Surprisingly because when we played the introductory game, he seemed completely befuddled by the idea of movement point costs. So when he asked to play again I balked, but he persisted and he seems to have grasped the core rules. (He’s still unclear on many of the subtle points, but a quick perusal of the MK rules board will reveal that he’s far from alone. I think I’m finally good on the core rules, albeit not PvP or Co-operative assaults).
Of course, it’s still a difficult puzzle and he typically just does the coolest current turn he can. That’s not a horrible first strategy, but sometimes leads you astray. He backtracked a few times. In any case, we barely won — I had to walk into both cities and eat the first brutal assaults, but he sniped an annoying Dragon out of my way first and made some nice attacks.
Anyway, coop with a 10 year old is an unexpected bonus. He’s itching to play a competitive game, but I think I’ll hold off on that until he gets a few more times under his belt.
Still, defeating the two cities was a welcome change from having Kismet kick our asses in the Ruins of Atlantis. Also, two player King of Tokyo isn’t worth it (not too surprising).
I have a soft spot in my heart for co-ops … they make a good family games (everyone wins or losses together). But there are problems with coops:
- The big bossy pants. This can be avoided by group dynamics, but games with more hidden information encourage it.
- Replayability / aka “cube-pushing.” Once you’ve saved the world a few dozen times it gets samey. This isn’t just Pandemic’s problem, the original Lord of the Rings game had theme pasted on, but you were just managing resources. Both games still feel tense, but there aren’t that many surprises. Ditto Shadows Over Camelot.
Sentinels takes replayability seriously. Each hero has a deck of cards that only he uses … So while you alwasy have the same deck/bag/whatever for most coops, right away you cut out a scope. A hero you haven’t played (much) is new to you.
And there may be interesting team dynamics. For a four hero base set (10 possible heroes) you have (10 choose 4 == ) 210 possible teams. That number quickly rises.
And for every team you then pick a deck for the villain, and a deck for the environment (where you fight). By my calculation, the base set gives over 3000 combinations, and this number grows (incredibly) quickly as you add expansions.
Thematically, the game rocks. Each deck has art, flavor text, and a good feel. The comic multiverse is invented (not licensed) but feels right. When fighting the Grand Warlord Voss you draw space ships, minions, aliens and have to worry about the earth being overrun (an alternate loss condition specific to him). If you are fighting A’khash’bhuta (a malevolent Gaia spirit) you’re going to be facing vines, trees, triffids, and whatnot.
As for the environment — fight in the Ruins of Atlantis you’ll stumble across hydras, automated defenses, collapsing walls. But if you are fighting in a time portal you’ll deal with a rampaging T-Rex, temporal anomalies, and apparently a computer room. The environment deck is a mixed bag. Some cards help, some hurt, and clever play can turn the environment to your favor.
Right now I’ve had good games, full of theme. Probably the only weak point is that sometimes it becomes obvious when the good guys are going to win, but takes a few turns to finish it off. (This is not a flaw to a ten year old.)
After a few games, I sprung for a full set (promos, expansions, and whatnot). It’s a splurge, but enjoyable. And my son and I saved the world.
Rating — Suggest
After 5 (ish) failures.
Right now my big insight is — don’t rush unless the dummy is getting obscenely lucky. My first few games had my racing through my deck, when I could have paused a turn or two to gain crystals, pillage or even just use my cards for their printed values instead of sideways.
And be wary about dropping reputation until you have 3+ followers.
Update — Managed another win, so I think it may not be a fluke (new high score — 157).
I have problems with Mage Knight. The rules are a mess. The ‘rulebook’ assumes you already know the rules from the Walkthrough; sometimes finding a clarification to something I vaguely know takes 10-15 minutes. The player aid cards, being double sided with different information, are helpful but require finding the right side.
But my main problem with Mage Knight is fixed fun. Sure, with two players I spend some downtime planning my next turn. But add a 3rd player and its thumbs a twiddlin’.
For me this is a solo game.
Because, at it’s heart, Mage Knight poses a delicious puzzle. Even a single turn can be a challenge. “I want to go kill the Orcs. I have five cards in my hand. I have some mana available in the source, but I can only use one of those (You spend mana to get the ‘advanced’ action on a card). Additionally, any card can be used as any of the four basic actions (Move, Influence, Block, Attack). So each card has six possible uses. Hm. Spend the mana to move four, then do this? Spend no mana to move, but use a move 2 and a spare card, then attack using the red mana to improvise?”
Now try to figure out what your plans are for the full day (~3-6 turns), or the next few days. (“Should I accept a wound to do this now, or delay and hope to win cleanly next turn?” …. “Should I risk assaulting an unknown fort and hope I don’t encounter the golem?”) It’s a challenge.
The chrome works. Mage Knight lacks the purity of some of Vlaadi’s designs, but there’s meat on these bones. It’s an expensive box, but it’s packed.
Compare this to a solo game like Friday. You play Friday in 10-20 minutes. It is a challenge, but it gives up secrets after a few plays. After three plays of MK (call it 10 hours, although only one was solo) I’m just starting. I’m struggling to get a grip on the solo conquest scenario; I barely conquered the first (easier) city in time, not even discovering the second.
That’s an evening of solo gaming. Constantly engaged; an engrossing 2-3 hours. Sure, it’s anti-social. But it’s complex. Merciless. Engaging. And building up a narrative.
I doubt I’ll put Mage Knight into the bag; but I’m glad I got it.
Rating — Suggest (Solo) to Indifferent (4 players).
I played Eight Minute Empire twice.
It’s a simple area majority. On each turn, you buy a card from the draft (prices range 0-3). You only start with a bit more money than turns, so it’s tight. Cards do two things:
- Dictate your action for the turn (add units, move units, etc).
- Provides set collection VPs.
After a set number of turns, you total up VPs for your sets plus one for each region you have the most units in plus another one for each continent you have the most regions in. Done!
- Eighteen minutes is fast. Eight would be faster, of course.
- There is an advantage to going last. Significant enough to bother me even for a game this short.
- Unlike most fillers, this is an area majority game, so it’s novel.
It’s worth trying, but I’m indifferent.
I bought the expansion.
Galactic Orders doesn’t have many rules:
- If you play a card with a symbol, you get a token on the respective guild.
- You spend guild tokens for benefits, or earn VP for having the most tokens on a guild at the end of the game (or second, if there are 3+ players).
- There are random events. Only the last drawn event matters (events don’t take up space in the tableau, so these are just extra cards).
- Whenever you conquer a world you can trash (“colonize”) with any single card you used.
Finally, they updated the homeworlds. You draw an extra card if you have more worlds than units. And you can trash one card a turn (from hand) if you have 3+ worlds.
The homeworld changes alone are enough to spark interest. While I don’t demand the expansion, I don’t think I’d play without the ‘new’ homeworld power. But the guilds diversify gameplay. None of the starting cards give you symbols; guilds drive you to draft mediocre Stage I cards, just to get a few tokens early, and start on the race for most.
The guilds provide nice flexibility. Bonus power (either 3 for drafting or deploying, or two for anything). Bonus actions. Bonus cards. Bonus military strength. In short, benefits to smooth over a rough spot. (Assuming you have them on the correct guild).
The events provide rough spots, although the early events are beneficial. By the mid game they gum up the works slightly.
Now, the expansion adds randomness. If you draft the “Mining Freighter” in stage 0, you’ll get a minor benefit from it … if you draft it and a bunch of mining cards, you earn bonus energy. But, you might not see any mining cards early on. Or your opponents can watch as practically every card has the mining symbol. (Incidentally, after that we quickly found the Monarch’s Revenge variant that caps any card that grants a bonus based on # of tokens to a limit of 4, and the Victory Points you can earn from Raven caps at 8 bonus points. I strongly suggest that).
So … the expansion adds randomness. But Core World’s fault was a rote opening. Now there’s a mad rush for early worlds (to start trashing cards) and early drafts (to start getting guild tokens). By Turn 2 strategies will diverge.
The strategy space has opened up.The cost (in time) is minimal. Not quite zero, since players have to consider when to spend tokens. But close. More cards means more chances of a lopsided draft stalling your plans (only ground units or ground worlds showing for a key turn).
But overall the expansion rejuvenated a game that had gotten dull after 10 plays. If it gives 10 more, it will be worth it. And I think it may have more life than that.
Panic on Wall Street — Clever idea. Players split into two different roles: managers and investors. Managers sell opportunities to investors and pay upkeep. After a two minute haggling phase, you roll dice and adjust prices, investors get paid, then pay managers they agreed prices, then managers pay upkeep and have a quick auction for new businesses. It’s fast. It plays a big number. Having just played Pit earlier, a lot to like. Managers undercut each other on prices, Investors outbid each other. As a market mechanism … it works!
And yet — I wish there were some asymmetric information. The fact that only one player on each side wins will eventually drive people into high risk/high reward options. And that decides the game. Indifferent Plus.
Lords of Vegas — Too much positive feedback. There are only 5 colors of scoring cards (~9 each), but if you buy early into red and red hits a few times early, you can then use your money to switch your casino to another color, and score that color! Mercifully only an hour. Maybe I’m missing something. Indifferent Minus, borderline Avoid.