Last Week’s Gaming – August 31, 2020 – Board game arena is great

Battletoads - Quick Time Event game fixing the computer by hitting it

Where did all my time go? Apparently into playing a heap of different games this week!

This week, we had a significant release at work. We are frantically trying to get a couple of other features implemented as quickly as possible, and trying to fix a bunch of stuff for other people.

Even Harry has had a lousy time this week. Poor little fella broke his dew claw, but after a trip to the vet, he is a very happy chappy again.

Harry happy after his dew claw was fixed by the Vet
He wasn't running everywhere straight away, but look how happy he is now his claw is fixed

But even with all that, I got a couple of nights of mindless video games. And I got to catch up with some friends from Melbourne I thought I wouldn’t see this year with no PAX Aus and all! Online catchup, obviously, but it was great to catch up and spend an evening playing a few games.

How did we do it this time? That’s easy. We used…

Ok, so this is more thoughts on a service rather than a game. Board Game Arena lets you play lots of different board games for free (with ads) or for a small monthly fee.

I am not going to go too far into how it works, but it does work. And reasonably well. Once you are in the game, there are quirks you need to learn, but on the whole, it works well.

While the ability to make game matches seems to be overly complicated, the gameplay itself is much easier to learn on the fly. As I was playing with only friends on voice chat, a couple of small questions we had were quickly answered. Those that couldn’t be answered from experience almost always ended up working as you would have thought.

I might see if I can talk Alpal into playing a few games this way with me during the week. I couldn’t catch up with her because of work and other commitments this weekend, but this might be a mid-week alternative.

Sushi Go – Board Game Arena

When someone suggested we play Sushi Go, I mentally froze. I remember enjoying Sushi Go, and Sushi Go Party, but I forgot everything about actually playing them.

Yay for genre standards! At its heart, Sushi Go is just a fun set collection game. I made a couple of silly mistakes early on, but I was never at a severe disadvantage.

Bottom line, a couple of rounds of Sushi Go was a great choice. We got to chat without being distracted by complicated gameplay, and have a fun silly and quick fun time.

Playing a round of Sushi Go
Get a choice of cards at the top, and pick one for your table. Easy to pay, hard to score well!

Saboteur – Board Game Arena

Saboteur is a game I have owned for a long time. I even have the second game and keep them combined in a large box. I have taught many games, overseen many games, but I have only played it myself once or twice. On top of that, it’s been a good 4-5 years since I even thought about Saboteur.

Well, until now.

The idea is pretty simple. All of the players are dwarven miners, and you are tunnelling trying to find gold. On your turn, you play a tunnel card, and you complete a clear path to one of three locations trying to find gold.

Saboteur game in progress
All you have to do is reach the end cards and find gold. That's it. No one would betray you...

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Well, there are Saboteur’s in your party, and they will try and stop you from collecting the gold. They can tunnel the wrong way, break equipment, lie about peeking at goals, anything to make the party run out of cards.

Once this happens, the Saboteur’s win. After three rounds of this, players with the highest score win. I was the Saboteur twice, and I helped the party more than I hindered them. Oops :p

Saboteur final scores
Names have been removed to protect the cheaters... I mean innocent better players :p

Tokaido – Board Game Arena

I have spoken about Tokaido a few times, and last week I was actually playing with the people that coined the name of ‘The Hangover Game’. If you want to more about the game itself, check out my review.

Playing Tokaido is always a relaxing time for me, and this was no exception. I will say I much prefer the presentation of the stand-alone app, which also gives me the ability to play solo. But if I am playing multiplayer, I will play with friends on Board Game Arena anytime.

The graphics are more basic and the help text not quite as refined on Board Game Arena. The ability to play without everyone buying a copy of the app more than makes up for these superficial shortcomings.

Tokaido mid-game
It is nice to see all of the player cards al laid out compared to the dedicated app

Colt Express – Board Game Arena

I have missed playing Colt Express. You need to play this in large groups, and even without the current isolation, that can be hard to achieve.

Colt Express has players as bandits robbing a train. Actions happen with cards, but instead acting on your turn, you program your moves to act them out later.

This delayed programming can make things so challenging and fun. While you think you can move, shoot and then pick up loot is a simple sequence, it can be much more challenging. 

Colt Express moving meeples around the cardboard train
Which way should I go...

For example, you move, and another player punches. They may have thought they were hitting another player, but you are now a potential target. You get punched, and you get moved to somewhere else and drop some loot. Ouch!

It’s not all bad. You might have thought to shoot another player, but now you are in the wrong spot. But now you can shoot the player that punched you first, just saying.

While there is a digital app for Colt Express, I really don’t like it. Colt Express is an example of a Digital Board Game that changes the rules way too much in the digital implementation.

Colt Express - Staying out of harms way
I will let the rest of them fight it out. I have a lot of money bags - should be good for second place 🙂

Onirim – Android

Jumping back into another game I haven’t picked up in a while, I decided to give Onirim a whirl during a bit of downtime.

I am not going to talk about Onirim too much here. It’s a great game, and the digital implementation makes quick solo play a breeze.

If you would like to know more about my thoughts on Onirim, check out my review. Short version – there are good reasons why Onirim regularly cycles back in my list of played games.

Onirim - I almost beat my previous best 'score mode' score.
I don't play scored mode often, I was surprised I had a score this good.

Smash Up – Steam

Smash Up is a game that reminds me of Munchkin. The premise of this ‘simple’ deck builder sounds fine. Pick two teams with their own deck of cards, shuffle them together, and go for it.

The execution is a lot more involved. Some rules completely contradict each other, and timing takes a long time to get the hang of. Actually learning to play Smash Up takes a lot of time. This alone makes the game not for everyone.

Smash Up - Board Layout and inspecting a card close up
The layout of the game makes for a clean simple affair

I have had Smash Up on Steam for ages, and with an extended bit of downtime decided to finally give it a go. It’s been at least 5 years since I had a round of Smash Up, and I thought it would be a simple case of readjusting.

I was wrong. To be fair, Smash Up is a complex game that is a rules lawyer’s dream. Or their worst nightmare. The digital implementation seems to do a pretty good job of letting me play, but getting what I want to do to happen isn’t intuitive.

Smash Up - I am losing badly to AI opponents
Somehow this is about the third turn in? Smash Up changes quickly

I might try it again next week in a focused play session, but I think I just found out why I haven’t played it for so long.

Fall Guys – PS4

What a sensation Fall Guys has turned out to be! Last Monday while you guys were seeing what I was playing the previous week, I chilled for a little while with this insane competition game.

I jumped back in for a little bit with spookedshibe again, but neither of us did well. It was still a heap of fun playing, and that is always what counts.

The medieval theme for season 2 looks interesting, and that is only a few weeks away. Fall Guys just doesn’t seem to be slowing down!

Fall Guys - People racing. I am close enough to see the goal, and everyone in front of me I can't catch.
Close enough to see the goal, far enough to know that only a miracle can help me.

Battletoads – Xbox One (Game Pass)

The poster child for hard beat ’em ups in the early 90s, Battletoads was a game I know a lot about but never actually played. Turning on the Xbox to watch some movies, I saw the notification pop up that the remake was available on Game Pass. So as I had access, I thought why not give it a go?

Battletoads - Quick Time Event game fixing the computer by hitting it
Fixing a computer with a raised fist. We have all been there but...

Right now, my thought is honestly “Why did I give this a go”. It’s not terrible, but the remake shows that the Battletoads are a product of their time.

Combat wise, battles are satisfying, and the different characters have very different playstyles. Enemies have different attack styles, and learning the patterns and various combat techniques are satisfying.

Level design is… Unique. There are plenty of genres mixed in to break up the straight beat ’em up style play. These have you do quick-time events, platforming, and the (in)famous hoverbikes are present.

Battletoads - Racing through tunnels avoiding obstacles
The hoverbikes are just as infuriating, but this time at least come with checkpoints

There was also a weird glitch during an early boss battle where the boss just got ‘stuck’ in the top left corner. I couldn’t touch him, and if I went close to him, I just got hit. The checkpoint system made this easy to work around – quick restart from the checkpoint, and I was back. But a bug like this less than 10 minutes in? Not a great start.

Then there are the cutscenes. You are thrown right into the fray with an over the top introduction that brings you up to speed pretty well. But the forced jokes and over the top nature has me dreading the next break rather than looking forward to it.

Battletoads - Boss just stuck in a corner of the screen
I beat up minions for about 10 minutes before I decided the bugs I was eating wasn't the only one

I don’t think I will be going back to Battletoads. I might, but not quickly. Instead, I was reminded that I have Streets of Rage 4 on the Xbox as well. I think I will be going back to that well before Battletoads. Even Penny Arcade had a comment on the quality of the writing.

Speaking of Streets of Rage 4…

Streets of Rage 4 – Xbox (Game Pass)

I thought I would play a ‘good’ beat ’em up after Battletoads, and my memories of Streets of Rage 4 were fond ones. Unfortunately, enjoying the gameplay is all that I remembered. It wasn’t long before I was looking at the help files for how to perform different moves.

I played my way through most of the fifth stage, only to get owned by the boss. Twice. I gave up not in frustration, but in recognition that I was too tired to be playing.

Streets of Rage 4 - Stage 5 boss beating me soundly
I worked out the Stage 5 boss won't summon help if you don't break any bikes. Unfortunately, he breaks bikes all the time.

So, save slot two has been started. When in doubt, start again – especially in a game like this. It’s not like I had been playing for weeks and had to throw it away. Beat ’em ups are distractions more than anything else after all.

I did consider jumping into arcade mode after clearing the first few levels. Unfortunately, I discovered I need to finish the story mode before anything else unlocks. While not the end of the world, it did diminish my will to make Streets of Rage 4 my next ‘finished’ game. We will see how that one goes.

Streets of Rage 4 - Retro style stage unlocked with CRT filter effect
I did manage to unlock a retro inspired level. That was a lot of fun!

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming August 24th, 2020 Escape The Clank Rage Fall

Thumbs up while moving beams try and knock player off platform

Why did I only take one week off? I still got some great gaming in last week though.

I have found when you come back from holidays you can see a pattern. Day one, you spend half the day filtering through emails, then answering emails and meeting requests for the rest of the day.

Day two, you start to get stuck into work fresh. Day three, the ‘Now you are back’ jobs start stacking up.

So while the number of games I played dropped this week, I had a great time playing the games I did get to play. But what did I play? Well, let’s not wait here to find out!

Another game in, another loss. After playing a couple of times now, I am 98% confident that I am playing ‘correctly’ now. My biggest issue is at the moment, the FAQ on the Themeborne site still doesn’t exist.

But, Escape the Dark Sector is fun. Alpal and I had a great time trudging through an adventure, and playing with someone definitely makes a difference.

Escape the Dark Sector gameplay - setup during act one
It's early on in the game, so why not fight and get some items?

Shuffling some cards, picking some dice, and getting straight into a game is great. And the new system means the chances of pulling the same cards over and over in the base game are next to none.

Even playing ‘properly’ though, it’s still a really hard game. We did at least make it to the boss. I even managed to convince Alpal that sneaking around an enemy was better than rolling dice! It was a one-off, but the chances of bad things happening in Escape the Dark games when rolling dice are really high.

Showing our health during gameplay
It was my character that got very smashed. In other news, I will be talking about how to make these reusable in the future.

I got Clank in Space (no, I won’t always use the !) when it first came out in 2017. I never played the original, mainly because of some cheap tactics that didn’t make the game sound fun. Think Deep Sea Adventures type flaws.

Clank in Space fixes a lot of these problems, but I only just played my first game this week with Alpal. And I will be playing it more soon. I had a lot of fun playing, but there was one catch. After one round of Escape the Dark Sector, Clank in Space starting to drag for me at the end of the game. I need to play more to come up with some firmer opinions on the game.

You will probably be hearing about Clank in Space sooner than you think… Keep an eye on the site for more news!

Racing to the artifaccts in Clank! In! Space!
It was a race of techniques. I could move, but not buy much in the way of help. Alpal could buy anything, but would move slowly.

Blood Rage Digital – Steam

So Blood Rage Digital has gotten some new updates. Still no ultrawide screen support, but there have been some other changes.

One that has actually annoyed me a bit is there is now essentially a ‘Are you sure?’ option when playing a card in battle or pillaging. This can be turned off, but it threw the flow of the game for me until I worked this out.

The more exciting tweak to me is the AI difficulty seems to have been worked on. I didn’t see it in the update notes, but I have gone from virtually walking over ‘normal’ AI to having to work for every point.

Scoring for first game of Blood Rage in a while. It's been a long time since I came fourth.
It's been a long time since I came fourth. You could almost guarantee 2nd place with 75+ points before the new udpate.

I am still enjoying the occasional bought of Blood Rage, and I hope that Asmodee Digital continues bringing good adaptions of such games. Developers Exozet is definitely doing their best, and if we look at Blood Rage Digital as a prototype that is being refined, I think there will be many great conversions to come.

Fall Guys – PS4

To say Fall Guys has had a massive amount of coverage lately would be an understatement. As Devolver Digital and Sony have included Fall Guys in PlayStation Plus this month, I thought I would have a look.

What I found surprised me. The premise is simple – you play through five rounds per ‘episode’ and try to be the last contestant in the game. It’s Takeshi’s Castle without those annoying real-world physics.

Race has begun where I am in the middle of a group of other contestants
Fall Guys is like going shopping these days. The activities are fine, if it wasn't for all the other people!

I am finding 3-4 episodes my limit in a play session, but even if you make it through all five rounds, the longest episode didn’t even last 10 minutes. The quick gameplay makes Fall Guys a great distraction or ‘filler’ game. Especially for free!

Saturday night I even got to team with spookedshibe and have a great chat while playing. Both of us would just chat away as we haven’t caught up for a while, and if one of us got eliminated, we would still have fun watching along.

A player trolling others for no real reason
Why is this person holding me back? Who knows! Some players will just play to stop others from finishing. Don't be them.

If you have PlayStation Plus, grab Fall Guys today and give it a play. It looks like there will be 60ish day seasons, so new events should be coming over and over again.

Word of warning though – if you want the Platinum trophy, there will be a lot of luck involved. Get Fall Guys for some fun with friends, not as an easy trophy haul.

Beat Saber – Oculus Quest

So for the last few months, walking 1000 steps in a day was a ‘big’ workout. I am not alone with this being the case. I have a few physical issues which have been plaguing me, and my lack of movement is making them worse.

So, with the house finally pretty much finalised, Beat Saber has come back into my daily routine. Well, that’s the plan. I have only started on Saturday, but I hope to keep at it!

Beat Saber is as good now as the day I first played it. Check out my review if you haven’t heard me gush about this VR game before, and/or this Spotify link if you want to hear the music.

Cutting blocks in Beat Saber
The Quest lets you record your gameplay, but the quality isn't as good as what you see in the headset

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD