Human Punishment expansion Project: Hell Gate Live on Kickstarter

Human Punishment Project Hell Gate Cover Art

Why do I hear ‘Ugh, another Social Deduction game?’ 10 times more than ‘Really? Another Euro?’

Social deduction games are a bit of a mixed bag.  It is also a term that is in my opinion overused to describe a lot of games.

To me, a social deduction game is when you are trying to divine a players team or role.  Games like Werewolf (Ultimate or One Night) or The Resistance are good examples of this.

Games like Mysterium are not Social Deduction to me.  Everyone knows each others role.  Yes, there is deduction involved, but it’s not the same as playing a role and having others try and work out what you are doing.

It’s like when people say The Simpson’s is for kids because it’s animated – look deeper and you will see something different to what you originally assumed.

This puts Social Deduction games in a bit of a weird position.  While many share similarities in play just as Werewolf and The Resistance, there are many that have their own unique twists to the genre such as Good Cop, Bad Cop and Bang!.

It surprises just how many people hear the words Social Deduction and just tune out to the actual game in front of them.  And I don’t mean just players in this criticism.

I have seen many reviewers wave off a game as ‘another social deduction game’ without even mentioning any of the unique features of those games.

But bite a player once – especially a new player – and that can destroy a genre for them.  It’s just human nature.

The Resistance Third Edition Cover Art
The Resistance earned its place in Social Deduction history - but there are other games as well!

A few years ago The Resistance was all the rage with my games group, and Avalon took hold because of the extra roles over the original.

After a while, I tried to introduce new rules with the Hidden Agenda and Hostile Intent expansions and was met with resistance (no pun intended).  Learning new rules to a game people already knew was ‘too hard’, but because Avalon looked like a different game learning the new rules was easier to accept.

People can just be like that – they have one learned opinion, and getting them to look at something differently without judging based on assumptions can be a blind spot.

Enter Human Punishment – Social Deduction 2.0

So in 2017 Godot Games launched a Kickstarter for a game called Human Punishment.  At the time, I didn’t look too closely for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I was on the edge of ‘coming back’ to Kickstarter after a bit of a hiatus.

Secondly, the basic gameplay resembled Good Cop, Bad Cop – a game I was having a lot of trouble getting to the table.  But it also included role elements of games like Bang! meaning you had multiple layers.

Human Punishment looked really interesting, and the art was amazing, but it wasn’t enough to push me over the edge for backing it.

A very quick (and oversimplified) synopsis is you are dealt an ID and 2 loyalty cards at the beginning of each game.  If you have more Human (blue) cards, you are a human player trying to wipe out the Machines and Outlaws.  If you have more Machine (red) cards, wipe out the humans.  If you are an Outlaw (grey), be the last player standing.

Each turn, you play a single action that will either give you information on another players loyalties or get you closer to picking up a weapon to help you eliminate another player.

You have to be careful about eliminating other players though.  You don’t know for certain what team anyone else is on, you only know that someone is going to eliminate you eventually!

Human Punishment Core Game
Human Punishment - at the time, I passed but it looked interesting. Image from Project Hell Gate Kickstarter Page.

I also love that unlike Werewolf, there is no moderator.  If you are eliminated, you will get a snapshot of the game state as everyone secretly tells you where their loyalties are.

So this went into the ‘keep an eye out for, but not this time’ Kickstarter pile, and that was that.  Or so I thought.

Project: Hell Gate, the expansion for Human Punishment is currently on Kickstarter, and I have been having a look.  On its own, the expansion adds new scenarios, roles and abilities – grounds for buying if you enjoy the base game.

But it also adds Boss fights – and from the looks of it, not just for the sake of it.  Thematically the situation has gotten dire for the human side, and in desperation, they activate an old weapon known only as Hell Gate.

They were losing, what did they have to lose?

As you can see from the video, quite the impression has been made on many players.  I already enjoy Good Cop, Bad Cop and I absolutely love Bang! the Dice Game, so a game that combines the best of both worlds – why wouldn’t I be in?

Multiple roles, changing game states, betrayal both intentional and incidental – these elements can make an amazing social night with the right group of players.

And that is another advantage of Human Punishment.  The minimum number of players you need is 4, with 5-6 being the opening sweet spot from all reports.

I know from experience that 5 players are a strange number for games nights.  It’s not quite enough to split into two groups, but not enough for bigger games.  I have games for this player count, but they tend to be filler or longer involved affairs – not always great for games night.

Yes, you can play The Resistance with 5 players, as well as a number of Social Deduction games.  But bottom line, most of these games do not start to shine without 8 to 10 people, so while they are options they aren’t high on my list.

Human Punishment Standard Base and Expansion
The Standard Edition Base game and Project Hell Gate Expansion. Image from Project Hell Gate Kickstarter Page.

So I have backed the core game and the Project: Hell Gate expansion, and I am looking forward to playing it myself later this year.

As usual, there is a catch.  There is a lot to weigh up if you should back Human Punishment.  If you are light on social deduction games, this looks like it will be a good fit for many groups.  The theme isn’t super original, but for this type of game that works in its favour – let your players build a story as they play.  You don’t have to ‘sell’ a world, almost everyone knows the Man vs Machine mythos.

There are a lot of roles and programs that will add complexity to the game, and if this is your first time running such a game you will want to ignore a lot of the extra items (like the fourth and fifth ‘factions’).

This extra functionality is partially why I haven’t gone into fine detail talking about this project.  The parts that truly attract me aren’t for first time players, but the base game is a very strong foundation to build on.  This means you will be able to play and keep adding elements to Human Punishment for many games to come.

If you are interested, The Rules Girl from The Dice Tower did a quick and concise 3-minute rules explanation for the original Kickstarter campaign:

While I think only certain types of people will back Human Punishment for whatever reason, I think the majority of people would enjoy playing it.

On that basis, if any of what I have described has piqued your interest then check out the Kickstarter Project and let me know what you think!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Onitama: Sensei’s Path Review

Onitama Sensei's Path Feature
Onitama Sensei's Path Feature
Released 2017
Designer Shimpei Sato
Publisher Arcane Wonders (Website)
Players 2
Playing Time 15-20 minutes
Category Abstract Strategy
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

‘No up-down.  Left-right.’  Yes, I have a ton of Miyagisms.

So a few days ago I wrote about my thoughts on Onitama.  In short – Onitama is a great and versatile two-player game that deserves to be on many gamers shelf.  Want a deep and versatile game with beautiful components for a low cost?  Onitama is definitely your game.

Onitama: Sensei’s Path simply adds to this.  16 new moves that offer more replayability is a great thing.

But it’s also all that Sensei’s Path offers – more moves.  Now, these moves offer much more variety than those in the base box.  A complaint on the base moves was the number of actions that affected more than the immediate ring of squares around you, and Sensei’s Path definitely addresses this.

You can really think of Sensei’s Path as the advanced moves add-on in a lot of ways?  The benefits of the base game are still here where all players can see the moves on the cards, but really that’s it.  For fans of Onitama, this is all you need, but it’s not an expansion you will need to buy immediately if you haven’t played the base game either.

Onitama Senseis Path Cards
Continuing the minimalist nature, Sense's Path adds 16 new moves that can be mixed into the base game. And with that, so many more options!

I have only one issue with Onitama: Sensei’s Path – the price.  This is going to sound strange but bear with me.

Sensei’s Path comes in a smaller version of the gorgeous box Onitama came in, but honestly, it only holds 16 cards.  That’s right – you get a box that uses more cardboard than its contents.  These cards instantly drop into the base box, so there is no reason for this box that I can see other than retail shelf space.

Now Onitima: Sensei’s Path is cheap for the replayability and variety it offers – below AUD$ 20 from many stores.  You can play as a choice of 16 new moves, but if you shuffle these moves in with the base game, that’s a lot of new possible combinations.

But I feel this could have been a $10 expansion if we weren’t paying for the box.  This has to be upping the price compared to a ‘normal’ CCG type foil pack that would have served just as well.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Destiny 2 Forsaken Review

Destiny 2 Forsaken Caydes passing

Forsaken? Maybe.  A lot of changes have come.

The last couple of weeks have seen a lot of changes for Destiny 2.  Cayde-6’s passing being the one we all knew was coming, but many other changes as well.

A few Call of Duty players I knew didn’t like Destiny because the player vs player (PvP) combat was ‘too slow’.  This is no longer the case.  A lot of explore everything type players didn’t like Destiny because there wasn’t a lot to do.  This is still the same, but it isn’t.

Forsaken

There was a bunch of story items leading into Forsaken and not just the trailer.  Oh, that trailer.  For Cayde fans, it was hard to watch – but watch we had to.

But that was far from the only way Bungie decided to play with our heartstrings.  August 28th, Bungie posted a news item that ended with Cayde’s final letter to his friends and fireteam.

That was enough for me, but if you read the entire news entry Bungie began dropping secrets again.  Simple cryptography this time, not like the elaborate Warmind promotional event.

Bungie was going all out with what was happening – and a lot of people were excited.

Destiny 2 Forsaken Caydes letter
There is more to this post - check it out on Bungie.net for some more secrets
Destiny 2 Forsaken Riding with Cayde
A dream come true - but not for long.

The idea behind Forsaken is that there is a jailbreak in the Prison of Elders, and you help Cayde-6 and Patra Venj.  Sounds like any other Destiny Mission right?

Except we know the ending.  Uldren Sov is going to kill Cayde-6.  So starting through the mission, excited thoughts of “I’m on Cayde’s fireteam!” quickly tarnished.

But it’s important to note that’s only because I like Cayde-6.  Nathan Fillion had injected his own cheekiness into the fairly 2-dimensional quest giver, and hearing his quips was a highlight of mirth during many repetitive missions.

And it’s here, about 2 minutes into the first Forsaken mission, that it started feeling wrong.

Cayde-6 is voiced for Forsaken by Nolan North, doing a Nathan Fillion impression.  And because you can hear Nathan’s Cayde during the game back to back with Nolan’s, it feels wrong.  Now, this is a nitpick, but it’s a point that kept pulling me in opposing directions during the game.

But the mission itself is standard fare, and is fairly enjoyable.  Playing with my primary hunter (that I put zero effort in trying to max out to the Solstice of Heroes 400 power level) it was a straightforward mission.

A few new enemy types seem to be in the mission, but it’s hard to know for certain.  It was a straightforward run, with moments of Cayde-6 popping in and out.

And then Petra Venj realises the truth, and the beginning of the end for Cayde begins.

Destiny 2 Forsaken Fireteam Complete
Your mission fireteam complete, into the Prison of Elders you go
Destiny 2 Forsaken Cayde Down
Making you the witness of the end tugs on the heartstrings. As long as you cared about Cayde - new players probably not so much.

You get there to late to help Cayde-6, but the story enemies are all on display.  The Scorn Barons, and Uldren Sov himself.  In terms of send-off, the cinematic cutscene of Cayde’s final stand is amazing.

It’s hard to describe, but seeing the realisation of overwhelming odds and acceptance that he is going to take as many with him as he can is amazing.  If you enjoy Destiny, this is the sort of scene that is right up there with Blizzard, and you should play it and watch it.

If you don’t play Destiny and want to see what I am talking about, IGN posted a YouTube video here.  Even not knowing the character, it’s still enjoyable but some subtleties may be lost.

Once all this is done, you take Cayde-6 back to the Traveller and witness his friends dealing with the news.

And here comes a spoiler, but I need to add it to demonstrate another small ‘off’ with Destiny 2 Forsaken.

You Speak.

It’s only a few words, but the silent guardian rule is broken.  The theory behind the silent protagonist is that it puts the player into the role more.  The words you are thinking/saying/screaming at the TV is what the Guardian is saying.

Breaking this rule lends weight to the scene, yes.  But at the end of Forsaken and the beginning of the end game, when this speaking would be more appropriate again, the silent protagonist rule is enforced again.

Looking back, here is where Destiny 2 as a solo story game starts to come unstuck for me.  Any game with rules and systems needs to stick to these rules and systems, but Forsaken has become something new and with exceptions.

For example, Cayde-6 is Dead.  New players (or characters) no longer have to speak to Cayde for story plots like unlocking patrols.  According to a Bungie post, they will unlock when you max out your character level +1.

So why is Cayde still speaking during missions?  Why not remove the audio files as well to keep the ‘Cayde’s gone’ consistent?

Destiny 2 Forsaken Main Missions Begin
The body of the story of Forsaken is you choosing your targets, giving an open world feel

And this is where for me, Destiny 2 is coming undone.  I really enjoyed playing through Forsaken story missions, but there was so much inconsistency between a world with Cayde, and a world without.

So I have a game that is fun to play, yet simultaneously feels off.  During it’s big ‘we fixed it’ reboot.

The endgame – The Dreaming City

Once you finish with the story, you start playing Destiny proper, same as always.  And Bungie have given players a huge area to explore, with many old school secrets to uncover and timings to work out.

And here’s the thing.  I don’t want to.  Not really.

Not because I don’t think it will be any good, the things I have heard and a couple of YouTube videos I have seen make it look amazing!

I don’t want to because of major changes to the upgrade, masterwork and light systems.

If you want to ‘masterwork’ your weapons and armour, you need to upgrade them in levels which use a bunch of resources, including masterwork cores.  To strengthen your equipment you need Glimmer, Legendary Shards, Masterwork Cores, and Planetary Resources.

Now on its own, this looks like a good way to reward running around the universe and not neglecting any areas.  What I am getting though is a resource farming exercise that will force me to play areas for a few hours a week to upgrade my weapons again, especially now I have hit the level 500 soft cap.

A key ingredient is also Masterwork cores, where the only way to get them at the moment is buying them from the Tangled Shore from The Spider.  Again sounds good, but each one you buy doubles the price, but the price resets each day.  So timed rewards are a big part of the integral play.

This is great for people with the time to log in each day, but players like myself that play maybe twice a week are about to be left far behind.

Even Xur has changed.  Each week, you could get a new Exotic (at a price) and a shot at a random as yet to be collected Exotic.  Not anymore apparently.

Destiny 2 Forsaken Xur
So much for casuals and non raiders having a chance for exotics

At the end of the day, it feels like Bungie has listened to the more hardcore player base that was not satisfied with the more casual friendly Destiny 2.

Strike and Iron Banner bounties must be in their respective armours, which you earn consistently by beating those game modes.  So you have to grind a play mode in order to get the rewards you need to get the rewards for the play mode.  Not everyone has the time to put into this, and the players that have played this from day one have a huge advantage in these modes.

This isn’t meant as a ‘poor me’, rather just how it feels. Take Gambit and the ‘Ace of Spades’ quest for example.  The first step is to shoot five invaders with a hand cannon – OK, straightforward.  When the other team comes over, be the player to kill them with a hand cannon.  Five times.  Grinding, but doable.

Except that the player level advantages in Gambit are on, meaning the higher level players have all their character and weapon advantages and bonuses.  On top of map familiarity and all the rest of the advantages that come from playing a game a number of times.  It’s true it doesn’t stop new players from putting in the effort, but how many times do you want to play a game that hits you in the head repeatedly for trying?

Too much of a grind for me

I have played one character solo for about 11-12 hours, doing some of the new bounties and the old flashpoint challenges, but mainly just Forsaken missions.  Two hours of that was also spent just trying to do one bounty mission that recommends level 540, and I just kept dying with no progress made.  I am now level 502, with my highest piece of equipment 505.  Out of 600.

Harls, on the other hand, has about 20 hours with his main character.  His best level equipment at the moment is 520, with strikes, raids, bounties and the dreaming city with some other clan members.  It also includes Gambit and other PvP play, which I am not interested in even trying with the weapon loadout changes.

Basically – if you are all in on PvP games with resource grinding conditions for new loot, Destiny 2 has bought you your game back.  And it has done it well – it’s just not for me.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

T.I.M.E. Stories and why it has dropped of my ‘must play’ list

Time Stories Box Art

How to take a sure-fire hit and do everything wrong

Near the end of January, I wrote a few lists to go with the start of the site.  Number 8 on my most anticipated expansions of 2018 were the T.I.M.E. Stories expansions.

Pay special notice to two words in that sentence – expansions and were.

As a series, I really enjoy the premise of T.I.M.E. Stories.  A gaming system with different adventure scenarios each expansion, the ability for narrative-driven deck exploration is limitless.

There is even the added benefit of an overarching narrative.  This was added mostly secretly a couple of scenarios ago, and I was really looking forward to seeing where Space Cowboys could be taking things.

But, there were issues.  I don’t mean the fact some scenarios were better than others.  This is just to be expected, especially when each scenario is essentially a different game.  I mean the general execution and apparent disinterest of Space Cowboys in general.

For starters, without trying to spoil things, there is a meta backstory of T.I.M.E. Stories has you making decisions on an external website.

This allows you to choose branches and see different story elements, with a story unfolding based on both gameplay decisions and on the spot choices.

In theory, this is simply amazing.  However, in execution, I was left wanting.  A lot.  Where this had become unlocked, I was slow in picking up the scenario.  And the site hadn’t been updated 6-8 weeks after the scenarios date to the scenario before.

Think of it like looking at the T.I.M.E. Stories homepage.  There are 2 more scenarios released with another announced, but the page shows none of this.

TIME Stories Scenarios 20180729
As of July 29, there are still two published scenarios missing from the Space Cowboys site

The other issue was the release schedule of the scenarios themselves.  To me, I would like to see scenarios released no more than eight weeks apart.  Partly, this is because I love the game and want more.  There is nothing unique about this – all fans want more.

But add the inclusion of an ongoing story behind the scenes, you need to be keeping to a stricter schedule.  You want players to be remembering the scenarios they have played, and be riding that “What’s Next?” wave.

The last official T.I.M.E. Stories expansion was Estrella Drive, and it was fun.  It released at the end of November 2017 in the US.  As is usually the case, I had to wait a bit longer here in Australia – February 2018 to be specific.

Wanting to keep with the story and having played the different scenarios with different people, I started organising three others to play the entire series from the start.  I was ecstatic – a new group that collectively had the spoiler of a deeper game happening.

So the call went out for players, with the idea of starting play with the next expansion was released in the US – the pirate-themed Brotherhood of the Coast.

TIME Stories Organiser
My game is ready. My players are ready. I am ready. Guess who isn't ready?

So remember I put out the call for a dedicated T.I.M.E. Stories team just over 2 months from when the last scenario was released.  Yes, it takes longer to arrive in Australia, but I figured as did many others that Brotherhood of the Coast was imminent.  Playing through each scenario maybe every two weeks, with some scenarios taking multiple sessions, ending up to date with the latest scenario seemed a no-brainer.

And here is the single fact that has killed almost all enthusiasm for T.I.M.E. Stories for me.

Brotherhood of the Coast will hopefully be released September or October this year.

Almost a year after the last scenario.  So much for the three expansions a year timeline – there will be one scenario released this year, with no official word of any following.

Now Space Cowboys isn’t the biggest of publishers.  They tend to make quality games, and ones I enjoy playing.  This lack of support for what could have been a genre-defining backbone of their catalogue has left a rather bad taste in my mouth though.

Now I will probably play through Brotherhood of the Coast.  It’s the pirate scenario – I really do want to play it.  But will I not be going out of my way to import it as I have many other scenarios.  I may not even start the entire series playthrough with the playgroup.

Fair or not the message from the publishers from early on has been a growing “We don’t care about this game”, and if they don’t care, why should players?

Yes, I will buy the next scenario.  But it will probably be my last.  Three years later, any good feelings and enthusiasm have been well and truly wasted by Space Cowboys on T.I.M.E. Stories.

Portal Games, on the other hand, has a history of caring about its community.  And I have recently received my pre-order copy of Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game.

Detective A Modern Crime Board Game
It's not the same type of game at all, but Detective has improved on the player experience that T.I.M.E. Stories promised straight from the get go

Now, on paper Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is not a T.I.M.E. Stories killer.  They aren’t really even the same concept.  There are two similarities though.

Firstly, it’s a cooperative game where all players work together in a common story that can change depending on the decisions made.  Secondly, there is a wider connecting backstory.

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game comes with five cases that I am likening to scenarios, and because I preordered I have a sixth case as well.  This means that I will be able to play everything ‘as is’, without having to wait to continue the story – if I am ready to continue, I simply can.  If I let so much time go between cases that I lose interest in playing, that’s on me.

Space Cowboys has let so much time go between scenarios, that lack of momentum in interest for the game is definitely on them.  Imagine your favourite television series, and having to wait months between episodes.  How much do you think you would enjoy a 12 episode series that takes 3 years to finish?

TIME Stories In Game
So simple and elegant, with such promise. But how long can just the promise keep you hooked?

T.I.M.E. Stories is a game that I enjoy playing, and will gladly sit with anyone that wants to play my copy or even lend it out.  But recommend it as a game three years later?  Not to buy.  A game that teases an intriguing metagame and just leaves you hanging?  Who honestly can recommend that as a good purchase to anyone.  I am sure there are plenty of people that will happily sell their copy cheap, or like myself let you play theirs at the very least.

And in regards to looking forward to the continuation of the series?  Nope.  Sorry Space Cowboys.  It’s a great experience (fluctuates between scenarios, but I am speaking generally).

The feeling I have is that Space Cowboys have created a textbook case on how to do everything you can to kill your own momentum and goodwill.

But that is all the bad news.  Next time, I will talk about my learning game of Detective: A Modern Crime Story, which has definitely taken the place of T.I.M.E. Stories in my playlist going forward.

Until then,

JohnHQLD

Fantasy Flight Games reveals Fallout: New California

Fallout Board Game New California Box Art

An interesting choice for expansion material

Fallout: The Board Game.  It had a lot of buzz, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it when it was first announced.  I have three plays of it now, and I will be getting it back to the table a few more times for a formal review.  Right now, my thoughts are if your a fan and like heavy solo games, go for it.  Fallout is not a terrible game, it’s just to me not a great game either.  The license and theme are definitely doing a lot of the sales work.

Things have been fairly quiet for about a year now about the board game.  And then Friday the 13th (Australian Time) on the Fantasy Flight Facebook page, an image familiar to Fallout fans appeared:

Fallout Board Game New California Please Stand By
The last time we saw this image, Fallout 76 was announced

Personally, I was hoping the announcement was for a Mansions of Madness/Imperial Assault type of app.  Fallout has a lot of bookkeeping, and play could be streamlined with such a tool.

What came to light over the weekend though was a new expansion is coming this year – Fallout: New California.

Now some new scenarios and characters are always a welcome addition to this sort of game.  Variety is the spice of life, and there is a good game in there – I am sure of it.  It’s one of the main reasons why I am determined to stick with the game and try to find as much game as possible in there.

But the expansion setting confused me a little.  While I admittedly haven’t finished Fallout 4, I only really remember New California being referred to in story on the odd occasion.

Fallout Board Game New California Box Art
The Fallout: New California Expansion. An Official Expansion for an unofficial mod?

The big bit of news Video Game wise about New California is that a long-awaited fan-made mod for Fallout: New Vegas has been in the works.  Set as a prequel to Fallout: New Vegas, the New California mod has been years in the making, and has a release date of October this year.

There was recently a trailer for the mod with the release date, shown below:

Now while this is a huge mod and the culmination of years of dedicated work, it’s not exactly a ‘canon’ update either.

This makes the Fallout: New California Board Game an interesting choice.  On one hand, you have an established IP with set events and characters that fans know.  On the other, there is an unexplored lore acknowledged area of the country that is open for creative interpretation.

The featured Vault 44 is even a new area lore wise – from memory there is no mention of Vault 44 in the pre-existing narrative, so hopefully again some creative freedom is being explored here!

Fallout Board Game New California Components
A way to add variety is almost always welcome!

While the expansion comes with only two new scenarios, with new characters and creatures there will be a lot of variety in the original games too.  This is always something to look forward to.

But honestly, one thing that pulls me out of the Fallout game is the micromanagement of the world itself.  Fantasy Flight, if you could maybe think of supporting the Fallout with an app, I think you will have a better sales uptake than with this expansion.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Fallout Board Game New California Minis
New characters incoming. Even just this addition is a welcome one!

Destiny 2’s new expansion is Forsaken, hopefully it’s anything but

Destiny 2 Forsaken Feature

Todays reveal leaves me with hope for Forsaken

There have been a lot of negative articles about Destiny 2.  Like my own pieces, these have been largely opinion based, as anyone’s take on anything creative truly is.  I do think it would be fair to say though that Destiny 2 has been struggling with content and updates for a while now, and many waited for changes and fixes just haven’t been coming fast enough.

The Warmind expansion that recently came out gave me new things to aim for, and a lot of what I hoped on release has been done.  The Escalation Protocols are brutally difficult without preplanning or lucking into a max powered fireteam, but that just gives me something to strive towards.

The changes to the Heroic Strikes have made these more difficult for me than the Raids.  It feels strange to have a relaxing run in a Nightfall rather than the Heroic Strikes, but there it is.  It definitely changed up the system which is what was needed – just because I need to readjust doesn’t make it bad.

But this morning, the trailer for the new (and I am guessing final) year of Destiny 2 was revealed.  And wow.  Where Warmind had me interested and looking forward to narrative changes and something new, Forsaken has me genuinely excited – new game excited.

Check out what I am talking about below:

So I have some red flags.  “This is the game the community has been asking for.”  Heard this before, but usually as a half measure or leading to something consolation step.

In the video, the definitive comments that Bungie has specifically NOT been making are front and centre.  “All of the feedback we’ve heard for the last year is… This is it.  It’s in Forsaken.”

This is not something Bungie can spin after the fact if Forsaken fails – this is the culmination of the past years “Trust Us” messages, and they will be held to it.

And it really looks like they will pull it off.

The video does a great job of outlining everything, but some of the things I am looking forward to or just have thoughts on are included below.

Of course, Cayde-6 has been up to something

So the basic story premise goes back to the original Destiny House of Wolves content.  There was an arena called the Prison of Elders, a cooperative run where players ran a gauntlet of enemies.  I didn’t play House of Wolves, so I am very sketchy on the story impact, but I know it was a thing.  I am assuming storywise it was left neglected, because of the reveal this morning.

For Forsaken, Cayde-6 has been filling the Prison of Elders with enemies.  I’m not sure why he didn’t just kill them, but also it’s Cayde-6.  All seems to have been going well, but of course, things hit critical mass and now there is a jailbreak to contend with.  Once the bad guys are free, they inhabit The Reef in a new area called the Tangled Cove.

This leads you to track down seven Fallen ‘Barons’ or faction leaders around The Reef.  I am hoping this will reveal information on the Awoken Queen, but we will see.

Information that has been revealed is each Baron is a unique type of boss fight, similar to the Metal Gear bosses in a lot of ways.  Revealed bosses include Melee battles and Sniper fights, where you fight the enemy ‘their way’ to prove who is the bigger badass.

This does force you to maybe play a way you don’t really enjoy, but being story related I would assume this is just exposing you to different styles of play and not over the top difficult.

Destiny 2 Forsaken Melee Baron
Me, if I was fighting a 10+ foot, multi-armed, super buff alien gladiator, I would shoot him in the face with a fusion gun and sleep well that night.

Can’t decide if Destiny 1 or Destiny 2 weapon systems were better?  Now you can choose!

When you had an item drop in Destiny, especially weapons, you were never completely sure of what the stats would be.  This would always be within set ranges, but for example, you may get a Positive Outlook with better range or one that reloads just that little bit faster.

The mods also worked differently.  You would unlock mods for your weapons in Destiny, usually by killing lots of enemies.  This was taken away in Destiny 2, with the exception of higher tier weapons where you can switch between a couple of choices.

Being able to grind for a weapon with the stats that suit me, then being rewarded for sticking with that weapon?  I can’t wait.  But if you want to play ‘Destiny 2’ style where you just stick with the default loadout, you can do that too.

Destiny 2 Forsaken New Weapons Systems
It could just be a developer debug set of stats, but that power level! So much grinding to come, and a reason to do it

Also coming with Forsaken is the ability to equip a lot of weapons where you choose to equip them.  Are you like me, where you largely play kinetic weapons but wish you could equip a rocket launcher and a shotgun?  Well, now we can!

There is also a whole new group of weapons that I can’t wait to get a hold of – the Bow and Arrow.  Yep, old school is still the best school, and I can’t wait.  Games like Horizon Zero Dawn make me miss archery, and being able to whip out a ‘future bow’ and start dropping enemies will just feel amazing 🙂

And of course, new Supers.  Who can object to new skills?

Destiny 2 Forsaken New Bow Weapons
I enjoy archery. This won't be the same as getting on the field, but I can see a whole new class of stealth crucible players emerging.
Destiny 2 Forsaken Fire Knives Super
Ever wish the Gunslingers throwing knives had more oomph? How about a Fire Knives Super!

The Season Pass is no more.  Welcome the Annual Pass?

So pricing is set at AUD$59.95 for the Forsaken Expansion, or you buy Forsaken with the ANNUAL pass for AUD$99.95.

Huh.  Well, that’s a thing.

I am not 100{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c} sure on this pricing.  Compared to the Season Pass and past expansions, the price points is definitely there.  To get effectively four premium expansions for $100 is great, but I don’t know if I want to keep playing Destiny 2 after this.

It sounds like everything is coming together, and Destiny 2 will effectively become a different game.  Bungie is doing there best to make sure I put aside a couple of hours a night to playing, rather than the night and a bit I currently put aside.  And with the new grinds, it might be worth it, it really might.

But given all the bad press and backlash, to be asking players to return because it will be alright now if you give us $100 is a lot to ask.  But you do get a lot for the money.  It’s a tricky one.

Destiny 2 Forsaken Annual Pass Expansions
Not sure on this move. Will the changes be as advertised and enough?
Destiny 2 Forsaken Annual Pass
There are enough incentives, but are the incentives worth it? That's the question

I have heard a bit of talk that Forsaken should be free to get customers back, then charge as normal.  I don’t think this is right either.  Once Bungie sets a precedent for free premium expansions, the cry when the next charged one comes along will be ‘but you didn’t charge for the last one’.

I can all but guarantee I will be buying Forsaken.  I can’t guarantee I will be playing Destiny 2 all the way to September though, but even if that happens, I will be back for Forsaken.

But for the new content, I think I will bite the bullet and just pay the higher costs later and see what the changes are like first.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

More Monikers! And a Big Box!

Monikers Box

So instead of 3-4 little boxes, I can carry 1 huge Monikers box!

Monikers is a game that really doesn’t like to be explained.  Based on the game Celebrities, you try and get your team to say the word on your card.  Simple, yes?

Well, you play Monikers over three rounds, and each round the rules change.  In the first round, you can say anything but the keyword on the card.  Then, you can only say one word.  Finally, it’s charades.

And that’s it!  That’s the game!  Still don’t get it?  I was going to explain the rules with card examples, but this is where I tend to lose people.  So instead, I am going to point you to the free print and play version and show the guys from Polygon playing a game of Monikers themselves!

One advantage to Monikers for me over most of these types of party games is simply the explanation of the keyword or phrase on every card.

It sounds so simple, but the amount of ‘Celebrities’ my friends talk about that I have no idea about (and vice versa) is frustrating.  This way, there is no pulling someone that now can’t play while they explain who the person is, or redrawing until I find someone I know/want to do – it’s all there for you.

Monikers Sample Heisenberg
"Say my name! No, really, we need the points, say my name!"

Now, you can just play Monikers in first round mode, and see which team can get the higher score.  I have played this way a few times, and it works.

But this round being the seed for later rounds is great.  Monikers for me starts on the second round, where you can only say one word.  And the ‘fourth round‘ rules are all hilarious 🙂

Monikers is a game you can tailor to almost any situation, and works fine with drop in and drop out play.  This makes Monikers an automatic pack for any party game night I may be going to.

But now on Kickstarter, the newest expansion is coming!  440 new words, and a box to put everything in.  The original box was great for transporting because it was the exact size it needed to be for the cards, but with the expansions, transport is getting trickier.

If you haven’t played Monikers before, give it a whirl with the print and play above.  The expansions, especially the fourth round expansions for the more adventurous players, add longevity to the game as it takes longer to recycle cards, but none of these are required.

If you want to get Monikers from scratch, the $50 tier of the base game + More Monikers would be the go, or even grab the base game from Amazon and order expansions as a part of the Kickstarter.

The huge number of tiers is purely for the number of choices available – you really can’t make a wrong choice at any tier.

Check out the Kickstarter page here, and the Board Game Geek page for the original game here.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Escape the Dark Castle is expanding on Kickstarter

Escape the Dark Castle Adventure Packs

New challenges await in the Dark Castle

So, I love Escape the Dark Castle.  That’s not a secret.  You can read my review here, or even better listen to myself and Alpal have a game on the Blatherings.

This amazingly fun and simple deck adventure does suffer what all deck adventures eventually suffer from – seeing all the cards.  Because of the random nature of Escape the Dark Castle, I never really thought of this as a huge negative, but you can’t deny it’s a factor.

So my eyes turned towards Themeborne’s website, specifically at Adventure Pack 1: Cult of the Death Knight.

Only one new boss, the Death Knight, so a little more variety in the mix.  But also new characters, new chapters, and new items.

The last especially had my interest, as Curses have been added to the mix.  Essentially ‘bad items’, it adds an extra layer to the gameplay.  Also in the mix is a new Cultist die, so another possibly mechanic is being added again.

Escape The Dark Castle Cult of the Death Knight Contents
New characters, a new boss, new 'bad' items - what could possibly go wrong?

All of this was opening the door to new gameplay possibilities, but to be honest I still haven’t really finished with the original box.  Yes, I have fought all three bosses now, and I am pretty sure I have seen all the chapter cards, but each game still feels fresh and fun.

So, I was wavering a bit on buying the expansion set now.  Exchange rates with the British Pound and Australian Dollars isn’t great, and I feel I still had more than a few games left in the original box.

Then I saw a new Kickstarter pop up.

Two new Adventure Packs are up now on Kickstarter, as well as the original games and a collectors box to keep everything in!

Scourge of the Undead Queen and Blight of the Plague Lord are the two packs, and add things in a similar vein to the original Adventure Pack.

Each has new characters, chapters, items and a boss card.  Each also has a unique special die for adventuring.  The Undead Queen adds an Item die used with relics, and the Plague Lord has a Plague die.  I think we can all imagine what that does.

Escape the Dark Castle Adventure Packs
Two new Adventure Packs are now being Kickstarted, and you have the chance to get the whole set including the base game or pick and mix!
Escape The Dark Castle Collectors Box
The semi secret expansion - The Collectors Box *Not final design

There is also a third sneaky expansion though – the Collectors Box itself.  This box not only keeps all of your game contents organised and sorted but contains fan made materials as well!

These include SIX new bosses, special abilities, two new starting locations, health trackers, an icon chart, and a ‘first player’ or ‘You’ card.  Also included are two ‘Epilogue’ cards, so the story will always have a narrative close.

All of these things sound great.  I already use an active player token and a health tracker board, but the extra start locations are a great idea!

There are also a number of different pledge levels and add-ons for all everybody that is interested in playing.  These include the all in top-level pledge of everything game related, down to the basic add-on manager access pledge.

Myself, I have the retail Escape the Dark Castle, so I am adding on the Kickstarter Exclusives and the first Adventure Pack, and backing the Level 5 Early Bird Giving me all the new stuff!

Speaking of Add-Ons, there are a lot.  Playmats, ambient music, sleeves, even stories – there is a heap to choose from!

So if you have ever been interested in anything Escape the Dark Castle related, head over to the Kickstarter page now and check it out.  Back before June 3rd for Early Bird Pledges!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Solo: A Remastered Yakuza 5 Minute Dungeon.

Solo A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens tomorrow!

I have grown up on the Star Wars movies.  I was only 2 when Episode IV came out, but I remember being taken to see Return of the Jedi at the drive in.

The latest ‘episode’ Star Wars movies haven’t been bad, but I haven’t enjoyed them as much as I probably could.  There is the chance for new stories to be told, but they keep sticking to the ‘original’ themes as an over homage.  Well, that’s my one line opinion anyway.  Like an onion or Shrek, there are many layers to all this, and I won’t skip any new ones.

But it is having a bit of an effect on me this week.  Solo: A Star Wars story opens tomorrow here in Australia (well midnight tonight if you really can’t wait) but I can’t get excited about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am going to watch this movie.  Rouge One was the best ‘new’ Star Wars film yet, and Han Solo and Chewbacca are my favourite partnered characters in the universe.  Well, in the old extended universe anyway.  Solo will let me know how much of that old backstory has changed, so I don’t know if the same elements I love (loved?) are still there.

I can’t even say it’s the prospect of the story changing that is stopping me from being excited.  When Disney announced the extended universe was null and void, yes I was initially upset because all the lore I had learned and enjoyed over the years just got snapped out of existence.  (Foreboding puns anyone?)  But just as I was initially upset, I was also excited.  I understood this was a move Disney simply had to take, or their creative options amounted to none at all.

So I will try and make sometime this weekend, maybe the next, to sit and watch Solo and try to avoid as many spoilers as possible.

Until then, I leave you with possibly my favourite Solo trailer and new craze that seems to be hitting YouTube lately – Solo: The Lego Version.

Well Yakuza is getting the remastered treatment now!

Yakuza (or Ryū ga Gotoku in Japan) is a series I know of but chose to let slip me by in the gaming world.  A lot of people I know we’re thinking the same thing and was probably a big reason why I didn’t jump in wholeheartedly.

With storytelling similar to the Yakuza films popular in Japan (think of Yakuza films as a genre, they are crazy popular in Japan) all the ingredients for things I like about video games are there.  Character development, straightforward story progression with the ability to just stop and explore many sub-branches, strange quirky jokes – Yakuza had it all on the PlayStation 2.  Except my full attention.

With the release of Yakuza 0 on PlayStation 4 last year, and Yakuza 6 this year, the series has gotten a lot of attention again over here.  Yakuza 0 was a great move for new audiences, as it is a prequel so no prior knowledge was required.  This allowed Yakuza 0 to act as an introduction to the world of Yakuza, and what an intro it is.

Well, that all proved so popular, Famitsu is reporting remasters of entries 3, 4 and 5 are coming and in pretty quick succession in Japan, with the Yakuza 3 remaster releasing August 8th, 2018!

Yakuza 3 Remaster
Yakuza 3 - out in Japan August 8th. No word on International yet though.

Yakuza 4 is set to release about three months later, and Yakuza 5 in 2019.  Well, released in Japan anyway – no word on international releases, but fingers crossed!

Some gameplay from Yakuza 6 can be seen below to give you idea on what to expect if you haven’t seen the games before.

A second chance at a Kickstarter I missed

Way back in 2016, I was having a break from Kickstarter for a few different reasons.  One of those “Awww that looked fun” gems was 5-Minute Dungeon.  If I was to try and describe 5-Minute Dungeon, it would be ‘cooperative chaos.  Think of a mix between Galaxy Trucker and Magic Maze?  It’s not quite right but gives you an idea if you know those games.

I say those games aren’t quite right, because you are dealing with mostly randomised dungeon decks and matching cards to play rather than coordinating on a set known board.  What does hold true is the game is won or lost in five real-time minutes.  There is no sitting and debating for ages in this game – card comes out, react now or lose.  The how to play video from the creator may give you more of an idea.

Fair warning though – this game appeals to my sense of humour, so plenty of terrible dad type jokes await all that play 😀

Over on Kickstarter, there is a short (14 day) campaign for the sequel – Curses: Foiled Again!

I am loving this because a) it was popular enough for an expansion and b) I can buy the base game again!  Finding it at retail has been a bit of a joke over here.

Check out the campaign here.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

JohnHQLD

Release the Kickstarter!

Dead Men Tell No Tales The Kraken

A new Kickstarter project has crossed my path, and I have mixed feelings about it.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is a game from Kane Klenko, designer of some of my favourite little games of late like Fuse and Flipships. Dead Men is a cooperative game for up to five players where you search burning ships for treasure as well as battle sailors and others that would rather you didn’t make it off the ship. The mechanics are generally familiar, with each player having some actions they can perform and a certain number of action points to spend each turn.

There are a couple of twists to it though. The first is you build the ships as you play kind of like Betrayal at House on the Hill. The second is something Pandemic players would love – you can give your unused action points to another player.

The play is interesting, but it’s not a game I have tried to get a whole lot of people to play yet, but this might change.

The new project is the expansion – Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Kraken.

The Kraken is almost funded with 22 days to go and adds the titular Kraken as both a timing mechanic (it’s trying to pull the boat down) and a victory condition as you will have to defeat it. It does sound interesting. Also included in the project are miniatures that you can buy for the original and the expansion. I don’t think this is a game that screamed for minis, but it’s a nice touch.

It’s hard to be too excited for an expansion to a game that keeps getting pushed down the ‘bring this to games night tonight’ list. It is a solid choice if you enjoyed the original game, or want to deluxify the original by adding the minis!

Check out the Kickstarter project here.

Dead Men Tell No Tales The Kraken
Dead Men Tell No Tales... of THE KRAKEN!
Dead Men Tell No Tales The Kraken Gameplay
This game does take more table space than you think
Dead Men Tell No Tales The Kraken Painted Kraken
Really, the Kraken is misunderstood. It just wants a hug!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD