manner of town layouts, from long and spindly to all bunched together, and though it’s an often heard cliche, you’ll never see the same town twice!)
And that’s it – but why is Mob Town stuck so firmly in my brain? Well, it’s undoubtedly down to the devious tactics that come into play during the game’s three rounds. Even with two players, the limited amount of space on the board combined with the Agendas that have been secretly chosen mean that they have no choice but to confront each other; get four people around the table everything gets very busy very quickly! Looking back at the games I’ve played, I keep thinking about whether it would’ve been better to switch out Agendas mid-round, or introduce new buildings at the expense of those valuable Briefcases. Any game where I find myself second-guessing my actions well after it’s been packed away has got to be worth anyone’s attention.
There are a couple of issues that I think need addressing before 5th Street Games go into production, the main one being the scoreboard. Stopping at 25 points when you can easily score 50 or more over the three rounds is annoying, though far from gamebreaking. Also – and this might sound really dumb – it’d be nice to have a little clarification on what animal gangs each player are in control of. I mean, each of the colours come with a symbol (bones, paw prints, that kind of thing), but the rulebook doesn’t specify what beasts they represent. These are tiny, nitpicking issues that can be sorted out with a couple of sentences in the rulebook and a differently set out score track, and if those are the worst things about a game when it’s in prototype form, you should definitely be at least looking at the Kickstarter page right now.
Mob Town is a wonderful way to pass a half hour, scaling well no matter how many people are sat at your games table. Even though it’s light on rules, there’s a lot of player interaction and plenty of potential for screwing over your opponents. The card art is very cute indeed (also done by the game’s designer, the talented swine) and the information you need to access is clear, so thumbs up on that score. All in all, this isn’t just one of the best Kickstarter games at the moment – this could easily be one of my favourites of all time. I can’t wait to see what the final version ends up looking like, especially now that there’s also a bunch of extras available via the City Limits expansion that change the game up even further. Go check it out – it’s running until March 10, 2014, and it’s pretty bloody excellent.
Designed by Danny Devine and published later this year by 5th Street Games, Mob Town plays with between two and four people with games taking around 30-40 minutes. A copy on Kickstarter will set you back $25 ($35 with the City Limits expansion), and there’s even a Print and Play version of the game to try out for free. Give it a shot – you could have yourself a new favourite filler!
I fear, dear readers, that our Emma has gone slightly mental. I gave her copies of Pixel Tactics and Pixel Tactics 2 and it seem’s she’s lost her mind. Ah well!
PIXEL TACTICS approaches!
Right, that’s that over with. As you might have guessed if you speak the universal language of tortuous references and badly-transcribed video game music (and if so, good job – I can barely understand what I just wrote), Pixel Tactics, Level 99 Games’ semi-recent two-player card game, borrows a lot from classic Final Fantasy games and their ilk. (That’s the FF1 battle theme up there. Honestly.) But as a lifelong old-school RPG fan and devotee of the series (and if you think FFX wasn’t the best game ever, I will fight you*), how does Pixel Tactics stack up?
Pretty well, actually. In the game, you and your new archnemesis each get a deck of thirty cards, each representing a typical JRPG character class, all the way from Knight to Dragon Mage, and the first thing you’ll probably notice, even before the great retro pixel art, is HOLY CRAP WORDS. See, each card has five different sets of abilities depending on how and where you play them, so they’re naturally kind of packed with text, which is probably the game’s biggest issue, since I’ve seen people look at a single card and immediately abandon the game in search of something that doesn’t involve quite so much reading. Which’d be a disservice to a good game, since Pixel Tactics has a lot of good features, chief among which is this proliferation of abilities depending on a card’s context. For example, take the aforementioned Knight:
Played in your unit’s vanguard, he’ll block ranged attacks and automatically damage anyone who hurts him, but in the flank he’ll constantly protect your leader from being shot at, and in the rear he’ll happily take hits to stop your other heroes getting damaged. Alternatively, you could play him as an order instead, and while you won’t get a shiny new knight in your unit, you’ll get to drop four damage on everybody that isn’t hiding behind another hero (easily a winning move in the right circumstance). Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed another set of abilities at the bottom, and this is a really neat piece of multifunctionality: at the start of the game, you’ll draw five heroes, and play one of them upside-down at the centre of your unit as your Leader. Leaders come with an impressive special ability as well as increased attack and defence stats, but these come at a price – if your Leader goes down, you lose. For example, play the same card as your Leader and this humble Knight becomes Cadenza, commander of the Clockwork Infantry Division, with twice as much health and an ability that means all your heroes take 1 less damage from attacks. And if you think that sounds really powerful, you’re basically right.
The genius of Pixel Tactics, however, lies in the fact that every single Leader’s ability is ludicrously powerful and totally broken, creating a weird kind of balance – it’s kind of like Cosmic Encounter, just with more magic and (presumably) terribly-translated dialogue, and playing in a third of the time. The playtime really works in its favour, too – any complaints about Leaders being unbalanced against each other tend to just turn into playing the game again with different ones, which you can totally do without getting tired of it. In fact, the game seems to acknowledge this, with the ludicrously huge rulesheet (it’s printed on the back of the playmat, which is a good way to save space but massively impractical when you need a ruling in the middle of a game) recommending you should play to the best of either three or five games before embarking on a 20-minute cutscene speech about your inevitable superiority. The only issue I really have is that, with only thirty cards each, you’ve seen them all after a few matches. If only there was some kind of…
What? There’s a sequel? Well okay then.
The unimaginatively-yet-thematically-appropriately-named Pixel Tactics 2 is essentially more of the same, but with a couple of new ability mechanics and an FFVII style science-fantasy theme as opposed to the original’s traditional fantasy. The game plays out much the same as its predecessor, with some differences in flow caused by the change in available abilities, although the game can slow down a bit when people start using some of the new complex abilities, especially with Leaders (NB: if I’m playing against you and you put up the Druid Leader, I will just flip the table and leave).
It really gets interesting when you succumb to the inevitable temptation and shuffle the decks together. Pixel Tactics International (as I irritatingly refer to it) is a prime example of combining two similar things together to make something very different – with more choice of heroes and Leaders, and some really strange combos being created by the interaction of cards from the two sets, PTI is a much longer, slower affair, with the focus shifted more to long-term strategy and defence than quick offensive tactics (although maybe that’s just how I play it) and games taking significantly longer. I don’t see this as that much of a problem, though, since the game’s balance issues are actually mostly ironed out by combining the decks, so a single game is much more satisfying.
Now, if we can just sneak out of this review without my references coming b-
PIXEL TACTICS defeated!
Emma grew to Lv. 6!
Pixel Tactics and Pixel Tactics 2 were both designed by D. Brad Talton, Jr. and published through the lovely Level 99 Games (who were kind enough to pass us a couple of copies for review). The beautiful pixel art is by Fabio Fontes who REALLY should be congratulated on his work – I think it’s very lovely indeed. Strictly for two players, games will take around 30-40 minutes, and should you want copies of either, they’re available through Gameslore for under £12 each! Oh, and don’t forget, you can follow Emma on Twitter where she’s @Waruce!
This episode we look back and look forward. It’s something of a tradition for gamers to look at the past year, especially if you’re in the podcast world – so who are we to buck the trend? First of all, I have a long and rambling (though hopefully entertaining!) talk with Snowdonia dude Tony Boydell where we cover… well, pretty much everything ever. It’s mildly terrifying. I also brought together the two excellent writers who contribute to littlemetaldog.com, Emma Laslett and Stuart Platt, to run down our favourite games of 2013 (as well as a few of the duffers) and what we’re looking forward to in the new year!
Links – Keeping it simple:
Direct Download for Episode 74 - http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/gp76a6/LMD_Episode74.mp3
Tony’s Excellent Blog on BGG - http://boardgamegeek.com/blog/344/every-man-needs-a-shed
Emma on Twitter – http://twitter.com/Waruce
Stuart on Twitter – http://twitter.com/Judge1979
Michael on Twitter – http://twitter.com/idlemichael
Told you it was simple! Enjoy the episode!
This write up won’t interest everybody. Hell, I honestly believe that most of you will skip straight on by, but that’s OK. Not all games will interest all players, and when the one in question is built around pastel coloured pones… yeah, this won’t be the most read review that’s been posted on Little Metal Dog. Still, as has been said by guest writer The Judge, we play things so you don’t have to. Though in this case, I reckon you should at least give the new My Little Pony Collectible Card Game a go because it’s really rather good. Writer Lauren Faust’s recent reboot of the eighties series has drawn in fans worldwide by moving away from just being focused on selling the toys and actually treating the viewers with a modicum of intelligence. This has led to a growing army of adult fans – the Bronies and Pegasisters that you may have heard of – who are well catered to with well written, entertaining episodes that aren’t afraid to throw in a few geeky references for good measure.
Of course, CCGs pop up and die off on a regular basis. Just because one launches with a well known license behind it, that doesn’t mean that it’ll be any good – in fact, it’s very easy for a publisher to throw together a game that just about functions. After all, you’ve spent all the money on getting the name, so why spend even more on design, especially if you’re confident that the game will sell enough to make you a profit anyway? Thankfully, the folks over at Enterplay have done a lot more than just slap the MLP licence on a crappy game and hope it’ll shift units. They’ve brought in experienced designers like Darrell Hardy (who I was lucky enough to interview on Episode 73 of the podcast) and developed a game that is not only functional but actually fun.
Unlike most games where the focus is on aggression, MLP takes its lead from the show and has players attempting to solve problems. Two separate Problem decks are set up before play begins, and each player starts with a hand of cards drawn from their deck. You also have a double-sided Mane Pony card which is placed in your Home row, representing one of the central six characters from the show and telling you how many Friends you can have there at any given time. Friends will make up the majority of your deck, and each one has a cost that must be paid in order to bring them to the board. Once in play, they’ll contribute their power to bringing out other cards and solving those tricky Problems in the middle of the table. Some Friends also have their own abilities that trigger at different points during play – so far, so traditional.
Rounds are built around the spending of Action Points, the amount you get decided by the highest score – so, even if you’re way behind and your opponent has a healthy score, you’re not penalised in the amount of Action Points you receive. You can even save unspent Points from turn to turn, so even expensive cards can be brought into play pretty quickly. Points can also be spent on adding new cards to your hand, moving Friends around the board and introducing Troublemakers to the proceedings which make life way more difficult for your opponent.
You see, Troublemakers are put in front of Problems. Problems need to be solved by playing Friends that meet the requirements, and doing so brings in the points you need to win. However, with a Troublemaker in play, the Problem can’t be tackled – you have to get rid of the Troublemaker first in what’s called a face-off. The Troublemaker has a strength value, as do your collective Friends that you’ve played to the Problem – both players then flip the top card of their deck, adding the value to the total, and whoever has the highest amount wins. If it’s the Troublemaker, the player must return a Friend home (and possibly be forced to discard if they’re over their home limit), while if it’s the player the Troublemaker is removed from play and bonus points as noted on the card are scored immediately.
The first player to meet a Problem’s requirement again scores a bonus but as long as they’ve got enough Friends in play, they continue to score a point every round. Should both players try to solve the Problem, another face-off occurs, much in the same fashion as you’ll deal with Troublemakers. The only difference is that after a winner is declared, a new Problem is revealed which invariably requires a whole new bunch of cards. Oh, and did I mention the fact that while your requirements are very specific (three Magic and two Honesty, for example), the other side of the card is very general and will only require a total amount of power of any kind? In other words, your problem deck will probably be easier to solve from your opponent’s point of view – they’ll just need a bit more effort from their Friends.
There are also a whole load of Resource cards that can be added to your Friends, boosting their powers and bestowing special abilities, all of which are taken from the show and will be recognisable to anyone who has watched it. Event cards can also be brought out to hopefully skew things in your favour, and as you get deeper and deeper into the game you’ll learn how the various cards interact with each other. All of the Mane Cards also have a requirement that, when reached, let you flip them to introduce more abilities and keywords, meaning that your deckbuilding skills will be pushed if you’re going to boost your Mane as well as solve Problems.
As you’d expect there’s a couple of issues, but nothing too awful. Being a CCG there’s the whole question of Rare and Ultra Rare cards that could be regarded as overpowered, and people who have the most money will undoubtedly be able to build the best decks. There’s been no announcement of tournament play yet, but when it happens (because it’s certainly in the works) this could become something of a problem. There are plenty of good cards in the Common and Uncommon levels though, meaning that even with only a little investment you’ll be able to put together a deck that’s able to put up a decent standing. From a production point of view, the cards are pretty much what you’d expect (and the foil ones are particularly) but I’ve got to level a criticism at the wretched Action Point tokens – they’re thin and crappy and fly away with a sneeze, so replace them with something more sturdy immediately!
If you’re not a fan of the show and give the MLP CCG a go, you’ll find a solid game with some interesting ideas there. A second block of cards has been announced for release in the States around May and will follow in other territories shortly after, so it’s not a game that’s going to be left up in the air. If you’ve got even a passing interest in the cartoon you’ll get a lot more out of it, with background characters finally getting official names and plenty of random quotes being thrown in as flavour text. The developers are working in tandem with the showrunners to ensure that everything in the game fits in with Equestrian lore (though there’ll be no spoilers, we’re told) so you can expect some sort of Twilight Sparkle alicorn set-up pretty soon. Grab yourself a two player starter set or a couple of the theme decks and give it a shot – you may well be pleasantly surprised…
The My Little Pony CCG is available in various forms including a two player starter set, two Theme Decks and 12-card booster packs. Already available in the US, it’s out here in the UK and Europe some time in the next couple of weeks. Watch out for a MLP:CCG giveaway here on littlemetaldog.com later this week!