Draconic Dice Crypt Preview

Sometimes you want something in front of you that screams ‘Bring it On!’

I know I have been a bit quiet on the Kickstarter front recently. Partly, this has been because of time and not backing at my usual pace. It has been because all the big projects are getting plenty of press.

Joel from PrintableNerdGear.com got in touch with me recently about his new project. It won’t be for everyone, but for the creative hands-on player, this is a project that has fantastic potential.

Introducing the Draconic Dice Crypt.

If you use this, you are declaring the world yours before you begin

Need no further information? Check out PrintableNerdGear.com and the Kickstarter project here.

Wow, what is that? Wait – it’s a dice-box?

On the surface – yep. You can store your die and miniature in this table talking piece. Oh, and drinks while you are playing. But can you imagine the look on your players’ faces as you set this on the table?

“We have to face what? What is that? Can I cast a spell yet?” The questions come at you fast and quickly as they frantically try and brace for some upcoming boss battle.

“What? This? It’s just my dice box. No big deal.” You say as you continue nonchalantly setting up. Or imagine your new gaming groups faces as you pull out your ‘kit’.

Or maybe you are a Magic: The Gathering player? There will be options to make the Draconic Dice Crypt usable in Magic as well.

Any way you use it, the Draconic Dice Crypt will undoubtedly command attention on the table, and deservedly so.

Looking into the open Crypt. That's right - that's the inside you can see!

But it’s a dice-box. So it’s just a box that holds my dice? What makes it so unique?

Well, apart from the look, the Draconic Dice Crypt is more than an ordinary dice box. There are several sections that you can choose to use for more dice storage, miniature protection, even (if a stretch goal is unlocked) a dice tower that comes from the middle and twists together.

This isn’t just a dice box. To think of it that way is to assume a Ferrari is just a car. What is for sale is an amazingly well-designed game storage system that will be uniquely yours.

There are a lot of storage systems that promise ‘unique’ options for each customer, but you pick from a handful of predefined choices. The Draconic Dice Crypt looks to live up to the promise though. How? Well, it’s a massive model you will need to make yourself. 

Make it yourself?

Just in the same way each mini you paint is yours, the same applies to the Draconic Dice Crypt. It’s more than paint scheme though. You will make the Crypt yourself with a 3D printer. So you can choose your materials and create it all from scratch!

So what am I making?

The body itself quite roomy, and the design includes holes for rare earth magnets (easily buyable from Amazon or the like) to keep the lid secured.

The Draconic Dice Crypt then has four main parts – Lid, Top Insert, Bottom Insert and Bottom Dice Tray insert. Each section will have multiple designs that are going to unlocked during the Kickstarter campaign.

When you back the project, you will be able to print the sections you want as you will receive the files for all unlocked designs. If you wanted to make a few different Draconic Dice Crypts you can whenever you want!

I know I am talking around the Crypt itself, but because it will be personal to you it’s hard to describe why I find it so amazing. Check out the promotional Kickstarter video to see the Crypt in action – images speak louder than words!

It's a couple of days from Live, but look at the insert for the top!

It looks amazing! How much is it?

For Kickstarter backers, the Draconic Dice Crypt will be USD$15. Post the campaign, the cost will be USD$30 and will not have all the same designs, so this is a fantastic deal!

When you look at the project, you will also see a USD$350 option. Before you jam that back now button though, be advised this is for a Commercial license of the Dice Crypt. Only people that will be making these and selling them will need to look at this option; most people will only need the $15 tier for their prints.

So what do I need to make the Draconic Dice Crypt?

Only a 3D printer and patience. Probably best with a mid-tier printer though, you will need one that can take a moderately large print job. My old UP! Mini wouldn’t cut it in one print for example.

The main issue is the size of the body print. You will need a printer that can comfortably print a 7″ x 7″ x 5.1″ (180mm x 180mm x 130mm) print job. This isn’t an issue for the more upscale home printers (e.g. the UP!300), but the sub AUD$1,000 printers probably won’t cut it in one go.

That’s not to say that you can’t make it though – you will need to print the base in multiple parts and glue it together.

Then, of course, to complete the look you will need to paint your creation! Once the project is over, Printable Nerd Gear will be showing off some projects submitted by customers with the #PrintableNerdGear tag. I can’t wait to see what people make of this. I love what people can do already with minis, and this can lead to work of beauty!

That sounds like a lot of work!

Yes, it does. And it won’t be easy on materials either. Joel said that he used about 530 grams of plastic just for the body. Hence my earlier comment about this project not being for everyone.

If you would like someone to make it for you, there are options. I completely forgot to ask Joel about sending the personal file off to a 3D printing service. Still, I would assume this would be within the personal license (especially with a reputable 3D printing service), but I will be asking the question to make sure.

There is also the option of asking backers with Commercial licenses (general questions on the project) for contact details. People that buy this license will be looking for customers so that you could order the build. The cost would cover time and materials, of course, but it would still be a lot cheaper than buying a 3D Printer!

It's a couple of days from Live, but look at the insert for the top!

Will you be backing this?

Probably? It’s an amazing project. My 3D printer is out of action, but that’s not a major hurdle for me.

Full disclosure, I was offered a copy of the unlocked files. I declined because this is the type of project that I love to share, and would have written about in any case.

I honestly want one of these crypts, but I haven’t printed (or painted!) anything in a few years. I am already time-poor, but even if I didn’t use it for games, it would be a fantastic display piece.

For the cost, I think backing the Draconic Dice Crypt will be worth it. Half the final price, all of the options, and I can look into printing and painting when I am ready.

When does the Kickstarter happen?

When else would you start a project based on killing a dragon to hold your dice? HALLOWEEN! 6 pm Eastern for our US friends to be exact. About 10 am on 1/11/2019 AEST, or 9 am for those of us without daylight savings.

You don’t have to wait to check it all out though. You can go to PrintableNerdGear.com and check it all out (and sign up for notification emails), go to the Kickstarter project here.

Have a great week!

JohnHQLD.
This is something awesome to behold. Make sure to check out the Kickstarter!

Ultra-Tiny Epic Galaxies live on Kickstarter

Introducing Ultra-Tiny Epic Galaxies – because Tiny Epic Galaxies is just too big!

My last ‘Oh OK why not’ pledge Kickstarter for August is Ultra-Tiny Epic Galaxies from Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games.

The Tiny Epic series has a lot of hits and misses depending on who you ask. Tiny Epic Galaxies is my favourite to date, but I still need to play some of them so that may not be entirely true.

One aspect I like about the series is most of them can be played either solo, cooperatively or competitively. For a lot of gamers, this can be a negative as a project that tries to be everything to everyone rarely succeeds. That has certainly been the case for some of the series.

For me, I enjoy that I can play a solo game or five and get a feel for the game, without having to play as extra players. It’s also fun playing a solo game and having it turn into a multiplayer expeirence.

Tiny Epic Galaxies has been a lot of fun on a few business trips. I have been able to play a solo game in the lounge, and switch to a ‘full’ game as people came to see what I was doing.

Anyone that knows the game already knows everything happening here

The Beyond the Black expansion became a hindrance to this though. Gamelyn Games has the theory that Beyond the Black is a standalone game and deserves its box. It also comes with a sleeve to keep the two games together.

The two games combined create a reasonably solid brick that isn’t as easy to travel with. Sure, in a suitcase it would be easy to pack around, but in a backpack full of other stuff? Not so much.

Because of this I haven’t been carrying it or playing it as much as I used to.

One of these in a side pocket of my backpack will be a lot easier to leave in my bag

So when I saw that Gamelyn was recreating the shrinking experience of Ultra-Tiny Epic Kingdoms with Galaxies, I was excited. Now I can have a travel game about the size of a standard poker deck, while still keeping a 1-5 player game on the move.

And the pricing isn’t bad either – about AUD$18 for Ultra-Tiny Epic Galaxies or AUD$29 for both Galaxies and Kingdoms! So I went for the latter, as I haven’t played Kingdoms in years.

If you have always been curious about the Tiny Epic games, this is a good price point for a lot of content. Especially as Ultra-Tiny Epic Galaxies also comes with the Satellites and Superweapons expansion included! Or you may be like me, where the original just became a bit too much to throw in your bag when travelling.

If you don’t know about the game, check out the wealth of reviews and content already on the internet. Tiny Epic Galaxies was even on Tabletop, with Tim Schafer playing! Don’t know the name? He designed or was involved with some of my favourite adventure games such as Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and Day of the Tentacle.

I am a little curious how my monkey hands will go with the mini sized cards, but it should be fine

Or even easier – watch the game with the video below!

Whatever your interest in the game, this is an incredibly short Kickstarter run, with about four days left of the project.

Check out the Kickstarter here for more information.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Teburu – the future of gaming, or a niche assistance?

If you don’t like apps in your games, Teburu is going to make you really mad

Gaming apps. A phrase that some gamers want to love, and some love to hate.

I quite like some apps. Chronicles of Crime and Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game are excellent examples of games that include gameplay not possible with digital assistance.

But that is the keyword – assistance. If I want to play a video game, I will play a video game. Some apps mean well, but add very little to the experience. The whole thing is very hit and miss.

One of the first digital apps I tried to embrace was the Zombicide Companion App. People were enjoying the game, but a few had complaints about the amount of ‘little things’ they had to track with their characters. I was hoping that the companion app would help alleviate this. Spoiler alert – I was wrong.

As you still had to play wiht the cards physically, it was just doubling up on a lot of the admin

Some apps only try and help with one small facet of a game. For example, the 7 Wonders scoresheet app. And help it does. 7 Wonders scoring is almost a science unto itself when beginning to learn the game.

But there have been some great examples of apps that blur the line between tabletop and video games. Mansions of Madness 2nd edition, for example, made it possible for me actually to play as the player for a change. I did not always have to be ‘the bad guy’, which opened up a lot of new gameplay chances for me. In all of the games of Mansions of Madness I had played, I had never been a player character. Now thanks to the app, I can play Mansions by myself if I want!

I no longer have to spend an hour alone setting everything up thanks to the Mansions app

CMON and Xplored have taken the app ‘games master’ one step further. With the assistance of app integration, NFC and Bluetooth technology, the vision is you can play your game and have all of the admin done for you.

Introducing Teburu, the tabletop gaming console that CMON and Xplored hope ushers in a new age for tabletop gamers.

On the surface, I love the idea. The idea itself is far from new. Years ago, when the Microsoft Surface was still a tabletop computer concept design, developers showed off the possibility of playing Dungeons and Dragons with the tabletop being an interactive map that recognised your miniatures.

Teburu doesn’t seem to be going quite so far, but the basics are all there. You have an app on your phone with your characters information such as stats, inventory, etc. A central app keeps track of all other aspects of gameplay – enemy positions, line of sight rules, objectives, everything.

One advantage Teburu has over a lot of concepts I have seen are physical dice you roll and don’t have to tell the app the results. It might not sound like much, but having to stop to type in your rolls all the time sucks. Now, I am a little worried about the dice needing a charge halfway through a game, but that is a small price to pay.

The mat becomes a large sensor so that it knows the position and orientation of your pieces

There are a lot of games that can benefit from this type of system, and CMON makes a lot of them. Dungeon Crawlers is a genre that suffers from a lot of admin minutiae that stops you just having fun. Having something that takes care of all that math is appealing for a lot of players.

I am a little torn of the existence of Teburu. On the one hand, I admire the tech and passion involved in its design. It also allows for more social gaming, as you are still playing a physical game with your friends. Because the app takes care of the rules, ‘House Rule’ arguments and the like will be minimised as well.

I am hoping that this concept is successful, but I also hope that this technology will be available to other companies as well. Fantasy Flight could expand its existing app game lineup with the Teburu expansions, for example. Other games, like Betrayal at House on the Hill, would be so much easier for new players. The Betrayer would have their information and can see hidden rules on their phone, and the whole ‘What does this mean’ argument becomes invalid immediately as the app won’t let them make illegal moves.

Another thing I will be wary on is how fragile the system will be. Not in use, but storing and unfolding the base over and over.

Of course, this is probably going to cost a pretty penny. While described as a console that other games work with, the initial cost will likely be reasonably steep. If you aren’t a fan of CMON games in general or only really love one of their games, the investment may be too much.

I am still waiting to hear some feedback after the Teburu being shown at Gen Con 2019 with the new Zombicide, but I will be following the development news closely.

There have been hints and teases of other compatible games, such as the upcoming Project: Elite and even the newly revealed Ankh. I expect a lot of this information to continue to firm up before the Teburu Kickstarter alongside Zombicide Evolution – Las Vegas next year.

What about you? Do you like the idea of game apps in general? Do you like the idea of the Teburu, or do you think it’s going too far? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Can you unlock the secrets of Crypt X?

If the professor just used find my friends, we wouldn’t have as much fun!

So jumping on to Kickstarter for the first time in a while, a new project came up on the games page for me.

That game is Crypt X, and I have backed another narrative puzzle to draw me in.

Short version – decipher the clues to find the missing archaeologist.

The better introduction is from their Kickstarter video:

The idea of a puzzle based narrative isn’t new these days, but as a genre, there are many different implementations which make things so exciting for me.

Using an app (Android and iOS), you can solve over 50 puzzles to get discover the location of the missing archaeologist.

It is these kinds of game that app integration/hybridisation makes the most sense to me. Yes, you can have a book of text like Sherlock Holmes, but that leaves a lot to interpretation and correct printing. Even in ideal circumstances, that is a lot of text to search and read through.

Stuck? Get the next hint without seeing anything you shouldn’t. Does error or important information need to be updated in the puzzle? As long as your app is up to date, all this should be easily dealt with.

I am still looking forward to getting started on my Enigma Box, but that is also part of the problem – getting started. Now that I have moved and things are settling nicely, that’s not as much of a problem.

The Enigma Box had a fairly high entry price though. Yes, you get a lot for your money, but if you are just curious it was a pretty steep price.

Designer Rose Atkinson working on early prototype **Image from Crytp X Board Game Geek Page

Crypt X looks to be a challenging time, which could lead to quite a lot of fun! But it also looks quite bite-sized, great for people just getting into the genre.

But how will I know if I will like it?

One of the things I really like is even before the game is released, there are already samples of the kinds of puzzles you can expect.

On the Kickstarter page, there is a link to an Android app (sorry iOS users) that uses finished artwork from the game, but different puzzles so it’s a great time to experiment and see how you will go!

But wait, that’s not the only puzzle!

Hidden within the promo video, the campaign page itself and updates there are clues for a 4 digit code.

Crack the code and enter on their webpage (which isn’t up yet!) and you can win a swag of puzzle goodies that helped inspire the game!

The project ends Friday, July 19th at 9 am (AEST), so check out the Kickstarter page and/or the Board Game Geek page, and see what you think!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Elder Dice: The Colours Out of Space will liven up your game nights

Elder Dice Kickstarter

If you are already tempting the Dice Gods, why not tempt them all?

Dice are one of those tools that many gamers don’t give a second thought to, and some obsess over.

I enjoy playing with quality dice, but I don’t have a bag of dice that betray me.  So I guess I am in the upper middle of this demographic?

Rolling a nice die and a cheap one is like being driven in a Limousine, then a Golf Cart.  Both do the job, but one is more relaxing and fun than the other.

There are always fun things to be done with dice as well.  I have written of Polyhero dice in the past, dice that take a fun form of the character you may be playing.

Infinite Black has created some lovely looking ‘standard’ polyhedral dice with some customisation, but also add more for your gaming pleasure.

Elder Dice Brand of Cthulhu
As if you needed incentive to not roll 1's already!
Elder Dice Eye of Chaos
Truly if there was ever a set that suited me, chaos would be the one
Elder Dice Star of Azathoth
Do not mention Lovecraft's note to himself!
Elder Dice Seal of Yog-Sothoth
Yog-Sothoth sees all and knows all

But as well as being gorgeous looking dice, they also come in their own clever book-like case with a magnetic clip – very thematic and handy!

There are also a number of stretch goal designs and add-ons being unlocked as the campaign continues.  These range from new dice and case designs to playmats and even a gorgeous looking GM screen!

Backing a project like this is always a very personal thing – it clicks with you or it doesn’t.  These dice won’t make you a better role player or increase your chances of a critical success, but they do look great.

If these designs appeal to you check out the Kickstarter campaign and have a look see.  The pledges, bundles and add-ons are a little confusing on the surface, but the team from Infinite Black are active in the comments if you need a hand.

Elder Dice Lower Library Miskatonic Playmat
My favourite playmat design, and the design shown on the GM screen

If you love the look of the dice but can’t wait, the original Elder Dice designs are still for sale on their website for quicker gratification 😀

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Tiny Epic Tactics has one more week on Kickstarter

Tiny Epic Tactics Cover

Another Tiny Epic Game is on Kickstarter

The Tiny Epic series of games from Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games seems to be a divisive one in gaming circles.

I know people that swear by every iteration and rank them as some of the best games ever.  I know others that will walk away when they hear “Tiny Epic” anything and not give any game a chance.

I am in the middle.  I enjoy the idea behind the series, but not every entry has won me over.  For example, Tiny Epic Galaxies is a lot of fun, Tiny Epic Western not so much.  Well, to me anyway.

But that is actually one of the things that attract me to the series.  On their own, each entry is a lower cost gateway to a genre of games that many people may not have tried.  Sure, the Tiny Epic may be a gimmick, but it helps keep the costs down and storage space to a minimum!

So not liking some of the games in the series to me is no big deal.  No one like every type of game, so there will always be misses for players.  It just surprises me how many people judge the entire series from one or two isolated games.

Tiny Epic Game Haul
When you have so many games you can release your own carry bag! Image from gamelyngames.com

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about Tiny Epic Mechs, and made no secret it was the interchangeable weapon loadouts and custom meeples that attracted me.  The game looks OK (I haven’t tried the Print and Play version yet) but it has a solid base, and I can pull it out to take somewhere instead of Adrenaline for example.

Well, the new instalment is using in the box storage solutions and terrain, similar to Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats. It’s also a tactics combat game, so think along the lines of Arcadia Quest in a lot of ways as well.

Now Arcadia Quest I acknowledge as a fun game with incredible components and a lot of replayability.  But like any big success and hobby, you can sink a lot of money even into a starter scenario.

Firefly Adventures: Browncoats and Brigands is cheaper and I am a fan of the series, but to date I haven’t really had the chance to get it to the table properly.

Both games have some issues introducing them to new players – one is cost, the other is the theme.  Yes, themed games – especially licensed IPs – can stop people from trying new games.

Tiny Epic Tactics Contents
Not a new idea, but a compact idea and probably a good way to introduce people to a new style of gameplay

But a game in a little box with clever components?  It’s amazing how many people are willing to give a small box game a go compared to the bigger ‘proper’ games.

Tiny Epic Tactics has a few different game modes, which adds to the appeal factor for a wider audience.  Want to play solo?  There are solo rules.  Games are only fun when you dominate? Go the competitive ruleset.  Like to enjoy the social experience of cooperative gaming?  You are covered as well.

And this huge variety of choice is why I am pretty much going to stop talking about the game here.  The things I am interested in may turn you off, and the things I may gloss over or ignore as not for me may be what excites you about the game.

The best advice I can give is that if this has sounded interesting to you at all, check out the Tiny Epic Tactics Kickstarter page and check it out.  There are many preview videos as well as the information from the order, and a how to play solo preview from Gamelyn Games that I have also added below!

The Tiny Epic games should always be viewed on their own merits, and I certainly don’t have most of the series.  But the ones I enjoy I really enjoy, and I think that Tiny Epic Tactics will be one I can get to the table fairly often in various forms.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Terror Below is on Kickstarter!

Terror Below Cover Art

Anyone that remembers Tremors will feel right at home with Terror Below

In today’s gaming world, there are a lot of games that seem to fight for your attention.  A lot of publishers use tricks like lots of mini’s or ‘Deluxe’ components to grab your attention. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it is pushing a lot of other solid games and mechanics out of the spotlight.

If I said Pick Up and Deliver games, the newest example I can think of is Wasteland Express Delivery Service, a game that players seem to either absolutely love or really, really don’t. Merchant of Venus, Power Grid, Steam and Keyflower are other fine examples of the genre, but again they tend to have that large divide in player opinion.

So what do you do when you want to make a new game based on a mechanic that seems to be in the process of being ignored?  Don’t take yourself seriously and have a ton of fun with it seems to be the best answer.

Terror Below Concept Game Board
Concept game board and components from promo video

Renegade Game Studios and Mike Elliot have unleashed Terror Below on Kickstarter, and it tickles all the right parts of my brain. Terror Below is a Pick-Up and Deliver game where you pick up the eggs of underground creatures and deliver them back to the authorities (or at least someone) – hence the name of the mechanic.

Anyone familiar with the Tremors franchise is going to feel right at home in this world, and I think that’s just fine.  If you are a tremors fan, you are already putting your serious mind on hold to enjoy the ride.  And if you don’t know Tremors, the best advice I can give is just to sit back and enjoy the ride.

I would explain the gameplay in a bit more detail, but honestly, the Renegade Kickstarter video sums it all up nicely in 90 seconds, so I will just add their video here:

So who do I think would enjoy Terror Below?  Lots of people really.

It’s a Pick-Up and Deliver – a simple goal that is easy to pick up and get your head around.  There is combat after a fashion with the creatures, so there is some variety in ways of getting points and objectives.

The big plus to me is that Terror Below doesn’t take itself seriously.  Now you might think that’s just for the humour and setting, but it’s also shown in the streamlined ruleset.

A player has been eliminated?  No one has to wait – count your points and play again.  Need to build an engine for an hour before playing the game ‘properly’ for two hours?  Nope.  You can get three games of Terror Below in the same amount of time as one of many other games.

I don’t think that Terror Below is a game that will redefine board gaming, but I think we forget in the hype not every game has to.  Terror Below looks to be a fun light to medium weight addition to the Pick Up and Deliver genre that my collection is lacking, and I thank Renegade and all of the backers for making this possible.

Terror Below Card Example
Multi use vehicle cards seem very clear

Another nice touch is that there is one level – all in for USD$45.  No discount on recommended retail, but backers do get stretch goals and the Hidden Cache deluxe upgrades.  Everything included is on the Terror Below Kickstarter Page – check it out – the campaign goes for one more week.

But don’t just take my word for it – there are a bunch of other thoughts and previews on Renegade’s YouTube channel.  This even includes my personal favourite in a gaming Kickstarter – an actual game being played!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Dagon’s Bones Review

Dagons Bones Cover Art
Dagons Bones Cover Art
Released 2018
Designer Brian S. Roe
Publisher Utility Games LLS (Website)
Players 2-5 (3-4 best)
Playing Time About 5 minutes per player
Category Dice Roller
Push Your Luck
Player Elimination
Travel Filler
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Because nothing ever happens in Innsmouth…

In early 2018, looking around Kickstarter there was a little title that had me clicking on it immediately – Dagon’s Bones.

I could imagine quite a few people skipping looking at the project as ‘Not another Cthulhu game’.  In a strange twist of fate, those that looked would have seen exactly that – not another Cthulhu game.

This is one of the few times that the theme of the game made incredible sense to me.  According to Lovecraft, Innsmouth was founded in the mid17th century and noted for shipbuilding and sailing.  The town fell on hard times, but after beginning to worship the deity Dagon the town began to prosper – in a fashion.

Even not knowing all this, the game quickly sets the scene as taking place in seaside pubs in the town.  And what sailor doesn’t like to gamble?

Hence the dice and coins seem completely natural, and while teaching all you need to do is explain the iconography.

Dagons Bones Components
It's three dice and some coins. There is nothing more you need.

Playing Dagon’s Bones

The game itself and its goals is incredibly simple.  To begin, deal out all of the coins in equal piles between the players and one pile in the centre for Cthulhu (the Pot).

The goal of the game is to have double your starting coins.  If you can do this, you win!  If you run out of coins, you lose.

If Cthulu runs out of coins, the player with the most coins wins.  However, if Cthulu doubles its starting coins, the Elder God is awakened and destroys Innsmouth.  All players lose in this scenario.

Starting with the oldest player, all three dice are collected and rolled.  You then do the action each die displays.

Fish bones are dud rolls – luck is not with you.  However, if you roll three fish bones, you may pay a coin to Cthulhu to re-roll all three dice once per turn.

The Key, Fishhook and Anchor work similarly – they let you take a coin.  The Key lets you take a coin from Cthulhu, the Fishhook choose a player and take one of their coins.  The Anchor let’s you decide to take a coin from either a player or Cthulhu – your choice.

Dagons Bones Dice Faces
Three dice, 7 faces. Nothing Lovecraftian in that at all.

The Coin means you must pay one of your coins to Cthulhu.  The Bottle of Booze means your turn ends immediately and all other dice are ignored – except for the last symbol, Dagon.

If you summon Dagon, you get to take a coin from each player and the pot.  With the goal of the game to double your starting pile of coins, this is a very powerful roll if you can pull it off!

And that is the game.  You now know how to play Dagon’s Bones.  As you can see, it’s not hard to get people playing straight away.

What I like about Dagon’s Bones

If you are a fan of Lovecraftian horror, the little touches in selecting the theme and setting is amazing – but it’s not required.  Even playing with people that roll their eyes at the idea of Cthulhu games, just playing the symbols and changing names of the symbols is enough to get them back on board.  Just call Cthulhu the Pot, and Dagon an idol, and everything still works.

While the game is very dependent on luck, it’s such a quick game that losing doesn’t sting.  You haven’t spent two hours trying to create a points engine and needing to pull that one card to make it work.  No, in Dagon’s Bones you just roll the dice and try to make the best decision on who’s coins to steal.

Dagons Bones Three Player Game
A three player round, and one that I find easy to picture happening at pubs along the dock

As a filler game, Dagon’s Bones is one that I will regularly just leave in the side pocket of my games bag for a quick round or two while waiting for others, and it’s perfect for this kind of thing.

And the downsides?

There aren’t too many, to be honest.  People that don’t like games based on luck will not like Dagon’s Bones. Same as people that are vocally over Cthulhu games – sometimes a game just isn’t for everyone.

The plastic coins feel a little light, but that helps make the game portable and I am guessing keep costs down.  Unless you are playing in very windy conditions, they do the job well, and I am still tempted to paint mine up.

The player count is a little deceptive though, but for games like this, that is a common problem.  Playing two players can lead to a few dull rounds of a stalemate until someone gets the right roll.  Four players is a quick and tense juggling match of push and pull play.

Five players though I tried once, and it ended in two rolls. Now, this was totally an unlucky situation (or very lucky, depending on how you look at it).  I was showing someone at work the basics of the game two-player, when a couple of other people came over to see what was happening.

Talking the new players through my roll and explaining the game, a fifth came over and listened to my explanation.  I offered to reset the game and have all of us play, and everyone agreed.

After handing out four coins to everyone including Cthulhu, I went first.  I usually do when teaching to talk everyone through that first roll.  I took one coin from another player as it was all I could do, and that was that.

The fifth person to come over was the second player, and they rolled three Dagon.  Taking a coin from everyone and the pot, they instantly won the game.

Dagons Bones Instant Win Conditions
Six piles of four coins, one is yours. If you can roll 3 Dagons, you can take a coin from every other pile. Instant win.

This then ended the group rather quickly.  The person that won declared the game broken and another player decided that a game that meant they might not have a turn wasn’t worth playing.

Now, this was just a lucky roll, and it can happen in many games.  It can also technically happen in four-player games, as you only get 25 coins in the packet.  But it’s so rare really to me it’s just a case of sharing the story and highlighting that it can happen.  All we lost 2 minutes – a quick reset and letting the third player go first was all that was needed.

There is another catch.  Dagon’s Bones is self-published, and I can’t really see where to buy it online.  I only saw it because of Kickstarter.  This just makes it hard to suggest as an impulse buy or filler gift, which is a pity because it fits perfectly in that category.

If you would like to see a game in action though, below is a video from the creator himself showing a quick three-player game:

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Dagon's Bones

Final Thoughts

Dagon’s Bones is a hard one for me to quantify.  It’s a game I would be willing to play most times, scoring it as 7-8 on my scale.

But it’s also a game that I can’t really find an online presence for.  Hunting around Utility Games LLCs Facebook page, you can email them to buy a copy but that seems to be the only way to get Dagon’s Bones, unless you happen to go to a con or similar they attend?

Making a fun game and one I would recommend hard to find online

But Dagon’s Bones is fun to play.  Pulling this out while in public, it won’t be too long before extra players come and have a look.

If you get the chance, definitely play the game.  It won’t be 10 minutes that changes your life, but it will be a bit of fun 🙂

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  •  Easy to teach, quick gameplay
  •  Very travel friendly
  •  Allows an ‘Everyone Lose’ ending that doesn’t feel forced

Cons

  •  Not a game you can just pick up at a most stores
  •  Rules could have been better presented

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

Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar Review

Fireball Island Box Art
Fireball Island Box Art
Released 2018
Designer Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, Justin D. Jacobson, Chuck Kennedy, Bruce Lund
Publisher Restoration Games (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (5th player expansion available)
Playing Time 60 minutes
Category Hand Management
Set Collection
Light Dexterity (Interactive Board)
Take That
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

No one is going to call this The Curse of Vul-Kar – it’s Fireball Island all the way!

There is a category of game known as Roll and Move.  Examples of this are Snakes and Ladders or Monopoly.  When you talk about ‘old’ games, these are usually the type of game that people remember and compare new games too.

1986’s Fireball Island was a game like this – roll the die, move your piece.  But there was a twist – your playing pieces could be knocked over by a fireball!

Fireball Island was a game aimed at families with younger players (7 and up), so the game mechanics were going to be simple even for the day.

But this didn’t stop the popularity of Fireball Island.  As you can see in the US commercial, selling the adventure of exploring an unknown island and collecting the treasure was key.

A big part of the draw though was the vacumould playing board.  This was a huge draw, where you didn’t just have a folded board but a three-dimensional island to move around!

YouTube source https://www.youtube.com/user/wheezebucket

And atop the island sits the imposing figure of Vul-Kar, who would throw marble fireballs down the moulded paths to mess with your opponents.

It was different, and it was loved.  In today’s language, we would call a game like Fireball Island a Gateway Game – a great game to introduce new players to the hobby.  Except it’s been 30 years, and board games have gotten a lot better.

Restoration Games to the Rescue

As you may have seen on this site on a few occasions, I am a fan of Restoration Games.  They have a simple motto – ‘Every game deserves another chance’.  And they deliver on this time and time again.

Thanks to Fireball Island being a nostalgic favourite, kind of like the Nintendo Classic consoles, this was one Kickstarter basically guaranteed to be a hit.

And now it has all been delivered, and I have been able to play the new and improved Fireball Island.  And it’s great 😀

Fireball Island - All Arrived
I have some sleeves and other bits and bobs, but all of the game is here!

Some things change, some things stay the same

Bottom line – Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar is a bigger and better version of the 80’s classic.

The vacumould board remains, but is now larger and built up in three distinct parts.  The detail on the island itself has also been much improved as well, with a lot of great and humorous areas of the island.

This has allowed for more paths on the island as well from the looks of it.  I don’t have the original island myself to compare, but there seems to be more room and paths to follow.

The marbles naturally follow these paths, but there is a new twist of trees added to the island, meaning you can steer likely paths of fireballs as well.

Fireball Island - Don't you want to play it?
Fireball Island's biggest draw even today - the board itself

There is also the change to Vul-Kar itself.  Where in the original game there was one opening in the mouth, now you drop your marble in the top of the statue and there are three possible exits.  This helps add a bit of randomness and unpredictability to the game, making it more exciting.

Not only the components got a makeover – the dice for movement mechanic has been completely replaced with card drafting!  You will always have two movement cards in your hand, making strategy and planning more important than the original.  Of course, you still need luck to draw the right cards, but unlucky draws can be somewhat mitigated now.

Fireball Island Cards
Two decks - Souvenirs (Powers) and Movement. Still simple, but so many possibilities

So what do you actually do?

At the end of the day, Fireball Island is a set collection point scoring game.  As you explore the island, you can pick up treasure and try to make a set of five of most of the items lying around.

You also take holiday snaps of the island.  Once you have collected three holiday snaps, you are able to try and make it back to the ‘Hello-copter’ to escape the island.  First player back to the chopper gets a nice little bonus score as well!

I know it sounds like I am glossing over most of the gameplay, and I am to an extent.  There are some little rules I am not even touching on, because honestly it’s not really important.

Fireball Island is a fun entry-level game, but for players my age and experience that’s not what makes it a good game.  What makes Fireball Island a great game is the experience of playing, both the game itself and the friends you play it with.

Players that have played Ticket to Ride will have a good idea what I mean.  The idea of Ticket to Ride is simple – collect coloured cards to switch for trains to make routes and score points.  Anyone that plays the game will tell you that maybe the mechanic, but it’s not the game.  Same for Fireball Island.

Fireball Island - Summary
You just need to get off the island with the most points to win - and most things give you points

Should everyone rush out and buy Fireball Island?  No.  It’s a great bit of fun and a trip down memory lane for some, but for others I would rather start them off with Downforce or Stop Thief!.

If you play with younger players a lot, then I would say Fireball Island is more likely a better buy for you. The simple rules and fun of dropping marbles into Vul-Kar make for a great time for everyone.

On the flip side, if you remember the original fondly and really want it in your collection again, you would have already bought it. Nothing I can say now would influence you.

If you’re on the fence, play it first would be my advice.  You will know after the first game if you are likely to pull it out again or not, and that should be the clincher.

Even if buying isn’t really your concern, play it if you get the chance.  Sure there are ‘better’ games out there, there always are.  But get a few friends together and enjoy a silly hour – you are unlikely to regret it 🙂

Fireball Island - What could go wrong?
The player on the bridge is safe, but Vul-Kar has turned towards the player stuck on a ladder

Longterm – the expansions

I backed the pledge level that gave me basically the lot.  I think there is only a Secret Cabal promo card that I am missing.  And by the lot, I mainly mean expansions.

Everything I have discussed so far has been the retail base game with no additions, and to date I haven’t played with any expansions.

I will be, and they will be getting their own reviews soon, but if you need a game for 5 players I would suggest buying ‘The Last Adventurer‘.  On the surface, you can then just have an Indiana Jones-inspired 5th player, but there are some rules additions and extra cards to increase the gameplay options as well.

The other two main expansions are ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bees‘ and ‘Wreck of the Crimson Cutlass‘.  Both add new rules and twists, and like most expansions should probably be added once you have gotten the most out of the base game.

Fireball Island - Expansions
The ideas sound great, but I need to play them all to find out what they add

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bees adds more marbles to pour through Vul-Kar as well as a true dexterity challenge in the tiger.

Bee stings can be collected by players, and essentially they halve movement.  The tiger can net you three treasures from your opponent – if you can hit them!

Wreck of the Crimson Cutlass adds a new play area in the form of a pirate ship.  There is a push your luck aspect of marbles in a collapsable crows nest, and the ability to fire a cannonball – always a bit of fun!

Fireball Island - Packing is tight
The other small issue with the expansions - there isn't much room left in the main box!

While in theory these all sound like worthy additions, I think only the potential 5th player has an immediate benefit.  Extra powers and mechanics can be a lot of fun, but they can also be situational which I think these may be.

And they weren’t exactly cheap add-ons either.  For the cost of the Crimson Cutlass, I can buy another game – always something to make you stop and think.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar

Final Thoughts

I really like Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar – but there is a major caveat to this.  Personally, I have fond memories of the original Fireball Island.  Coupled with ‘Nostalgia Hype’™, this makes me biased towards the new game.

That said, while I don’t think every gamer must have a copy of Fireball Island in their collection, a great fun time will be had by almost everyone that plays it – even if it’s only once.

Great to play with younger players or to catch up with friends while playing, Fireball Island is a great experience for a wide audience.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  •  Quick to teach, game moves at a good pace
  •  A game that attracts an audience
  •  Beautiful component quality
  •  Nostalgia in full swing!

Cons

  •  Basic gameplay can put off some players
  •  Large play area even for ‘just’ the base game