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.

Arkham Horror vs Eldritch Horror, comparison

Over at Aurelia’s and Mike’s we did a playthrough of Eldritch Horror, just to be able to finally compare it to our Arkham Horror.

Eldritch Horror, almost all of the setup
Eldritch Horror, almost all of the setup visible

Short version before getting into details: Eldritch definitely better in every way, but not enough to buy if you have Arkham already.

The keyword for the changes would be “streamlined”. There’s much less stuff you need to keep track of at any one time, and the game has a convenient symbol that reminds you what to keep track of when time calls for it. So where in Arkham Horror it’s on you to remember the amount of gates open, monsters in city, and monsters in outskirts, in Eldritch Horror you go “We rotated the time counter to red so all the red events go off, let’s look at the board, this, this, and this, ok we’re done”.

Item purchasing is also much easier, and actually worth an action, vs Arkham Horror where the only time you’d use the shops would be if you were stuck there for some reason. The stories and encounters keep the same mood which is still very good. There’s also a nice effect where you don’t know what the side effects of your debts, curses, blessings, or spells will be, until they’re triggered. The possibility of doom is always scarier than the certainty of it.

If you love Arkham Horror, Eldritch is definitely comparable and probably a little better. But if you hate it, Eldritch will not make you love it. The things people hate most about Arkham (slow gameplay and long playtimes where not all that much happens) are still there, but just not as annoying as they used to be.

The shorter rulebook is nice too.

Arkham Horror, Lurker at the Threshold review

Steve’s for Arkham Horror. Not much to say other than no matter how many playthroughs I do of it, keeping track of the rules never seems to get any easier.

2015-07-03 16.32.24
Arkham Horror, Lurker at the Threshold expansion

Visible in screenshot, some of Steve’s extras like the blessing dice, tentacle gate holders, and fancy elder signs for seals.

I grabbed the phone app with the hopes that it would help us keep track of monster limits and gates, but no such luck: all it does is show you a picture of the game map, sorta keep track of inventory and encounter draws, and act as a dice roller (that doesn’t even count successes for you). Super weak.