Neuroshima Convoy (1st ed) review

Seeing as the second edition of the game is out now and everyone’s getting it in their BGGcon goodie bags, I figured it was time to give this one another try at work.

It’s tempting as a work lunchtime game: 20 minute play time, no board, just cards, 2 players, how hard can it be?

Neuroshima Convoy, 1st ed
Neuroshima Convoy, 1st ed (Sorry for the shoddy photo, I didn’t see how glare-y it was

Very hard. Incredibly hard. Portal hard. The rules are deceptively simple, other than list of small things you have to remember constantly which, since the game is so short, come up all the time. Example: “You win the fight, as a bonus you get to destroy a region and also a robot gets to move for free, then it’s power of enter triggers, and it gets a +1 for moving to an opposed city, and then you have to move a different robot and then that triggers as well but there’s no +1 cause that’s not a non-active city and also a different robot had a “on win” trigger so you have to do that now and then…”

There’s also the fact that the game is 100% interaction between cards, and there’s some unique card interactions in there. You’ll reference the manual a lot while playing.

Having said that, the game is very good once you get the rules right and come to grips that it’s not a “win battles”/”territory control” game. It’s a milling game, pure and simple, with a battle theme. Outpost is here to make Moloch mill, Moloch is here to rush through before the deck runs out. It’s incredibly tight and balanced flawlessly. Also very stressful.

It’s definitely a game for gamers by gamers. If you want a great example of balance, combos, control, and asymmetry, look no further. Just be willing to put in a good 3 playthroughs before you get the hang of it. Though get the 2nd printing if you can. The art is nicer, and text on cards adds a lot to playability.

Tragedy Looper from ZMan, last of the Halloween games review

One last horror game for this season: a run-through of Tragedy Looper.

Mid Game
Mid Game

A fairly unique puzzle/deduction game that pits the 3 players against a single GM-like “mastermind”. The mastermind needs to bring about a calamitous event of some sort, the nature of which is written down in that particular scenario. The players need figure out what the roles of all the NPCs are in this scenario then prevent the disaster from occurring.

There’s two hooks to the game: first, the heroes don’t know what the disaster is. Just that it will happen. They also don’t know what roles are in play. Their power is in the second hook: they can rewind time in order to try the scenario over again up to a certain number of times (4-ish). This lets them experiment with things like “Did the murder happen the Office Worker was left alone with the Patient? Ok, that narrows down what’s going on to these possible scenarios…”

A sample Tragedy Looper board state
A sample Tragedy Looper board state after the mastermind played 3 cards

The actual gameplay is done by playing cards face down. The mastermind plays 3, then each player plays 1 (without consulting with each other). Each card either moves an NPC or alters the number of tokens on them. The tokens then let players activate their powers, or in case of negative tokens, bring out about disasters and “incidents”.

It’s a genuinely good game, if very stressful to run as a mastermind as you need to strike a very good balance between bluffing enough to trick the players into guessing wrong solutions, and playing aggressively enough that you don’t let them win by default.

Also, while the players need to be able to deduce the nature of roles from what’s happening on the board, the mastermind needs to make sure that he or she never makes a single mistake with the rules. A single screw up like forgetting an mandatory behavior for an NPC with an offbeat role would make the game logically unsolvable for the players. No pressure.

Here’s, incidentally, what the player notes looked like for the three protagonists in our game:

The player notes
The player notes

They successfully stopped the cult and kept the doctor from dying in both the attack on the hospital, and at the hands of a paranoid patient.

So Halloween is finished and I suppose this means we should put away our horror themes and move to our autumn / harvest games. Village I suppose? We sorta hate Agricola here.

Theseus, the Dark Orbit review

This is definitely in my top 5 games, and quite possibly my #1. Essentially a base builder where you place faction powers on the board, upgrade them, and move around to trigger them using a Euro methodology

Theseus, the Dark Orbit
Theseus, the Dark Orbit

As a small tangent, we have the Polish print of this game so we play with a translation sheet on the side, visible in corner of the photo.

Like other Portal games, this one is very asymmetric. Not only are the faction powers and play styles very different, they also have different winning conditions. Some factions use hit points to win, some instead totally ignore those and win by doing research on other factions, while one does both and then wins if it hits 20 points in one or the other.

A common criticism of the game is that for something that’s as simple as it is, it has an oddly vertical learning curve, and that’s not really wrong. It takes a bit to make your first move, but after you get going it really feels like a light euro with a dark sci-fi theme. The slightly obtuse manual doesn’t really help in that regard.

Also, the game allows for a particularly obtuse Polish 80’s reference:

Life is brutal and full of zasadzkas
“Life is brutal and full of zasadzkas”

The above room would be worth 18 points btw, almost enough to win the game by itself.

Hooray For Master review

Erin brought over Three Cheers For Master. A nice simple card mini where you sort of build these pillars of cards, then hope they don’t attack each other, and that your opponents don’t play cards that will attack you.

"Hooray For Master", the 3 sad cars on the left? All that's left of my tower
“Three Cheers For Master”, the 3 sad cars on the left? All that’s left of my tower

At the end you’re scored for how many cards survived on your side, with a weird bonus based on how high up your foreman monster gets.

The game is by Atlas Games, makers of Gloom, and there’s definitely a Gloom flavor to the text. It’s sorta a simpler, less violent version of Neuroshima Hex (as the game is mainly about arranging directional monster attacks).

I invite everyone to try and score lower than my 4 points.