Last Week’s Gaming – November 4th, 2019

On the Planet, Downforce Free For All with Palm Trees everywhere

It’s been so many weeks since I have played a decent amount of tabletop, that I am out of practice for the articles titles.

What can I say – Sorry Not Sorry :p

The Outer Worlds has pretty much dominated my console gaming this week, to the point I picked up Luigi’s Mansion 3 but have yet to put it in the Switch!

Without further delay, on to what I did actually play this week.

Narwhal Free For All

It’s summer isn’t officially here in Australia, but the heat has started. So what better game to play than a water based dexterity game?

Narwhal Free For All is a fun dexterity kids game. Essentially ring toss or quoits, all you have to do is get your coloured rings onto the narwhals or the central iceberg.

Points are simple: 1 point for any narwhal other than your own, 2 points for the iceberg or 3 points for your narwhal. One player each round spins the paddle wheel to create movement and difficulty, and the ‘fish’ ends the round when it does one lap of the pool.

Narwhal Free For All sounds to simple to be fun, but once again looks are decieving

It sounds too simple to be fun, but it was a quick bit of silly fun. The paddle wheel seems to be the weak point of the build, but there was still movement happening.

Maybe not for a whole games night, but for younger players or a silly quick filler game this is a great game. Watch a slightly not according to Hoyle round below 😀

Planet

Another Alpal special this week was Planet from Blue Orange games. A card drafting/set collection game at it’s core, the game goes for a set number of rounds and has you creating your own planets.

There is your primary planet type secret goal, where you need a certain number of a certain terrain to make points. Each round (after the early couple of rounds anyway) has you fighting to compete for various goals. Meet the goal, keep the card for end game scoring.

You can be aiming for the most forest that doesn’t touch deserts, or the highest number of ice areas. There are heaps to go for, and becuase they are laid out from the start you can plan accordingly.

This Blue Orange game took me by surprise. It is amazingly deep yet quick to play.

While many games do similar things with cards, having the magnetic tiles attach to your planet make for a great tactile experience.

Alpal has said I can borrow this in the near future for a formal review, so look out for that soon!

Downforce

I have spoken about Downforce a few times, and reviewed it already here on the site.

It was only a two player game, and Alpal managed to trick me into spending SO MUCH on cars (joking, I made poor financial choices :p ), but it was still a great game.

Hadn’t played Downforce in so long. And if you check out the instagram page you can see some of my attempted distraction tactics!

I lost overall, but we had a great time as always with this Restoration Games classic.

It's an old favourite. Well, if you can call 2 years 'old'.

Palm Trees

Completing the silly little games was a gem called Palm Trees. The concept is simple – give cards to other people to hold in their hands/fingers and create palm trees.

The first time someone drops fronds or refuses to play, everyone else scores. Simple, quick, and like Narwhal Free For All more fun that in deserves to be!

You need fairly nimble fingers because of the way you have to hold the cards. I think I had an advantage because of my large hands for once!

I will see if I can borrow it for a review soon as well. It’s far from a great game, but it’s a quick fun filler that I think a lot of people would enjoy.

Do not play Palm Trees with magicians or people that do cardistry!

Tetris 99 (Switch)

So as you would have seen on the Twitter page, there is another Grand Prix event for Tetris 99 next week.

In preperation, I thought I would fire up the Switch and have a couple of games – I mean, make sure all the updates are done. Yes, that was it 😀

I played a couple of rounds, then thought I would try out an Invictus match as I hadn’t in a while. The first game I dropped out really quickly (around 70th?), but the next round I was in the groove.

When we hit the top 10, you don’t see the tetromino drop anymore – it’s just sitting there on top of your stack. I need more practice!

Ten times I have tried the Invictus mode. This is my best placement yet!

Warriors of Waterdeep (Android)

A few more dungeon clears, a few more battles, and everything is still as up and down as before.

I did manage to level up enough to unlock a new character, which I thought would be fun. And it kind of is.

Problem is now I have an extra character to ‘earn’ cards for, so my progress is slowing down even more I think. My normal grind is showing less progress than normal, and I can’t see a way out without spending the cash.

Marketing wise Warriors of Waterdeep has the formula down. Quick battles that can be played in a couple of minutes? Check. Enough mindless fun that you want to keep playing? Yep, it’s been a couple of months now.

It took me a month to grind up enough to face this boss. I am not doing it for another dungeon.

Just enough carrot to get you to say ‘Oh hell I will just buy some cards’? Not quite, but I am getting tempted. If their pricing wasn’t so ridiculously high I probably would have bought some packs by now.

I figure two more weeks, then when the VIP club expires and I start getting those nags I will be uninstalling Warriors for good.

The Outer Worlds (Xbox One)

Oh wow. I am loving The Outer Worlds so much right now. It’s all the best bits of Fallout, set in outer space. The number of bugs etc. is also really minimal which is nice.

I have put in just over 24 hours now, and I am up to Level 22 of 30 (apparently, according to the achievments). I have spent so much time on Monarch (one of the planets), and I don’t think I have even found all the quest starters yet.

My only complaint at the moment is a little bit of pacing, but overall it’s moving fine and I am enjoying exploring the Halcyon colonies.

If you have Game Pass, try it out. It’s already included, and well worth the look.

I just love the humour in this game.

Bit of bonus Lego fun

Not one of my activities, but Alpal has been powering through some amazing Lego creations as always. The upgrades to Wahro0nga village are coming along really well, and you can see those in the weekly Yeti Hunting Puzzles 🙂

One thing she showed me was a Merry-Go-Round she made with an alien theme. One of the carraiges is even a cow!

I took a bit of video of us playing around with her new creation, so I thought I would share it here as well 😀

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 tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – July 22nd, 2019

The Pelaton on a Danger Circuit may not be Pretty Clever

The games started strong this week. Then I got to spend a few hours in VR. It was a great week of gaming 🙂 Looking forward to a slightly heavier game next week!

Starting things off was Flamme Rouge, and by including the Pelaton expansion all six players could have fun!

We played one of the original tracks, which worked well enough. I knew there would be more grouping and blocking than normal, but with new players I also thought this would help simplify what they needed to try and keep track of.

Flamme Rouge once again demonstrated to me why it’s such a fun and interesting game, with a surprisingly deep strategy element that is easily accessible.

A lot of racers on a little track. Keeps the group count low and positioning tight!

If we are talking racing games though, readers will know how much I enjoy Downforce. We had again a mix of veteran and new players this game, and once again a fun game was had by all.

I love the simplicity of teaching Downforce, and how quickly everyone can click with the rules. It took only a couple of player turns to see why the movement order is just as important as which cars move further, and blocking in players quickly became an objective instead of an option.

Go on. Move Green 8 squares right now. Mwahahahah!

Still plugging away at this one, but this week I made a personal best – 316!

Like I spoke about Friday with the Pandemic Digital games, there are some games I like to keep playing at on the phone, and true quick solo games like That’s Pretty Clever are right up there.

My average score is now 200 after 137 games, so it might be time to dip my toes into Twice As Clever/Doppelt So Clever soon!

Personal Best! Always something satisfying - beating your record 🙂

Gloomhaven (Steam Early Access)

It’s finally here! Gloomhaven has hit Steam Early Access.  I have already written about my intial thoughts, which you can read here.

Short version though, right now it’s not for everyone – but not because it’s a bad implementation. It’s a solid base that I am sure will be built on over the coming months, but it’s not the complete game just yet.

If you want a fun dungeon crawl experience, then the Early Access version will be a good buy for you. Like so many other games though, I hope a Switch version is planned as well!

Choose your path, and see what adventures wait for you

Beat Saber (Steam/Vive)

Setting myself in with the new rig, I have discovered 2 things very different from the PS4 version of Beat Saber.

  1. No Cloud Saves. That’s twice I have had to reinstall, and twice all my progress was lost. Ah well, I guess I just have to play more Beat Saber!
  2. No Steam Achievements. While not a big deal, the fact that the PS4 version has trophies but nothing on Steam surprised me – I thought they would port over?

Either way, while I didn’t get as much Beat Saber in as I would like, I made up for it Saturday with about 2 hours worth (spread out of course). My shoulders are going to feel it Monday!

One of the Monstercat levels - Riot Overkill. It's Rabbit's favourite, mine is still Angel Voices 🙂

Operation Warcade (Steam/Vive)

I have mentioned Operation Warcade, but it was a LONG time ago. Essentially an updated version of Operation Wolf from mid 80’s arcades, you play a soldier armed with an Uzi and some grenades, and strafe over different areas to complete missions. Well, by missions, it’s really shoot everyone. But you have different objectives to do it different ways.

Playing in VR, not only are you standing in an arcade where you get a crowd as you do better at the game, but you can trigger ‘Immersion Points’ where you actually go inside the game, to the point you can see yourself playing!

A silly bit of fun, but it’s still holding up a couple of years later.

Operation Warcade goes in the 'silly bit of fun' category for me.

Superhot VR

I have had Superhot for a couple of years now, but becuase of different space limitations I haven’t actually started playing it. Until Saturday night.

I started playing the intro section that many of us have watched over time. But I couldn’t throw anything to save my life – it was very frustrating.

Giving up, I jumped online to see what was wrong. There are no instructions in game, so holding the trigger (which closes your hand) picks things up, so letting go of the trigger should drop it?

Nope. And their ‘instructional’ video that you can only see by searching for it outside the game is scary for very different reasons :p

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 tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Games – February 18th, 2019

20190218 Kingdom Hearts 3 Black Pearl

Tales of the Railroad beating Downforce are overstated :p

A quick week of gaming this week, culminating in finishing the Kingdom Hearts 3 story!

But enough of that particular game, I got to play lots of other fun ones as well 😀

Mythos Tales

After the nice increase in difficulty and pace in the first four cases, we were thrown a little by the straightforward nature of this case.

It is disappointing that some misprint issues from the first print run have started to appear.  Not enough that we were overly disadvantaged, but enough that it threw the pacing.

We did well though – so well in fact, that we lose a time unit in case 6.  So as I said, not enough to ruin the case, but now we will have this doubt for the last cases.  Time will tell how this plays out though – it will be interesting.

20190218 Mythos Tales
Case 5 down, three to go. Exploring Arkham is taking a few interesting turns.

Railroad Ink

Railroad Ink was a game that had me curious to look at, but not to buy.  Luckily Alpal is still on a Roll and Write kick, so we got to play 🙂

Similar to many other Roll and Writes, Railroad Ink has you filling a series of road, rail and stations to connect as many exits out of the grid as you can.

Everyone works with the same set of die rolls and abilities, but it’s all down to how efficiently you play that get’s you the highest scores.

20190218 Railway Ink
Another wonderful Roll and Write diversion, the basic game holds a lot of possibilities.

I am a little puzzled that the four expansion modules have been split over two box sets,  For four extra dice (the only difference between the red and blue versions), I can’t see anyone objecting to paying an extra few dollars to the base.  Instead, Horrible Games and CMON have opted for making people buy the base game twice for the ‘entire’ experience.

I will need a few more games and some with the advanced rules in order to see if this could be justified somehow, but on the surface, I find it puzzling.

Downforce

As I have said, Downforce is one of those games I will play and keep coming back to.  Alpal, Rabbit and I had a few rounds during the week, and as usual, it was a great time.

We had one of those games where Rabbit was just destined to win, with a fantastic combination of randomly dealt cars and hand of the movement cars.  But as usual, even with the writing on the wall of how things were about to play out, I was still having a ball even though I was set to be in outright last place.

Downforce 20181008
Always a fun racing game! One day my car/s will be in that top spot 😀

Alpal decided to be the agent of Chaos though and put one of my cars into second place at the cost of her own points.  Always one to mess with the status quo is Alpal 😀

Tetris 99

During the week, Nintendo held their February Direct event.  As usual, a whole bunch of things were announced.  I can now play Final Fantasy IX on the Switch, with the original Final Fantasy VII coming next month.  DLC announcements and game release dates galore also dotted the Direct.

But one announcement that took me by surprise as I thought it a massive swipe at the current Video Game landscape.

That announcement?  Tetris 99.

20190218 Tetris 99
It's old school Tetris multiplayer on a massive scale. Can't complain about my first attempt! 😀

Now I love Tetris, as discussed with the recently released Tetris Effect.  But the 99 refers to the number of players facing each other!  I have only played one round so far, and I came 13th – gotta be happy with that 😀

If you have Nintendo Online and enjoy old school Tetris, do yourself a favour and check out this free game.

Kingdom Hearts 3

No surprise this was going to be on the list – it is my game of choice at the moment.

I have completed the story and found all of the Lucky Emblems and treasures.  But like all Kingdom Hearts games, this is in a lot of ways only the beginning of the gameplay.

There are battle gates for example – a series of battles that seem to have replaced the old school Hades Cup.  I still have various challenges to complete, such as the Gummi Ship, Synthesis and Moogle Photo challenges.

20190218 Kingdom Hearts 3 Complete
The summary screen at the end - It serves to tell you how much more is left!

I have been playing for about 45 hours now, and I have been enjoying all of it. Kingdom Hearts 3 feels easier to get into, but that could just be my experience with the series and playing in beginner so I could get all the story.

Either way, in a couple of weeks the full review will be on the site for all of my thoughts to be told – once I have gotten the Platinum Trophy 😀

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 tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – December 3rd, 2018

20181203 Banner

Tales of Scarabya Downforce of the Island – but no Yoshi!

Another busy week, but I managed to once again get in more game time than I originally thought!

It’s fun on a Monday morning to look at my BGG Stats app and see what I played.  Once in a while I even win 🙂

Mythos Tales

Second case in on Mythos Tales, and a few things are falling into place so much better.

I still feel Harls and I are in the ‘tutorial’ phase of the game, beginning to add in items found and other conditions to the gameplay.

Compared to my first experiences with Mythos Tales (which I will either Blather on about or do in a review, or both!) this is shaping up to be a really fun time.

Hopefully I can get in another game this week, next week at the worst.

Mythos Tales 20181203
Case 2 sorted, and in style! Remember though, always drink responsibly when pretending to be a detective

Scarabya

Scarabya is an interesting game.  Everyone has the same board layout, and the same Tetris type shapes to fit onto that board.  But you don’t want to fill it, you want to ‘trap’ Scarabs in areas of no more than 4 squares to maximise your score.

Scoring sounds weird, but is very simple – the number of scarabs x number of squares (up to 4) is your score.  So if you have 2 scarabs in a 3×1 row, your score will be 2×3=6.

It’s like a tactile roll and write – everyone has the same chances, it’s purely up to your skill and luck to maximise your score.  I can see myself getting a copy of this in the near future.

20181203 Scarabya
Almost a Roll and Write - everyone has the same board, the same pieces, and the same goals. It's only your choices that decides how well you do.

Downforce – Mario Kart Fan Rules

So before you get too excited – this is not an official game.  You need to have Downforce and Monopoly Gamer: Mario Kart in order to play it.

But if you have those (or stuff to use instead of Monopoly Gamer), then a quick look on Board Game Geek will show you these rules.

Now I was simultaneously in the wrong frame of mind to play, but that was also the perfect time to play.  You see I have been working to finish stuff for my job by the end of November, and the toll had started to show.  I couldn’t focus on reading the new rules, but I knew Downforce and most of the game was the same.

20181203 Downforce Mario Kart
It's Downforce, but with Mario Kart! And just like Mario Kart, be careful if you are in the lead!

So even though I probably annoyed Harls and Alpal asking the same question multiple times, the core Downforce gameplay was intact and fine.  That’s one of the reasons I love that game – here was a night I proved I could play on autopilot!

Almost all of the rules are clarified well, and the ‘Current Position’ rule we ended up deciding on the same rules having missed it in the text.  Translating Directly is my only question – is it in the same corridor of positions, does around corners count, that kind of thing.

But the game was Downforce brilliance, coupled with Mario Kart’s amusing unfairness – definitely recommend a game if you have the ability!

Treasure Island

Now this was a little surprise when I first heard about it on Shut Up & Sit Down.

Treasure Island is a one vs many hidden movement(ish) game where one player plays Long John Silver, and has buried a treasure on the Island.  The other players are searching the island as Silver is feeding them clues to the treasure, but also biding time to escape from jail and get it back himself.

Straight up, not the greatest rule book and I will say interesting colour choices for the markers.  But the fun of exploring the board and marking your progress and searches is great, and a few more games will bring a review with it.

20181203 Treasure Island
Cartography will become a skill by the end of this game! My only issue is really how busy the map actually is

Pokemon Let’s Go – Eevee

Octopath Traveler is still sitting to one side, and I will probably be jumping back in this weekend all going well.

This week, the little time I got to put back into Pokemon Let’s Go was well spent.  I have beaten the first gym leader, and am starting to make my way to the next town.

I put Mew in my Pokeball this week, and again with what I consider minimal effort Mew is now sitting on level 25.  The Poke Ball Plus is a great way to ramp up an individual Pokemon, but it’s starting to feel a little pay to win though.  But pay I have, and I now have a Magikarp sitting in my ball 🙂

20181203 Pokemon Lets Go
I know my progress has been slow compared to most, but this is a game I can pick up and put down without guilt. It's so much fun!

I will need to get to Pokemon Park (about 3/4 of the way through the game apparently) before I can try mixing Pokemon Go and Pokemon Let’s Go, but I will try when I can.

Bottom line though, Pokemon Let’s Go is a great relaxing adventure that I can see myself finishing relatively soon – OK probably over the holiday break, but for my play times that’s quickly!

20181203 Team Rocket
Old favourites are up to their usual shenanigans 🙂

What about you?  What have you been playing?  Let me know on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Downforce: Danger Circuit Review

Downforce Danger Circuit Feature
Downforce Danger Circuit Feature
Released 2018
Designer Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, Justin D. Jacobson
Publisher Restoration Games (Website)
Players 2 – 6
Playing Time 30 – 40 minutes
Category Hand Management
Player Powers
Light Auction and Betting
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Danger Circuit shows you don’t need to add much to add to a great time

After my first ever game of Downforce, I knew that the system was ripe for expansions.  New player powers, new maps, that’s all you really need.

And that is exactly what we have been given in Downforce: Danger Circuit.  A new double-sided board, and six new team powers.  A small rule clarification sheet for the new powers and conditions, and you are all set.

Setting up as per standard Downforce, we were into our first race on the Danger Circuit in about 5 minutes.  Without a lot of new mechanics or areas to be on the watch for, we could pretty much just jump straight in.

And that is one of Danger Circuit’s biggest drawcards for me.  No lengthy rereading of the rules. No trying to switch your thinking between the base game and the expansion.  Just more Downforce, pure and simple.

There were some new terms to clarify like ‘Tight Spaces’, but the instructions took only a couple of minutes to read in its entirety and I read it while Alpal setup.  I can’t remember the last expansion I was able to do that with.

Downforce Danger Circuit Components
Not a lot of components in Danger Circuit - but enough for more Downforce is always just the right amount

Now I have seen a few people argue that only six new cards is a bit on the light side.  Different people will always have different opinions, but I appreciate the simplicity of the expansion.  More scoresheets are also something I hear being asked for, or dry erase boards like Captain Sonar.  A couple of dollars at a stationary store will get your current sheets laminated, or the Restoration Games app is also easy to use and free on your phone.

Yes, we could have been given more powers, but I think that letting new powers come with new tracks is great – as long as they continue to come in pairs.  The coupling of tracks and powers so far has been good, and I think can continue for quite some time to come.

Another suggestion I have seen is more players, and this is an expansion I don’t think is a good idea.  The movement cards are already well balanced and work well, and adding new players means you have to start juggling decks depending on the number of players involved.  It’s not an insurmountable issue, but why add complexity for complexities sake?

So the new powers are nice and straightforward, and from the games I have played feel better balanced to me.  Not that Downforce was terribly unbalanced – I only try to quietly retire ‘Determined’ when experienced players get it over newer players, but if someone really wanted to play it I wouldn’t stop them either.

The only power that caused some discussion in Danger Circuit was ‘Tough’.  As per the card wording, if on any players turn you end your turn next to a rumble strip, you may move 2 additional spaces.  I have heard people calling this overpowered, but I don’t think so overall.

The chances of Tough hitting multiple times is limited, usually because another player has to intentionally make it happen by putting the car adjacent to a rumble strip.  That was it discussion sorted, and fun was had by all.

Downforce Danger Tough
In this example, the Green owner has Tough, but the Red player is moving the cars. The only reason Tough triggers is because of where Red put the Green car.

And again that shows what I really love about Downforce.  Forget the rules lawyering and semantic umpires.  Downforce is simple and fun, and lets everyone enjoy themselves.

Prefer not having all the cards dealt at the start of the game?  Done.  Don’t like the betting aspect?  Lose it.  Are auctions confusing you?  Just deal out the cars randomly.

All of this is intact in Danger Circuit.  Unlike some expansions that almost fix a broken base game (or worse, expansions that break a great game), Danger Circuit just lets Downforce continue to do what it does best.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Downforce Review

Downforce Feature
Downforce Feature
Released 2017
Designer Rob Daviau, Justin D. Jacobson, Wolfgang Kramer
Publisher Restoration Games (Website)
Players 2 – 6
Playing Time 30 – 40 minutes
Category Hand Management
Player Powers
Light Auction and Betting
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Racing Games used to be the person who could roll the lucky numbers win.  This is not one such game.

When Restoration Games first came to my attention, it was for the amazing Stop Thief! Kickstarter.  Their passion for gaming and the work that went into streamlining and modernizing Stop Thief! was amazing, and made me want to look into them more.

Indulgence by all accounts is a great game but is one of those rare ones that I will wait for another in my group to buy it before playing.  All I have against it so to speak is that it’s a trick-taking game, not one of my favourite genres.

And then there was Downforce.  I really enjoy Formula D in theory, but in practice, it just takes too long.  That sense of urgency and racing just doesn’t quite hold for the couple of hours required to play a game.

So I ordered Downforce with a little bit of hesitancy.  I enjoy racing games, but I didn’t want another Formula D type game, and Flamme Rouge was ticking a lot of boxes for me.  But the team knocked it out of the park with Stop Thief!, so I decided to give it a go.

And I am so glad I did.

Downforce Components
Compared to a lot of other racing games, Downforce seems pretty simplistic. I did forget to add the Speed cards though!

When you open the box, the first thing I noticed was a large multi-page manual.  Flicking through it, I realised it only took a couple of minutes to read the entire manual cover to cover.  Everything is laid out in a simple, logical manner, that made playing with the manual open the first time surprisingly easy.

Then looking at the rest of the contents, everything was just as simple to understand.  Six coloured racing cars with accompanying tiles, a deck of cards, and a score pad.  While multi-component games can be a lot of fun, there are plenty of times that you just want to sit and play, and I already had a feel Downforce was one of these games.

While I don’t think Downforce is a complicated game overall, I will talk you through the simplified or more basic version of the game we went through to start with.

Setup is pretty simple.  Randomly set out the 6 cars on the board.  The colour that gets put on the number 1 spot will be the first player.

Downforce Starting Setup
So here, the Orange car will be going first. Then it just goes in clockwise player order.

Shuffle out the 6 number 8 speed cards and deal them face down to each player until everyone has the same number of cars.  Everyone then flips over there cards to reveal who they are.  This is how you allocate who is what colour and first player.  For the team powers, I tend to shuffle them and let each player randomly draw one in these types of games.

Then shuffle the remaining speed cards, and deal three to each player and put the rest in easy reach distance for all players.

And that is it.  The player who’s car is on the number one spot at the line goes first – it’s that simple!

Downforce Typical 3 player Simple Starting Hand
With a 3 player starting game, each player will get 2 cars. So this is a pretty typical starting hand for a simple game.

Players are trying to finish the race with the most money.  Coming first gets you more winnings, but there are betting and the previously mentioned auction mechanic that changes how this works.  For the first game, just straight up race and see who places first.

Moving the cars

To move, play a Speed card.  Most Speed cars have movement amounts for multiple cars, up to 6 in total.

You can’t move sideways, and you can’t move backwards – you always have to move forward (which makes sense for race cars – they won’t stop on a track).  You have to move all of the cars on the card from the top to the bottom – but you move all of that cars on your turn.  This lets you potentially block in cars or force suboptimal plays for other cars.

Downforce Opening Move
Opening move made. It's simply a case of moving the cars in order from the top to the bottom - but placement can be very important!

By the letter of the rules, you can move a car forward if the end of the square is further ahead than the square the car is in.  Also, you can move into any square that a forward corner is touching.

These rules sound a little confusing, but the rulebook gives clear examples of the movement to simplify it.

However, I play and teach by a slightly modified ruleset.  I teach so that movement can only be in a square that the front edge of the square touches.  This helps prevent some ‘runaway leader’ play that I have seen, but it is essentially a house rule.  Keep it in mind, but I will talk about this later in some more detail.

Team Powers

Downforce Moving Example
Movement can sound a little confusing, but it's all pretty straightforward

A simple way to keep multiple games interesting, Team Powers let you break or bend rules during gameplay.

Don’t want people to keep blocking you in when they move your cars? Grab the ‘Cunning’ power and always be the one to move your cars.

Have a lot of a single colour car on top of your Speed cards?  Grab that car and the ‘Aggressive’ power to move an extra space when you play one of those cards.

Don’t want to move a particular car on your turn?  That’s where ‘Strategic’ can help you.

Whether randomly handed out or auctioned off, these cards can change a game in a blink of an eye.

The Betting

Downforce Team Powers
They may not seem like it, but the powers can subtly change the game each time you play

Betting plays a big part in Downforce, but it can be a little confusing for some the first game.  It is something that I end up usually adding if I know all the players are used to different games though.

Betting is really simple – on each track, there are three yellow lines.  Think of them as stages.  When a card that causes the first car to cross one of these lines is finished, pick on your scoresheet the car you think will win.

It doesn’t have to be yours, and it can be bet on multiple times.  Betting is also free.  At the end of the game, add each bet total to your score on the sheet.  There are plenty of games I have played where even a player that finished fourth won the game because of clever betting!

The Auction

Downforce Betting
All you have to do is mark who you think is going to win when a car first crosses a yellow line. If it places, bonus cash for you!

The Auction is something I suggest you leave until your second game.  It’s not overly complicated, but it is the part of the game that most first time players have the most trouble with.

Setup is almost identical, but when you play the full game all of the speed cards are dealt out to players before the game starts.  This fixes the possible strategies for players at the start, for example a player may have much more red movement than black movement.

Shuffle up either the Speed 8 cards or the car tiles, and flip the first one over.  Now do the same with the Team Powers.  This means players can bid on the car and power they want.

Bidding is down with speed cards face down.  If you have that colour car, the amount of movement is the amount you are bidding on the combination.

There are some tiebreaker rules and ways to use Wilds, but in general, this is it.  Once you win, you put the Speed 8 card in your hand, and take the power and the car tile.  All players put their bidding card back into their hands.

Downforce Auction
So someone really wanted Yellow - they bid 6 million! After confirming they won, they mark down the bids. The bids are subtracted from the winnings, so don't spend too much!

This can mean that players have more than one car.  Every car must be used when playing this way, and each player must have at least one car.

So why not go all out and bid for as many cars as possible?  Because of the amount you won the bid with.  This comes off your final score, as you have laid out money already to be in the race. There is another small catch to multiples – while you will keep multiple cars, you can only keep a single Team Power.  No stacking up the advantages here!

This makes Downforce more thematic to a degree, but also much more calculating.  Do you go your favourite colour just because you can?  Do you bid high on the power you want, and high on the power you don’t want Bob to have just to deny them?  So many possibilities.  And because you can see your choices at the start of the game, planning is essential.

The Gameplay

So as you have seen, I have split out various rules in explaining how to play the game.  That is because Downforce is very modular.  You can mix and choose the rules you want to play with, and customise the experience to your liking.

Playing with younger children?  Play three cards in a hand and just use final placings to score.  Playing with cutthroat strategists?  Use every rule there is and make every mistake really hurt.

But even when all that is done, each game is fast.  Like 20-30 minutes fast when you get into it.  So you can make something fun or an all-out fight, and still play multiple games in the time it takes for Formula D.

Downforce Gameplay
Each game is unique and fun. Play your cards right, and you can usually come back from behind!

And each game is a lot of fun.  I have only met one person that didn’t like Downforce, and I am still not 100{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c} sure why.

Yes, it’s simple.  But you don’t need overly complex mechanics to create a deeply strategic game.  And it’s a rare find where games this deep can be just as fun played as a luck based game as well.

Downforce is so well balanced, but it’s not until you really get into the game before you discover this – except for a couple of points.

The Downsides

There is one power – ‘Determined’ – that I try to take out of experienced players hands when playing a mixed game.  Determined means you can move an extra 2 spaces as long as you only moved into rectangular spaces during the game, and it triggers all the time.

Now if everyone knows how Determined works it can be played around, but when people are learning it’s a bit much.  A player with Determined early in the turn order is one of the few ‘runaway winner’ scenarios I have come across.  This is the one reason why I slightly altered the movement rules.

If a player wants the leader to slow down, forcing them to take the outside lanes work – as long as they can’t just zip through on their turn.  It was a simple change and also simplified movement, but it’s a rule I needed to change without simply removing Determined from the mix.

The auctioning and betting rules offset a lot of the advantage normally, but players need to be aware of the entire game for this kind of counterbalance to happen naturally in game.

There are a few combinations I have seen people complain about being overpowered, but this particular scenario is the only one I have seen frequently enough to call a rule change for.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming October 8th 2018

Super Mario Party 20181008

Down the Castle to Istanbul for the Party

It looks a little light on gaming this week, and in a lot of ways, it was.  PAX Aus is less than three weeks away, and I start driving to Melbourne in less than two!

I got the chance to do a few different things which have been amazing, and I will talk about all that in detail as soon as I can.  On to what I got to play last week!

Istanbul the Dice Game

Istanbul the Dice Game is a rare treasure for me.  Normally when you have a ‘The Dice Game’ version, some artwork and terms are reused but the game just feels completely different.

Not so with Istanbul.  In the time it takes to teach and play the first game of Istanbul the Dice Game, you are starting to take a new player into the opening rounds of Istanbul the Board Game.

At the end of both games, each player is working out what they could have done differently to get that extra ruby ahead – even though the play mechanics are completely different!

I am always up for a round or two or Istanbul the Dice Game.

Istanbul the Dice Game 20181008
Simple to teach, great to play, and no two games are ever the same. I really enjoy Istanbul the Dice Game

Dragon Castle

I spoke about Dragon Castle in last week’s game list, and another couple of rounds were played.

With all of us getting into the swing of the game and some scoring strategies in play, the games are still just as fun as when we were still learning.

So far we have only played the maximum four players, but there will be some time set aside to play two and three players for a final review coming in the near future.

Dragon Castle 20181008
Dragon Castle is aa game I am very much warming up to.

Downforce

Ahhh Downforce.  The most versatile simple racing game I know.

Restoration Games has hit it out of the park so far, and there is no reason I have to never play Downforce.  It’s quick, easy to teach, and always fun.

I have heard a few people coming down on Downforce as being too simple or not strategic enough, and this is a valid viewpoint.  If you are looking for a deep experience like Formula D, Downforce isn’t your game.

But for me and my game group, Downforce is a safe fallback that will be on the games list for a long time, and new tracks mean it will have centre stage fairly regularly as well.

Downforce 20181008
Always a fun racing game! One day my car/s will be in that top spot 😀

Super Mario Party

I haven’t played Mario Party for ages, and even then it was only a couple of goes with one other player.

With the Switch though I am looking forward to a couple of party nights in the future.  I played it only on the Switch screen and found it a little hard to see, so I am thinking this is definitely a game you should play docked to a TV.

There have also been a few complaints about the controls only working away from the Switch.  I played a few mini-games that required quite a bit of motion and hitting the L and R buttons at the same time.  The twisting the whole Switch while the Joy Con is connected would lose you the screen and be very awkward to play!

Super Mario Party 20181008
It's the first Mario Party I have played since the DS, and it looks like it will be just as fun 😀

If anyone complains about having to use a Joy Con, I think they may be missing the point.  Yes, using the Joy Con as a mini controller is not entirely natural, but if my big hands can do it in the short bursts Super Mario Party asks of you, I don’t really see what the fuss is about.

Can’t wait to play this with two or three others, and this will definitely be on the PAX Aus play list!

What about you?  What have you been playing this week?  Let me know on Facebook or Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming September 17th 2018

Downforce Danger Circuit Gameplay

Circuit the Danger House via a MacGuffin Expedition

A little light on in the number of different games played this week, but they were all great!  Well, almost.  They were fun though!

Downforce: Danger Circuit

First, off the ranks this week was the eagerly awaited Downforce: Danger Circuit.  This was one of my most anticipated expansions to play this year, and it didn’t disappoint.

On the surface, Danger Circuit is just more Downforce.  2 new tracks and 6 new team powers – that’s it.  There rule additions are minimal, and it’s great!  It let everyone simply jump straight in and play, and that is part of what made it great.

Already in my head, I have a couple of Grand Prix style events that can happen over the four tracks.  Four games of Downforce, maybe an hour and a half-two hours?  I am sure more expansions will be coming in the future as well, and I can’t wait to play them either.

Downforce Danger Circuit Gameplay
A couple of loops added to the gameplay - especially when SOMEONE tried to cheat and not go through the loop!

Get the MacGuffin

The MacGuffin is old Hitchcock film speak for the thing everyone wants.  And this hand management/social deduction style game definitely keeps this idea going!

It took me a couple of games to get into Get the MacGuffin.  It presents as Fluxx light, and I kept waiting for the other rules to drop.

Playing with three players was fun, and the games are definitely quick.  I think the sweet spot maybe 4-5 players, but Alpal quite enjoys it two players and isn’t big into card counting.  There will be more talk of this in the future.

Get the MacGuffin Components
You have some cards, and you do what they say. Just make sure you read ALL of the text!

Expedition: The Role Playing Card Game

Expedition: The Role Playing Card Game is a bit of a sleeper surprise for me.  I bought it out of curiosity and a desire for free shipping (it bumped me over the threshold!) thinking I could look at it and incorporate into an upcoming video.

Well, I will be, and it’s exactly what it says on the box – it’s a quick and easy role play system that will have you on a quest inside of a couple of minutes.

All of the components are the building blocks of an adventure.  The quests/missions you go on are all controlled in a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style manner via an app, and it works incredibly well.

Expedition Card Game Components
It looks daunting, but the Expedition system is incredibly quick to play and very replayable

Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger

Speaking of Choose Your Own Adventure, we jumped into the second chapter in House of Danger after a bit of a break.

Waiting three weeks between games may have been a bit long, but exploring the house was a fun affair.  We didn’t even notice the two hours fly by!

Things are starting to fall into place as we play, with some rules and options becoming clear.  The games writing and our own observations (read taking things not at all seriously) is more fun than I thought it would be.  We ‘died’ early on in an absolutely amazing and ridiculous manner early on, and it was great 😀

Definitely worth checking out, and will be played again soon.  Can’t wait to finish this one either 🙂

Choose Your Own Adventure House of Danger Components
House of Danger Game Components. I didn't want to show my spoiled open copy :p

Video Game wise, it was Octpath Carnage?  Time Traveler is too easy

Time Carnage Switch

So a lot of Switch games (and Video Games in general) are starting to be released.  I was interested in Time Carnage because of my experiences with the game in VR, and gameplay wise it’s kinda close.

This is not a game I will be coming back to on the Switch, because I have the VR version on PlayStation and PC.  If it goes on sale or you are looking for a co-op rail shooter, maybe give it a try?

Read my Time Carnage review here, and my Switch comparison here.

Time Carnage Switch Better Visuals
A strange positive is the Switch graphics are much clearer than both the Vive and PSVR versions

Octopath Traveler

Yeah, I am going to be playing this for a long time.  It’s great, and I am loving it.

I have completed the first chapter for each of the eight characters and spent a lot of hours completing Therion’s (my main character)  Chapter 2.

Now, I have a lot of grinding ahead of me.  Chapter 2 recommends most characters are around the mid-20’s in term of levels, and I have a three characters in the 10-12 range.

I have discovered unlocking a second job class which has already opened up a lot of options for me, so I also have to go back to a lot of areas already completed and try for some more secrets as well!

Octopath Traveler Shrine of the Prince of Thieves
The Shrine of the Prince of Thieves - once found, you can unlock Thief as a second job on your characters!

So that’s what I have been playing – what about you?  Let us know on the Facebook page!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last weeks gaming 10/09/2018

Hostage Negotiator Box Art

Board Gaming wise, it was Escape the Dark Express Negotiator with Dragons.

Last week’s games article has fallen victim to the IT gremlins, but it’s not going to stop me talking about them here!

Downforce

I have gotten to play a bit of Downforce lately.  Partly because of bigger game groups, partly excitement at the (due to arrive today!) expansion Danger Circuit.

This was one of my first Restoration Games experiences, and it lives up to their guidelines of ‘Make Games Great’ and ‘Do Good Works’.

Downforce is a car racing game that has everyone in the running to win, making it a fun and quick game to play and teach, with different mechanics available to help streamline play.

Watch out for a review of Downforce soon 🙂

Downforce Danger Circuit Board

Colt Express

Remember those old heist movies?  Why remember them, when you can play them!

Colt Express is a simple but surprisingly deep program action game for up to 6 players.  Each player has a character with a special ability, and everyone is trying to rob the same train at the same time!

The goal is simple, end up with more loot than everyone else.  But watch out for that Sheriff, he will make your life hard.  Now I have a group familiar with the base game, a review will be coming after the expansions have had a play as well.

Colt Express Begins
Want to teach a fun action programming game? Colt Express will work for you! **Promotional mat not included. Blame Alpal for that awesome 🙂

Hostage Negotiator

When you want something a little heavy but solo, Hostage Negotiator is a great choice.  I have spoken about the app before, but I have big plans for the site and this game.

This week was just for me though, and Connor E. Ogden managed to beat me 3 out of 4.

My only real issue with Hostage Negotiator is the space required to play it. At home, it’s a great escape that tests your logic and pushes your luck.  Get ready for more on this game in the near future 🙂

Hostage Negotiator Abductor Pack 1 Connor
The expansions are the size of a TCG Booster Pack, but change the game immensly

Escape the Dark Castle

When I am working on a PC for more than 12 hours a day, coming home to a video game or screen sometimes doesn’t cut it.  I might want to play a game, but the thought of even sitting on the PS4 or the Switch shows me another screen, or needs more brain than I want to invest.

As reviewed and played on the site before, Escape the Dark Castle is a great solo or multiplayer escape game.  With setup being only shuffling some cards, I spent a good couple of hours trying to get through the final boss with only 2 characters (solo is just impossible!).

Still a challenge and a heap of fun, Escape the Dark Castle is still on the quick access shelf.

Escape the Dark Castle Ready to play
The castle ready to play, with spare cards off to the left. Beware the Tailor and the Cook!

Dragons Breath

Dragon’s Breath was a quick game Alpal showed me, and it’s a heap of fun.

As we discussed in the HABA Blatherings, HABA has a history of quick simple fun for everyone.  Classifying them as ‘Kid’s Games’ can be dangerous, as there are a lot of things aimed at younger children that I have no patience for.

HABA seems to find that magical sweet spot where a game is designed for young kids, but adults have just as much fun playing the games as well!

Dragon's Breath
Another great HABA game. Dragon's Breath is quick, simple, and most of all fun

Destiny 2 Forsaken

I ran around, shot some things, collected some things, in short – I played Destiny.

With the Forsaken release last week, jumping in to see the changes was always on the cards.

Destiny 2 has me in a weird place now.  If you like games like Call of Duty or Battlefield, it’s now probably more for you.  But for me and other ‘casuals’, the Forsaken moniker seemed to be well named.

Check out my Forsaken review here.

Destiny 2 Forsaken Riding with Cayde
A dream come true - but not for long.

Octopath Traveler

Just starting the second round of Chapters for my party, Octopath Traveler is a game I will be picking up and putting down for the foreseeable future.

I think I am starting to hit the ‘grind’ of the RPG, but I still want to make sure.  I think my primary party is starting to form, but another 10 or so hours will test this.

If you have a Switch and enjoy old-school turn-based RPGs, do yourself a favour and just grab the Octopath Traveler demo from the eShop.  If you fall in love with the game, the progress you made transfers to the full game – it’s well worth your time.

Octopath Traveler Sample Screen
Is it a beautiful example of where the 2.5D graphics could have gone? Is it pandering to the retro fanbase? Yes to both, and it's amazing for it

So that was my week – what have you been playing?  Let me know on Facebook or Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD