Plans – Blueprints and Colossal Cave reviews

The Judge pulls no punches, whether it’s in the confines of the squared circle or on the arena of the tabletop. This time you guys get a two-fer as he checks out two small box releases…

Feeling bloated post-Christmas? Have that unpleasant, gassy build-up? Feeling that awful sinking sensation as yet another year of grindingly dull work looms ahead? Well, me too. So join me as I vent my spleen on a pair of disappointing gaming appetisers that did nothing to lift my mood after the festive break.

Blueprints Cover

I love the idea behind Blueprints. The key concept is drafting dice of various colours to construct those dice into an attractive quasi-building – as indicated by a secret goal card. Sounds fun! Well, brace yourself…

Players draw dice from a bag (which, by the way, is FAR too small to randomise anything and a struggle from which to draw) and then take turns in rolling and then drafting those dice to construct your building behind a screen. After all players have drafted the requisite number of dice and built something, then the work is revealed and scored.
The coloured dice will give victory points differently based on their colour – e.g. the transparent dice give you points based on the number rolled. The black dice score based on their relative height in the stack etc. There are also bonus points if you have constructed the building as requested by your goal card.

And that’s it! If that sounds simple it is. If that sounds a little thin… it is. If that sounds dull, well, unfortunately it’s that too. Catastrophically dull. This is primarily because the decisions are almost always resoundingly obvious. All of the random in the game is ‘Input Random’ so it comes down to what has been drawn from the bag, what was rolled and then making the simple decision to draft the die that offers you the most points. You make a tower. You do the same thing twice more. Then you have a little nap.

Positives? Well, it’s quick and fairly painless – just dull, listless and unmemorable. Just skip it.

I know what will get me back on track… a nice healthy dose of nostalgia! Colossal Cave is a board game adaptation of the classic text adventure from 1975. My experience with the original game is limited, though my love of text adventures in general – including some fairly abstract and undoubtedly awful self-penned works from my youth – meant that I was looking forward to this interpretation of a genre so close to my heart.

CC Cover

You should never go back. Actually, that’s probably not fair. No matter how great the original adventure was, I’m not sure any license could shine given the shoddy treatment given to this pulp version of Colossal Cave.

It is shorthand to assault a game with the ‘Munchkin’ tag – particularly a thematic game with limited mechanics. CC has more in common with that other gamers’ punching bag – Fluxx. On a turn, you will move throughout the cave – very slowly – and see what happens to you. Your opponents, who are racing you to gather treasures, will play random cards on you which will randomly move you around the cave, randomly take treasure from you and randomly cause you to miss turns – you know, all those horrible random mechanics from the 1980’s that we hoped would stay there. The result of this is that everything you do and anything you plan to do is fundamentally pointless as the game state will change totally from one turn to the next.

This is a ‘Colossal’ mess of a game. This is a relic from a bygone era in the modern age – and not a cool one with big claws and a tail but a flightless, toothless bird unable to escape its natural predators.

Strained analogies aside, this attempt to wring goodwill and nostalgia from a beloved property is a total failure and a pointless waste of time – regardless of your knowledge and feelings towards the original text adventure.

So, in case this all looks a little grouchy, rest assured that I’m still playing Caverna (which is awesome) and generally enjoying gaming. 2014 is looking like it could be another great year for gaming as long as we can wade through the mediocre. But that’s our job at The Little Metal Dog Show and The Dice Tower Network. Remember that we’re playing these games so that you don’t have to.

Follow The Judge today on Twitter! And watch out for the upcoming Episode 74 of The Little Metal Dog Show where we discuss the best and worst of 2013…

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1 Comment

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One response to “Plans – Blueprints and Colossal Cave reviews

  1. I’m sorry you didn’t like Blueprint. To be honest, I’ve only played it once, but I and my gaming friends all enjoyed it.

    I think you’ve done it a bit of a disservice, because while it is easy to learn, it’s not as thin as you make it out to be. Largely because if you’re playing with players who are paying attention, choosing that “die that will score you the most points” is not necessarily easy. Point denial can be as important as point acquisition. You often have to decide between competing for prizes or completing your assigned tower. You have to decide if you can score more by ignoring the assigned tower and taking full advantage of the different ways you score the colors.

    Actually after my play I was worried more about the irrelevance of the tower diagrams. Prizes and careful stacking often more than made up for the 6 points you’d lose by ignoring the tower diagram. However, if you’re continually picking up certain colors or numbers, it’s much easier for your opponents to see and attempt to thwart whatever it is you are up to.

    Overall I’d rate it as a pretty good filler or introductory game. It’s easy to learn, quick to play, good tactics increase your chance of success, and there’s a satisfying press your luck element to drafting and stacking that can really pay off if you’re willing to take some risks.

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