Last Week’s Gaming – June 22nd, 2020

Animal Crossing - What's up Twinkles

So I knuckled down as much as I could, and I did get some gaming in last week.

Two more weeks is my mantra at the moment. When this goes live, I will be finishing up last week’s work. Tomorrow is going to be putting out IT spot fires.

But that is what is coming. Today is about concentrating on what I played last week. And I had more fun than I expected, hard draining week and all!

One Deck Dungeon – Steam

It has been a few weeks since I played One Deck Dungeon. This fantastic dice chucker is as fun as ever, and everything I talked about in my review still stands.

I jumped back on because I could cheat a little while I was working. I had a few tasks that were periods of focused work, followed by waiting times. What better way to fill in these times than playing a turn-based game?

One Deck Dungeon - I might be in trouble
I lost SO many dice because of this enemy

My Rogue has been completely upgraded, and that little Steam achievement popped. So of course, my brain went into “Oooh. Completion run?” mode.

I am not going to make a concentrated effort to get all of the Steam achievements, but I think I will give it a try. At the very least, it will be fun to build up the rest of my characters!

One Deck Dungeon - Building Up Warrior
Started the road to building up my Warrior

Blood Rage Digital – Steam

Another recent review that has been revisited. And since I have written that review, a lot of updates have come out. I still can’t play in ultrawide, but the issue has been acknowledged, and hopefully, a fix isn’t too far away.

But that was mostly in the ‘niggle’ category for me. The most significant update I appreciate – save game states for solo play. You can now close down a solo game and come back!

I have increased from 3 to 5 players for my games now am familiar with it again. I have also bumped up the difficulty. This has led to my first defeat (by 1 point!), but a couple more games have seen me winning again. Time to bump that difficulty level back up!

Blood Rage - Gathering Forces
Forces congregating around Yggdrasil

I have had a couple of comments that my Blood Rage review was pretty negative. There were things I addressed that were an issue, and at the time I stand by them. They are being fixed quickly though, so that is something I appreciate from developers.

The biggest recommendation I can still give Blood Rage is that I am still playing it (and enjoying it!) regularly. Would I still rather be playing Blood Rage around a table with friends? Of course. But Blood Rage Digital does a great job at scratching that itch when I can’t!

Blood Rage - Never count yourself out until the scores are final
It looks like I have truly lost. But I have 60 more points coming... This tension makes Blood Rage for me

Minesweeper Genius – Switch

So last week, I reviewed a little game called The Card. I obviously played it last week, as I did the review. As all of my thoughts are already in the review, I am not talking about it this week.

What I am talking about this week is another sub $2 purchase called Minesweeper Genius. I quite enjoyed minesweeper back in the earlier Windows days when it came included with the operating system, and this looked like a cute take on it. Plus, it was really, really cheap.

The goal of Minesweeper Genius isn’t just to find where all the mines are through deductive reasoning. You also have to guide your sweeper through the level to a goal.

Minesweeper Genius - Level Select
The level select screen is functional. Not every element needs to be groundbreaking.

This took some adjustment on my part. The game is very minimal in terms of hand-holding through a tutorial. Still, the difficulty spike and adding new mechanics has been pretty good so far. I have cleared about 30 levels and unlocked the first ‘advanced’ stages area. Or I could choose to continue going forward.

I’m not going to rave about Minesweeper Genius, but I am enjoying it far more than I thought I would. The next game should stop me from doing a formal review on it this week.

Minesweeper Genius - Advanced Stages
The same Minesweeper deduction is required, but you apply it differently

The Outer Worlds – Switch

Yes, I made progress! Even though I have already finished this game on Xbox, I am still enjoying discovering new things I either missed or have been added. I suspect more of the former.

Over the weekend I completed Edgewater, the first planet you are let loose upon. I had fun. It was enjoyable. I did a couple of quests I don’t remember/missed in my first run, and slightly muddled another because I did it out of order.

I have only been playing in handheld mode. Have I seen frame rate dips? Yes. Does the texture popping look weird? Sometimes, usually worst when loading a save.

The Outer Worlds - Primal Behemoth
Making the shot that started a lot of enemies running towards me

What I haven’t experienced are mid-game ‘loading circles’ I have seen in other headlines. Nothing has happened more than a typical ‘fallout bug’ to me so far. Portability does mean sacrifices, but as for The Outer Worlds being unplayable on the Switch – so far, I haven’t seen it.

During the week I intend to finish the Groundbreaker. This is going to take some time as it’s from memory the largest quest area. It is also the area with the most random people and such that could stress the hardware.

The Outer Worlds - Loading Screen
I love the style and humour in these loading screens

So all going well, The Outer Worlds review is coming this week.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

Oh Tom Nook, you addictive racoon. My plan last week was to potter away, and I have been. Sitting down on the couch with Animal Crossing for 15-20 minutes a day has been a good way to wind down.

However, last week, I made two major mistakes. Firstly, I forgot to sell turnips during the week. Luckily on Friday, the rate jumped a little. So I made a small profit – about 20 bells per turnip.

Then on Sunday, I got a note about stuff littered around my house. I forgot I was storing turnips downstairs and upstairs! So that has set me back financially a little bit. Luckily, I have only picked an area to plant my money trees in terms of modelling Sleep Cove, and even that isn’t final. So I have time to get back to where I was 🙂

Animal Crossing - Poor Snowfolk
Oh Snowboy... We all know weeks like that...

One thing that did make me smile was K.K. Slider this week. I was watching some youTube videos saying that K.K. is based on Kazumi Totaka, a famous Nintendo sound designer. He has a tune that is hidden in many Nintendo offerings, and it is known as Totaka’s Song. So as I could make requests, I tried to see if K.K. would play Totaka’s Song.

And he does! You have to rename it slightly, but it’s there. Not only did I get to see K.K. Slider perform the famous easter egg, but I now have a copy registered to my music collection.

Animal Crossing - Totaka's Song
I don't know if this is still an easter egg or I hit on a song I hadn't bought yet, but it made me happy

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 – June 8th, 2020

The digital board games continue, but not as much as I would have liked. Also, The Outer Worlds on Switch – is it as bad as people say?

Before we get started, I am not reviewing The Outer Worlds on Switch today. I have barely touched it. But I have seen a bunch of ‘Stay Away’ headlines on my YouTube feed, and I am wondering how much of it is warranted.

During the week, I will try and play at least to the point where I get my first companions. That should be pretty indicative of how everything runs for the rest of the game.

But other than that, I played a lot of Dragon Castle this week. I got to visit Alpal for the first time in ages, and playing Dragon Castle with the tiles is as satisfying as I remember!

But I will get into that soon. For now, let’s look at what I did play Last Week!

Blood Rage – Steam

So on Friday, I released my review of the digital implementation of Blood Rage. You can check out my thoughts here.

For sitting back and getting in a game solo against the AI, it has been satisfying. I have been winning the last couple of rounds against two easy AI opponents, so I think I have the basics back down.

Time to increase things to 5 player games, then mixing up the difficulty levels.

As I say in my review, if you want to play Blod Rage solo, the Digital Edition is a great alternative. Multiplayer wise, I am waiting for some more patches before revisiting my review score.

Blood Rage Digital
I had some issues with widescreen layout, but the game itself looks great and will run on almost any Windows 10 machine

Dragon Castle – Steam and Physical

Another game recently reviewed that made it back to the table this week! Dragon Castle is a relaxing yet challenging little abstract puzzle, that was great to kick back and unwind with.

Saturday I got to visit Alpal, and as she hadn’t played it for a while, we broke out the physical copy. The ‘click’ of all those Mahjong tiles was as satisfactory as I remember and really does add to your enjoyment while playing.

Being at the end of the week, I could only get in a couple of games before my brain started rebelling. Being able to sit and chat during the game with Alpal was great, and it made for an enjoyable afternoon overall.

Dragon Castle Alpals Castle
I was mean and took the last black tiles. No pattern for her! Sorry Alpal 🙁

Tetris 99 – Switch

Picking up the Switch during the week, I decided to look at games I haven’t touched in a while (or ever). And there was good old trusty Tetris 99.

Firing up a normal Tetris 99 game, I did OK. I haven’t played in a while, and so coming around the 20ish spot was satisfying. I was still pretty drained though, so I decided to switch styles.

Firing up Marathon mode, I thought I would see how far I could go in 999 Line mode. Then came a chill half hour before my brain basically pulled a ‘nope’ on me.

Tetris 99 999 Line Mode
Just kick back and see how far ou can go. Marathon mode is a nice diversion for 'real' Tetris 99.

It was nice to lie back on the couch and just let the zen-like state of Tetris flow over me. I didn’t get into ‘nope’ mode until I tried to pay attention to the furkids and YouTube while playing at the same time.

As usual, my advice is if you have Nintendo Online, grab Tetris 99 for yourself. Even if it is just for a diversion to come back to at times.

The Outer Worlds – Switch

The Outer Worlds, for me, is a great RPG adventure title. Does it have bugs? Sure. Probably fewer now, I finished it pretty quickly when it was released.

But you can build or break alliances with people or factions as you see fit. You can choose to explore the worlds, or just follow the quest markers. There are many ways you can build your character to let you play the game as you want to play it.

All this, coupled with the chance to play portability of the Switch, made me look forward to the port. Playing the opening title, I was impressed at how the Switch handled things in handheld mode.

Things looked a little fuzzy, and the dense foliage seems to have been pulled out, but it was playing a lot better than I thought it would.

Even the load times, which on my Xbox One S drove me mad every time entered a town or loaded my game, seemed better.

Then I started seeing the negative headlines on my YouTube feed. I have stayed away from as many reviews as I can, but the negative press is prominent.

So this week, I am going to get a fair way into The Outer Worlds and see if I can see what everyone is talking about. Expect to see all this as a review in the next week or two.

The Outer Worlds Switch Load Screens
Do thigns take a while to load on Switch? Yes. But these screens didn't ge to me like I thought they would.
The Outer Worlds Switch Edgewater
In handheld, it didn't look quite as bad. But it did look soft, and the world not as full of life.
The Outer Worlds Xbox One S
On the Xbox One S, more details and no 'fuzzy' buildings, but a lot more powerful hardware than the Switch.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

So after last week’s lack of Turnip purchases, this week I paid off my 4th extension and bought up a bunch of turnips to start trying to build up some cash.

During the week, I didn’t ignore Animal Crossing, but I didn’t go out of my way with my island either. At least 5 nights was login for Nook Miles, bury bells and grab the money tree – that was it.

No, I am not helping with the anniversary photos either. I think the new activity is kind of cute, but I am not much of a wedding person at the best of times, sorry Harv.

I do now have the clothing store, so that’s progress. I completely forgot the game told me about the sisters wanting to set up shop permanently.

This means I might have to sit down and actually look hard at what other possible buildings or structures could be in store. Time to get ‘serious’ about finishing my island and getting 5 stars – then I think I can ‘finish’ my game of Animal Crossing.

Animal Crossing Erik is an adorable weirdo
He is cute, and his heart is in the right place, but really Erik?
Animal Crossing Able Sisters Opens
Is this my last building? Looks like I will need to go look it up!

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

Blood Rage Digital Edition Review (and physical game thoughts)

Blood Rage Cover Art
Released 2016
Designer Eric M. Lang
Publisher CMON (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (5 with expansion)
Playing Time 20 – 30 minutes per player
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map
BoardGameGeek View on BGG
Released 2020
Platform Steam
Publisher Asmodee Digital (Website)
Developer Exozet (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1 – 5
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map

To play Blood Rage alone, this is a great adaption. There are quite a few caveats, though.

The first in a series of games from Eric M. Lang and CMON, Blood rage mixes minis on a map with strong Euro game elements. Released about four years ago, Blood Rage had a lot of hype and for many just faded away.

I still remember my first game of Blood Rage fondly. It was at PAX Aus 2016, and I managed to luck my way into a Loki strategy win. What’s a Loki strategy? I tried to lose more than I won and got to penalise the winners and steal points.

But the bottom line is I only want to play Blood Rage with that general group. It was a group of people that know each other reasonably well, and in-game rivalry with smack talk and tit-for-tat making sub-games within the overall game. We all enjoy heavy games now and then, and while Blood Rage has heavy elements, it’s ‘medium’ style gameplay makes it more likely to hit the table.

So when Blood Rage Digital was announced with its own Kickstarter, I was intrigued. A lot of digital Kickstarters get started and go off the rails. CMON was (in my opinion) padding the finding by offering physical copies of the game at higher pricing. So I decided to sit and wait rather than back it.

But the game is here now, and I grabbed a copy.

Well, that’s interesting and all, but what is Blood Rage?

Blood Rage is a Viking/Norse Mythology based game for 2-4 players. This can be increased to five players with an expansion, and the digital version plays 5 out of the gate.

A lot of different game elements are blended into a glorious mess. At its core, you put your army on the board and fight to pillage villages for bonuses and Glory. There is card drafting and hand management, which adds strategy elements to the game.

This drafting also adds memory elements to the strategy. Each player has a selection of cards, you pick one, then pass the remaining cards to the next player. This means players see almost all cards that are available that round. But each round, a certain number of cards are never introduced into the selection, so you never know if someone beat you to a card or if it isn’t in that game.

Blood Rage Physical Components
Before you ask - yes, this takes ages to setup properly

When you are playing, you also have resource management to consider. Most actions cost Rage, so think of them as Action Points in most other games. You can only have a certain number of minis on the board, as denoted by your Horns. When fighting, you will earn Glory (points) for fighting, and you can upgrade the number of points you earn by upgrading your Axes.

Combat is relatively simple – the player with the highest strength in the contested area wins. Each player in combat must play one card during the battle. These cards can add strength, modify abilities, or be virtually ‘blank’ cards.

Blood Rage Physical Cards and Boards
It looks like a lot, and it is, but once you have the basics down information is easily read at a glance

At the end of each phase, Ragnarok happens. This destroys an area on the board and sends any mini in that area to Valhalla. During this part fo the phase, you can also complete Quests for more Glory.

At the end of three phases, the player with the most Glory wins.

Wait, what? That’s a lot of game to follow!

Blood Rage is a simple enough game, but it has a lot of ‘simple’ things to keep track of all at once. This is why I don’t consider Blood Rage a game for everyone. Only certain types of gamer will enjoy this sort of game style.

That said, Blood Rage is a lot simpler than many popular ‘heavy’ games, so it’s an excellent middle ground for a wider audience.

So I should pick up the physical copy?

If you can find one! The physical copy of Blood Rage also suffers from what I term CMON Kickstarteritis. Yes, I know that’s not a real word. :p

Blood Rage really shines with more players. The physical game lets you do up to 5 players with an expansion, but once you play the retail copy you quickly realise you need to Kickstarter exclusives to make the most of it.

It’s almost impossible to track down retail copies this far after it’s release, and if you can find a Kickstarter collection, it will either be a steal or incredibly expensive.

Blood Rage Physical Amazon Listing
This was a snap of Amazon.com Friday, June 5th. Remember, that's USD!

That’s why I was excited about the digital edition. Apart from being able to play Blood Rage far more often with AI players, it also included almost all of the Kickstarter expansions.

But because the physical copy was getting hard to find in 2018 when the digital version Kickstarter launched, it looked like most of the money was going to the physical copy. Only about 12% of the number of backers wanted the digital-only copy. 

That leaves almost 8,500 backers that wanted the digital copy with the physical game add ons. I have no idea how many of those people then added the original game to their pledge to get a ‘complete’ set.

So without being able to see how much would actually go to the development of the digital version, I decided to hold off and wait.

And now, Blood Rage Digital exists. The Good Points.

I have had a few games solo with the AI, at 3 and 4 players. I am still playing against ‘easy’ opponents. Still, as I have won the last 3 games mainly by upgrading my stat tracks, I will be upping the difficulty soon.

Being able to play a few games kicking back and relaxing whenever I want is great, and I have really enjoyed playing the few games that I have.

I can say hand on heart that the game plays very closely to the board game. The feeling of dread waiting for cards to be revealed is all there. The disappointment at missing a favourite card is there.

The pacing of the game is a little slow. It takes a bit too long to resolve quests, combat, that kind of thing. Having to sit and wait without a ‘speed up’ option is confusing.

Blood Rage Digital Drafting
Decisions, decisions. The feeling between digital and physical for if you are choosing right is just as stressful!

Why do I include this in the ‘good’ section? Because when you are learning the game, being able to see each card and each section slowly helps you quickly determine the flow of the game and tactics involved.

Seeing the minis on the board look great. It’s not the best graphics I have seen in a game, but you can play it on almost any Windows machine. I will take a little bit of a graphical presentation hit to play Blood Rage on any device happily.

Access to the information on cards and rules mid-game is also reasonably well done. From the main menu, you can browse all the cards and their effects. Not all digital implementations do this, and I am glad Exozet and CMON included this.

Blood Rage Digital Compendium
I wish more digital board games let you look throught he decks outside of the actual 'game'

And the bad.

A common issue I have with many digital implementations is the tutorial. Blood Rage Digital’s tutorial isn’t the worst I have seen, but it could still be a bit better.

My advice here is to watch a tutorial on the board game. The rules are the same, and some of the intricacies are explained a lot better in tutorials like those from Rodney at Watch it Played.

That’s not to say the tutorial is terrible – there are even sections of the compendium that describe drafting strategies, which is great!

But even as someone that knows how to play the game, there were sections of the tutorial I looked at and was confused why some information wasn’t there. Prior knowledge of the rules going will definitely a plus.

If you want to learn Blood Rage completely within the digital game, everything is in the compendium but it’s a lot of text to absorb. So if you rather learn by watching a video, check out the video.

If you look at the Steam reviews, there is one facet of the game that apparently needs a lot of work – online multiplayer. Apparently, people are having a lot of trouble being able to play against friends online.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I did grab Harls a copy recently as a gift with the idea of playing against him online. Harls is the sort of player I can have a lot of fun playing Blood Rage with, but it’s not much of a two-player game. Adding AI fixes this while letting us play together.

At least, it would if it worked.

Blood Rage Digital Steam Page
If you were just browsing, I could understand skipping the game on this alone

There is also the controls themselves. Earlier, I mentioned that the pacing is a bit slow. Sometimes, you can hit a skip button if you can’t do an action, for example, if you can’t play an additional card. This doesn’t always happen though, which is strange.

I can’t say for certain that this is a design choice. If you play, you will notice at times cards and other screen elements sit over the controls. I wonder if at times you have this speed option available, but you can’t see it on screen.

Blood Rage Digital UI Issues
Why is Skip hiding? And this is at 'normal' screen size

Playing on an ultrawide monitor makes this user interface issue a lot worse. Playing on my ‘game’ screen at 2560×1080, elements like the strength of my army are hidden by my cards.

When 21:9 and similar aspect ratios first started appearing, a typical display issue was the game/application would zoom the screen. The program would fill the width of your screen with the contents, but that would crop the height from what you can see.

Five years ago, with the tech being still new, this was mostly understandable and early adopters needed to work around the issue. In 2020, this just feels sloppy.

Blood Rage Digital Funny Aspect Bugs
You can see where the title and bottom of the banner is being cut off. I am supposed to click on Continue. The button below the bottom of the screen.

Even worse, when finishing a game in ultrawide, you can’t continue on to the final score, because you can’t click on the continue button. So you will never honestly know if you won a game or not.

These display element issues might seem like a problem only for a few users. Still, the fact they are happening at all makes me wonder what other glitches are happening at ‘normal’ resolutions.

The only other thing I wish was available was a ‘save’ system. It can be an XCom ironman type save, where you only have one save slot that happens at the end of each player turn. This way, you can’t go back and try and cheese the game with different strategies until you dominate.

Blood Rage Digital Widescreen Issues
Why hide my army strength? I can count my minis, but once cards come into play, that doesn't help!

Playing solo, a game takes me about 30-40 minutes with 2 AI players. I would love to be able to leave and take a break mid-game. Also, such a system may help when multiplayer crashes instead of the entire games progress being lost.

So stay clear?

Here’s the funny thing – I think Blood Rage Digital is a great implementation, it just needs a lot of fixes. Some are hopefully simple to make, some might take time.

Playing solo, I have had no real problems other than having to change my screen to 1920×1080 when I want to play. I have enjoyed quite a few games, and I don’t regret the purchase at all.

While I am yet to play online multiplayer, until more patches have been made (and to Exozets credit, there have been updates quite often already), I won’t even by trying except as an experiment.

You can’t even play Blood Rage with a screen sharing local game properly, because this will reveal players entire hands to everyone. The multiplayer needs to be fixed to recommend Blood Rage Digital to more than solo players.

Overall Thoughts

Blood Rage is a sound implementation of the original board game and makes for an excellent alternative for solo players.

The low system requirements mean that players can play on pretty much any computer that runs Windows 10. This means the entry-level for a ‘video game’ is easy to achieve.

If you want to play Blood Rage Digital online though, a lot of work needs to be done to get this working properly.

I would rate the Kickstarter version of Blood Rage’s physical copy a 7.5 and the retail copy a 7. But until the issues mentioned are addressed, I couldn’t give the digital version a higher score. Even though it works great as a solo game, board games are better played with others – even digitally.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  • A lot of fun to play solo against AI
  • Can play well even on ‘work’ computers
  • Faithful adaption of the board game

Cons

  • Lots of issues with multiplayer
  • Some screen elements seem to be broken or having issues

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 1st, 2020

Animal Crossing Shooting Star

One full week back at work, and I am back to being overly tired. I didn’t play any PS4 or Xbox this week. But I did get in some digital board gaming – let the gaming challenge counts finally rise!

OK, so it wasn’t a huge dent, but a dent is a dent. Kicking back and playing the AI isn’t as good as playing with my friends, but it was still good to do some board gaming.

Turn-based, take your time, board gaming. I needed it last week, and probably will again this week.

But enough of all that – on to what actually got played!

Istanbul – Steam

I quite enjoy Istanbul, but it can be a brain breaker. This is why I generally prefer Istanbul: The Dice Game. It’s one of those rare times where the dice game captured the feel of the ‘original’ game perfectly.

Early last week, I nabbed the Steam digital version and gave it a go. The tutorial is as good as I can ask for. One of the downsides to Istanbul is there are a few different things to keep track of, and it takes at least a couple of games for everything to click.

Going to see if I can get a game or two in on games night, and see what everyone else thinks of playing it digitally.

Istanbul Board
It's the board game, with everything laid out logically.
Istanbul Caravansary
It is a lot easier to read what the locations do though!

Small World – Android

Well, discounts got me last week. Google Play gave me a $1 credit, and I started having a look to see if there was anything that jumped out at me. Turned out there were two titles.

The first one was an old favourite that I hadn’t played for quite some time – Small World.

I had a couple of games, and I enjoyed it. That said, I can’t recommend people that haven’t already got it run out and buy it. First and foremost, I got the ‘this was written for an older version of Android’ warning as soon as I started it up. That doesn’t bode well for staying on your phone much longer.

Playing it on mobile is a little frustrating when your finger misses a token. Everything is just so small, and my gorilla fingers had trouble moving my tokens.

It did remind me that I do have Small World on Steam though. On a bigger screen, the gameplay will be a lot smoother. And just as fun as the board game, without the micromanagement.

I will have to see if I can use Remote Play Together on it for a games night…

Small World No Support Die
Three sides of this die are blank. You will swear it has 7 blank sides.
Small World You Have How Many Land
It was at this point, I thought this may have been a mistake
Small World Victory
And this is why you never give up trying

Dragon Castle – Steam

I reviewed Dragon Castle last week, so I won’t be talking much about this one. But how could I do a review and not grab at least one screenshot of the game? Oh no, I had to play a game. Such a hard life :p

Today I will talk about how disappointed I was that Dragon Castle doesn’t work with Remote Play Together. Like Tokaido, Dragon Castle is a great game to be playing during a conversation, and I think it would work really well in the remote play format.

I think if people could jump in for a round or two on someone else’s copy, more copies would be sold. Yes, it was on sale for a very low entry point cost, but you had to want to already play to be willing to pay it.

But that’s just my rant. 🙂

Dragon Castle Poor Decisions
I was getting worried. The compute started targeting my dragon tiles.
Dragon Castle Tie Loss
Lost on tie breaker though. Can't be unhappy with that comeback!

When I got an email saying that Imperial Settlers was coming to mobile, I was very excited. I have had my eye on the roll and write version for a while, and a portable solo version could bump Onirim for plays.

I bought it, loaded it up, and played the tutorial. And I have no idea what is going on.

Teaching board games is hard. Anyone that has tried can tell you that. Learning board games is harder, and some manuals do not help with this.

That is where Imperial Settlers: Roll and Write fell down for me. There is a manual you have to read that will hopefully explain enough to understand the tutorial. The tutorial itself was basically ‘pick this, move it’ with little explanation as to what you were trying to achieve.

So now I am going to sit with a few video tutorials and the rule book. This is the only way I believe I can get the full experience. I will come back to this one in a few weeks with a full review.

Imperial Settlers Tutorial
Why do you want crowns? Read the manual to find out!

Blood Rage – Steam

As I wrote last Wednesday, I was looking forward to this. I enjoy Blood Rage, but it’s a hard one to get to the table. Not that it’s a bad game – just one that takes a lot of coordination getting certain types of player together.

I was hoping that the digital version would help me get some plays in, and I believe it will. I have played two games against AI opponents so far, and the ‘easy’ difficulty still gives a challenge.

The biggest challenge was actually my screen. Playing in ultrawide in my first game, I realised that I couldn’t see my army strength. The number was blocked by my cards. This wasn’t a problem in the tutorial, as I didn’t have enough of a hand for it to happen.

Changing the resolution to a standard size 1920×1080, this wasn’t an issue, and I handily won my second game. Both rounds were fun, but this was a bit strange. I will look more into it during the week.

Initial thought though – this could be a lot of fun on the go. Maybe a Switch version?

Blood Rage Cards Blocking
Below my card is supposed to be my army strength
Blod Rage Bad Card To Play
If you don't have cards, it's not a problem. Except I shouldn't have entered this fight!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

It was another week on Sleep Cove. Did some fishing, bought some stuff, started toying with my island setup. Still trying to get it right in my head.

Yesterday I messed up though. I completely forgot that Daisy Mae only sells turnips Sunday MORNING. When did I remember this? When Isabelle proudly informed me it was 12:01.

It’s far from the biggest issue in the world, but it was indicative of most of my week hahaha.

I need about another 100,000 bells to pay off my upstairs room. I think I will spend a night roughly planning out the changes I want to make to my island, and having fun fishing. Now that winter has officially hit my island, hopefully I will find some new fish and bugs to collect as well!

Animal Crossing Shooting Star
I also finally got to see a shooting star! Star fragments acquired, finally crafter a wand 🙂

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition – Switch

RPG’s are my game of choice for when I want to settle down and immerse myself in a world. I don’t have much time for that lately, but it is what I enjoy.

When Xenoblade Chronicles was announced, I was excited. I have a version for my DS, but that hasn’t been pulled out since last PAX. The Switch has basically replaced all of my handheld gaming, except for quick mobile diversions.

One reasonably universal downside to RPG’s is starting them. Fans are nodding, some people are probably confused.

Vast RPG worlds are great when you are in them, but it’s hard to invest in a game that drops you into it completely blind. So you get to do the introduction to the world. This is part story building, and part tutorial.

I am 40 minutes in, and I haven’t gotten to the first town to ‘start’ the game. This is what I mean by ‘starting them’ is a problem.

It looks gorgeous on the Switch, even playing in handheld mode. It might take a week, but I will make it to the village and get my first taste of the game soon.

Figure 3-4 more weeks, and I can start playing it properly!

Xenoblade Chronicles Titans Clash
The bodies of these two huge creatures is the world you will explore
Xenoblade Chronicles Bad Day
No spoilers, but when I watched this happen all I could think was "Justice"

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

Dragon Castle Review

Dragon Castle Cover
Dragon Castle Cover
Released 2017
Designer Hjalmar Hach, Luca Ricci, Lorenzo Silva
Publisher Horrible Guild (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (Can use AI in digital for solo play)
Playing Time 10-15 minutes per player
Category Tile Placement
Mahjong Solitaire
Pattern Placement
Town Building
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

I used to play Mahjong when I was young. Back then, it was usually a tile-matching game. Dragon Castle takes me back to those days.

Going through some digital games to play while my games group is separated, I found Dragon Castle had a digital version. Jumping at the chance to play via Steam Remote Play Together, I bought it.

Why was I so excited? When Alpal introduced me to Dragon Castle, I ordered a copy before I left her place. So much of the gameplay and presentation just makes me happy.

So what is Dragon Castle?

Dragon Castle is a mix of quite a few games. There is the evident Mahjong Solitaire influence, with the titular Dragon Castle’s being built from Mahjong tiles. Selection is simple – grab one of the edge tiles from the highest levels. Next, you can collect an edge tile of the same symbol from anywhere around the castle.

You don’t have to select a second tile though. You can choose to destroy the tile for a point or store up a shrine for placement later. This isn’t a legacy game though – destroying a tile just takes it out of the game.

Dragon Castle Pieces
You will be collecting and placing tiles and shrines for scoring

Once you collect tiles, you then build your own new castle in a solitaire pattern placement affair. You can place tiles anywhere on your player board, except on top of tiles that are face up.

How do you turn over tiles to build higher? Have four or more of the same coloured tile touching each other orthogonally. They don’t even have to be on the same level, adding some 3D complexity to the game.

Dragon Castle Player Castle
Building up your castle is strangely satisfying, especially when the tiles click together

The more tiles you can complete this way on one turn, the more points you collect. Once you have done this, you can also place a shrine on one of the tiles you just flipped over. The higher the shrine is set, the more bonus points you gain.

That doesn’t sound very interesting.

Not when explained like that it’s not. But as solitaire sounding the gameplay is, there is a surprising amount of player interaction.

Trying to make a large 8 tile collection of green tiles? Other players can start taking your tiles before you can make a match. Even worse, if you need a pair, players can choose one of them and take it from the game!

The purple Dragon tiles also allow you to place two shrines if you can make a set. Sounds great, but you have to remember there aren’t many of them!

Dragon Castle Tile Placement
Pleacement is the trickiest hurdle. If the bottom sword was one higher, a group of 4 would have been made

There are also optional modules you can add in the form of Dragons and Spirits. Spirits introduce random special abilities that can be used during the game. Dragons themselves add more of a strategic element. Some add more points for shrines, others offer bonuses for your building arrangement.

Both spirits and dragons are optional to add to play, but I like that you can expand the game without buying expansions down the line.

Dragon Castle Spirits
Sample of the Spirit Cards. Include as you choose!

And there is also the tiles themselves.

Just like when you play a game with metal coins or poker chips, the tactile satisfaction of the tiles themselves shouldn’t be underestimated.

The art style of the game is simple yet beautiful. Every board shares a theme, and yet is visually distinct. In fact, my biggest disappointment with Dragon Castle is the boards themselves. The cardboard used is too thin, in my opinion. Not severely so, you won’t be creasing them accidentally making them unusable without going out of your way. But thicker boards would have completed the premium feel the tiles provide.

Premium – that’s code for expensive.

That’s an understandable concern. And yes – those tile pieces couldn’t have been cheap to produce. I picked up my copy for about AUD$70, and I think it was worth every cent.

This is where Dragon Castle’s value becomes subjective. I enjoy abstract games, and the primarily ‘multi-player solitaire’ nature of the game means conversation during a round is easy.

However, you can do the same sort of gameplay with many Roll and Write games, which expensive ones are around the AUD$55 mark. You can’t deny there is a cost to so many mahjong tiles contained in the game.

Dragon Castle Boards
I have played with much flimsier boards, but thicker ones would have been nice

Everything you get in the box though makes it hard to suggest you aren’t getting what you paid for. The question is really if it’s to expensive for the enjoyment you will get from Dragon Castle, and I can only tell you I think it’s all worth it.

Dragon Castle Components
Just picking up the box, you know you where the cost goes. Dragon Castle is heavy.

You mentioned a digital version?

The purchase that prompted me to finally review Dragon Castle! At the moment, there is a Steam sale where you can grab a copy for AUD$7.12. This deal ends on June 2nd. Full price is close to AUD$13. Much cheaper than the physical version!

Gameplay-wise, Dragon Castle translates well to digital. The music in the game is relaxing, and the art style is carried across as well. The tutorial is a little bit confusing – and this is coming from someone that already knows how to play.

The AI is available in different skill levels, and so far seem very well balanced. I have only played a few games on PC so far, and I haven’t braved the hard levels yet. You can also play online against other people, or locally in a pass and play style mode.

Dragon Castle Digital
Relaxing and challenging at the same time, the digital implementation works very well

The biggest downside for me? The controls. I miss picking up a tile from the pile. Instead of dragging tiles over as I expected, you need to click on the tile once to select, then again to confirm your choice.

Once you get used to it, the flow of the game works well. It just didn’t control as intuitively as I would have liked.

There is another downside. The reason I bought Dragon Castle was to play with my group with Remote Play Together on Steam. Unfortunately, Dragon Castle doesn’t work with this feature, so if you want to play with others online you will need everyone to buy a copy.

Overall Thoughts

If you enjoy Roll and Write and/or abstract games, Dragon Castle is a game you should definitely add to your ‘To Play’ list.

Dragon Castle is easy to teach and learn, and players will have the flow down during their first game. Once you have the basics down, a game of many layers slowly unfolds before you.

While the physical game can be seen as expensive for the type of game it is, the quality of the components justifies this to me. If you are unsure, the digital version is considerable cheaper – and easier to buy!

If you are looking for a game to play while everyone is still separated, again Dragon Castle is definitely worth a look.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Simple to teach and learn
  • Beautiful art and quality components in the tiles and shrines
  • A game that can grow with you as you gain experience.

Cons

  • Can be considered expensive to buy without playing it to justify the purchase.
  • The digital tutorial isn’t the best

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Blood Rage Digital comes to life Tomorrow!

Blood Rage Digital Edition

Blood Rage in both forms were initially Kickstarted. That counts. Doesn’t it? CMON, sure it does.

Look, it’s been a day work-wise. I couldn’t resist the pun. Little things, right?

Looking around Kickstarter the last few days, nothing has really jumped out at me. I’m not saying there is nothing good on Kickstarter this week – just nothing that particularly caught my eye.

That said, a couple of weeks ago, I got my Kickstarter code for one of the rare video games I have backed – The Wonderful 101. It’s downloaded on my Switch, I just haven’t played it yet.

This got me thinking, a Kickstarter for a digital adaption of an Eric M. Lang classic releases tomorrow. That’s right – Blood Rage Digital is coming, and even though I didn’t back it, my Steam preorder is ready to go!

Why didn’t you back Blood Rage?!?

With the first Kickstarter for Blood Rage, I think I was already heavily invested in other projects. The idea had appeal, it was just juggling finances.

Then at PAX Aus 2015, a friend of mine got to buy it. We quickly cleared a section of the table and jumped straight it. I remember confusion, shenanigans, and being the Vikingist Viking at the table. :p

Not long after, I bought my own copy. This instantly made me regret not backing Blood Rage. The Kickstarter Exclusives were quickly seen to fill in some gameplay gaps not available at retail.

Blood Rage Digital Edition Gameplay
It looks like you can see all the essential information easily

I did not repeat this mistake with Rising Sun.

But the board game is always better.

When you have people around to play with, absolutely. Sharing out setup, the friendly digs, just the general atmosphere – this always beats digital for me hands down.

But.

Digital board games have come a long way over the years. Not just in looks (although the increased graphical quality is nice), but in actually recreating the gameplay feel.

You don’t always have people around to play with. Having the computer available as other players means you can play when you want. Setup time is replaced by load times. Saving a game and coming back to it later is simple.

Blood Rage Digital Edition Sea Monster
I am pretty sure the monster is the mini Eric Lang grabbed during a convention and jumped on

So we should preorder Blood Rage?

As always, that depends on you. I have, and I grabbed a copy for Harls. As long as he isn’t neck-deep in Destiny 2, it’s another way to play a new game, and we can do it without travel. We can even play over multiple sessions easily.

This is mainly a heads up that Blood Rage is coming to digital. There is a 10% discount for preordering, but the full price is only AUD$28.95. Compared to the board game, that’s a steal!

Preordering also get the official Soundtrack and Mythical Monsters DLC. This will let you set lose the Mountain Giantess, Garm, Seer Troll, Wolfwoman, Ymir, Hildisvini and Nídhöggr. Each has their own special abilities, and can change the flow of the game.

Blood Rage Digital Edition Mythical Creatures
Not someone you want to see wander into the battlefield

There is a lot of talk about how the beautiful miniatures were digitised into Blood Rage, and they do look good in the pics. You don’t even have to paint them! Yes, I realise that is a drawback for some.

From the screens, it looks like a lot of work has gone into capturing the feel of the game, so yes, I am looking forward to it. Hopefully, I will be jumping on it this weekend for a couple of games, and I will give at least my First Impressions next week.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Six digital versions of board games to play while inside

Tokaido Following the Road

Staying inside and looking for something to play? Here are four classic games to keep you entertained!

The world is in a strange place right now. It’s been getting stranger and harder the last few years. I have been working from home during the week bar a couple of sick days, and I don’t see that changing soon.

The internet is abuzz with more stories of humanity being terrible and memes trying to make light of the situation. Apart from wishes that I hope you are doing as well as you can, I won’t be going into any detail of what I think of the world at the moment.

What I can do is talk about something I love – board games. Playing games is always something fun to do, and offers some escapism to boot 🙂

Generally, on a Friday, I would be doing a full game review. Today I decided to something a little different, and suggest four board games that you can enjoy in both physical and digital form!

That’s right – you can play with others, or even if you are inside by yourself the computer AI offers a great time.

Enough of what today is about – on to the games!

Ticket to Ride – Steam, Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox

A classic game I have referred to on the site now and then, usually in Last Week’s Gaming. It had been a while since I got this modern classic to the table, but it is as fun now as the first time I played it.

The premise is simple – collect sets of coloured cards, and trade them in to build tracks to complete specific tickets. It can sound overly simple, but the elegant simplicity of Ticket to Ride has made it a favourite amongst new players and veterans alike.

The variety of gameplay offered with a large number of ticket goals randomly given each game, coupled with strategic choke points and eventually recognition of all the routes makes Ticket to Ride incredibly addictive. It also helps that games on digital go very quickly, as shuffling dealing and scoring are all handled by the system!

If you have played Ticket to Ride before or play it enough to master the original board, you can get almost every expansion as well. Explore multiple maps from the USA, Europe and Asia. Each expansion brings new rule tweaks and challenges, letting you see why Ticket to Ride has survived so well in the ‘cult of the new’ in board gaming.

If you have Xbox Game Pass, you can play the original USA board for free! It’s hard to beat that price 🙂 Fair warning though – the train whistles when playing on TV is rather shrill and will let the rest of the house know what you are playing!

Ticket to Ride Title
Like many games on this list, you can play solo or online
Ticket to Ride Gameplay
The actual game plays exactly like the board game
Ticket to Ride Expansions
Mastered the first lot of routes? Go for one of the expansions!

Elder Sign: Omens – Steam, Android, iOS

A lot of people are over the Cthulhu Mythos in gaming, and theme fatigue is a real thing. I adore Elder Sign, though. Cooperative battle Yahtzee is a pretty good description of Elder Sign, and Omens is the digital implementation of the board game.

I will never pull out the physical copy to play solo. There are so many decks of cards to deal with. Playing solo, I spend 1/2 – 2/3rds of my time managing the board. Playing with friends, this isn’t a problem, as you divide up the management and time flies. The general chat and sense of group success when you all work together is well worth the setup cost.

If I want to have a quick round though, I will always fire up Elder Sign: Omens. Technically I have it on my phone and Steam, but I only bought expansions on PC. Gameplay-wise, it’s terrible to watch someone play. Playing yourself though, is an incredibly immersive and rewarding experience. I can’t count how many times I have looked up after what I would have sworn was 10 minutes and discovered it was closer to 90.

The mechanics are repetitive. Pick a location, roll your dice to match symbols to pass challenges, and try to collect a certain amount of Elder Sign before the ‘big bad’ earns doom points. It’s a race to a certain number of points for both sides. But I have spent way too many hours telling myself ‘just one more game’ to not tell anyone to give Elder Sign a play.

Elder Sign Omens Mission Objective
There are various Elder Gods that you have to beat with differing conditions
Elder Sign Omens Mission Select
Different areas have different challenges. They all boil down to match the symbols.
Elder Sign Completing Challenge
Each of these areas are different cards in the board game, making the digital version plain looking

Potion Explosion – Steam, Android, iOS

I have talked about Potion Explosion in my Ramblings and mentioned it in Last Week’s Gaming. Another collection game, in Potion Explosion you pick a coloured marble from a large dispenser. If two matching colours hit as they drop, they create an ‘explosion’ letting you collect them as well.

The random nature of the game already gives it a great replayable puzzle experience. Then I got it on my phone. I think I have close to 100 games on my phone alone!

There are three levels of AI opponents, but if you want, you can also play against others online. This makes it great if you are home alone, and want to test your skills against others 🙂

But the random components dropping and mixing isn’t the only thing you can change up. There are different potions you can create, and with expansions different Professors you can ask for help – at a cost, of course. This gives you a heap of different ways to change up your game experience 🙂

Potion Explosion Opponents
You can pick different levels of AI opponent
Potion Explosion Picking Components
Watching strings of components all connect and fill your flasks is very satisfying

Tokaido – Steam, Android, iOS

My favourite alternate name for Tokaido was given by a friend of mine. They describe it as ‘The Hangover Game’. Every other game engages you in competition or sometimes tricky logic puzzles. Tokaido is a challenge and has many different scoring paths. Where it stands alone is the goal of the game is to have the most fulfilling journey across Japan.

What do I mean by fulfilling? Treat the game as a holiday game. You need to experience different foods, go shopping, paint, chat to strangers, take in the sites, even donate to temples if you feel inclined.

The turn order can take a while to get used to. The person in the last place on the path takes the next turn. If you fly ahead down the road, others will have more time to go slowly and enjoy their trip. Just like when you are on holiday, if you rush through the experience, you don’t come out with as many memories.

While the theme is laid back, and the digital implementation has gorgeous animation, there is still a substantial strategic element to Tokaido. It is nice to sit back and enjoy, but if you relax too much, your competitors will smash your score.

If you think the game sounds overly simple, think again. Each player has different available abilities you need to capitalise on to maximise your score. Owned everyone just meeting travellers one game? That was a lucky draw. You may meet no one that will help your score for the next 10 games.

While it might not look like everyone’s cup of tea, I can’t think of anyone I have taught it to that hasn’t enjoyed it.

Tokaido Following the Road
Travelling down the road in Tokaido
Tokaido Eating at the Inn
Even eating at the end of each day can get you points. But you can't eat the same meal twice!
Tokaido Complete Paintings
No cameras here. Enjoy the sights? Paint a panorama and get points!

Pandemic – Steam, Android, iOS, Xbox, PS4, Switch

I can’t recommend Pandemic enough. Sure, I have seen a lot of memes lately with COVID-19 and Pandemic, but that doesn’t change the fact Pandemic is a great game.

Digitally you can only get the original Pandemic. If you were to look at the physical versions, remember there are many versions with similar mechanics but very different gameplay available.

And like Ticket to Ride, if you have Game Pass on Xbox, you can try it out for free!

Pandemic is the game I am not going to talk about much here, as I have a full review that you can check out here. One thing I don’t touch on with the digital version in my review is the game soundtrack. The increase in tempo as you come closer to losing has a definite effect on you!

Pandemic Disease Cured
One cure down. Now to try and eradicate!

One Deck Dungeon – Steam, Android, iOS

And one last game that I recently reviewed, One Deck Dungeon has grabbed my attention hard lately. Many of my recent gaming challenges have been me playing it, to the point I am contemplating starting to exclude plays!

A card based dungeon crawler with light RPG elements (if you choose to use them), One Deck Dungeon is a great game. The only thing I would warn against is playing on mobile. The gameplay is just as fun as the physical or larger screen version, but you have to switch panels during a round and that hides information.

For my full thoughts on One Deck Dungeon, check out my review here.

One Deck Dungeon Gauntlet Run
My current play mode is trying to beat Gauntlet Mode with fresh characters. I haven't quite gotten a clean run yet.

What do you think?

I can hand on heart say that I have spent hours playing each game, many times multiple games in one sitting. I have spent many an afternoon with all of these games. Hopefully, you can do the same 🙂

Do you think I should have included another digital game implementation? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook or shout out on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD