One Page Dungeon: Volume 1: Fire in the Goblin Forge Review

Released 2019
Designer Noah Patterson
Publisher Micro RPG (Website)
Players 1
Playing Time 15-25 minutes
Category Roll and Write
Solo Game
Dungeon Crawler
DriveThruRPG View on DriveThruRPG
(It’s not yet listed on BGG!)

Sometimes you want a light romp through a dungeon. And sometimes, you can get it.

Dungeon crawlers are a popular style of game and for excellent reasons. Clearing out enemies and grabbing various loot is a fun experience and one replicated in different media. It might not be immediately apparent, but games like Zombicide, Diablo and Destiny all have dungeon crawl DNA.

Another thing all these games have in common is they excel when you are playing in groups. Yes, you can solo your way through most of them, but the experience isn’t quite what it could be.

So a couple of weeks ago when I saw a Facebook post about a solo dungeon adventure, I thought I would give it a shot. That game is One Page Dungeon: Volume 1: Fire in the Goblin Forge.

The What?

Yep, it’s a mouthful. For the rest of the review, I am going to call it One Page Dungeon, but keep in mind if you search for it that there are a lot of One Page Dungeon titles out there.

I was interested in One Page Dungeon for a few reasons. One, the designer Noah Patterson puts his games on DriveThruRPG as Pay What You Want for the first week. It’s a freebie trial. How could I lose?

All you need to play! Well, maybe not as many dice...

Another reason is that I have some weightier solo games like Four Against Darkness, that I just haven’t quite been able to play properly. Not because they aren’t good games, I just haven’t had the time to give them the attention they deserve. One Page Dungeon looked like a simpler version of the theme so that I could get into it quicker. Again, for a free game, it was worth a shot.

Exploring the Goblin Forge

One Page Dungeon was a game that delivered on first impressions. It only took a few minutes to read the rules, but I did need to read them a second time to let them click.

Short version – I played 2 games, went back and paid for the game. It’s worth it, but I really appreciate the ‘try it for free’ approach of Micro RPG.

The game follows the generic dungeon crawl formula. Create a character from your choice of 3, spend some initial gold and go knock down a dungeon door.

Play is straightforward. Roll a die, and place the corresponding room on the map. There are traditional rooms and corridors to place, but mechanically they are the same. You need to think ahead on your placement though – if you ever get into a situation where you can’t place a room, the final boss appears.

Character choices are solid, and you can choose between different styles that play differently

Once you have the room, you then roll for monsters or traps. You can try and sneak through the room, but if you fail, it begins an encounter. Defeat the monster or escape a trap, and you roll on the treasure table for a reward.

You finish the dungeon by defeating the boss – the King Goblin. As mentioned, if you get caught in a dead-end that will bring the King to you. He will also appear once you have accumulated 100+ gold.

When you defeat the boss, you can spend 50 gold to level up or buy new equipment. Then you can try again.

All of this happens in four steps, and one of those iscombat. In combay, you follow an order of three steps. It’s like all roll and writes – here is your order summary, follow that. It’s what makes them so easy to learn and follow, and One Page Dungeon does it well.

So you keep playing the same map?

Not really. Because you create the dungeon as you go, the likelihood of replaying the same dungeon is very slim. Of course, this is a game that depends on dice rolls, so you will quickly get familiar with the creatures and treasure in the 6-8 dice value range.

As you level up, the encounters do get easier. But a few unlucky rolls can quickly turn the tide against you, so there is no cakewalk here.

You can see the ghost of my first run, and already the route and what I have encountered are different

The negatives

If you don’t like rolling dice, this isn’t a game for you. Everything you do in One Page Dungeon depends on a die roll in some way.

And the high luck level leads to one of the biggest things people could see as a negative. On my first run-through, I had a lot of healing items and the like, but getting gold was a grind. The second game, my usual ‘low’ rolls kicked in, so it didn’t take long to play at all.

The rules are straightforward, but I still had a couple of questions. Noah Patterson quickly answered my question on Facebook, which was great! I wasn’t sure if I could drink potions and the like during a fight, and the short answer is yes.

My other gripe is the art. On the cover is the ‘sexy warrior woman’ trope, which to me I can’t see how it fits the game. Most of the art also looks like it was created for a late 00s 3D adventure game.

I don’t know who created the assets, but the mix of hand-drawn items and 3d rendered imagery is jarring. Not enough to detract totally from the game, but if I didn’t already know what the One Page Dungeon was about I probably would have passed over it browsing DriveThruRPG.

It's not the images are terrible, it's just the 'computer game' feel seems out of place

As a short diversion, One Page Dungeon is a bit of fun, but I wouldn’t play multiple games in a row.

So what happens when you get have played enough?

The clue is in the title. One Page Dungeon is only Volume 1 ūüėÄ I have grabbed Volume 2 this week, but I haven’t played it yet. As well as a new monster table, you also get more characters to choose from with unique abilities.

Characters are interchangeable between the volumes, so this helps add to replayability as well.

But if you don’t want to get the new volumes, just stop playing. While I can see myself playing Dungeon Crawlers as a whole for years to come, I don’t think this series will be one I will be pulling out of the PnP box for years to come. But in the meantime, I am enjoying playing it – and that’s what counts.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
One Page Dungeon: Volume 1: Fire in the Goblin Forge

Final Thoughts

One Page Dungeon: Volume 1: Fire in the Goblin Forge is not a groundbreaking game or in the running for the Spiel des Jahres. What it is though is a fun diversion, and it does a pretty good job at being such.

For literally a couple of dollars and printing 1-3 pages, One Page Dungeon is a bit of fun and an excellent introduction for people dipping their toes in the roll and write dungeon experience.

While the score of 6.5 reflects that it as better than average, it’s the fact that I can’t see myself playing it down the linethat brings it down from closer to 7.5-8 for me. Even as a one of bit of fun, I think a lot of people will enjoy it.

Overall
6.5/10
6.5/10

Pros

  • ¬†Simple solitaire roll and write
  • ¬†Cheap price point
  • ¬†Great introduction for new players

Cons

  • High luck factor can make game length drag
  • Roll die for everything

Lords of Waterdeep Review

Released 2012
Designer Peter Lee
Rodney Thompson
Publisher Wizards of the Coast (Website)
Players 2 – 5
Playing Time About 25-40 minutes per player (depends on play style)
Category Worker Placement
Hidden Information
Card Drafting
Set Collection
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Why be the one questing, when you can be the one benefiting from the questors?

Seven years is a long time in gaming. Changes in gaming over the last seven years have been phenomenal. Especially when you consider that it is now gamers everywhere that have benefited.

Video gamers have been seeing some pretty rapid improvements with console generations, but Tabletop gaming has only just really seeing this now. There is a reason Monopoly was king for so long – look at what it had as mainstream competition.

Take, for example, today’s game – Lords of Waterdeep. I have referred to it as an old favourite for years, and it’s not even that old!

That is the catch with today’s gaming boom. So many games are being released year on year, that a board game has a single run and then it’s gone, unless it makes it big. Lords of Waterdeep however is still going strong.

Released in 2012, I thought this was such a great gateway game for many types of players, even if there were preconceived notions on what ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ is. Many people agreed, and it became one of the early board game resurgence hits.

Original Box Components. **Image from BGG user vardamir

Today, Lords of Waterdeep is cheered or put down depending on your tastes. One thing I hear it put down for is the theme or lack thereof. I will talk about that in a little while.

I know a few players that have heard bad reviews on the game and won’t give it a second thought. The thing is though, for some reason, people look at Lords of Waterdeep as a deep strategy worker placement game. I often hear “It’s too simple. Game X or Y is so much better” as a justification why not to try it.

Yes, there are ‘better’ games available today, that is the benefit of so many new games coming out. Some forget these new games are building upon the lessons of great games that have come before.

Everyone is different, but if you sit a new gamer down with a lot of heavier games, they would be thoroughly confused and potentially put off playing again. Sometimes, the people teaching forgot they only have the experience that they do by starting with lighter games.

You can't get a player up to speed in one round of Twilight Imperium

Lords of Waterdeep for me is an excellent example of a gateway game. It has simple worker placement, light hidden role mechanics coupled with a theme that most people know that helps guide their learning experiences. There are a few moving pieces, but not enough to overwhelm players or those that enjoy lighter games.

It’s still a bit niche, sure. I wouldn’t call it a must-have item for every gamers shelf. But in today’s environment of Cult of the New, it’s still in print. And that should tell you something.

This is not what you get in the box. Lords of Waterdeep is my most customised game by far.

So what is Lords of Waterdeep?

Lords of Waterdeep has Dungeons & Dragons branding, but there is a bit of an argument on if its a Dungeons & Dragons game. I say that part doesn’t matter, and here’s why.

Most fantasy adventures start with your character and group in a pub, meeting with a stranger about a job. The stranger could be a noble in disguise, a merchant in need, or an agent of another. The setup is so standard that most going on a fantasy adventure are usually surprised by any real twist on the idea.

In Lords of Waterdeep, instead of being the adventurer risking life and limb for coin and fame, you are the noble ‘other’ that is set to benefit from the adventurers’ recklessness bravery.

Even without knowing the game, I bet you have a pretty good idea of what is happening here

And this is where I find most of the arguments come from – its “Not Dungeons & Dragons” if you aren’t the one adventuring.

To that, all I can say is “Fair enough.” If that is what Dungeons & Dragons is to you, then I can see why you would be disappointed in a game like Lords of Waterdeep.

But in your player position overlooking the resources of the city, to me, this theme is a great choice. It doesn’t hurt that the idea is also generic enough that you don’t need Dungeons & Dragons experience at all to get right into the game.

Waterdeep for me holds a special place as an old school role player, but so do places like Greyhawk. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you have probably already guessed they are cities or areas and nodding along with the conversation.

Lords of Waterdeep is my most 'blinged' game, hands down.

And this is a large part of why I love Lords of Waterdeep so much – everyone already has a fair idea thematically of what is happening. You don’t need to understand what an Owlbear is to know you get points for taming one. You do it and get your points, end of story.

OK, but how do you play?

There are two types of resources in the game – gold, and adventurers. During the game, you send agents to different locations to recruit adventurers and collect gold, then cash them to complete your quests. Most of these will give you points. Some special Plot Quests may also give you ongoing benefits rather than a score boost, so choose wisely.

That is the game in a nutshell, but there are a few other elements bought into play.

Waterdeep has several Lords, each with their strengths and goals. At the start of the game, each player is dealt a Lord face down. The Lord gives the player a bonus for certain things completed at the end of the game.

The Lords introduce the hidden role and secret objective mechanics to the game, without players having to learn asymmetrical rules. Each player still does what they were doing before, but some may go for Skullduggery quests over Warfare for end game points.

Each Lord is slightly different, and you randomly get one each game

Intrigue cards also add a small amount of ‘Take That!’ mechanics to the game. Each intrigue card is relatively straightforward on its own, so players don’t have to show what they have to everyone to ask questions.

A common one is a little compulsory quest another player must complete before any of their other pursuits. They are quick to do, and even score the player a few points. Some let you woo adventurers from rivals player boards, stealing their resources. But on their next turn, they will have what you took back again. Intrigues tend to delay rather than destroy.

Some sample Intrigue Cards

Even if you are being picked on by every other player, it is rare you can’t accomplish something during your game. An early mistake will not cost you the entire game, at least not until everyone knows the game inside out.

So what’s wrong with Lords of Waterdeep?

The biggest problem with Lords of Waterdeep is easily game length, especially with new players. Analysis Paralysis players also add to this. I try to tell people it will take about 30 minutes per player, but even this isn’t a great guide.

Partially this is because people that wait until their turn to begin to evaluate the game state will drag out the game. That isn’t unique to Lords of Waterdeep though. Unlike a few other games though, Lords of Waterdeep with it’s fixed choices can start to help players learn how to plan their play on other players turns.

Another thing that can add to the game time is how social you can be during the game. Because it’s a light game and a quick look at the board tells you the game state quickly, I have had plenty of games where I socialised more than I played.

Add more buildings during the game, and people start getting analysis paralysis

Another ‘issue’ some have with Lords of Waterdeep is its age, and that’s not a real negative for me. The comment that there are newer games that do some things better is accurate, but there aren’t many games that do the whole package as well.

Discworld: Ankh Morpork and it’s new version Nanty Narking (can’t wait for it that to arrive!) are almost advanced versions of Lords of Waterdeep. Yedo from Pandasaurus is also an advanced version, and it came out in 2012. But this is an unfair comparison in a lot of ways. Many people love Ticket to Ride, but the fact there are more advanced versions out there doesn’t make the original any less fun to play. Most people that I hear write off Lords of Waterdeep as ‘simple’ seem to forget this.

As a guide, if you own any of the ‘advanced’ games mentioned, Lords of Waterdeep probably isn’t your first choice to buy. It just won’t have the same amount of challenge for you, as it is a lighter experience. But to have it as an introduction in getting more people playing the other games? Yes, that is where it works well.

And this is where Lords of Waterdeep sits for me. It’s a fun light to medium weight game, but if you want something meatier to sink your teeth into then yes it’s not for you.

Wait – you said you wouldn’t play it without the expansions? Why should I?

No, now I wouldn’t play ‘vanilla’ Waterdeep, but I have played it a lot. Everything I have been talking about is all about the base game. The expansions also do just that – add more to the base, not ‘fix’ it.

The Scoundrels of Skullport includes two separate expansions that can be mixed or played separately. It has the bonus of adding a sixth player if you have a larger playgroup. That would be the only reason I would suggest grabbing it immediately. Other than that, standard expansion items really – new quests, lords, buildings and intrigues. They also have new area boards to place your workers.

Another thing I love about the expansions is that they can be played immediately. At its core, the expansion mechanics are almost identical to the base rules so you can jump in almost immediately.

It looks intimidating, but it's just more cards for the pile really

For new people, I remove a couple of the Lords and locations/quests that allow extra workers – the Ambassador and the Lieutenant. The rules these workers aren’t hard and can be thrown in on the second game easily.

As with any game, it is always best if you get the chance to play it with someone that knows it before jumping in and buying it yourself. Unless there is a sale or bundle going, play Lords of Waterdeep before worrying about anything buying Scoundrels of Skullport.

Oh, and did you know there is a digital version?

Interested, but don’t know anyone with the game? Lords of Waterdeep was the first ‘good’ board game conversions I ever played, and one of the reasons I still have an iPad.

You can get it on iOS and Android for AUD$11 – pricey, I fully admit. The app has a reasonable tutorial and multiple levels of AI, and mechanically it nails the game.

Lords Of Waterdeep Tablet
This is the Digital Tablet version, but it shows some of the choices on HALF the board

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Lords of Waterdeep
  • Game Score - 9/10
    9/10

Final Thoughts

I love Lords of Waterdeep. Hands down it is my most ‘blinged’ game ever, that should give an idea of how much I enjoy it.

That said, I would never say it’s my favourite game ever. It is high on my favourite games to teach, and it’s great to play with a variety of players.

I finally got this back to the table a couple of weeks ago, and of the six of us playing (expansions adds more players!) only 3 of us had played before, and one of those only on the app.

We had a great night, playing for about four and a half hours, including dinner and dessert. The new players had the mechanics and timing down pat by the end of the second round, and everyone wants to play it again.

What better recommendation can you have than that?

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • ¬†Light mechanics make for great introduction to many different games
  • ¬†Different roles make for replayability
  • ¬†High quality card quality and artwork

Cons

  • ¬†Can take a long time to play, especially with ‘Analysis Paralysis’ players
  • ¬†Can outgrow quickly as a deep strategy game
  • ¬†Blinging out your game can get expensive :p

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot Review

Released 2019
Platform PSVR (Reviewed), Steam
Publisher Bethesda (Website)
Developer Machine Games (Website)
Arkane Studios (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality Experience
Shooter
Light Puzzle Solving

It’s a polished VR Experience packaged as a game – I thought we were past this stage, though?

When I saw the announcement for Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, I was very intrigued. Wolfenstein has had an excellent reputation since being rebooted, and I have wanted to play them for a while. With the release of Cyberpilot and Youngblood last month, I thought this would be the best time to jump in.

Starting things up

You start the game in a room seated in a chair. Looking around, it felt like I was in Wolfenstein: Youngblood. The same model assets are being used in both games, and it makes VR look amazing.

Then you hear the voice of your resistance contact, the narrator and guide for the game. You go through some fairly standard VR intro malarky, and then you are in the game.

You are not allowed past this room. The door says so! :p

What you aren’t into though is into the Nazi killing. That threw me a little bit at first – isn’t this a Wolfenstein game? Shoot first ask questions never?

Instead of shooting, you’re tasked with reprogramming a captured Panzerhund. Again, reasonably standard VR fluff, but well-executed on the whole. Remove a panel with the crowbar, pull out the circuit board, listen to more talking, re-insert the circuit board – it’s all stuff VR has you doing already.

Repairing electronics rarely involves crowbars normally...

Then you get into the combat – well, almost. You get into a tutorial showing you how to move and use the Panzerhund, and then you are into the shooting phase.

So how is the combat?

Not bad – not bad at all. It was fun looking through the eyes of some of Wolfenstein’s harder enemies. The panicked reactions of the soldiers as they realise that their robot ally has turned on them is satisfying to see. And see it you do – graphically, I cannot understate how polished Cyberpilot is.

Using the Move controllers, having autonomous left and right-hand movement makes you feel like a badass. Walking through the streets looks and feels impressive, even if the level design is a bit linear.

The lighting effects are hard to show in a still, but the flamethrower looks amazing!

You don’t sound very enthused though, but you are saying it’s good?

Yeah, you knew the ‘but’ was coming.

There are three types of unit to control, of which the Panzerhund is the first. The next level has you flying a drone with an emphasis on stealth. It felt different from the Panzerhund, but it was another “wait for everything to be explained in unskippable sections” as outlined earlier before you got to do what you wanted.

The last robot is the Zitadelle and was, in most ways, the experience I was most expecting. Rockets on my left arm, minigun on my right, go and mow everything down.

By now, I thought the first three levels were the tutorials for the actual game – something fairly standard in a lot of shooters again. So then I started on the fourth level, where I got to jump between all three robots to complete specific tasks.

Rockets or bullets. Why not both?

Here I was, happy to be finally playing the game – and it was over. There are only four levels to the entire game.

Story wise, there was a bit of a twist (no I’m not going into it) but even that felt rushed and out of place.

Bottom line, this felt like the start of a great game that was rushed to meet an artificial deadline. If this had stayed in development another year with a more fleshed out story and levels, it could have been a great game rather than a good experience.

How are the Controls?

With the Move controllers, everything worked pretty well overall. Tracking was good for the most part, and I didn’t have to recenter myself very often.

The most annoying control issue I had was repairing with the Panzerhund and Zitadelle. In the cockpit, if you put your right hand down to the right and fire, Cyberpilot would often assume you were trying to dock the virtual controller to the frame and initiate repairs.

The other problem I had was the tutorials. They are unskippable and relatively slow. It felt like they were making sure you knew everything you could and couldn’t do in the game.

With the PSVR trying to help you lock onto things, repairing accidently happens a lot

So imagine my surprise when I accidentally find out 10 minutes before finishing the game I could strafe. That would have been nice to know earlier in the game!

So it’s not worth it?

No, by all means, grab it – just not at its current price point, and know that it’s not a game in and of itself.

Cyberpilot is fun enough – if you know it’s only a short term experience.

There are a variety of different challenges to try for in the trophy list, but they feel like they are there for completionists rather than fun things to do.

I do regret getting the physical copy. I bought it for AUD$40 from EB Games, mainly because I added it to my preorder for Youngblood. It’s AUD$30 on the PlayStation Store, and I think it will either be a PS Plus add on or half-price shortly.

Once Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot hits the AUD$15-20 mark, I think it will be better value for money and can recommend more people play it. But by then I think the hype will be gone, so interest in the game will have probably died off to the point not as many people will try this game as they should.

There are little things to discover, but not enough to make you play Cyberpilot again and again
JohnHQLD
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot

Final Thoughts

I don’t regret buying Wolfenstein: Cypberpilot at all. It looks so good, and the fun was there. Not enough to make a concerted effort for a platinum trophy, but it was fun enough. The seeds of an entire spin of series for Wolfenstein are sitting here, waiting to be nurtured.

What Cyberpilot doesn’t have is longevity. It’s like Batman: Arkham VR – it’s a polished and immersive experience, but that is all it is – an experience. This far into the PSVR lifecycle, I was hoping for more.

While the idea of Wolfenstein in VR is appealing, I don’t think that the PSVR is capable of doing it justice. Cypberpilot is a positive experiment and something that I would like to see Bethesda expand on. I will happily get the next game in the Wolfenstein VR series if it happens, but I would recommend picking up Cyberpilot when it’s on sale.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  • ¬†Amazing Visuals
  • ¬†Each robot feels different to control
  • ¬†Entertaining especially for new VR players
  • ¬†Lots of trophy challenges to complete

Cons

  • ¬†2 hours tops to complete
  • ¬†Unskippable Tutorials and Exposition
  • ¬†No secrets or collectables to promote level exploration
  • ¬†Controls can be awkward

Deep Space D-6 Review

Released 2015
Designer Tony Go
Publisher Print and Play Web Published
Tau Leader Games (Website)
Players 1
Playing Time 20-40 minutes luck depending
Category Dice Rolling
Worker Placement
Push Your Luck
Hand Management
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

To boldly roll where lots have thrown before

There are times when you want to play a game, but no one is around to play with you. Timing, location, last-minute plan changes – there are heaps of reasons why it can happen.

For me, this is a good time for Video Games to step in. But there are also a lot of times I don’t want to look at a screen anymore. Working in front of a screen all day, sometimes I can’t bear the thought of spending another few hours staring at another screen.

I had heard good things about a Board Game Geek solitaire print and play award winner Deep Space D-6 for a couple of years now. It was always one of those ‘next time’ print and play choices. I understood from a mechanical perspective why people enjoyed it, but never took the time to sit down and play a game.

That has all changed in the last few weeks, and I am glad I finally sat down and played Deep Space D-6 without distractions.

It doesn't look like much, but there is a surprising amount of game here

So what is Deep Space D-6?

Mechanically, Deep Space D-6 is a solo dice worker placement game. This is a technically correct sentence, and some people are now interested or turned off.

But hearing the title Deep Space D-6 and looking at the packaging, it’s understandable why people would be confused as to what’s going on.

Deep Space D-6 – is it a Star Trek parody? And why does the box look like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book?

Looking at the back, you see cards, a board with a ship on it, and some dice. Oh, dice – that explains the D-6 in the title. But the cards? Do you choose a route in space or something? It’s hard to follow from the packaging.

You play the role of a captain of a starship. Patrolling a section of space, you receive a distress call and go to investigate. But of course, the request is a trap and know you have to fight your way out of hostile space.

The first thing many new players will encounter - the back of the box
It doesn't look like much if you haven't played, but soon you will see a pitched space battle

You have to make snap decisions in your role of captain, represented by assigning available crew to different tasks. You need to balance ship maintenance with an ever-growing number of threats and random events that never seems to give you a break.

Still confused? Honestly, I don’t blame you. Having the mechanics make sense to me but not quite seeing how the theme integrated everything kept Deep Space D-6 on my ‘next time’ pile for far too long.

Gameplay Basics

There is a very easy to follow play order in Deep Space D-6. When you first begin, the setup has you already in the thick of the action. Threats are already surrounding your ship, and you have to start making choices.

Roll your dice and see if you have anything appearing on your scanners. Then assign your crew, add a new threat to the board, and finally resolve any threat actions.

You do this over and over again for about 20-30 minutes, depending on a few factors like luck and planning. This makes learning the game (or teaching someone else) incredibly simple as you only really need to concentrate on your actions and card text.

To win the game, you need to have drawn all of the threat deck cards. All external threats to the ship (including the big boss the Ouroboros) while having at least 1 hull point. What could be easier?

External Threats on the right, Internal Threats on the left. Sounds like Monday to me!

You can lose the game in a couple of different ways. The most common is being blown up. Just take too much damage, and as soon as your hull hits 0 points, you’re out. You can also have your entire crew incapacitated. If you start your turn and can’t roll any dice, you will lose – so be careful!

Playing Deep Space D-6

This all sounds pretty basic, and it is. But what you can’t picture from looking at the box or even listening to people talk about playing Deep Space D-6 is the incredible feeling of pressure and tension the game gives you. I have played plenty of games that have used timers to create a rushed atmosphere. Tony Go manages to do this while letting you take all of the time you want.

After the first couple of turns, you begin the gamer mantra of “Come on just roll some (Whatever you need to roll) please!”. You know what you need to do, but first, you need the resources (crew) to do it.

Secondly, every turn, you will add a new threat from the threat deck. There are some ‘nothing happens’ cards (Don’t Panic – just needed a towel!) but these can be taken out of the game if you are feeling masochistic.

Do you think I could roll just one shield die? Just one?
And of course as soon as my shields start to come good - they are gone again!

Each turn takes about 30-40 seconds. Some will be longer because you have to stop and think, and threat resolution can take a while as more are added, but a turn itself is speedy.

Because you are playing each turn so quickly, you quickly become so immersed in your game that you don’t notice you have been making quick decisions for 30 minutes. Some actions will cause elation and other despair. You begin dreading what you are going to reveal from the threat deck, but you don’t stop from turning them over.

This is the magic of Deep Space D-6 – in the space of about 10 minutes, you transform from slight confusion opening the box for the first time to complete absorption in trying to save your ship. It’s something that until you experience it yourself, you can appreciate the sentiment from an observers standpoint, but you won’t understand precisely what it feels like.

Replayability and Difficulty

Deep Space D-6’s retail version has a lot of variety going for it already in the box.

Firstly, you can remove the ‘Don’t Panic’ breather cards from the threat deck. This makes for a faster game as you are thinning the pile, but it also means you will have a new problem every turn.

I already mentioned the Ouroboros – the big bad boss of the game. It’s a single gigantic command ship comprised of six individual threat cards you fully defeat by destroying its core.

The more of these you take out, the harder the game
The big bad Ouroboros. It may just look like a few cards, but you will learn to hate this ship.

For your first time playing, you can simply leave the Ouroboros out altogether. You definitely have enough to worry about with the threat deck that this omission would not overly simplify the game.

Personally, I would recommend starting with the first optional Ouroboros setup. When you have cleared the threat deck, take the Ouroboros cards and set up the ship. Think of it as the big final boss appearing and trying to stop you from making it back to friendly space.

There is also the option of randomly shuffling the Ouroboros cards into the threat deck. If you draw one, put it to one side of the play area and reveal another threat card. When you have all six Ouroboros cards out, deal with the Ouroboros as an unveiled threat. You still need to clear the threat deck to win the game though.

This represents a more random timing to the encounter, while also building the tension and suspense as you begin revealing more and more of the Ouroboros. Most will also probably tell you it’s the more ‘advanced’ way to play.

Up in the top right, the Ouroborus is catching up...

The infirmary even has 2 modes of play you can choose from. You can play the standard way and have dice sent to the infirmary usually as a threat effect. Or, you can play where you put one die in the infirmary to make another die wild. This allows you to mitigate bad rolls but lowers your dice pool until a medical officer can treat everyone in the infirmary.

Finally, there are four different ships to master.

The Halcyon is the general all-rounder ship that is good for beginners and getting used to the gameplay. It has a Stasis Beam that lets you stop a threat from activating each turn.

Then you look at the next ship, the Athena Mk. II. On the surface, it appears the Athena has different hull and shield values – nothing unusual. Looking closer, you will see that all of the worker roles have different effects compared to the Halcyon.

The Halcyon (left) and the Athena Mk II (right)

So what’s wrong with it?

Frankly – not much. Not with the game itself at least.

The AG-8 (left) and the Mononoaware on the right.

For example, the Halcyon lets you add up all of your damage and split it amongst multiple targets. The Athena inflicts 2 points of damage to a single threat for each gunnery icon. It’s a subtle adjustment but can make a world of difference in how you play subsequent games.

The same goes for the other two ships – the AG-8 and the Mononoaware. In my head, each board is an expansion that messes with the base rules, giving you new challenges and experiences. I think it will take a long time to be bored with Deep Space D-6.

The component quality is excellent. The dice are solid and roll well, the boards are heavy enough and functional, and the heavy card stock speaks well for durability. The artwork on cards is lacking, but I do like the clean, simple designs this allows.

My biggest issue with Deep Space D-6 is the rules explanations and vagueness of some terms. If you learn to play the game yourself, Tony Go has been very active on the Board Game Geek Forums which is handy. Tau Leader Games also has a pretty good FAQ on their website.

The rules are much better than the PnP, but you shouldn't need to go online for rule clarifications on the second round

While it’s great these are happening, as I got a second edition/print copy, I am a bit disappointed they are still needed. There wasn’t anything game-breaking that I needed to lookup. I was mostly right with my instincts on how things resolved, but that is just gaming experience I think.

If a new gamer pulls a card that doesn’t make sense, they don’t want to have to hunt on the internet for what it means, it should have clarification in the rule book.

Deep Space D-6 is not the first or last game to suffer from this. Hopefully, in a new reprint and/or the upcoming multiplayer Deep Space D-6: Armada, this can be resolved.

More than one player?

Not yet. That said, my favourite round of Deep Space D-6 has been when I taught Alpal how to play. She had a copy from the original Kickstarter, and I have the newer release, and we just set up our games, and I talked through the rounds.

It was the truest multiplayer solitaire gaming session I ever played. We were both in wildly different positions, and it was fun to see what the other was going through.

I was going through the game faster once I left Alpal to play on her own after the first couple of rounds, so she would look up and just see a ton of cards scattered everywhere. She would laugh at my exasperation at being unable to roll anything I wanted, and I enjoyed watching her get just as beaten up by her game.

Things are not looking good for my ship. But I have gotten out of worse!

As I mentioned before though there is a multiplayer version currently in development. If Deep Space D-6 sounds like something you would enjoy but want to play with some more players, maybe hold off for Deep Space D-6: Armada.

Still not sure if you would like it? Try the free print and play!

Still not sure if Deep Space D-6 is for you? Makes perfect sense. I put off trying it for the exact same reason. The good news though is if you don’t mind printing your games, there is a free print and play version available!

It comes with the Halcyon (although it’s not named in this version), some threat cards and the rules. I haven’t made a direct comparison to the retail version, but the cards included are representative of threats in the retail version. There just doesn’t seem to be quite as many, so games will probably run quicker.

Using a conversion chart for the symbols can slow the game down though. When I was looking to play the print and play, I planned to write the pip values over the symbols meaning no lookups. Adds a few minutes to the initial setup, but it will make your life easier.

It may not look quite as nice, but it will save you a lot of time later!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Deep Space D-6

Summary

Deep Space D-6 regularly manages to make me more immersed and invested in a ‘quick filler game’ than a lot of big-box games manage, and that is quite a feat.

There is a lot about Deep Space D-6 that I know will discourage large groups of players. It’s a solo game with a high luck factor with dice rolling and drawing from a deck. There isn’t a lot to the game component-wise. But what is seen by many as drawbacks all make for strengths in Deep Space D-6. It’s great that the print and play is available to everyone, but I also understand that only some people enjoying building their games this way.

I really think if people had the chance to sit and try it, it would catch on even more than it already has. Hopefully, the upcoming Deep Space D-6: Armada with multiple players will help with that ūüôā

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • ¬†Immerses you into gameplay faster than 99% of games I have played
  • ¬†Simple solid core rules that allow for fast play and learning
  • ¬†Free Print and Play to try first that still has a lot of variety in it

Cons

  • ¬†Rules could include a lot more clarifications
  • ¬†To play with multiple people at the same time, multiple copies required

Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever Review

Released 2018
Designer Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher Schmidt Spiele (Website)
Stronghold Games (Website)
Players 1 – 4 (Have been solo playing a lot)
Playing Time Solo with App – 5 min
Physical Game – 8-10 min per player a good guide
Category Roll and Write
Combination Builder
Push your luck
Similar to Worker Placement
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

You just roll the dice and fill in numbers, where is the fun in that?  Wait, how did you score 4x my score?

Roll and Writes continue to come out at an amazing rate, and pretty much all of the publishers are now adding Roll and Writes to their lineups.

Last year, I kept hearing about this amazing one from Wolfgang Warsch (The Mind, The Quacks of Quedlinburg) called Ganz Schon Clever.

And of course, it sold out.¬† Then I heard Stephen Buonocore talking about it, and an English distribution via Stronghold Games. “Yay!” I think to myself, I can finally play it!

So I ordered it, and lo and behold the German edition lands on my doorstep just prior to moving.¬† But that didn’t stop me from playing it in the end.

You can play That’s Pretty Clever on almost anything it seems

Sadly putting the physical game in a box (and even sadder, as of this morning it’s still in there!), I thought I would not be playing Ganz Schon Clever until June.

But then on the Google Play store, up popped a recommendation based on apps I purchase.  Ganz Schon Clever! The universe decided I was going to play this game after all.

So I fired it up, started a new game, and was immediately lost.

Where there is a will, there is a way!

Wait, is this an app review or a board game review?

A little bit of everything to be honest. Once you are into a solo game, the digital versions (yep, versions – more on that soon) are a great implementation.

The confusion came simply because of an assumption on my part. I have gotten so used to the start of any digital game being the tutorial, I didn’t stop to read the rules, I just jumped in. The confusion was 100% my fault, and my problem.

The basics of Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever are really simple.¬† Roll six coloured dice, and select which die you want to use to cross of an area of your play board.

Yellow die are used in the top left corner.  If the pips on the die match the value on a square, cross it off.

In the blue square, you cross off the sum of the blue and white die that roll, but only lock one of them.  This will make sense as you play, but it is the most complicated placement rule in the game.

Fill out the sections to maximise your score. Simple in premise, not so much in execution
The app does make it easy to see your legal choices - and consequences. Sure I can use the 6, but look at all the dice I lose!

The final three sections are filled left to right.

The Green die face value must equal or exceed the value on the sheet.  Orange you can place any value, and Purple must go in ascending order, with a 6 resetting the count.

So as you can see, it looks pretty simple. Roll dice, mark off where you want it to go.  Basically, dice worker placement, right?

Well, sort of.¬† There are catches, and when first learning the game it’s these little quirks that can catch you out.

The first thing is the old ‘select which die to use’.¬† It’s true, you can pick any of the rolled die.¬† But any dice with a value lower than the one you selected get discarded for the rest of the round.

This adds a timing and luck element to the game. You really want to use green for that 5 places, but it’s the first roll of the round and everything else is ones and twos.¬† You will effectively end the round if you pick it!

It’s these kinds of little quirks that makes That’s Pretty Clever work so well, but it’s also not quite a game you can just roll and teach.

The other thing that takes a game or two to click is the positioning of the dice.  Each section has a different scoring method, and your final score is the total of all the sections.  But on top of that, there are also bonuses that can be utilised.

Some are instant use, like mark of any unmarked yellow square.  Some you can use when you want, like reroll the dice or reuse a die Рpossibly the most powerful move in the game.

If you ignore a section, you will get very heavily penalised as the fox head multiplies your lowest section score

So you enjoy it?

Solo Рabsolutely.  Once you know how to play, the digital versions let you belt out a game very quickly.

I will probably only pull out the physical version for a multiplayer game.  And there is the typical catch for a lot of these strategy heavy games Рyou only really want to play against people at around your experience level.

Because of that, That’s Pretty Clever is going to remain a solo or teaching game in my library I think.

So how can I enjoy it?

If you want to play with others, grab the board game.  Learn together, play together, and have a great time.

Only want to play solo?  Grab the app.  It handles all of the bookkeeping and rules for you and lets you focus solely on your technique.

Want to learn first and give it a try for free? First, go to Board Game Geek and get the English translated rules.  User nyfilmfest has a great easy to follow translation, and it will explain everything I have left out Рand there is a fair bit.

Then, go to http://m.brettspielwelt.de/ganzschoenclever/ and give it a spin!

Yes it's in German, but the game is almost 100% iconography. Just remember Wurfeln is basically Roll ūüėÄ

The rules are solid and will give you a solid background into the game.  The main difference between the web and app version is stat tracking, so if you want to just play for free and mark down your own high score, go for it!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Ganz Schon Clever/That's Pretty Clever

Final Thoughts

Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever is one of those games that scratches the logical pattern part of my brain really well.¬† My best game to date is 287, but I want to keep playing until I can break 300.

And that is the first part of what hurts That’s Pretty Clever’s score.¬† Longevity wise, I think I have cracked the strategy, so it’s a self-imposed goal that keeps me going.

Plus, there is already a follow-up – Twice as Clever – which would probably be the games killer.

Give the web version and/or the app a try, and if you like it, probably just grab Twice as Clever. If you do grab That’s Pretty Clever though, you will enjoy it – even if it might have a limited play span.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • ¬†Very addictive gameplay. You always know you can do better.
  • ¬†Free web browser game – limits to solo, but hey!
  • ¬†Small footprint, easy to take with you

Cons

  • ¬†Long term play I don’t think is there
  • ¬†Already followed up by Doppelt So Clever/Twice as Clever
  • ¬†Different scoring sections can be intimidating to new players

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 30th Anniversary Review

HHGTTGCoverArt
HHGTTGCoverArt
Released 1984
Platform Web Based
Publisher Infocom (now Activision – Website)
Developer Infocom (now Activision – Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Text-based adventure

Did you know 42 is the ASCII code for *?

Many, many years ago when I was a young lad, playing PC adventure games was very different from today.

For a start, they had no real graphics – they were all text based. The early games that had ASCII art were mind-blowing at the time. We also didn’t have the internet. If you couldn’t figure it out, you were stuck. Get lucky, and a hint book would be published or a guide in a magazine, but these were rare.

So sitting on my parents Commodore 64, I spent the better part of a week trying to get out of a particular bedroom. No, not the room where the computer was. It was the bedroom of one Arthur Dent, and the game was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

That’s right. Douglas Adams (already a programmer) and Steve Meretzky transferred the amazing book into a full-blown game. But while it was fan service, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was far from a cash grab.

HHGTTG00
This was Commodore 64 basic text adventure - this is how we rolled back then!

From a review point, this is a 35ish-year-old adventure game based on a cult sci-fi story. Gameplay wise, think of it as the Dark Souls of adventure games. There is a reason why it took 10-11 year old me a week to get out of the first room. And that was after it had been out for two years!

The story is one we know already, but as you are guiding Arthur there are plenty of new twists and areas to enjoy. The command interpreter at the time was already fairly advanced as well, and it holds up today. There are no controls to speak of other than typing ‘Walk South’ or ‘Get Toothbrush’.

Bottom line though this is an early text adventure. As fun as it is, it’s not comparable to games made today. Replaying Hitchhiker’s Guide was great for a diversion, but I wouldn’t play it over The Witcher.

Purely from a nostalgia perspective, I am so happy this game exists. The remake is the same text adventure tidied up with a nicer interface and some cute images. Even this ‘upgrade’ is a throwback to the old classic style of early adventure games, and it makes me smile.

HHGTTG01
This is as welcoming as the game gets. It does not hold your hand!

I wasn’t joking – even if you know the source material intimately, this is a tough game to finish. The act of getting out of the house stumped younger me for ages. Later in the game, you have one chance to get the Babel Fish – fail, and you cannot win the game.

And that’s just two areas that readers will be familiar with. There are many ways the game will put you in a situation you can’t win. The problem with this is you can play for while without knowing you have already failed. Or it will only kill you. This at least is a quick conclusion to a situation ūüôā

The best way to understand the game though is to play it. And you can anytime – it’s free on the BBC website! I wasn’t aware of this until this week, and I am kicking myself that I have been missing out!

You can log in and have tweets put out on your progress, and you can save your game. The execution is slick, the game remains fun, and it is a window to how we used to game. If you like the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, this will be a great treat for you as well.

HHGTTG02
I can now get outside in less than a minute - progress!
JohnHQLD
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 30th Anniversary

Summary

This article has been light on review. How do you try to get people excited about a 30+ year old text game without spoiling it?

But the game holds up well, and I don’t want to spoil any of it – especially as you can play it right now.¬† For free.¬† And unlike a lot of other browser experiences I have come across, you can fully save and load your progress.¬† This means you can have the full experience, in a nicer format than in the 80s.

If you like adventure games and a challenge, go to the site and bookmark it.  You will enjoy it.

Until next time,

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • ¬†An old classic that still holds up
  • ¬†Browser game format works well
  • ¬†Comes with hints (unlike on the C64!)
  • ¬†Can see the seeds of todays adventuring standards

Cons

  • ¬†The game is designed to be hard
  • ¬†New gamers may not see the appeal

Shadows: Amsterdam Review

Shadows Amsterdam Feature
Shadows Amsterdam Feature
Released 2018
Designer Mathieu Aubert
Publisher Libellud (Website)
Players 2 – 8 (Really want 4 – 6)
Playing Time 15 – 20 minutes
Category Deduction
Exploration
Real Time
Puzzle
Party Game
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

What happens when you mix Codenames with Dixit and make it a real time race?

**This isn’t one of mine – I borrowed Alpal’s copy of Shadows: Amsterdam for this review

Shadows: Amsterdam is one of those games that I wasn’t overly excited about for all the wrong reasons. Firstly, I kept trying to call it Shadows over Amsterdam. Not the games fault – Shadows over Camelot left a considerable impression on me.

Next, it was Codenamesesque. Not a bad thing on its own, but I have a few versions of Codenames that wasn’t hitting the table.

Finally, it’s a four player game at a minimum. Yes, I know the box says 2-8, but the two and three player counts are a variant. This isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it only captures the game mechanics. More on this later.

There was considerable hype building on Shadows: Amsterdam, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to buy it.

So sitting down at Alpal’s one afternoon, when we had four players and the chance to play, I jumped at the chance. And I am glad I did. One play in, and I was an instant convert.

Shadows Amsterdam Components
A little more involved that the simple party games of late

So what is the game?

Two teams take the part of rival detective agencies, trying to solve a crime before the other side or the police. Yes, you have to avoid the police – they don’t like civilians doing their job better!

The city in Shadows: Amsterdam is a large place, made up of hexagonal tiles that change between games. It is large and colourful, and you will need to be on the ball to search for all the evidence required to solve the case.

There is one Intelligence Master per team. Their job is to help their operatives collect evidence and avoid the police. These players can see all the evidence locations and police the teams have to avoid.

From here, the aim is simple – be the first team to collect three pieces of evidence then head to the objective to win! But if you run into the police three times, you are out of the running and lose, so be careful!

Shadows Amsterdam Intelligence Cards
Unlike Codenames, both teams can't see everything - there is only a limited amount of shared information

Oh, I should also point out that there are no turns – Shadows: Amsterdam is a real-time game. This adds to the tension and flow beautifully, but again more on that later ūüôā

Playing the Game

All other players work together to try and interpret the clues given to them. But the Intelligence Master must remain hidden, so they have to understand strange clues! Hints are provided in the form of picture cards intended to direct them to the next step in a path.

This was the first thing I had a little trouble getting my head around. You aren’t being handed the end location immediately, but the next step in a path. The Intelligence Master can only communicate with the cards, so you have to trust you are doing OK.

When you start the game, you receive one or two picture cards that hopefully direct you to the correct tile. If you are given one card, it represents a tile one move around you. Two cards and your location is two steps away. If you think of the ring around your piece, it lets you move one or two rings, so it’s not blind guessing amongst the noise.

Shadows Amsterdam Where To Go
One clue, move one tile - and the blanks are no go zones. Which of the three should orange move to?

This mechanic allows you to focus purely on what is before you, and you will need to. The real-time nature of Shadows: Amsterdam lends itself to an almost push your luck feeling. If you can make a decision quickly, you will travel more than your opponents. But if you rush decisions, you may walk straight into the police!

The feeling of urgency and tension also builds quickly as your opponents start collecting more evidence than you. Conversely, as your opponents find the police more often, this can help boost you as they have to start playing more cautiously. Shadows: Amsterdam is a game that manages to get inside your head.

So it sounds fun. What’s wrong with it?

Very little in my opinion – as long as you are playing with at least four people. At this player count, you have two Intelligence Masters and two team players. Everything I have described is how a game works at this count.

At two or three players, everyone plays one side only and has to race the clock. It’s a straight time limit. Yes, you will have a sense of dread as you watch the time run out, but it’s not the same. Watching a timer count down doesn’t affect you as much as watching a team on a hot streak.

At a lower player count, the mechanics are all there, but not the party game type atmosphere. Beating a clock is an accomplishment, but it is more fun to have a competitive rivalry with other people.

Shadows Amsterdam Tension Rising
Orange is one piece of evidence up, but if black makes one more mistake it's game over! One team just doesn't give you this feeling
JohnHQLD
Shadows: Amsterdam

Final Thoughts

Shadows: Amsterdam is very much in a place to become a Codenames: Pictures replacement for me. It plays faster, has more ‘game’ to it, and has just as much replayability.

It is also a game that I can see myself playing with younger players more than Codenames. While there is more to keep track of, the lack of downtime keeps player interest high. The simple goals are also easy to focus on.

If I am playing two players, Codenames: Duets still wins for me. If someone wants to play Codenames: Pictures, I will be reaching for Shadows: Amsterdam as an improvement on a great formula.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  • ¬†Fast to Teach and Play
  • ¬†Great for all ages
  • ¬†Beautiful artwork and components
  • ¬†Easy to get people into a game

Cons

  • ¬†Really a four player game
  • ¬†People may overlook it as being another Codenames
  • ¬†Board pieces could be thicker

Access Denied Review

Access Denied Feature
Access Denied Feature
Released 2019
Platform Steam, PS4 (reviewed), XBox, Switch
Publisher Stately Snail (Website)
Developer Stately Snail (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Logic and Deduction
Escape Room-esque puzzles

When you want to exercise your mind instead of your trigger finger

While I have been playing some action-oriented games lately, I do enjoy logic problems. Getting a puzzle and working it over and over until a solution is found is an incredibly satisfying experience.

So a few weeks ago when I saw Access Denied on the PlayStation Store, I thought “Why Not?” and spent the AUD$8 on what looked like a promising little title.

So I one afternoon when I was working from home, I started playing. I thought it would be a good thing I could pick up and put down as I was waiting.

What I didn’t expect was to finish after about 2 hours. And that was a distracted 2 hours. But more of that later – let’s talk about the good stuff first.

What Access Denied does well

Access Denied doesn’t hold your hand. You start the game with a control panel and some great rain sounds. Clicking start raises a box, and then you are pretty much on your own.

You can rotate the device before you, and change the viewing angle. The first puzzle is straightforward, but you still need to work out what you can interact with.

When the puzzle is complete, a little hologram orb appears, and the next challenge rotates in. Simple, straightforward, and satisfying when you complete a puzzle.

The difficulty curve I thought was about right as well. New mechanics are slowly introduced, and I never felt stumped. There was always a path I knew I could try.

All in all, it’s a generally smooth experience that allows people new to puzzle games a safe entry point.

Access Denied Level Complete
When you are finished, the game shows you so very clearly

And what could Acces Denied improve?

I have only played on the PS4, but the controls aren’t great. Maybe the touchscreen would be better? Moving the reticle and clicking isn’t too bad, but you have the problem of moving too much or not enough with the analogue stick. A way to adjust the sensitivity of the movement would be nice.

And dials. They are terrible. Using the dials was genuinely frustrating for me. They made straightforward puzzles unnecessarily annoying.

My only other real gripe is the length of the game, but at less than $8 (on PS4) I don’t expect a 40-hour game.

Access Denied Dials
There is a trick to it, but it's still REALLY annoying to turn dials

And then there are the trophies…

On PlayStation and Xbox are the trophies or achievements. Earning them increases your score or level on your platform, and is something either sought after or ignored generally.

For PlayStation gamers, trophies come in four ranks and are awarded for specific tasks in a game. Bronze for small achievements, the backbone of the system. Silver for harder tasks or hidden goals, recognition of extra work. Gold for outstanding in-game actions. Get every other trophy in the game, and you earn the platinum trophy signifying your mastery of the title.

Kingdom Hearts 3, my first platinum since Resident Evil 7, has 46 trophies in all. 32 bronze, 10 silver, and 2 gold – plus the platinum.

Batman – Return to Arkham: Arkham Asylum has 48 trophies. 28 bronze, 18 silver, 1 gold plus the platinum.

The Telltale game The Walking Dead: Season One also has a platinum trophy. It is generally regarded as an ‘easy platinum’ as you only need to finish all of the episodes. Each episode is essentially a mini-movie with the occasional choice, so they aren’t considered ‘hard’ games. The Walking Dead: Season One has 41 trophies over 5 episodes. 30 bronze, 5 silver, 5 gold and of course one platinum.

JohnHQLD Trophy Sample
Day of the Tentacle doesn't count as a short game - I have played it at least once a year on PC for years!

Among these titles, you now have an idea of how trophies usually are shared out in a game. You are given a semi-secret score for each trophy you earn, all of which add up to your gamer level.

What struck me as odd was how much my PSN level jumped when finishing Access Denied. Sure, I had earned platinum which is worth a lot of points, but it still didn’t seem right. Plus it was only 14 trophies; things weren’t adding up. Then I looked at the trophy distribution. 2 silver, 11 gold, and the platinum. Not a single bronze trophy in sight.

For $8 and a couple of hours of my time, I had bought a platinum trophy and more gold trophies than three ‘full’ games. Not going to lie – this left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t consider myself a trophy hunter, but this feels like an artificial sales incentive for Access Denied.

Want to get a lot of trophies quickly? Buy Me!

Access Denied stands on its own merits.  If I had just finished the game with nothing but a few bronze trophies, I would have been happy.  On PS4 at least this trophy grab incentive cheapens the game in my eyes.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Access Denied

Final Thoughts

If the biggest problem I have with a game is a perceived marketing ploy, it really can’t be a bad game.

Even the controls I could work around.  Access Denied is a game you pick up and play in short bursts normally.  Working around issues like that for a short time, especially for the price, is forgivable in my eyes.

If you are new to video game escape room type puzzle games, Access Denied is a fine game if you know it’s shortcomings.¬† If you have more experience, you can still grab The Witness for free on PlayStation Plus for a couple more days.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • ¬†Solid introduction to video game puzzles
  • ¬†Challenging puzzles
  • ¬†Cheap

Cons

  • ¬†Frustrating Controls (on PS4 at least)
  • ¬†Short gameplay overall

Lockpicks a Legends of Dsyx Game review

Lockpicks Cover
Lockpicks Cover
Released 2018
Designer Robin Gibson
Publisher Button Shy Games (Website)
Players 1
Playing Time 10-15 minutes
Category Roll and Write
Solo
Push your luck
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Visiting another Legend of Dysx

So I still don’t know what Dysx is or why there are legends, but cruising through PnPArcade.com after reviewing Dragonvault I found what I thought would be a suitable follow-up.

While not explicitly stated, Lockpicks seems to have you as the successful thief from the first game trying to access your rewards.  You have the chests, but the treasure is what you are after!

Only thing is the dragon has these pesky loyal followers that are trying to hunt down the thief, so you can’t hang around all day.

So as you can see thematically, Lockpicks looked like a fun continuation to the Legends of Dysx roll and writes, so I decided to give it a go.

Lockpicks Components
A sheet of paper, some dice and a pen. Not much setup required ūüôā

Playing Lockpicks

Gameplay is straightforward.  Firstly you pick a chest that you want to break into.  There are 12 in total, with 3 being of a particular level (1-4).  The higher the level, the better the loot Рbut the more time you will need to spend picking the lock.

Next, roll your five dice.¬† Each die represents a type of move you can make on the board, similar to chess moves.¬† Starting from the lock at the top of the chest, you then do the appropriate move and place a dot in the square you end up in.¬† I tend to draw my moves, but it’s not strictly necessary.

The goal is to put a dot into each of the circles in the chest, then finally the lock at the bottom of the chest representing the lock being opened.  Movement wise the only limitation is you cannot put a dot on a square you already have a dot in, so you are trying to make an efficient path with the random moves available to you.

Lockpicks First Round
Each die allows you to make a certain move, kind of like chess

Once you have used the five dice, or you can’t move anymore, tick off an hourglass.¬† If you opened a chest, roll one die and claim your reward on the tables on the right-hand side.¬† You can only claim each reward once though, so reroll any you already have.¬† This is how you score points in the game, and the treasures allow you special powers to reroll during the game.

The game ends in one of two ways.  The simplest is when you have had enough and cash in your points.  The second is when you get caught!  You are caught if you use all of the hourglasses and roll a 1 when rolling all five dice in the lockpick stage.  This means that the game can go on until you open all 12 chests Рbut this is going to be extremely lucky!

If you are caught, you lose all of your collected loot and score 0 points.¬† If you get away with the loot though, it’s simply a case of adding up your points and trying to beat your old score.

Lockpicks Mid Game
The lower level chests are easier, but don't score as many points

But…

A lot of the same ‘problems’ I had with Dragonvault are still present in Lockpicks.¬† The rules are reasonably clear, but putting them on a second page with examples would be better.

There is a strategy for a high score, and I am sure with luck I could score higher, but this relies on luck.¬† I don’t mean that as a negative overall, just if you don’t like luck based games skip Lockpicks.

And finally Button Shy does not seem to be supporting this series, even though the website is on each game board.  It is hard to clarify rules with no easily found interaction Рnot the games problem, but something I still find strange.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Lockpicks a Legends of Dsyx Game

Final Thoughts

Lockpicks seemed like a good follow on from Dragonvault, and mechanically it is.¬† It’s a fine game.¬† But it just seems to miss something – I can’t really explain it more than that.

In theory, this should be just as fun as Dragonvault.  But I will turn to Dragonvault before playing Lockpicks (to date anyway).

It’s not that I regret the purchase, but if you are looking at starting a PnP collection, I wouldn’t start with Lockpicks – there are better examples, even within the series.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  • ¬†Cheap and quick to get into
  • ¬†Still a good solid efficiency puzzle

Cons

  • ¬†It just doesn’t feel as fun as Dragonvault
  • ¬†A couple of vague rules that could use clarification

Pandemic Review

Pandemic Cover Art
Pandemic Cover Art
Released 2008
Designer Matt Leacock
Publisher Z-Man Games, Inc. (Website)
Players 1 – 4 (Easier with fewer characters)
Playing Time 45-60 minutes
Category Cooperative
Hand Management
Set Collection
Variable Player Powers
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

But I don’t want to take any cards

When you talk cooperative games to gamers, the first example¬†from many players is Matt Leacock’s Pandemic.

It’s joked to be such a wonderful, team building experience – the world is dying thanks to the outbreak of four virulent viruses, and your 1-4 player team (usually at least 2) has to save the world.¬† No pressure at all.

Games of Pandemic can get tense, but usually only in a good way.  Trying to decide how four people can take on the massive task of curing four disease outbreaks is stressful.

But you don’t do it alone – you work with your team.¬† There is no single winner – the team succeeds, or the team fails.¬† There are not a huge variety of actions and strategies to keep in mind either, so it is a game you can teach in just a few minutes and refine as you play.

Pandemic Components
Now this is a mix of upgrades and expansion items, but it still can look intimidating to new players

There are many games described as ‘Pandemic Like’, including the Forbidden series from the same creator – Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky.¬† Pandemic itself has turned into a new yearly game thanks to the survival series tournaments.¬† But this is the game that started it all.

Playing Pandemic

When you see Pandemic setup for the first time, it can look incredibly daunting.  Piles of cards and heaps of little cubes surround a stylised world map (that still forgets places like New Zealand and Alaska!).

But that is part of the magic of Pandemic – there are a number of steps, but each step has very simple choices or clear instructions to follow.

Your goal is simple Рcure the four diseases currently rampaging all over the world.  You do not need to get all of the cubes off the board, just find the four cures Рthis is something that sometimes gets confused.  But while the goal is simple, the strategies for achieving this goal are not always as straightforward.

The first thing I do when teaching Pandemic though is break down the three steps each player turn consists of – usually as I take the first turn.

Step 1 – Player Turn

On their turn, a player uses four action points to try and find cures or treat the sick.¬† Each Basic or Special Action costs a point, so it’s all a long way of saying you can do four actions.¬† It is easier to remember the things that don’t cost an action point than try to hit home the actions that do.

The basic actions deal with movement.  You can Drive (or Ferry) to the next town connected by a line.  You can discard a city card to fly directly to that city (e.g. Discard Atlanta to fly from anywhere to Atlanta).  If you discard the card of the city you are in, you can Charter a flight to anywhere in the world.  Lastly, you can Shuttle between two Research Stations without discarding any cards.

Pandemic Summary Cards
Make sure everyone has these cards! I normally go first and demonstrate each action to get the game started.

Technically you can also pass as a basic action, but generally I avoid this as an action by teaching that players can take up to four actions on their turn.¬† While I am not alone in this method, this is the most common ‘house rule’ I have heard complaints about, even though it is not technically changing any rules.

The Special Actions are the ones that will need to be carried out to win the game.  The most common is Treating Disease, that allows the player to remove one infection cube per action from the city they are in.

If players can remove all of the infection cubes from a disease that is cured, that disease is considered eradicated and infection cards no longer have any effect.  Infection cards will be explained later as they are drawn at the end of a players turn.

Another action that is used is Building a Research Station.  These are important as they can become movement hubs as shown above, and are also required to Discover a Cure.

The next special action is Sharing Knowledge.  When two players are in a city, the active player can give or take the card of that city to the other player once per action.  You usually want to share cards around for the big action РDiscover A Cure.

The ultimate goal of Pandemic, to Discover A Cure you simply hand in 5 of the same coloured cards as the disease you want to cure at any Research Station.  Now, I say simply, but Pandemic has a 7 card hand limit, so it takes a lot of luck and management to get five in your hand!

Pandemic Discover a Cure
Do this 4 times to win. Simple! But it's sometimes as simple as finding 30 cents when you only use eftpos.

With one exception – Event Cards – this is all a player can do on their turn.¬† Each individual action is simple enough, but when you first look at a Pandemic board it can still feel overwhelming.¬† Knowing what you can do isn’t the same as playing, but I will talk about how I usually manage this later.

Step 2 – Drawing Cards

Drawing cards seems simple.  Once you have used your four actions, draw 2 player cards from the deck.  This is where you will get new city cards, and if you are lucky some Special Event Cards.

The Special Event Cards are the player actions that universally break the Action Point rules.¬† To a degree, they can be played at any time with no action point cost.¬† The only time they can’t play Special Event cards is when they are in the third Infection step, so it’s a little timing to learn.

Special Events are generally powerful, but not always obviously so.  One Quiet Night allows you to skip one Infection step, or Forecast lets you see the next 6 cards in the Infection Deck.  Airlift allows you to move a character to another location for free, which has allowed me that crucial extra action many times.

Pandemic Special Events
These cards can turn the tide of a bad draw. They can also be used easily at the wrong time.

The hardest thing to remember is you always have a 7 card hand limit.¬† Unlike many games, you don’t draw up and then discard.¬† If you have 7 cards in your hand before you draw, you have to discard one card before you can draw the second card – no looking ahead to decide with!

The exception to this rule are the Special Event Cards – you can play them during this time instead of discarding them.

The cards that change everything though is the random cards in the deck known as Epidemics.  These are the cards that at best just make things harder, at worst can lose you the game.

Like most parts of Pandemic, and Epidemic has some simple steps and are all printed on the card.

Firstly, you increase the Infection Rate – you now put out more infection cubes each turn.

Secondly, take the card at the bottom of the infection deck, and place 3 cubes on it.  There would never have been any cubes beforehand.

Lastly, shuffle the cards that have been shown already and place them on top of the deck.  This is the part that makes Epidemics so dangerous.

Pandemic Epidemic
The most dreaded card in the game. It is universally recognised that if drawn on your turn, it's your fault :p

Each city that has already been infected is now queued up to be infected again.  Areas you thought were clear now run the risk of becoming hotspots.  Hotspots you thought left as a calculated risk can now come back to bite you.

It’s amazing how quickly this changes the game.¬† While you know the cities under threat as they have already been played, you now have to juggle the odds and decide which cities are safe and which you may just have to accept is going to hurt soon.

Either way, if you pulled an Epidemic card or not, the final player phase begins.

Step 3 – Infection

While the Epidemic cards can set up catastrophe, the Infection Deck is where all the bad things come to pass.

Draw one at a time a number of infection cards up to the Infection Rate.  This starts at 2 but can increase quickly.  For each city shown, place one infection cube of that cities colour.

The only reprieve is if you have eradicated a virus – that colour becomes a ‘dud draw’ and gives you much needed breathing space.

If you need to place a fourth cube of any one colour, this starts an Outbreak.  This is where things go from bad to worse quickly, as a chain reaction of infection begins.

Pandemic Infection
Draw one card, add one virus. Unless you have extinguished a virus, these always add bad.

When an Outbreak occurs, increase the Outbreak counter and then place one infection cube in each connected city to where the fourth cube was added.

This can lead to other towns having a fourth cube added as well, causing further Outbreaks.¬† The worst case we have had was chained four Outbreaks in a single turn, turning the game from doing OK to instant loss.¬† Hence, draw a card and lose!¬† Speaking of losing…

How to Win / Lose at Pandemic

As mentioned, winning is simple – cure all four diseases.

Losing though, well that’s even easier.

You will lose if any of the below conditions are met:

  1. You cannot place a required infection cube onto the board
  2. You cannot draw a player card in Step 2 (Note – running out of cards doesn’t end the game, just not being able to draw any!)
  3. The Outbreak Marker reaches the 8th Outbreak.
Pandemic Outbreaks
No guys, yellow is fine over here. Stay over in Europe, what's the worst that can happen?

It may sound like Pandemic is easy to lose, and honestly, it is.¬† But the feeling of satisfaction when you win is outstanding!¬† One of my favourite endings to a game of Pandemic is watching new players exclaiming they won.¬† Not because of the victory, even though it is deserved.¬† It is almost always ‘We Won’ rather than ‘I Won’ at Pandemic, and I love the camaraderie that builds.

So who would want to play Pandemic?

Well, a whole lot of people.  Forgetting about the huge number of spin-off games and the annual world championships, Pandemic is one of my go-to games if a group wants to learn board games.

Pandemic was a game that popularised a fairly common board game mechanic today Рcooperative gaming.  Put some new players down around a Pandemic board, and instead of the winner being the one that catches on the quickest or had the luckiest draw everyone wins or loses.  Each player has an equal chance of helping the table win, not just themselves.

Because Pandemic is a game of cooperation, each player can ‘play’ each character turn at all times.¬† The best games of Pandemic are the ones where the table actively talks about and plans actions, and adapts when the cards change those plans.

To help with this, each character has a special rule-breaking power.  The Medic, for example, can treat (remove) all the cubes of one colour in a single action in their location.

The Dispatcher can help move other characters to where they need to be by moving others on their turn.  The Scientist only needs 4 cards instead of 5 to Discover a Cure, and so on.

For a family games night, an ice-breaker with strangers, or even a great challenge for veterans – Pandemic is a game that will always be in easy reach on my shelf.

Pandemic Characters
Some powers are definitely more subtle than others, but people that say it's too easy tend to only play the one character every time

Pandemic changes with you

A gripe I hear from a lot of ‘veteran gamers’ is that Pandemic is just too easy.¬† This is true, but in my opinion only to a degree.¬† When I ask a lot of these players why it is so easy, it soon comes to light that they only play one set of characters on a usually lower difficulty.

The quickest way I have found to change the challenge is randomly assigning characters from the 7 available choices.¬† Some players (like in many games) get comfortable with a specific character, race or class and this forces a change in thinking.¬† It doesn’t detract from the game though, as collectively the table will be helping each other. So a player with more experience with the Quarantine Specialist will usually point out where powers could be better utilised.

The difficulty in Pandemic can be increased by adding more Epidemic cards to the deck.  This means that players have less time to set up, and also means that fewer cities get hit with infection much harder.

Combine the two, and you have many games before you to try and ‘solve’ every possible combination!

But something little known to even some Pandemic veterans is you can have new game modes without buying expansions to the base game.

Available for free from the Z-Man website, there are free scenarios that can be played for a similar yet vastly different experience.  To be fair though, for Scenario 2 you do need an expansion if you have more than 3 players, so keep that in mind.

While the game is played the same, preset character configurations and some changes to the board (such as some cities no longer exist) change the flow of the game drastically, and all it costs is a print out if you want to leave it in the box.

Pandemic Scenarios
Want new challenges? These are just 2 official scenarios - there are plenty around!

Pandemic is also great for finding out who NOT to play with

Quarterbacking is a term people would have heard me use.¬† It’s when one player (usually the loudest and/or angriest) shouts down everyone else and tries to control the game.¬† They are the ones that claim sole victory if there is a win, and blame everyone else for not listening during a loss.

That’s why I tend to use cooperative games as a litmus test for new players to a board game group, especially if they know the game.¬† Do you really want to play with people like that?¬† If someone tries to take over a game like Pandemic and doesn’t listen to or help others, they tend to not be invited back.

Did you say Spin Off’s and World Championships?

Yep.  Pandemic Survival Series has been an international competition for a number of years now, with many countries competing.  In 2018, the Netherlands took the cup in Italy.

But the championship itself has been only part of the draw. There is a much more selfish reason the Pandemic world watches these events. Over the last few years, Matt Leacock has worked with a game designer from the host country to create a new game experience.

To date, these have been Pandemic: Iberia for Spain, Pandemic: Rising Tide for Amsterdam and last year’s competition in Italy saw Pandemic: Fall of Rome.

Each game shares many core Pandemic concepts but adds something unique.  Pandemic: Iberia took place in the 1800s and introduced railways.  Pandemic: Rising Tide replaces diseases with fending off the rising waters around The Netherlands.  Pandemic: Fall of Rome has you facing various armies trying to take advantage of a weakened Rome.

Pandemic Collection
And this isn't even all of my Pandemics! If anyone wondered if I thought them all worth it...

And that’s just the ‘official’ championship games.¬† Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu has you exploring Arkham and stopping various Lovecraftian dangers.

Most famously though are the Legacy games, Season 1 and Season 2 (with Season 3 in development!).  These are games that many players try and start with, but may not be the best starting point.

But if you are interested though, the first game series I tried a few years ago was Pandemic Legacy Season 1.¬† The first game is the most ‘Pandemic’ like though, so if you wanted to have a watch you can see it on the YouTube channel.

But 10 years later (11 now technically?) Pandemic is not only still being played, but still being improved upon.  Not many games reach this status, and Pandemic definitely earned its spot as a modern gaming classic in my opinion.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Pandemic

Final Thoughts

What can I say – I love Pandemic.¬† As a cooperative game, it’s great for introducing new players to the hobby.¬† Having everything open is a great way for everyone to learn the game, and the shared victory and lose conditions puts everyone on equal footing.

Yes, quarterbacking can be a problem.¬† Having the loudest person run the game can destroy the experience for people.¬† But to blame Pandemic for this isn’t fair, that is very much a player thing.

But it’s been 10 years, and I will still happily play the base Pandemic and pull it off the shelf to teach others over a lot of newer games.¬† And for that achievement, Pandemic has earned first confirmed 10 rating from JohnHQLD.com.

Overall
10/10
10/10

Pros

  • ¬†Game that can scale with player experience
  • ¬†Great medium weight game to show players new to gaming
  • ¬†Cooperative nature of the game makes even tense games social

Cons

  • ¬†More experienced players would not have the same challenge
  • ¬†Quarterbacking and similar behaviour can put off new players