Last Week’s Gaming – February 17th, 2020

One Deck Dungeon Game Start

Well one game got me really suckered in this week

It looks like another Video Game heavy week, but I played about 9-10 hours of One Deck Dungeon this week! It definitely helped with my ‘Play 250 games’ progress this week! Just look to the right for how that is tracking 🙂

Enough of all that though, on to what I have been playing!

One Deck Dungeon

I have been meaning to get to One Deck Dungeon for a long time. A lot of people have told me how great a solo game it is, but I always had something else to play. Well I fixed that this week, and I played it a lot. Fifteen times, to be exact.

It’s a solo dungeon crawl experience that plays with some tokens and a deck of cards. I played a few times with the physical version, and a few times on the Steam copy I have had for a while.

Now that I know how to play it properly, I will probably solo it on PC. There is a lot of shuffling and turn order things to keep straight, and the digital version handles all that. But beware – the first few run throughs are tough. Expect a full review soon.

One Deck Dungeon - Dragon run complete!
This was a hard slog, but my two adventurers won through

Onitama – Android

As usual, I played some Onitama again when I had a bit of downtime during the day at work. Against the hard AI, I usually win about one third of the time. Last week I was dreaming for a win at all.

This week went much smoother – three games, two wins. Vindication!

I love Onitama as a game. You will see this pop-up in games played pretty consistantly because of this. Onirim is another favourite, but I didn’t get around to it this week.

Why do I love Onitama? Check out my review for more info!

Onitama
VINDICATION! After last week's whooping, getting a couple of wins was great

Halo – Xbox

I am running a bit of a tight rope this week. One of the reason I have trouble finishing video games is switching between games. And this week, I started two other games!

That didn’t stop me from making some progress in Halo this week, but I need to keep old habits in mind. I have gotten up to the Flood, so I’m in the ‘real’ game now I guess?

One thing that did strike me is how little Bungie level design has changed. Halo is almost 20 years old now, and yet I saw a lot of empty areas for loading like I did in Destiny 2. That’s not a bad thing as such, but it’s interesting to see how much some developers stick to what they know.

Halo
I didn't get much further in this week, but I am aiming to finish Halo before any of the other games I started

Marvel’s Spider-Man – PS4

So this week I picked up my DualShock 4 back button attachment. I was going to test it with Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order. I didn’t, as I was worried about getting sucked into it and ignoring Halo.

Ooops. Instead, I got sucked into Spider-Man. The first thing that hit me is that the official Marvel games are not using any of the MCU actors faces. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does ruin some of the immersion for me. I don’t feel like I am playing in the Marvel universe at all.

Another thing that works for Spider-Man but also against it for me is that combat. It plays like the Batman Arkham games, and I spent way too long hitting triangle to counter. This is not a move in Spider-Man!

I think I can finish Halo in a dedicated weekend, so once that is done I will be returning to Spider-Man straight away.

Marvel's Spider-Man
The photo mode is a lot of fun. How could I resist?

Resident Evil 0 – Switch

With the various eShop sales, I have been slowly building my Resident Evil collection on my Switch. Obviously it will be missing the new remakes, but for historical plays I like the idea of taking the collection with me.

Story wise, it takes place before the original Resident Evil, hence the 0 numbering. I have heard lots of mixed reviews about the game, and wanted to check it out for myself.

It has a lot of game innovations that I already appreciate, such as controlling two characters at once. That said, I am early into the game so that may be a negative later.

I don’t intend to hit Resident Evil 0 hard, but it’s a different enough game to the others that I shouldn’t get genre burn out. A couple of hours a week means this will take a long time to get through, but the puzzles so far have been challenging enough that should be enough.

Resident Evil 0
So I beat the first boss. And I did it with a knife! Out of necessity, not skill 😛

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

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – February 10th, 2020

Blight Chronicles Agent Decker

You know those weeks you feel like you got nothing done, then you look back?

That was me this week. A couple of work projects just hammered me. I am still tired almost all the time, but at least it’s just tired not sick.

And then I looked at my plays for the week. I got a lot more games in than I thought! What did I play? Well thank you for asking 🙂

I backed this solo narrative deck builder on Kickstarter, and it finally arrived a couple of weeks ago.

My first experience was a rulebook that seemed straightforward but ended up being a little too vague on the finer points. A couple of ‘how to play’ videos later, and I felt ready to play.

And while close, I lost. A bit of bad planning and not understanding the end game timing on my part. But that has been corrected now, so time to start again and play through all 7 stages before the review!

Blight Chronicles Agent Decker
It was close, but the first run through beat me in the end. Time to try again!

I have played Villainous before, and spoken about how I enjoyed it. This week I got to play another round, which is always fun. But Alpal and I got to play three players!

Playing with a new player, it was part teaching game but mostly just a social afternoon. I played Prince John for the first time, and some of his cards revealed we had been playing it wrong. It happens to the best of us. 🙂

Alpal and I had been keeping our Allies when ‘vanquishing’ heroes. This is wrong – we should have been removing all cards involved in the scuffle. At least we know going into future games!

Villainous
I was so close to a win! But it was a great afternoon playing this quick favorite

Alpal showed me another new game this week. Similo is a series of games with each version focusing on a different theme. We played Similo: History.

Similo is basically a cooperative Guess Who. The clue giver randomly draws a card for the others to guess. They then lay out 11 random cards with the target, and draw 5 other cards as their hand.

Each round, they will lay out a card which will be ‘different’ or ‘similar’ to the target card, and the guessers try and remove cards that aren’t the target.

Now this description sounds pretty dry, but I am describing it this way because I didn’t take any pictures of the game. This means I have to describe the game more than normal. What I can say is in about 10 minutes we knocked over two games, and next time we catch up I can’t wait to give it another go or three!

Similo History
This is why I should never leave my phone in the car! At least you can see the cover 🙂

Luigi’s Mansion 3 – Switch

Another game finished! I decided to play Luigi’s Mansion 3 after the RPG grind of Final Fantasy XV, and I was glad I did.

I have only played the first one on DS, with plans to go and play the second at some point. What I can say is that the third instalment is everything I remember, and then some!

Puzzles were great, but not too stressful. I collected all of the gems and boos, but I am not going to try and Complete it. It was fun, and that is what counts. Expect a full review soon!

Luigi's Mansion 3
Can't complain with a run like that 🙂

Onirim – Android

Last week I decided to try the score mode. It took me most of the week, but I finally got around to trying it out.

And just as I feared, playing for points put me in sub-optimal play mode as I chased points. It’s not that I think the score mode is terrible, it’s a flaw in how I approach the game.

I only played it a couple of times, but I still enjoyed them! A close loss followed two wins is still a reasonable ratio. 🙂

Again, if you want a great mobile implementation of a solo board game, check out my review and give Onirim a try.

Onirim
There are plenty of people that scored better, but I still had a blast

Onitama – Android

I love playing Onitima. The elegant simplicity, the quick gameplay, and always needing to adapt to new play conditions make compelling challenges.

Regular playing on my phone is against hard AI. I am yet to win more than about 30% of the time. This was demonstrated beautifully this week when I lost every single game.

Is playing against the AI as fun as playing the board game version? Not quite. There is none of the banter and socialising you do in person. But it is better than not playing at all! I have tried playing online, but the opponents tend to drift off at strange times. This makes sense when playing on mobile, but when you are on the other end with no idea what is happening, it’s frustrating.

Speaking of playing against the AI…

Onitama
It didn't matter what I did this week, I kept being blindsided by obvious plays

Splendor – Steam

If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook you would have seen a couple of ‘What do I do now?’ results during the week. To help with this downtime, I have moved to my gaming laptop for work as it can just handle more.

But I still have downtime, and lunchtime is always a thing. I took advantage of this during the week with a quick round of Splendor!

Playing at lunch was a bit distracting, as I was interrupted with work conversations that kept derailing my concentration. But I went down swinging, and was a welcome distraction during the day!

I have to avoid making it a habit while I am work, but the quick play against the AI made for an excellent mental refresh. Never played Splendor? Check out my review!

Splendor
I could have made a lot better plays, but the chance to stop and change to non-work thoughts was great

Doom – Xbox

I struggled if I should include Doom in this weeks summary. After fixing some internet issues at home, I jumped on the Xbox for the first time in ages. And what was showing on Game Pass? Good old Doom!

When it was released in 2016, I finished Doom in record time. The remake was just as fun as when I played the original back in the day. One level of quick demon shooting action was enough for the time I had, and that is part of Doom’s beauty. Want to play for hours? Please do! Want a quick round? Just as satisfying.

I am not going to play Doom as one of my ‘To Finish’ games of 2019, but the quick round did make me think about finally getting around to Halo…

Doom
How you going there little guy?

Halo – Xbox

A late Saturday night work night coupled with a few hours waiting for propogation meant I got to start one of the games I bought the Xbox for.

I finally started playing Halo.

Even non-gamers know about this series. I know a fair bit of the lore already, and back in the day someone actually gave me their Xbox to play it. I didn’t really get the chance though, as it died on me not long after.

I have put in a few hours and gotten a fair way into the campaign. If you are curious, I have completed The Silent Cartographer. The most annoying thing so far is I have died more from other Marines driving into me than Covenant forces!

Halo is the next of my games to finish. Eventually, I hope to finish all five games. Just not at once. Expect to see this one come up for a couple of weeks.

Halo
It's really hard not to make a "All hail the chief" joke right now

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

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – January 20th, 2020

Silver Amulet

I can’t wait for my board game nights to start again!

Not that I am short of things to play. Even with a bit of a week last week, I have had a ball with the games I have played.

I even starting learning a couple of games that I can hopefully get a group together for in the next couple of weeks!

But I talked enough about the future last week. Let’s have a look at what I did get to play!

Werewolf is one of my favourite social deduction games. You need a larger group to play it, but that’s one of the great things about it. Want to play a game with 12 people? Werewolf should be on the list!

Playing with lower numbers can be done with the One Night series, but it’s not the same game. One Night isn’t bad – it just isn’t Werewolf.

Silver falls into this category as well. It isn’t Werewolf, even with shared characters. But that doesn’t make it a bad game, and I can’t wait to play it again.

It’s basically set collection with a trick-taking edge. Once the vote is called, you want to have the lowest score. It really is that simple, and it’s fast to teach and play! I can’t wait to play this once my game nights recommence 🙂

Silver Amulet
A card game that only needs the cards - rare these days!

Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch – Switch

OK, so if this is a game or not is debatable. I had heard people enjoying Brain Training on the DS ages ago, but it’s not a title I ever picked up.

But now that it’s on Switch, I thought why not? First thing – I am actually regretting buying the physical copy. It does come with a stylus, but I didn’t consider one important factor. You only play a mini-game for a couple of minutes each day, and swapping carts can be a pain.

On my first day, I got a Brain Age of 65. Learning how to write and have the Switch interpret it correctly meant a lot of mistakes and lots of penalties.

One week later, I can write 4 and 5 correctly about 95% of the time, and I scored a brain age of 27! The tests were much easier for me this time, but I wouldn’t claim it was because of training. I just randomly got activities that I usually enjoy as diversions.

Each day you play, you earn a stamp that unlocks other activities. I have enjoyed a couple of games, like Rock-Paper-Scissors with random “Try to Win/Try to Lose” conditions. Doing basic arithmetic is also strangely calming, much more than the Germs mini-game. There is nothing wrong with Germs, but using the stylus to control Dr Mario isn’t great.

I will keep playing this for a couple of weeks, then give a review and progress report after a few weeks.

Final Fantasy XV – PS4

One great thing about the holidays was the chance to get into one of my backlog games. As I said last week, I have finally gotten the opportunity to jump into Final Fantasy XV. And now I have not only been playing, but I finished it!

So while I have finished Final Fantasy XV, I am not sure if I am finished with it. I have only 4 tasks before earning the platinum, and only one of those tasks will require level grinding – the Adamantoise fight.

I also have the Season Pass content, but a reveal during the game means I really want to see Prompto’s story. If I play one of the episodes, I will probably want to play them all.

Will I play it or not? Next week I have an article talking about just such temptation 🙂

Final Fantasy XV
Not bad. I would have picked a different picture but I got impatient at night.

Onirim – Android

A game I always enjoy pulling out for a diversion is Onirim. I have talked about it in depth in my review.

Onirim is a game that even after hundreds of plays, I can lose easily. And yet a loss is not frustrating, and playing on the phone is a quick reset.

I have spoken about this before, but it’s amazing how I can completely miss playing on my phone as ‘gaming’. True, I tend to play solo games on the phone, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

Onirim
It's a nice feeling when you can't lose! Wait, there is one more nightmare....

Onitama – Android

Another game that I have reviewed, Onitima is a game I pick up now and then. Not as much as Onirim, but it has the same sense of comfort playing it.

I am still playing with the base cards on the app, but the hard AI mode is still giving me a challenge. I can technically play online, but a quick round now and then is always my preference. Waiting for my opponent online isn’t always a smooth experience.

But while waiting at work for a few things like code to compile, jumping on my phone and playing a quick round is always a bit of fun.

Onitama
This did not end well for me. But it was still fun!

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

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

So you have seen the reviews for Onitama, how about a free game?

Onitama Feature

Isn’t it great when you can learn and try a game for free

So this week I have reviewed Onitama and it’s first expansion, Sensei’s Path.

Short version – I really like Onitama, and I think it has a wide appeal factor.  But me briefly talking about a simple game can still make it hard to visualise how to play or what’s involved.

So Asmodee Digital have decided to he guesswork out of if you should buy the game or not, and made the digital version of Onitama free!

Up front yes there is in-app purchases, and at the moment these are the Sensei’s Path moves and a reskin for the board and pieces.

The original base game is complete and free to play either vs the CPU or pass and play with a friend.  Even online if you are into that!

The tutorial is great and easy to follow, and you will be playing on your own in no time.  I haven’t put any money into the other skin or the Sensei’s Path tiles yet, as really this is just a game for me to pass some time with against the CPU, but it’s still a great game.

Onitama App Tutorial
The tutorial is quick and to the point, and very easy to follow.

Onitama has quickly risen to my ‘main screen’ app choices for a quick move or three while I wait for something else.

Just like the board game, it can be very relaxing to sit and play a couple of rounds, but I still prefer the board game version.

The app does a great job of translating the game – the flow and moves are all there perfectly.  Moving the pieces and feeling them in your hand while seeing the board from different angles though just adds to the atmosphere of the game.

While I don’t see people carrying the app around as an alternative to playing the game, I love it when companies do apps like this.  On one hand, you have a free tutorial and trial of a great game.  If you decide you enjoy it, buying the physical version is a safe buy – you know you like the game already.

If you are a solo gamer or don’t play with others regularly but still love the game, buy the in-app purchases for the expansion moves and you are set as well.

Onitama App About to Win
About to move my master into their school temple. Victory is mine!

If you thought that the reviews for Onitama sounded interesting at all, give the app a try.  It’s available for iOS and Android, and even if you only get 10 minutes play out of it I think it will be worth your time.

If you are still on the fence, the trailer is below to show you what’s in the game without committing to a download 🙂

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

Onitama Review

Onitama Feature
Onitama Feature
Released 2014
Designer Shimpei Sato
Publisher Arcane Wonders (Website)
Players 2
Playing Time 15-20 minutes
Category Abstract Strategy
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

So many ‘Wax on, wax off’ jokes

When you say two player abstract strategy game, people will either look at you strangely or think you are talking about chess. No real reason – it’s just one of those interesting things I have observed over the years.  It’s kind of when you say you play board games, and people just assume you are talking about Monopoly or Risk.

Chess has a well-deserved place in gaming history.  Believed to have originated in India before the 7th century, Chess is a game that almost everyone in the western world has been exposed to. It is the epitome of ‘simple to learn, hard to master’ type design, and a game that today’s game review, Onitama, will be compared to again and again.

One one hand, one way to win is to take the opponent’s king piece.  But in the lore of Onitama, two martial arts schools are facing off to show which is the better school.  Which sounds more exciting to you?

I have heard Onitmata referred to as ‘simplified Chess with a theme’, and as usual this is both correct and wildly inaccurate.

The components and presentation definitely make it look like Chess.  A small board of squares and five pieces per side certainly give the impression of Chess, but when you look at the pieces you pause.

Two sides, red and blue.  All of the pieces look like they are from a bad Kung Fu parody.  And in some ways, they are.

Onitama Box
A beautiful square box opens and reveals a game that has been bought back to life with care by Arcane Wonders

But if you have any knowledge of Chess, you already have an idea of how to play Onitama.  Five pieces, four smaller pawns and one ‘king’ type piece.  Chess players are wondering by now what the moves are, and if the game is as simple as taking the old man king piece.

And here is where Onitama throws such players a curve.  Each game, there are only five moves available – two in front of each player, the legal move, and a floating move that is rotated out.

It can sound complicated initially, but movement in Onitama is surprisingly simple.  Of the two cards before you, choose one piece to move as shown on the card.  It doesn’t matter which piece, as long as it’s a legal move – no wrapping around the board or other tricks.

When you have made your move, push that move to the side of the board and take the move that was waiting.  These are your new moves for the next turn.

Onitama Moves
The Move cards allow lots of play variety, but also helps players visualise the options

Play continues like this until one of the two victory conditions are met.

The first condition, ‘The Way of Stone’, is similar to traditional Chess.  Here, you simply take the opposing Master (king piece).  It does not matter which piece takes the master, just that it is taken.

The second condition, ‘The Way of Water’, is subtler and a challenge.  You simply need to get your Master into the opponents school – the square there Master starts on.  This sounds simple, but trying solely for this condition adds a lot of challenge to the game.

And that’s it.  Two players try to outplay each other.  Onitama is simple, quick to learn, and has a loose theme that instantly makes people click on what to do.  Try and suggest a simple Chess variant to people, and they will run for the hills.

But a game with two rival martial arts schools that takes about 10-15 minutes?  That gets people interested 🙂

But if you take this track, you may still get the hurdle of “You’re trying to get me to play Chess” when you set them in front of the setup game.  If this happens, the person is probably just against Chess and will see nothing but the similarities and it may be best to switch games.

Onitama Game in Progress
You hope people will see the pieces facing off, but a some people just see the Chess similarities

It’s games like Onitama that also tend to trigger a strange pattern when I watch people trying to find new players.  I have seen arguments with people trying hard to get friends and/or partners to play games like Onitama.  This is really a game that can simply be explained as a Chess variant, but that offers so much more.  But some people will only hear the words ‘Chess Variant’ and make up their minds before they hear anything else.

If someone doesn’t want to play bigger games like Twilight Imperium I see people tend to just accept it.  But a quick game that someone won’t even try?  People will spend hours trying to convince another they are wrong.

Remember we all have this kind of preconception about different things.  It’s a fine line between trying to open someone’s mind to a new experience and bullying someone into doing something they don’t want to.

One of the things that cause this type of friction is a perceived simplicity on the positive side, and in Onitama that is the move cards.

One one hand, restricting the movement to five random moves each game is a great opportunity for mixing it up and keeping things simple.

But the moves offer more than that.  By having the moves printed on the card with the valid moves highlighted in a grid, it makes it easier to visualise on the board the valid moves.  One problem people have in Chess is seeing all of the possible moves, and with these cards, both players can see all of the options at the same time.

Onitama Cards
Simple, clear, and easy to visualise on the board. Onitama's move cards are truly it's best and most underappreciated component.

Even experienced strategy players can get benefit from these cards. There have been many games I have played with people I consider experienced gamers where my opponent was so focused on their own strategy and cards.  Simply, they forgot they could just look at my options.

Now when I am trying to help other players, stopping them and explaining my options can take a while and take them out of their thought process. This is the kind of help that can put of players from some games, it can be so distracting.  In Onitama though, simply pointing at my cards to remind them to look at my options as well as theirs does the same thing in literally seconds – it’s a natural tactical recovery form them and they don’t break their mental rhythm.

Moves on a card might look a simple thing, but Onitama really nailed a deep strategy game that is truly accessible to players of all skill levels and play styles with this ability.

Onitama’s components are beautiful without going overboard.  The neoprene playmat is nice and folds nicely.  The cardstock is nice, and the print clear.  The box itself feels good to open and close with its magnetic seal.

But the pieces?  I am really torn on these.  They are weighty and easy to tell apart, almost like the feel of quality poker chips in your hands.  But I sometimes get a sense of casual racism from the simplified stereotypical design.  It’s not something that stops me from playing or embarrasses me, but the design does seem to play up to an old parody stereotype.

That said, I really want to paint these figures and finish off the feel of the game.

Onitama Pieces
I am tempted to paint these guys. I need to get my eye in, so that could be a future project.

There is also another great thing about Onitama.  For everything you get, it’s relatively cheap.  USD$30 or here in Australia $50 if you hunt around, the replayability and depth of Onitama cannot be understated.

Simply put, Onitama is a beautifully simple game that is simple and beautiful in its execution.  If you are looking for a gateway abstract game, Onitama is near perfect addition to any shelf – as long as you don’t mind convincing people it’s really not Chess.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD