3 years later, Let’s Play Pandemic Legacy Season 1

The Legacy Crew

Longtime followers will remember this one

It has been 54 weeks since I relaunched johnhqld.com.  It’s been a great time, and as other things in my work and personal life are settling nicely, I am looking forward to bringing back a lot of my original ideas.

Today was actually going to be a review on Pandemic Legacy Season 1, but unfortunately, this week has gotten away from me.  And no, it wasn’t playing Kingdom Hearts 3 – I didn’t have that much fun!  Instead, I’m going to take you on a great experience on the first form of the site, at johnhqldplays.com.

Way, way back in 2015, I first started johnhqldplays.com.  There was a whole thing with someone nabbing johnhqld.com, it was a whole thing, but I started creating my site.

About this time, the web series TableTop with Wil Wheaton was making serious headway into mainstream popularity.  As a gamer, I was overjoyed.  People wanted to know what those cardboard boxes I was always trying to get people to look at actually were.

As much as I enjoyed the series though, there was one thing that bugged me a bit.  The shows were well presented and well edited, but they didn’t really reflect what playing some of those games were like.  Settlers of Catan (or just Catan now) for example does not tend to go anywhere nearly as smoothly as TableTop presented – especially new players.

New players tend to have to look up what the trading values are.  Questions are asked about timing for the robber.  The biggest thing that happens though is sitting and trying to work out what to try and accomplish, and most of all why to accomplish it.

As Seen On TableTop
The web series TableTop drove many people to board game stores

Now don’t get me wrong – they weren’t misrepresenting games or anything like that.  Yes, there were a few famous rule goofs and a bit of controversy involving a producer.  But on the whole, the enjoyment of gaming came out, and that was their goal.

But a few people that wanted to play the games they saw on TableTop were a little disappointed when they actually played the game.

Lords of Waterdeep was probably the best example I have of this.  Now Lords of Waterdeep is a game I still enjoy to this day (it is my most ‘customised’ game), but it isn’t really a game for everybody.

Lords of Waterdeep is sold as having a Dungeons and Dragons theme, but it’s more abstract.  It’s a worker placement game with limited choices, but weighing up those choices can take new players a long time.  This is generally referred to in gaming as Analysis Paralysis.

Now on Tabletop, the players all joked and talked and then just had their turn – such is the magic of editing.

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

So I decided when I did a Let’s Play video (this was just before I really had no personal time at all, it was a good idea at the time), it would be ‘warts and all’.

And one of the hottest games at the time was Pandemic Legacy Season 1.  Released near the end of 2015, Pandemic Legacy was a game that was setting the board game world on fire.

And while I had taught a lot of people Pandemic, and still maintain the vanilla Pandemic is one of the greatest introductory or gateway games around, explaining to people if they should play a ‘Legacy’ game was really hard.

People that were enthusiastic and keen to try games were already balking at spending $70-$100 (Australian) for a game.  Explaining that Pandemic Legacy was a game you played maybe 18-20 times and that was it was really confusing to some.

And so a few months after the release, I felt it was safe to do my Let’s Play of Pandemic Legacy.

The first thing that hit me is that I had much shorter hair back then :p

Pandemic Legacy Season 1
This is what most players knew of Pandemic Legacy before it was released - it was an exciting time

But I didn’t want to play it on screen.  I do not like being photographed generally, but that wasn’t why.  I had already completed the entire campaign, and so if I was playing I was worried about steering the game for a better score.  The whole point in my mind was that I wanted to show real players and their honest reactions.

So some friends of mine decided to help me out.  The awesome Joel and Kristen, Pandemic veterans, are always fun to be around.  Nat and Elle rounded out the team by being new to Pandemic.

The Legacy Crew
The Legacy Crew - Left to Right Joel, Kristen, Elle and Nat

I just want to give a special shout out of appreciation to Elle – she was all in on playing and recording.  And she had her very first game of Pandemic just before shooting the first video!  Elle is always great to have around on a games night, and while I thank everyone for being involved and loved spending the time with them all, Elle probably had the least idea on what was involved!

So this week, I finally got around to putting together the last of the Pandemic Legacy videos.  So almost 3 years later, for your viewing pleasure, the complete Pandemic Legacy Season 1 campaign is available!

With the rumours of Pandemic Legacy Season 3 being announced and possibly released this year, I feel that maybe the spoiler warnings may have lost some of their potency :p

But if you have enjoyed Pandemic Legacy, or you aren’t in a position to play yourself, I hope you enjoy playing along with the guys and enjoy the ride with us.

Video content is something I am going to be concentrating on this year, so I hope you enjoy these videos and keep an eye out for new content coming later this year!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restoration Games to the Rescue

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

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

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

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

Some things change, some things stay the same

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do you actually do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Longterm – the expansions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

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

Cons

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

Stop Thief! Review

Stop Thief Cover Art
Stop Thief Cover Art
Released 2017
Designer Rob Daviau, Robert Doyle, Justin D. Jacobson
Publisher Restoration Games (Website)
Players 1 – 4
Playing Time 45 – 60 minutes
Category Deduction
Hand Management
App driven
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Just because an idea is old, doesn’t mean it’s not fun

Way back in March 2017, I looked at a new Kickstarter called Stop Thief! from Restoration games.  It was a new Kickstarter, not really a new game.

Stop Thief was a game released in the late 70s with many new ideas.  It had hidden movement deduction, at a time hidden movement games weren’t exactly the rage.  It had an electronic device to take the place of the thief, so everyone could play as a detective.  This was before PC’s and Smartphones – you needed to build a dedicated device!

Players would gather around a board and try and capture the thief from the sounds from the ‘crime computer’.  It was a great idea and a possible inspiration for the other ‘before it’s time app game’ – Dark Tower.

Stop Thief Original
The original 1979 Stop Thief - way ahead of its time *Image Source: https://boardgamegeek.com/image/128363

Playing with the new Stop Thief!

The core of the original game is still completely intact.  Players take the part of private investigators and use sound clues and logic to try and anticipate the location of a hidden thief on the board.

The layout of the board has changed from the original game, but not how it works.

As you can see in the photo, there are a series of dots connected by footsteps.  These footsteps represent the paths that the thief can take.  The thief will travel on their turn between a numbered dot to another, players must travel along each dot (empty and numbered).

Red dots represent places robberies, and the square locations with the circle around them in the center and corners represent the subway used to fast travel.  That’s it mechanically – there are also heaps of jokes and references in the art!

Stop Thief Components
The new game - almost the same layout, but a few new twists

Each dot has a sound clue provided by the app.  A door opening is a doorway, echoing footsteps are walking inside.  Glass breaking means the thief has entered a window space.  Busy rushed walking means they are outside.  Muffled announcements mean they have taken the subway – the thief has moved to a different part of the board!

The sound you don’t want to hear is the alarm – that means another robbery has taken place!  Upside though the places these can occur are limited, so you will have a good idea where the thief is.

To capture a thief, you need to be on or adjacent to a location you think the thief is at.  You then attempt to make an arrest using the app.  To do so, you just enter the three-digit number you think the thief is on.

Then you just need to wait for the app to tell you if you were successful or not.

Stop Thief Every game begins with a robbery
The good part of a robbery is you know what building the thief is in

And that wait can feel like forever.  If you are correct, you get a reward for catching the thief – but if you’re wrong, you have to pay a $1,000 fine for wasting the police’s time!

The first player to reach a set money goal (between $25,000 and 45,000) retires to Hawaii and wins the game!

But there is more – there are different modes of play!

Catching the thief is almost always the same type of game, but one of the additions made to the new Stop Thief! was new play modes.

You can play cooperatively – great for teaching new players, especially if you want to stay in the game as well.

The basic differences from the base game are that there are seven thieves that are operating as a single entity, and each time you make an arrest you make the gang smaller.

Catch all seven and you win!  However there is a pile of cash at the side of the table, that is used by the group and goes down when more robberies occur.  If this stash runs out before you capture the gang, it’s game over.

Stop Thief Different ways to play
Pick how you want to play - even old school!

There is also a solo mode and a one-vs-many mode – these are great additions for even more gameplay options!

Solo mode is basically co-operative mode but with a single investigator.  It works, but it’s a little harder as you can’t ‘hedge your bets’.  Even when you narrow in on a thief, there are plenty of occasions that they can be in one or two locations – this coin flip can ruin competitive games, but is manageable in the coop game.

One-vs-many is similar to the cooperative style of gameplay where there is a single gang running around, but this time the group is being controlled by a player!

The device is always held by the thief player, and the app shows all legal movement and plays the clues appropriate to the selected locations.  This is great, and is something I wish would be done for more hidden movement style games.  This way, even if you are mostly new to the game, you can take the part of the mastermind without making a mistake that can ruin the game for everyone else.

Stop Thief Select your move
I wish more hidden movement games had an app like this for movement

So it sounds like a simple gimmick game

I can’t avoid that – in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what Stop Thief! is.  The original game was a pioneer in using electronics with the game, so it was essentially built around a gimmick.

That said, this is a game that will fit many players of many ages, and while it may not be a Friday night regular, Stop Thief! is a game that I will stop and play anytime.

Younger kids want to play?  Walk them through the first few games in cooperative mode, and then when they get it, let them loose on the competitive game.

Are the paths to easy to work out now?  Increase the difficulty.  Playing at higher difficulty levels means the thief can stop or double back on themselves.

Stop Thief Gimmick
Is it a gimmick? Of course it is. But 40 years later, Stop Thief is still fun.

Stop Thief! may not be the flashiest game with the deepest story or branching elements, but it is a game that has stood up over the years and will continue to be played for years to come.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Stop Thief!

Final Thoughts

It just goes to show that a great idea will hold up over time.  There aren’t many games that people today will look at if you tell them it’s over 30 years old, but Restoration Games has managed to do just that.  Stop Thief! was the game that had me first interested, and they have kept me hooked ever since.

Using an app to replace the original crime computer was a great idea and the feeling of dread as you wait for the app to tell you if you found the thief or not is real.

A great game and a fun time no matter how you play, Stop Thief! is highly recommended.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  •  Multiple modes of play
  •  Deceptively simple premise
  •  Great for social play

Cons

  •  If the app becomes unsupported, manual play becomes problematic

Downforce: Danger Circuit Review

Downforce Danger Circuit Feature
Downforce Danger Circuit Feature
Released 2018
Designer Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, Justin D. Jacobson
Publisher Restoration Games (Website)
Players 2 – 6
Playing Time 30 – 40 minutes
Category Hand Management
Player Powers
Light Auction and Betting
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Danger Circuit shows you don’t need to add much to add to a great time

After my first ever game of Downforce, I knew that the system was ripe for expansions.  New player powers, new maps, that’s all you really need.

And that is exactly what we have been given in Downforce: Danger Circuit.  A new double-sided board, and six new team powers.  A small rule clarification sheet for the new powers and conditions, and you are all set.

Setting up as per standard Downforce, we were into our first race on the Danger Circuit in about 5 minutes.  Without a lot of new mechanics or areas to be on the watch for, we could pretty much just jump straight in.

And that is one of Danger Circuit’s biggest drawcards for me.  No lengthy rereading of the rules. No trying to switch your thinking between the base game and the expansion.  Just more Downforce, pure and simple.

There were some new terms to clarify like ‘Tight Spaces’, but the instructions took only a couple of minutes to read in its entirety and I read it while Alpal setup.  I can’t remember the last expansion I was able to do that with.

Downforce Danger Circuit Components
Not a lot of components in Danger Circuit - but enough for more Downforce is always just the right amount

Now I have seen a few people argue that only six new cards is a bit on the light side.  Different people will always have different opinions, but I appreciate the simplicity of the expansion.  More scoresheets are also something I hear being asked for, or dry erase boards like Captain Sonar.  A couple of dollars at a stationary store will get your current sheets laminated, or the Restoration Games app is also easy to use and free on your phone.

Yes, we could have been given more powers, but I think that letting new powers come with new tracks is great – as long as they continue to come in pairs.  The coupling of tracks and powers so far has been good, and I think can continue for quite some time to come.

Another suggestion I have seen is more players, and this is an expansion I don’t think is a good idea.  The movement cards are already well balanced and work well, and adding new players means you have to start juggling decks depending on the number of players involved.  It’s not an insurmountable issue, but why add complexity for complexities sake?

So the new powers are nice and straightforward, and from the games I have played feel better balanced to me.  Not that Downforce was terribly unbalanced – I only try to quietly retire ‘Determined’ when experienced players get it over newer players, but if someone really wanted to play it I wouldn’t stop them either.

The only power that caused some discussion in Danger Circuit was ‘Tough’.  As per the card wording, if on any players turn you end your turn next to a rumble strip, you may move 2 additional spaces.  I have heard people calling this overpowered, but I don’t think so overall.

The chances of Tough hitting multiple times is limited, usually because another player has to intentionally make it happen by putting the car adjacent to a rumble strip.  That was it discussion sorted, and fun was had by all.

Downforce Danger Tough
In this example, the Green owner has Tough, but the Red player is moving the cars. The only reason Tough triggers is because of where Red put the Green car.

And again that shows what I really love about Downforce.  Forget the rules lawyering and semantic umpires.  Downforce is simple and fun, and lets everyone enjoy themselves.

Prefer not having all the cards dealt at the start of the game?  Done.  Don’t like the betting aspect?  Lose it.  Are auctions confusing you?  Just deal out the cars randomly.

All of this is intact in Danger Circuit.  Unlike some expansions that almost fix a broken base game (or worse, expansions that break a great game), Danger Circuit just lets Downforce continue to do what it does best.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Downforce Review

Downforce Feature
Downforce Feature
Released 2017
Designer Rob Daviau, Justin D. Jacobson, Wolfgang Kramer
Publisher Restoration Games (Website)
Players 2 – 6
Playing Time 30 – 40 minutes
Category Hand Management
Player Powers
Light Auction and Betting
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Racing Games used to be the person who could roll the lucky numbers win.  This is not one such game.

When Restoration Games first came to my attention, it was for the amazing Stop Thief! Kickstarter.  Their passion for gaming and the work that went into streamlining and modernizing Stop Thief! was amazing, and made me want to look into them more.

Indulgence by all accounts is a great game but is one of those rare ones that I will wait for another in my group to buy it before playing.  All I have against it so to speak is that it’s a trick-taking game, not one of my favourite genres.

And then there was Downforce.  I really enjoy Formula D in theory, but in practice, it just takes too long.  That sense of urgency and racing just doesn’t quite hold for the couple of hours required to play a game.

So I ordered Downforce with a little bit of hesitancy.  I enjoy racing games, but I didn’t want another Formula D type game, and Flamme Rouge was ticking a lot of boxes for me.  But the team knocked it out of the park with Stop Thief!, so I decided to give it a go.

And I am so glad I did.

Downforce Components
Compared to a lot of other racing games, Downforce seems pretty simplistic. I did forget to add the Speed cards though!

When you open the box, the first thing I noticed was a large multi-page manual.  Flicking through it, I realised it only took a couple of minutes to read the entire manual cover to cover.  Everything is laid out in a simple, logical manner, that made playing with the manual open the first time surprisingly easy.

Then looking at the rest of the contents, everything was just as simple to understand.  Six coloured racing cars with accompanying tiles, a deck of cards, and a score pad.  While multi-component games can be a lot of fun, there are plenty of times that you just want to sit and play, and I already had a feel Downforce was one of these games.

While I don’t think Downforce is a complicated game overall, I will talk you through the simplified or more basic version of the game we went through to start with.

Setup is pretty simple.  Randomly set out the 6 cars on the board.  The colour that gets put on the number 1 spot will be the first player.

Downforce Starting Setup
So here, the Orange car will be going first. Then it just goes in clockwise player order.

Shuffle out the 6 number 8 speed cards and deal them face down to each player until everyone has the same number of cars.  Everyone then flips over there cards to reveal who they are.  This is how you allocate who is what colour and first player.  For the team powers, I tend to shuffle them and let each player randomly draw one in these types of games.

Then shuffle the remaining speed cards, and deal three to each player and put the rest in easy reach distance for all players.

And that is it.  The player who’s car is on the number one spot at the line goes first – it’s that simple!

Downforce Typical 3 player Simple Starting Hand
With a 3 player starting game, each player will get 2 cars. So this is a pretty typical starting hand for a simple game.

Players are trying to finish the race with the most money.  Coming first gets you more winnings, but there are betting and the previously mentioned auction mechanic that changes how this works.  For the first game, just straight up race and see who places first.

Moving the cars

To move, play a Speed card.  Most Speed cars have movement amounts for multiple cars, up to 6 in total.

You can’t move sideways, and you can’t move backwards – you always have to move forward (which makes sense for race cars – they won’t stop on a track).  You have to move all of the cars on the card from the top to the bottom – but you move all of that cars on your turn.  This lets you potentially block in cars or force suboptimal plays for other cars.

Downforce Opening Move
Opening move made. It's simply a case of moving the cars in order from the top to the bottom - but placement can be very important!

By the letter of the rules, you can move a car forward if the end of the square is further ahead than the square the car is in.  Also, you can move into any square that a forward corner is touching.

These rules sound a little confusing, but the rulebook gives clear examples of the movement to simplify it.

However, I play and teach by a slightly modified ruleset.  I teach so that movement can only be in a square that the front edge of the square touches.  This helps prevent some ‘runaway leader’ play that I have seen, but it is essentially a house rule.  Keep it in mind, but I will talk about this later in some more detail.

Team Powers

Downforce Moving Example
Movement can sound a little confusing, but it's all pretty straightforward

A simple way to keep multiple games interesting, Team Powers let you break or bend rules during gameplay.

Don’t want people to keep blocking you in when they move your cars? Grab the ‘Cunning’ power and always be the one to move your cars.

Have a lot of a single colour car on top of your Speed cards?  Grab that car and the ‘Aggressive’ power to move an extra space when you play one of those cards.

Don’t want to move a particular car on your turn?  That’s where ‘Strategic’ can help you.

Whether randomly handed out or auctioned off, these cards can change a game in a blink of an eye.

The Betting

Downforce Team Powers
They may not seem like it, but the powers can subtly change the game each time you play

Betting plays a big part in Downforce, but it can be a little confusing for some the first game.  It is something that I end up usually adding if I know all the players are used to different games though.

Betting is really simple – on each track, there are three yellow lines.  Think of them as stages.  When a card that causes the first car to cross one of these lines is finished, pick on your scoresheet the car you think will win.

It doesn’t have to be yours, and it can be bet on multiple times.  Betting is also free.  At the end of the game, add each bet total to your score on the sheet.  There are plenty of games I have played where even a player that finished fourth won the game because of clever betting!

The Auction

Downforce Betting
All you have to do is mark who you think is going to win when a car first crosses a yellow line. If it places, bonus cash for you!

The Auction is something I suggest you leave until your second game.  It’s not overly complicated, but it is the part of the game that most first time players have the most trouble with.

Setup is almost identical, but when you play the full game all of the speed cards are dealt out to players before the game starts.  This fixes the possible strategies for players at the start, for example a player may have much more red movement than black movement.

Shuffle up either the Speed 8 cards or the car tiles, and flip the first one over.  Now do the same with the Team Powers.  This means players can bid on the car and power they want.

Bidding is down with speed cards face down.  If you have that colour car, the amount of movement is the amount you are bidding on the combination.

There are some tiebreaker rules and ways to use Wilds, but in general, this is it.  Once you win, you put the Speed 8 card in your hand, and take the power and the car tile.  All players put their bidding card back into their hands.

Downforce Auction
So someone really wanted Yellow - they bid 6 million! After confirming they won, they mark down the bids. The bids are subtracted from the winnings, so don't spend too much!

This can mean that players have more than one car.  Every car must be used when playing this way, and each player must have at least one car.

So why not go all out and bid for as many cars as possible?  Because of the amount you won the bid with.  This comes off your final score, as you have laid out money already to be in the race. There is another small catch to multiples – while you will keep multiple cars, you can only keep a single Team Power.  No stacking up the advantages here!

This makes Downforce more thematic to a degree, but also much more calculating.  Do you go your favourite colour just because you can?  Do you bid high on the power you want, and high on the power you don’t want Bob to have just to deny them?  So many possibilities.  And because you can see your choices at the start of the game, planning is essential.

The Gameplay

So as you have seen, I have split out various rules in explaining how to play the game.  That is because Downforce is very modular.  You can mix and choose the rules you want to play with, and customise the experience to your liking.

Playing with younger children?  Play three cards in a hand and just use final placings to score.  Playing with cutthroat strategists?  Use every rule there is and make every mistake really hurt.

But even when all that is done, each game is fast.  Like 20-30 minutes fast when you get into it.  So you can make something fun or an all-out fight, and still play multiple games in the time it takes for Formula D.

Downforce Gameplay
Each game is unique and fun. Play your cards right, and you can usually come back from behind!

And each game is a lot of fun.  I have only met one person that didn’t like Downforce, and I am still not 100{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c} sure why.

Yes, it’s simple.  But you don’t need overly complex mechanics to create a deeply strategic game.  And it’s a rare find where games this deep can be just as fun played as a luck based game as well.

Downforce is so well balanced, but it’s not until you really get into the game before you discover this – except for a couple of points.

The Downsides

There is one power – ‘Determined’ – that I try to take out of experienced players hands when playing a mixed game.  Determined means you can move an extra 2 spaces as long as you only moved into rectangular spaces during the game, and it triggers all the time.

Now if everyone knows how Determined works it can be played around, but when people are learning it’s a bit much.  A player with Determined early in the turn order is one of the few ‘runaway winner’ scenarios I have come across.  This is the one reason why I slightly altered the movement rules.

If a player wants the leader to slow down, forcing them to take the outside lanes work – as long as they can’t just zip through on their turn.  It was a simple change and also simplified movement, but it’s a rule I needed to change without simply removing Determined from the mix.

The auctioning and betting rules offset a lot of the advantage normally, but players need to be aware of the entire game for this kind of counterbalance to happen naturally in game.

There are a few combinations I have seen people complain about being overpowered, but this particular scenario is the only one I have seen frequently enough to call a rule change for.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Restoration Games announces Return to Dark Castle for 2020

Return to Dark Tower Feature

Restoration Games is turning their attention to another ‘Holy Grail’ game of the 80’s

Way back in 1981, Milton Bradley released an incredibly experimental board game – Dark Tower.

On the surface, it may look like fairly standard fantasy fare.  Search the four realms for three keys to unlock the Dark Tower.   Explore the board, fight monsters, buy items from the market – yep nothing really out of the ordinary these days.

But in 1981, the Dark Tower itself was the app that kept tabs on what was happening and directed play.  It had a small keypad that allowed players to input their moves, and the tower made various sounds or lit up various panels to show what was happening.

And the best bit (well, for some) – Orson Welles himself did the ad!

While Dark Tower was released over 30 years ago, there are still a lot of people that go to amazing lengths to have a copy in their collection – working or not!  This is very similar to another game released in the 80’s I have talked about on the site before – Fireball Island.

I have loved almost everything Restoration Games has released.  The only game I am not going out of my way to play is a game called Indulgence.  It is by all accounts a fine game, but I was never a fan on the of the DragonMaster (well, original for what I played), so the restoration did not hold a lot of interest for me.

Fireball Island New Board

That’s one game though.  Stop Thief! took another innovative design from the 80’s and made a beautiful deduction game with solo, cooperative and competitive game modes.  Downforce (which I got to play again last night actually) made racing games fun again, and I am looking forward to the new tracks and powers this year.  Even Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar lured me in, and I am looking forward to that appearing in the mail later this year!

And then during Gen Con, the following video was let lose on the world.

Restoration Games track record and nostalgia have once again combined to get me excited about an old game that by today’s standards is primitive and ‘not fun’.  And with Gloomhaven designer Isaac Childers working with Rob Daviau and the Restoration Games team, Return to Dark Tower should become something special indeed!

But there will be a wait.  A long wait.  According to statements made during Gen Con 2018, Return to Dark Tower won’t be on Kickstarter until 2020 sometime – and that’s all going well.

Until then, I will just have to track down a copy of Dinosaur Tea Party to keep my Restoration Games release anticipation in check 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

A quick multi day – Deadpool 2 Super Duper Cut, Cthulhu: Death May Die

Deadpool 2 4K Cover

Deadpool brings it all for the ‘Super Duper [email protected]{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c}!#& Cut’

Not many people buy movies anymore.  The die-hard collectors always will.  The last DVD I purchased was Thor: Ragnarok, and that was only because I wanted the Team Darryl featurette that would never stream.

I’m going to say Ryan Reynolds and the guys at Fox recognise this.  As such, the upcoming August release of Deadpool 2 includes a load of extras, including the extended ‘Super Duper [email protected]{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c}!#& Cut’.

Included in the physical release:

  • Gag Reel
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Until Your Face Hurts: Alt Takes
  • Deadpool’s Lips are Sealed: Secrets and Easter Eggs
  • The Most Important X-Force Member
  • Deadpool Family Values: Cast of Characters
  • David Leitch Not Lynch: Directing DP2
  • Roll with the Punches: Action and Stunts
  • The Deadpool Prison Experiment
  • Chess with Omega Red
  • Swole and Sexy
  • “3-Minute Monologue”
  • Audio Commentary by Ryan Reynolds, David Leitch, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Theatrical Version Only)
  • Deadpool’s Fun Sack 2
  • Stills (28 Images)
Deadpool 2 4K Cover
15 extra minutes makes the 'Super Duper [email protected]{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c}!#& Cut'

Of course, this couldn’t just be quietly released.  Oh no, where is the fun in that?

Instead this appeared on Ryan Reynolds twitter account:

Nothing about this release on the JB Hi-Fi website yet, but I am sure it will be coming.  The backlash would be too huge otherwise 🙂

The latest outing from CMON is now live on Kickstarter – Cthulhu: Death May Die.

A collaboration between two of my favourite designers Rob Daviau and Eric M. Lang, with a cooperative effort to end Cthulu.  It all seemed right up my alley.  Timing and a huge initial rush does mean I have missed every single early bird pledge, but that’s OK.  It’s a CMON project – there is going to be a ton of plastic extras that don’t fit in the box and push shipping rates up anyway :p

Another usual problem I have with CMON projects is no rules.  This looks great, but will it be fun to play?

The situation on this front seems to be improving though.  This time around there is a gameplay walkthrough hosted by Eric M. Lang himself!

I have only mostly watched the video all the way through, and I will watch it another time or two, but the Cthulhu: Death May Die looks like it has a lot of potential.

But it is only potential, and as such I have 2 reservations.

  1. I have a lot of cooperative games already in the Cthulhu theme.  While the comparison is unfair as they are very different games, Mansions of Madness: Second Edition already springs to mind as a fun mini-fest with expanding scenarios.  And I have it on my shelf now.
  2. The cost.  It’s CMON – there will be a lot of plastic.  A lot.  Oh, so much plastic.  But the ‘All In’ pledge is 2.5x the base game, for what sounds like a Kickstarter Exclusive expansion with no information on.
Cthulhu Death May Die Components
So much goodness. Or is it? It's CMON, it's going to be beautiful.

The components look great, and Cthulhu: Death May Die has an interesting premise.  But some CMON Kickstarters have the problem where the ‘stretch goal optional expansions’ were required to make the game fun to play, which pushes me to back the ‘R’yleh Rising’ All In pledge.  At USD$250 plus probably USD$45 shipping.

That’s an almost AUD$400 investment in a game I can’t see the rules for or what the expansion is, and that’s asking a lot.

Cthulhu: Death May Die has only just launched in the last 12 hours as of posting, so everything is pretty fresh.  I am sure over the next few weeks there will be more information, so expect a follow-up post in about 3 weeks.  I will then talk about if I decide to back this one or not, and the reasons why.  In the meantime, check out the Kickstarter page and let me know what you think.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Restoration Games Fireball Island is launching on Kickstarter April

Fireball Island New Box Cover

Can you escape the Curse of Vul-Kar?

Way back in 1986, Fireball Island was a Milton Bradley monstrosity of a game.  Lots of plastic and a marble you would send flying down the various paths to knock over pieces, it was great fun.  For about 10 minutes.  Then you kind of used it like the backdrop of an adventure set, making up your own stories as the playing pieces became more like action toys in your story.

Fireball Island Original Box Cover

Come 2016, and Restoration Games as a company is announced.  Their mission – to reinvigorate these old classics and bring them up to today’s gaming standards.  Stop Thief and Downforce have been great additions to my library, and I am thoroughly enjoying both of these classic games.

When the library was being looked at, a vote went out for the next game for Restoration Games to tackle, and a lot of very valid reasons were given as to why they couldn’t do it.  Well, as far as I remember, I can’t seem to find the original voting page where I remember seeing all this, so it could be an old man’s memory playing up.

But in 2017, Restoration Games announced with a flourish that they would indeed be tackling Fireball Island.

Well, information has been scarce with little pieces being teased out little by little.  But the wait is all but over! Come April 3rd (4th most likely QLD time) the Kickstarter for the new Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar will be live!

What does this mean?  More plastic.  More bits.  Rob Daviau promises more actual game!

Fireball Island Comparison

I will be looking for this project with interest.  My memories and feelings are mixed to say the least on the original game, mainly due to the amazing amount of fun people have poked at it over the years.  But Restoration Games has so far come through, so I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

As I said at the moment information is a bit scarce, but you can check out the active Board Game Geek page here for more information.

Oh and that people making fun of the original?  Check out my favourite Board with Life Halloween video starring Fireball Island below!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD