Tag Archives: Miguel Coimbra

Dead Star – City of Horror review

CityofHorrorCOVER

I’ve said it pretty often that the reason I love to play games is the social interaction you get from them. Whether you’re working co-operatively trying to save the world or striving to screw over your opposition, there’s little better than sitting around the table and playing something, anything. There are, of course, a selection of games where the cruelty is as important as the interaction, games where the main focus is on being mean, striking out for yourself and screw the consequences for everyone else. Diplomacy is probably the finest example of this genre, a game where friendships are crushed in the pursuit of victory, and now we can add the newest release from Repos Production to the fold. City of Horror is here, and it’s not pulling any punches.

The only way to win? Survive.

Actually, that’s slightly overdramatic. In reality you need to survive in a better fashion than everyone else. Played out over the course of four rounds, you and your fellow humans seem to be the only ones left in a city that is rapidly getting overrun with zombies. A rescue helicopter is on its way and will pick up everyone left at the end of the final round – perhaps. As the game opens, you’re given a selection of these characters ranging from abandoned children to business types… even a heavily pregnant woman is thrown into the mix. Each character card is double sided and must be flipped over showing that you have used their special ability – doing so means that they’ll be worth significantly less points should they manage to escape the city, however.

Now, we say city, but really it’s a section that has descended into chaos. It’s always built at random, but there will always be an Armoury, Church, Hospital, Bank and Water Tower along with a crossroads in the middle of the board. The survivors are randomly given a starting location, but before you even begin there’ll be problems. There are only a limited amount of spaces in each place which means some folks could well end up out in the open, stuck at the crossroads where the danger is even greater.

Someone's going to get eaten. Someone is ALWAYS going to get eaten!

Someone’s going to get eaten. Someone is ALWAYS going to get eaten!

At the beginning of each round a card is flipped showing where the zombies will spawn or shamble to, along with supply drops of extra Action cards and syringes of antivirus. These syringes (also available from the hospital by trading in cards) are vital; if you don’t have at least one for each of your survivors by the time the helicopter comes, they’ll be left behind to join the ranks of the undead.

The actual play of the game is very straightforward. Once the zombies are spawned, players will (hopefully) move a single character to a new location, ending up in the Crossroads if there’s no room at their chosen destination. You then work your way around the six areas, working out if there’s going to be a zombie attack in each one. If conditions are met, all players (not just those at the location) are allowed to contribute to killing off enough undead to stop the attack. If this happens, great; move on to the next place and start again. Unfortunately, most of the time – and especially when those Action cards start running low – the attack will happen, and this is where the magic starts…

You see, not a huge amount of stuff actually happens in City of Horror. Over the course of play you’ll only actually make a small amount of decisions; the emphasis is on doing everything you can to save your own hide, and this is why the game is so good. If an attack is going to happen, someone will die; you need to do whatever you can to stop it from being one of your characters. At this point, the game comes into its own as you try your damnedest to prevent the zombies from claiming your character as dinner. Anything goes. Any deals that you can cut are valid and there’s no penalty if you back out on them, aside from the fact that you may well end up being hated by your friends. When that vote happens and someone is thrown to the baying horde, alliances and vendettas are created and shattered in moments. There’s little more entertaining than pulling a fast one, promising you’ll side with one person then stitching them up. Don’t worry about offending them; they’ll be planning to do exactly the same thing to you as well.

A metric ton of cardboard! Everything is double sided adding plenty of replayability.

A metric ton of cardboard! Everything is double sided adding plenty of replayability.

Repos have put together a great package in City of Horror. The city tiles are thick and sturdy, and although the first print run did have a minor issue with warping (nothing that couldn’t be sorted with the assistance of a heavy book) the latest print run has had no reported problems. All components are of good quality and the artwork is suitably horrifying and comedic in equal measures. Also, this is the only game I can think of that comes with a pre- and post-birth character; yes, the Pregnant Woman can have her baby mid game. Good job too, it gives her two votes…

And that is why this is such a great game to play. Between the amount of though that has been put into realising the theme to the simplicity of the rules, from the sheer cruelty of how you know that not everyone will make it out alive… it’s a brilliant and entertaining romp of a thing, filled with arguments, broken promises and more “I can’t believe you did that” moments that you’ll be able to stand. The prequel, Mall of Horror, was entertaining enough but had some limitations. City of Horror expands the experience, offering a much wider range of options and giving players the chance to truly do everything they can to survive. The team at Repos Production have come up with a gem that will play out differently every time and is well worth picking up. Just don’t expect to be friends with everyone when everything is over…

City of Horror was released in 2012 by Repos Production and Asmodee. Designed by Nicolas Normandon with art by the fantastic Miguel Coimbra, you can pick up a copy from the guys at Gameslore for £32.99. Between three and six can attempt to survive the zombie onslaught and the whole thing will take you between 60 and 120 minutes. Well, it should do if you last that long and that’s far from guaranteed…

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The View From The Afternoon – 7 Wonders review

I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of gamers out there are at least aware of 7 Wonders even if they haven’t played it (which, of course, a lot of people have). Antoine Bauza’s super-condensed game of city building has gained the respect of many players for several reasons, the main one probably being that it’s able to handle up to seven players at a time yet plays in around thirty to forty minutes. There’s very few games on the market that provide such a range but scale so well, so that’s invariably the reason that it’s scooped so many awards over the past couple of years – including the 2011 Kennerspiel des Jahres.

Each player begins with a play board depicting an ancient wonder of the world, a small amount of money and… well, that’s it. The objective is to build up your own civilisation over the space of three ages, each one represented by a deck of cards. These are shuffled and dealt out, giving each player seven to choose from. This is sorted out before play begins with a little bit of card removal – all cards are marked at the bottom denoting whether they should be included or not. Once you’ve chosen a card you lay it down, pass your deck to the next player, grab the one being handed to you then do it all over again until you’re down to two. With those, you choose one to play and one is discarded.

Brown cards are natural resources, Greys are manufactured. Meanwhile, Yellows allow you to skew the rules in your favour.

These cards can’t be just chosen willy nilly, however. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the resources available to put them down in front of you. Everyone begins with a single resource, but as the game progresses you can grab cards to add to your stack. Some cards require one or more resources before you can play them – if they have an image in the top left corner, you’re going to need to either make sure you’ve got that at your disposal. If you don’t, you can check if the player to your left or right has it, then pay them for the privilege. Sure, it may be a pain having to hand over some of your very limited funds, but if it helps you along it’s money well spent.

As you progress through the three Ages, you’ll notice that the cards get more and more powerful – and expensive. There’s one way around this; keep an eye out for stuff that you’ve already built. Some cards give you a free pass to build others, even if you can’t get the necessary bits you would ordinarily need. It’s a great way to build up your points or give you bonuses to use throughout the game, but you still have to make sure you’ve got enough resources to cover yourself for other purchases.

Blues give out plenty of points, Greens are for stacking Science. The Guilds are represented by Purples and could really swing the game your way.

Another element occurs when you end an age; WAR. When the cards run out, it’s time to take on the players to your left and right. Throughout each age you have the potential to pick up red cards that give you shields – if you have more at the end of an age, you’ll get points (one, three or five). If you have less, you’ll grab a minus one token. It’s a good way to pick up some easy points – after all, you only need to stay slightly ahead of those people next to you.

If you’re looking for yet another way of scoring, you can always go down the Sciences route. Green cards have three icons – cogs, tablets and compasses – that could potentially net you some huge points. Collecting a set of all three is good… but getting a bunch of the same is even better as the points scale, squaring as you go; one, four, nine, sixteen… it gets very valuable very quickly. Purple cards represent Guilds and are only available for drafting in Age III and can really give you some huge points too – they’re pretty expensive but could turn the tide your way. Get a couple down in front of you and the game could easily be yours… maybe.

A couple of Wonders - bonuses aplenty are available if you get to build those stages...

Of course, there’s also the Wonders from the game’s title. Depending on which one you draw, there’ll be between one and four levels that will give you a hefty bonus. Instead of putting your chosen card face up before you, as long as you have the resources you can put it underneath your playing board. Some may grant you victory points, others bestow money upon you, while a few give you extra shields or resources. It’s not entirely necessary for you to build your Wonder, but if you choose to leave it behind you’d best make sure you’re working on a few other plans.

Initial games may actually prove a bit confusing. Though the gameplay is incredibly simple – draw a card, play a card, pass the rest around and repeat – there’s such a wealth of options available to you the whole game can feel pretty daunting. Do you grab as many blue cards as possible and boost your points or focus on a military strategy to beat up on your neighbours? Should you go for Science or just concentrate on your Wonder?

Not available in the box! This one's a promo with only one Wonder level... but WHAT a level. The winner of the game has to buy you a beer!

To be honest, every time you play your strategy will be different. There’s so many different possibilities in a game of 7 Wonders that your best bet is really to try and keep an eye on what everyone else is doing, then go down a different path. Obviously this is trickier when you’ve got more players, but that’s what adds to the enjoyment of the game. While your main focus will be on your neighbouring players thanks to the whole war and resources thing, being able to have an eye on the whole playfield will certainly help.

Personally, I’m completely head over heels with this game. I love the fact that it works with such a wide range of players (though I must admit, I haven’t attempted the two player version yet) and is still finished in such a short time; it’s the very definition of a One More Go game. The artwork is solid throughout, as is the graphic design – everything is incredibly clear and simple to follow with splendid iconography.

Being a card game, it’s pretty hard to mess up the production, but thankfully the folks at Repos Productions have made sure that the stock used is nice and thick, the player boards are of good quality and the box insert is actually pretty useful. This review is based on the newer edition of the game, meaning that the wooden coins of the original have been replaced by cardboard bits. Again, these are nicely done, but I’m a sucker for wood – however, I can see why the switch has been made; not only does it save money on production, it also ensures compatibility with expansions that also come with cardboard cash.

Having played it a fair few times, I can see why 7 Wonders has won so many awards since its release. It treads that line between accessibility and slightly more complex games beautifully, open enough for even novice players to pick up quickly but still giving those who seek a challenge plenty to think about. Antoine Bauza has done something that is quite hard to do in the world of game design; he’s managed to create a relatively level playing field. No wonder the plaudits keep coming in… and you can definitely add me to the ever growing list of fans.

7 Wonders was designed by Antoine Bauza with art by Miguel Coimbra. Released in 2010 through Repos Production, between two and seven players can attempt to build their own civilisation in around half an hour. The game can be expanded through the Leaders set which is out now as well as the forthcoming Cities pack; now go and get it, for it is awesome. Oh, and if you’ve got an iPhone, I heartily recommend getting the free 7 Wonders Scorer App which makes life a lot easier at the end of a game!

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