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?
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.
We got to play it at GenCon and pre-ordered it soon after: Portal, the Cake.
It’s a very stylish proposition. The game comes in a faux-aged box (well done too, at first glanced it really looks damaged), and first thing you’re greeted by is a fake 1970’s manual, in the style of a scientific testing protocol:
The game isn’t particularly like the video game in the sense of testing and puzzles, but is more influenced by the little cartoons that were used as advertisements for Portal and Portal 2. It’s also very chaotic. The rooms move from one edge to the other quite quickly and triggering powers requires killing off your dudes (who respawn even quicker).
The game is very low-randomness as far as dice rolling or similar, but very “random” in the sense that with so many options available to everyone else, any sort of long term planning is by-design impossible. It very quickly devolves into a mad rush and murder simulator that never progresses towards a final round, inasmuch as it just suddenly stops and whoever is ahead at that instant wins.
Only exception to that that we found is the Opera Turret card’s winning condition (usually triggered by the card Greg). That one you can sorta plan for, but since firing both of those requires 2 cakes and a 1 test subject, you’re pretty much on track to win anyways.
It’s a great game if you don’t take it too seriously. Especially since all your friends will want to try it at least once, guarantee it.
Did a playthrough of Portal’s fantastic Robinson Crusoe coöperative, on the Cursed Island scenario. Almost got the rules perfectly right this time, heh.
We tend to play with Dog for the “slightly easier” mode. Our main screw up (that probably allowed the win) was that we built the sacred bell while the fog was on the only hill hex which is not allowed: once a hex becomes unexplored, all tools that rely on it become unavailable. We also got incredibly lucky in a few places, top decking a hatchet and the adventure bell exactly as needed at one point.
It’s a very good game that clocks in at around 2 hours. Very nice art, very thematic, and genuinely fun as long as you’re willing to put in the time to learn the rules up front.
first game we played after getting home from GenCon: Portal’s Tides of Time.
A drafting 2-player game that’s very cut-throat without feeling overly so. The best I can describe it is as a super weaponized Sushi Go where “card counting” isn’t just required, it’s a natural part of the game. Every card gets used every time, so after the first drafting switch off, you know exactly what’s going to be played and what isn’t.
Playtime is about 15 minutes from set up to end of scoring. A very strong “lunch game”.
I also appreciated how much effort went into the lore of the game, with both the art and the place names. I wonder if Portal will end up doing more in that setting.