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

Spy Club takes me back to the Famous Five stories

Spy Club Feature

The only thing missing are Scooby Snacks

Remember when as kids we would wander around town solving mysteries?  No?  Welcome to the digital age I guess.  Well, remember shows like Scooby Doo and the Famous Five?  Or even Stranger Things?

In Spy Club, you and a group of friends get to wander around town and find out what ‘mysterious thing’ is happening and get to the bottom of it.  All without the Upside Down!

There are five aspects of each mystery to solve, and if you can solve all five you win!

Spy Club is a 2-4 player cooperative game where you are essentially trying to match five sets of five different colours – hence the Pandemic comparisons.

Also like Pandemic, there are various conditions that you can ‘lose’ the scenario.  This by itself makes any game challenging.  However, in Spy Club each time you solve an aspect of the crime you unlock a new information.  This new information changes how you continue to play.  It can be new ways of gathering clues, or changing the solution conditions of play – it’s fairly random, so adaptability is key.  This kind of on the fly narrative change has me thinking of TIME Stories as a comparison.

Spy Club Components
Much simpler than a lot of mystery game setups, even when you are showing off your diplay skills 🙂

And I think this is where Spy Club is starting to win me over mechanically.  It’s familiar enough that teaching it is fairly simple, yet surprisingly deep for a light to middleweight game.

Only outlining the basics of the game, if you have played either Pandemic or TIME Stories you already have a fair idea of how it all plays out.

Playing the game is very simple.  On your turn, you have 3 actions to perform that will help the team solve part of the mystery.

The possible actions are Flipping Cards in your ‘hand’ (play area in front of you), Changing Focus, Trading Cards and Confirming Cards.

Each of the cards in Spy Club is double-sided, so on your turn Flipping Cards may allow you to manipulate the cards into a position that allows you to commit the right clues to the investigation at the right time.  This does bring in a memory aspect to the game though – flipping the wrong card is never good!

To actually solve the crime, you need to match five of the same coloured cards to the center play area.  Playing one of your cards to the center group is called Confirming Cards – it’s just a way of saying playing to the common investigation.  Do this five times and win!

All players have a magnifying glass token that allows them to focus on a certain aspect or colour of the investigation. This is the part of the Mystery they are working on currently (the color).  If you are confirming cards of your Focus, you don’t have to spend extra tokens to Confirm your cards, so it becomes a hand management game.

Trading cards comes into effect if you and another player are both focused on the same aspect of a mystery.  This will allow you can trade cards with each other for free, usually allowing a player to commit 2 cards and finish up a colour on their turn.  This brings in aspects of cooperative hand management.

As mentioned, when you solve an aspect of a case you get new rules that can change these basic actions, but this really is the core of the game – very set actions, clearly marked.

Spy Club Three Player Game
A game in progress
Spy Club Cards
Example of Spy Club Cards
Spy Club Cards 2
Example of Spy Club Cards

There are of course also the ‘lose’ mechanics.  These can include running out of idea tokens or clue cards, fairly Pandemic type conditions.

The main fly in the ointment will be the Suspect.  After every player turn, the Suspect gets a chance to cover their tracks.  This is done by moving around the table, each space being the players’ clue cards.  Whatever colour the Suspect lands on decides what happens.  These options include helping the Suspect escape outright, giving up player idea tokens, flipping your cards, or losing clues outright.

So no matter how much you plan, you will always need to try and plan a safety net.

Spy Club looks like a light-hearted yet engaging style of game, aimed probably at younger players but still pulling at my Nostalgia strings.

I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it comes out and give it a proper spin.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD