Tag Archives: Quarriors

Superheroes – Marvel Dice Masters review

MDM BoxLucky ducks that we are, Little Metal Dog recently received a copy of the base set for Marvel Dice Masters to review. Seemingly now as hard to get as hen’s teeth garnishing a pile of rocking horse poop, we thought that both Michael and Emma should check it out. And so we did! Emma, take it away…

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So this is Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men. Or possibly Marvel Avengers vs. X-Men Dice Masters, depending on how you read the box and understand English. It seems to have gripped the gaming community to a fairly breathtaking extent, so you already probably know all about it, but just in case you’ve only just got Internet signal back after some kind of catastrophic router failure, here’s a rundown. In MDM:AvXM/MAvXMDM, you have a selection of custom dice representing Marvel characters, nameless sidekicks and actions, each with its own ability cards to contain all the text you can’t fit on tiny dice. You take out a handful, roll them, use them to buy new dice, eventually use some of them to field powerful heroes, and use them to attack your opponent (just the one, this is strictly a two-player experience) until one of you stands victorious. Now, if you’re thinking this sounds more or less exactly like Quarriors, then you’re pretty much right: MDM (let’s go with that for now) is published by WizKids (who published Quarriors), is designed by Mike Elliot and Eric Lang (who designed Quarriors), and consists of hundreds of tiny customised dice and a poorly-defined play area (like some other game I could mention whose name I’ve forgotten for the minute).

Of course, I say hundreds of dice – the basic set only has 44, and all the rest are available as blind-bag random booster packs (or so I’m informed – I can’t actually find any for love nor money). If your rampant-money-gouging sense is tingling here, it’s probably warranted – despite WizKids insisting that the game is perfectly playable with just the starter set, we tabletop gamers tend to be, as a rule, rabid completists and hoarders, so they’ll probably make a huge amount out of people trying to get every card in the set, and the blind-bag model means that the cost of this could quickly spiral out of all proportion. This model wouldn’t make it feel like a bit of a rip-off on its own (at least not to me – I grew up on Magic: the Gathering and am a massive sucker for collectible games), but compared with the fairly low production costs of the game, it does begin to feel like WizKids are putting their profit margins before everything else – the cardstock is light and weak-feeling, the printing on some of the dice is frankly awful, and the less said about the horrible wax-paper envelopes they refer to as ‘dice bags’ the better. Also, after you’ve got through the tutorial game and start looking at some of the deckbuilding variants, you begin to realise that the starter set is totally playable on its own, but only if both players have one – played according to the printed rules, one starter set doesn’t let players have over eight dice each (out of a maximum 20) – this determines your maximum life points as well, which makes for just ridiculously short games.

Anyway, enough about dodgy business practices – how’s the game? To be honest, I’m not sure – it’s growing on me at the moment, but I’m still aware of its many faults. The rulebook is practically unreadable, packed with interminable amounts of tiny text, and it feels at times like they just took Quarriors, took away all the mechanical tweaks that made it different from M:tG, and replaced them with ones unashamedly lifted from it. This makes it a little questionable as a deckbuilder – I was particularly bemused by the lack of opportunities for deck optimisation, as there’s no way to remove dice from your bag to streamline it – but after a few plays, I began to see my problem with it. It isn’t a boardgame. Sure, some of you are probably saying “Well yeah, it hasn’t got a board,” but that isn’t the thing. Lots of boardgames don’t have boards. Quarriors doesn’t have a board and is mechanically identical in many ways to MDM, but it’s still a boardgame. With its mechanics and sales model, as well as just in overall feel, MDM is definitely more of a CCG, but one that’s being marketed to a boardgaming audience, which I think explains a lot of the disappointment people have been feeling about it. Taken as a CCG, however, it’s pretty solid: with at least three variants on each character, there’s a lot of scope for strategy once you’ve got enough dice to play with sensible life totals, and there are so many cool power interactions (even just in the starter box) to satisfy inveterate combo players like me.

So, should you buy it? I’m going to have to give you a resounding “Maybe.” here. If you’re an M:tG fan with an interest in light deckbuilding and rolling huge numbers of dice, then you’re pretty much me, and should look into it, while being aware that the surprisingly low price on the starter box is not how much this game will cost you, as in that form it will not satisfy you. It might look like cheap Quarriors, but the average tabletop gamer will probably get a lot more out of the later, despite the comparatively steep price. Marvel Dice Masters: it’s good, but don’t believe the hype.

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MDM Starter Set with empty biscuit wrappers – M. Fox, 2014

And now it’s time for me (that’s Michael, by the way). I’ve got to say that I’m not as forgiving as Emma was – Marvel Dice Masters to me was pretty disappointing. I’m a big fan of Quarriors, maybe not as much as I used to be, but I’m happy to sit down and play whenever someone breaks out a copy. Whenever someone new stumbles across Quarriors, it’s a lovely thing to see – the excitement over the fistfuls of dice, the surprisingly complex gameplay hidden beneath the cutesy vibe of the thing – and I was hoping that I’d be getting the same thing from MDM. On getting my hands on the base set I experienced the same feelings myself, probably combined with the hype that surrounded… and then I sat down to play the thing.

Or at least I tried to. Where Quarriors originally had a rulebook that was rather vague and needed the occasional house ruling, MDM heads to the other extreme. I can see why they’ve included a terrifyingly detailed set of rules in that small package, of course; the game is being aimed at the tournament play market where rulings are broken down to an infinitesimally small degree and a single word on a card can be argued over for hours. Rather than the joy and relatively light play that you get from Quarriors, MDM presents itself as something for the hardcore from the moment you open the box.

(On writing, I realise I’ve mentioned the Q word four times in two paragraphs. No more from here on, promise – MDM deserves to be analysed independently of its predecessor.)

MDM feels like a Serious Dice Game For Nerds and while that sounds utterly amazing I just don’t reckon it lives up to the hype. This is two large superhero groups smashing into each other. This is broken bones, blood spilled, buildings destroyed; this is  Wolverine punching Cyclops in the face, represented by a selection of smaller than average dice. I think what I’m trying to get at is that you just don’t get the big screen feeling that this kind of story deserves. If you’ve seen it, think of those last thirty minutes of the first Avengers movie that came out in 2012; call up that bombastic style again, just remember the power of each frame… and then look at Marvel Dice Masters. It just doesn’t match up for me.

Underneath the whole thing, there’s a solid enough game, sure – but it’s a game that I’ve already played that I just don’t feel works in this environment. That whole ‘Oh, I’ve knocked you down to zero health’ thing just doesn’t seem right to me; thematically it’s just a bit dull. I’ve seen that many people are getting into it, but I think that I’m going to be leaving MDM behind. I appreciate that the designers have tried to answer every possible question that MDM could possibly create, but in doing so they’ve surgically removed the frivolity in a bid to enter the collectable game market. Fun, it feels, has been traded in for a cash grab – and seeing the amount of demand for the product, Marvel Dice Masters is going to pull in a fair bit of it. Just wait until they expand it yet further, adding in more characters including all of those supervillains… the Marvel Universe isn’t exactly small, and there’s a lot of potential for tie-ins. Guardians of the Galaxy in the summer, anyone?

Emma already brought up the production value thing, but yeah… I’ve got to mention the slightly meh dice and those bloody awful excuses for dice bags (seriously, Wizkids? You couldn’t front an extra few cents for a couple of actual bags?). At least the art on the cards is excellent, with some of Marvel’s finest in recent years represented amongst those whose work is used. For me though, Marvel Dice Masters will be left on the shelf. If I want to get the dice-building experience, well… you know what I’ll be playing.

Marvel Dice Masters will set you back around £13 for the starter set, with booster packs priced at around £3 if you’re into all that rare-chasing stuff. Designed by Mike Elliot and Eric M. Lang, it was published by WizKids in 2014 and is only for two players (at the moment, anyway). Shipments should be coming to the rest of the world (ie: not the USA) soon, but for now, if you want a copy expect to pay something of a premium. If you’d like to check out a more positive look at the game, here’s The Judge’s opinion!

 

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Episode 66 – Codes and Keys

In this, the final episode before Essen (because they take a bit of time to organise and I have a lot of writing to catch up on!), I talk to returning guests Leonard Boyd and David Brashaw from Backspindle Games. It’s been some time since they last appeared (episode 20, in fact) with their previous game, the Discworld based Guards! Guards! Now they’re back, a little older and wiser, and armed with two brand new titles: the abstract strategy of Codinca and the glorious dice-rolling mayhem of Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice! The guys will be heading to Spiel, so be sure to swing by their booth and check out their fine work. I’m also joined by the splendid Mike Elliot, the mind behind such big names as Thunderstone, Quarriors and (a personal favourite) the Harry Potter TCG. Seriously, it’s really very good. His new game is called Sangoku, an interesting card game based in the Hells and Heavens of Japanese Mythology, and it’s on Kickstarter now!

Links! You want ’em, we got ’em!

Direct Download for this episode – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/n79ck7/LMD_Episode66.mp3

Codinca on Kickstarter – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/backspindle/codinca?ref=search

Backspindle Games site (with pre-orders for Luchador!) – http://backspindlegames.com/

Mike Elliot on Twitter – https://twitter.com/Elliott_Games

Sangoku on Kickstarter – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamesalute/sangoku-by-mike-elliott

 

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Tales from the Fireside – Separation Anxiety

Mr Campfire has another Tale, filled with woe. That’s what happens when you’re separated from what you love.

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There’s a game I want to play.

But there’s always a game, isn’t there? Right now, the hottest game in gamerland is Quarriors, a deck-builder that comes with 130 custom dice in the box. It’s so coveted, otherwise staid game reviewers with all the flexibility of corrugated card have used flowery similes like ‘jewels in a treasure chest’ to convey their awe of it. I mean, the game has 130 dice in all the colours of the rainbow–how could you not want it? As far as gamers are concerned it’s Christmas come early: a box of baubles removed from the loft, a stocking of sweeties that, okay, present a serious choking hazard, but come on! When was the last time you encountered a game so visually enticing, so wonderfully tactile? To heck with how it plays, don’t you just want to grab those dice and roll them ‘til arthritis kicks in? You’d wear your dice-rolling chicken claw with pride, boasting Quarriors did this to you.

In Europe Quarriors has encountered a couple of distribution issues, meaning it’s rather difficult to get hold of over here. If you pre-ordered it, you’re laughing while you’re rolling. If you didn’t you might be stuck until Christmas or the New Year before you can get your future chicken claws on a copy.

But doesn’t that add to the allure of it? Doesn’t the game being rare–if only temporarily–make it special? How many of you have bought a game simply because it’s gone out of print or was the last copy in the store? Prompted by game boxes holding all manner of treasures gamers are hoarders, and the one thing we hate more than anything else is the thought of the game that got away.

Tell me, what did you do when you heard Fantasy Flight were releasing Descent: Second Edition? Did you wonder if the price would come down for the re-release or how the game would change for its second iteration? Did you put it on your Amazon wish list or did you hurry to your Friendly Local Game Shop to grab the original Descent just in case the second edition didn’t match up to it? All those pieces, all those figures: less of a treasure trove than an unearthed tomb filled with riches. Dare you breach its cardboard chambers to return with magic and gold?

These end of line products are often accompanied by a bit of a kerfuffle: they’re the Harrod’s sales of the gaming world. This week I discovered online retailer IGUK.co.uk was down to its last copy of the discontinued Memoir ‘44 campaign book, and were selling it for a reasonable price. I don’t own Memoir ‘44, but with this rare artifact before me for a moment I felt rather dizzy. Sure, I don’t have Memoir ‘44 now but who’s to say I won’t in the future? Wouldn’t the campaign book come in handy then, at some hypothetical point down the time-stream?

Fortunately common sense prevailed and I pointed a friend who already had a copy of the game in its direction, but for a second I nearly forked over money I can’t afford for a game I couldn’t play. Considering how quickly IGUK’s stock disappeared once they cut its price, I wonder how many people in the same situation thought “To heck with it” and bought the book anyway.

The game I most want to play right now is Warhammer: Invasion–a game for which long-term readers will already know I have a simpering, drooling weak spot. Unlike Memoir ‘44 I already own a copy of Warhammer: Invasion, so you’d think I’d just pull it from my game shelves to play whenever I wish.

I can’t: circumstance has separated me from it.

Board gamers don’t do well with separation, which is why travel editions exist of every popular game from Carcassonne to Hungry Hippos. Last week, briefly threatened with separation from his collection another friend boldly listed the board games he’d be taking with him to Wales, to force his wife to play while trapped in a chalet on holiday; his reading material during this time would be the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game rulebook, downloaded in anticipation of buying the game in weeks to come. iOS and Android devices offer the opportunity to play some of our favourite games while on the move; I can just imagine a hardened gamer climbing hills in the Peak District, trying to get a signal in middle of nowhere so they can send their next move for Ascension.

I’d love to review Warhammer: Invasion here, but I can’t. I’ve only played it once and as much fun as I had with it, once is hardly enough to write a solid, detailed description without bluffing and making stuff up, and I refuse to do so because I take my journalistic duties seriously–that’s why I wear a fedora with a bit of card tucked into the hatband that says ‘Press’ on it. Wearing a press hat isn’t a matter to be taken lightly, you know. It’s not the kind of thing you can remove and forget about.

My wife sums up her feelings about board games with the word ‘Eh’ which is really more of a sound than a word–the kind of sound a disgruntled mother bird would make upon discovering one of her unhatched brood was, in fact, a golf ball. It’s not that she doesn’t like board games; she just doesn’t see what’s so exciting about them.

It’s okay–she’s a physicist and I feel much the same way about gluons. I mean, I’m sure they’re important to the way matter functions or whatever, but you can’t roll them, or punch them from cardboard sheets, Whatever good they might do in the world of particle physics, for board gaming purposes gluons are pretty much useless.

For all her indifference, she’s made the mistake of playing Warhammer: Invasion against me and thrashing me at it. During our first and only time playing she constructed a brilliant scheme in which she built her resources over a number of turns, played a Bloodthirster onto the table, turned my attack damage back upon me, and stomped over my capital like a toddler run amok in Duplo Town. In an exhilarating moment of post-game deconstruction she told me how she’d held onto certain cards just in case while building her own fortifications, and how she’d turned my own headstrong nature against me. She’d played traditional card games with her family years before; all those bluffs and antes were good training for sending Chaos demons into battle and putting her husband into traction.

As much as I was impressed with the game I was far more impressed with my wife, the master tactician.

That’s one of the reasons why I miss Warhammer so, and a reason I’m sure all of us can get behind. When a game comes alive like that, it’s magical: the click of a light-bulb flaring as your opponent–who’d not known the game existed minutes before; who’d thought board games were ‘Eh’–chains a combo or hops a piece or hatches a tactical plan, and wins.

And they don’t have to win: that’s the beauty of these games. Things can get a little cutthroat, and I can’t deny I want a rematch to see if I can even the score but–and please forgive me the tree-hugging sentiment–so long as we’re both having fun, doesn’t that make us both winners?

I do miss the game, though. I scour Fantasy Flight’s website for card previews and send them to her over Google chat. “Look!” I say, like a kid showing a parent an unusually shaped leaf. “This one turns your corrupted units into uber-powerful ass-kicking machines! You’re a Chaos player: what do you think?”

And she, resolutely not geeking out, mutters only “Eh” and goes back to sitting on her oddly shaped egg.

I’ll play it again one day, I know. It shall be mine, as Wayne Campbell once said.

For the moment, all other games have become meaningless: their boxes gather dust and the very thought of playing them disgusts me. Greedy, oh so greedy, I eschew games I can play in favour of the one I want.

There’s a game I want to play, you see.

But there’s always a game, isn’t there?

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Speak with Campfire Burning yourself – his email is, of course, campfire@littlemetaldog.com

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Monsters and Angels – Quarriors review

Deck building! Everyone’s doing it! Deck building in a fantasy-ish environment! Deck building in space! Deck building with maids! If we’re not careful, we’re going to be hitting burnout with the format sooner rather than later, but for now lets add some more to the teetering pile! We don’t care, we just LOVE BUILDING DECKS!

Descent into madness aside, it’s nice when someone takes a different approach to a format and Wizkids have decided to produce a deck builder with a difference – in their new release Quarriors there are NO CARDS. Actually, this is a bit of a lie as there are cards (and plenty of them in fact) but they’re not used by the players – instead they form a de facto board, showing you what’s available to pick up, how much it will cost you, any special powers that may be available and – most importantly – how many points they’re worth. Unlike other games in this style, you’re not building up stacks of cards – in Quarriors you’re collecting dice, but aside from that difference the gameplay will feel pretty familiar to anyone who’s had even the briefest flirtation with this type of game before.

Basic dice at the top (Quiddity, Assistant and Portal), a couple of Creatures and a Spell dice.

The objective is to gain glory points, done by spending Quiddity (the in-game currency) to collect Creatures from the piles in the middle of the table. Keep them alive long enough and they earn you points, earn a set amount before anyone else (dependent on how many are playing) and you’ll win – very simple! The game set-up is a breeze, with a selection of cards placed in the middle of the table to show what’s available in that round – three Basics, three Spells and seven Creatures. Five custom dice representing each of these are stacked upon the cards, each representing a Quarry. Each player begins with eight Quiddity dice and four Assistant dice, throw them in their bag and shake them up – the other Basic die, Portals (which allow you to draw extra dice from your bag) must be bought from the stacks in the middle. The first player pulls out six dice and you’re ready to start.

You roll your dice and see what happens – any Quiddity that comes up can be spent on a single Quarry dice from the selection in the middle. The general rule to follow is that the stronger the dice, the more you’ll need to spend on it – for example, should you wish to acquire a new Assistant, it’ll only cost you 1, while something heftier like a Dragon may cost you 8 or 9. Symbols representing Creatures (including Assistants, the weakest of all) are moved to your ‘Ready Area’, primed to attack anything else held by your opposition. Spells that are rolled can be attached to your monsters or used in more reactive ways, depending on what their respective cards say.

Of course the dice stay the same, but only one version of the monster will appear per game. Different levels have different powers and abilities.

Let’s deal with Creatures first. Each Creature type actually has three different levels of strength, either standard, Strong or Mighty. The dice stay exactly the same, of course – the difference is in their “burst” powers, signified by a small star mark printed on some faces of the dice. Should you roll a burst symbol, you consult the card for that dice and check out the additional power or ability you have at your disposal – Quarriors is a game where knowing what’s potentially on offer will give you a massive advantage. Bursts are relatively rare, however – most of the time you’ll be focusing on the numbers dotted around the corners.

Daenerys Targaryen has NOTHING on me.

Top left is the Creature’s level – some more powerful Quarry are unaffected by lower level beasties. Top right is the Attack level, and bottom right is the defense. Just for good measure, there’s a burst symbol there too, that star in the bottom left. The numbers on the right are – shockingly enough – used for combat which works very simply. The active player, having rolled their dice and moved any Creatures to their Ready Area, totals up ALL Attack values. Going around the table clockwise, defending players choose their own Creatures one at a time to knock the Attack total down bit by bit until finally one has a higher Defence than what’s left over. If one player’s Creatures are all defeated you move on to the next, hopefully destroying as much as possible to keep own dice safe, scoring you points when the turn order rolls round to you once more. As a side note, defeated dice aren’t cast aside, never to be used again – you just put them in a used pile, refill your bag when it’s empty and start all over again.

Spells can be used in many ways, for example augmenting Attacks and Defence or to gain extra points. Really though, the main meat of the Quarriors is to get powerful Creatures, hit some decent dice rolls and take out as many enemies as possible. However, even the mightiest of beasts can be taken down with a good roll by an opponent, and that is what will really divide gamers – Quarriors is a game that, even with the greatest strategic planning, ultimately relies on chance. The amount of times I’ve played it, managed to control more dragons than your average ancient King of Westeros and STILL get whupped is ridiculous – and yet, I find myself returning to the game again and again.

130 custom dice! Plus it comes in an awesome giant tin dice box!

Why? Because Wizkids have thrown everything into making Quarriors incredibly fun. It’s quick to play and easy to get to grips with – give it a couple of rounds and even younger players will understand the basics (though this is to be expected as the game is aimed at a younger gaming audience). Admittedly I have a couple of gripes with it – the backstory is pretty awful (especially the forced attempts to shoehorn Q words into the game – that gets grating fast) and the artwork isn’t particularly fantastic, but then you think about all the good stuff… the joy of snatching a win with an insanely good roll of the dice, the solid gameplay, the fact that there’s 130 dice in that box and they all look like the tastiest candy… Quarriors is pretty much the distillation of why I play games – to have fun, to enjoy the agony of defeat and the thrill of (occasional) victory. Choose to put your serious Euro-loving half to the side and give in to the lure of shiny dice – you honestly will not regret it.

Quarriors was designed by Mike Elliot (Thunderstone) and Eric M. Lang (Call of Cthulhu LCG). Released by Wizkids in Summer 2011, you’ll be able to pick it up here in the UK soon enough. Priced at around £40, it’s certainly a little expensive, but when you consider the amount of dice you get in there you’ll see where the money goes. While I think it’s definitely a good one to try out with younger players to try and get them into slightly heavier gaming, it’s also a great title to play with more experienced gamers. Roll lucky!

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