Last Week’s Gaming – June 22nd, 2020

Animal Crossing - What's up Twinkles

So I knuckled down as much as I could, and I did get some gaming in last week.

Two more weeks is my mantra at the moment. When this goes live, I will be finishing up last week’s work. Tomorrow is going to be putting out IT spot fires.

But that is what is coming. Today is about concentrating on what I played last week. And I had more fun than I expected, hard draining week and all!

One Deck Dungeon – Steam

It has been a few weeks since I played One Deck Dungeon. This fantastic dice chucker is as fun as ever, and everything I talked about in my review still stands.

I jumped back on because I could cheat a little while I was working. I had a few tasks that were periods of focused work, followed by waiting times. What better way to fill in these times than playing a turn-based game?

One Deck Dungeon - I might be in trouble
I lost SO many dice because of this enemy

My Rogue has been completely upgraded, and that little Steam achievement popped. So of course, my brain went into “Oooh. Completion run?” mode.

I am not going to make a concentrated effort to get all of the Steam achievements, but I think I will give it a try. At the very least, it will be fun to build up the rest of my characters!

One Deck Dungeon - Building Up Warrior
Started the road to building up my Warrior

Blood Rage Digital – Steam

Another recent review that has been revisited. And since I have written that review, a lot of updates have come out. I still can’t play in ultrawide, but the issue has been acknowledged, and hopefully, a fix isn’t too far away.

But that was mostly in the ‘niggle’ category for me. The most significant update I appreciate – save game states for solo play. You can now close down a solo game and come back!

I have increased from 3 to 5 players for my games now am familiar with it again. I have also bumped up the difficulty. This has led to my first defeat (by 1 point!), but a couple more games have seen me winning again. Time to bump that difficulty level back up!

Blood Rage - Gathering Forces
Forces congregating around Yggdrasil

I have had a couple of comments that my Blood Rage review was pretty negative. There were things I addressed that were an issue, and at the time I stand by them. They are being fixed quickly though, so that is something I appreciate from developers.

The biggest recommendation I can still give Blood Rage is that I am still playing it (and enjoying it!) regularly. Would I still rather be playing Blood Rage around a table with friends? Of course. But Blood Rage Digital does a great job at scratching that itch when I can’t!

Blood Rage - Never count yourself out until the scores are final
It looks like I have truly lost. But I have 60 more points coming... This tension makes Blood Rage for me

Minesweeper Genius – Switch

So last week, I reviewed a little game called The Card. I obviously played it last week, as I did the review. As all of my thoughts are already in the review, I am not talking about it this week.

What I am talking about this week is another sub $2 purchase called Minesweeper Genius. I quite enjoyed minesweeper back in the earlier Windows days when it came included with the operating system, and this looked like a cute take on it. Plus, it was really, really cheap.

The goal of Minesweeper Genius isn’t just to find where all the mines are through deductive reasoning. You also have to guide your sweeper through the level to a goal.

Minesweeper Genius - Level Select
The level select screen is functional. Not every element needs to be groundbreaking.

This took some adjustment on my part. The game is very minimal in terms of hand-holding through a tutorial. Still, the difficulty spike and adding new mechanics has been pretty good so far. I have cleared about 30 levels and unlocked the first ‘advanced’ stages area. Or I could choose to continue going forward.

I’m not going to rave about Minesweeper Genius, but I am enjoying it far more than I thought I would. The next game should stop me from doing a formal review on it this week.

Minesweeper Genius - Advanced Stages
The same Minesweeper deduction is required, but you apply it differently

The Outer Worlds – Switch

Yes, I made progress! Even though I have already finished this game on Xbox, I am still enjoying discovering new things I either missed or have been added. I suspect more of the former.

Over the weekend I completed Edgewater, the first planet you are let loose upon. I had fun. It was enjoyable. I did a couple of quests I don’t remember/missed in my first run, and slightly muddled another because I did it out of order.

I have only been playing in handheld mode. Have I seen frame rate dips? Yes. Does the texture popping look weird? Sometimes, usually worst when loading a save.

The Outer Worlds - Primal Behemoth
Making the shot that started a lot of enemies running towards me

What I haven’t experienced are mid-game ‘loading circles’ I have seen in other headlines. Nothing has happened more than a typical ‘fallout bug’ to me so far. Portability does mean sacrifices, but as for The Outer Worlds being unplayable on the Switch – so far, I haven’t seen it.

During the week I intend to finish the Groundbreaker. This is going to take some time as it’s from memory the largest quest area. It is also the area with the most random people and such that could stress the hardware.

The Outer Worlds - Loading Screen
I love the style and humour in these loading screens

So all going well, The Outer Worlds review is coming this week.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

Oh Tom Nook, you addictive racoon. My plan last week was to potter away, and I have been. Sitting down on the couch with Animal Crossing for 15-20 minutes a day has been a good way to wind down.

However, last week, I made two major mistakes. Firstly, I forgot to sell turnips during the week. Luckily on Friday, the rate jumped a little. So I made a small profit – about 20 bells per turnip.

Then on Sunday, I got a note about stuff littered around my house. I forgot I was storing turnips downstairs and upstairs! So that has set me back financially a little bit. Luckily, I have only picked an area to plant my money trees in terms of modelling Sleep Cove, and even that isn’t final. So I have time to get back to where I was 🙂

Animal Crossing - Poor Snowfolk
Oh Snowboy... We all know weeks like that...

One thing that did make me smile was K.K. Slider this week. I was watching some youTube videos saying that K.K. is based on Kazumi Totaka, a famous Nintendo sound designer. He has a tune that is hidden in many Nintendo offerings, and it is known as Totaka’s Song. So as I could make requests, I tried to see if K.K. would play Totaka’s Song.

And he does! You have to rename it slightly, but it’s there. Not only did I get to see K.K. Slider perform the famous easter egg, but I now have a copy registered to my music collection.

Animal Crossing - Totaka's Song
I don't know if this is still an easter egg or I hit on a song I hadn't bought yet, but it made me happy

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

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 8th, 2020

The digital board games continue, but not as much as I would have liked. Also, The Outer Worlds on Switch – is it as bad as people say?

Before we get started, I am not reviewing The Outer Worlds on Switch today. I have barely touched it. But I have seen a bunch of ‘Stay Away’ headlines on my YouTube feed, and I am wondering how much of it is warranted.

During the week, I will try and play at least to the point where I get my first companions. That should be pretty indicative of how everything runs for the rest of the game.

But other than that, I played a lot of Dragon Castle this week. I got to visit Alpal for the first time in ages, and playing Dragon Castle with the tiles is as satisfying as I remember!

But I will get into that soon. For now, let’s look at what I did play Last Week!

Blood Rage – Steam

So on Friday, I released my review of the digital implementation of Blood Rage. You can check out my thoughts here.

For sitting back and getting in a game solo against the AI, it has been satisfying. I have been winning the last couple of rounds against two easy AI opponents, so I think I have the basics back down.

Time to increase things to 5 player games, then mixing up the difficulty levels.

As I say in my review, if you want to play Blod Rage solo, the Digital Edition is a great alternative. Multiplayer wise, I am waiting for some more patches before revisiting my review score.

Blood Rage Digital
I had some issues with widescreen layout, but the game itself looks great and will run on almost any Windows 10 machine

Dragon Castle – Steam and Physical

Another game recently reviewed that made it back to the table this week! Dragon Castle is a relaxing yet challenging little abstract puzzle, that was great to kick back and unwind with.

Saturday I got to visit Alpal, and as she hadn’t played it for a while, we broke out the physical copy. The ‘click’ of all those Mahjong tiles was as satisfactory as I remember and really does add to your enjoyment while playing.

Being at the end of the week, I could only get in a couple of games before my brain started rebelling. Being able to sit and chat during the game with Alpal was great, and it made for an enjoyable afternoon overall.

Dragon Castle Alpals Castle
I was mean and took the last black tiles. No pattern for her! Sorry Alpal 🙁

Tetris 99 – Switch

Picking up the Switch during the week, I decided to look at games I haven’t touched in a while (or ever). And there was good old trusty Tetris 99.

Firing up a normal Tetris 99 game, I did OK. I haven’t played in a while, and so coming around the 20ish spot was satisfying. I was still pretty drained though, so I decided to switch styles.

Firing up Marathon mode, I thought I would see how far I could go in 999 Line mode. Then came a chill half hour before my brain basically pulled a ‘nope’ on me.

Tetris 99 999 Line Mode
Just kick back and see how far ou can go. Marathon mode is a nice diversion for 'real' Tetris 99.

It was nice to lie back on the couch and just let the zen-like state of Tetris flow over me. I didn’t get into ‘nope’ mode until I tried to pay attention to the furkids and YouTube while playing at the same time.

As usual, my advice is if you have Nintendo Online, grab Tetris 99 for yourself. Even if it is just for a diversion to come back to at times.

The Outer Worlds – Switch

The Outer Worlds, for me, is a great RPG adventure title. Does it have bugs? Sure. Probably fewer now, I finished it pretty quickly when it was released.

But you can build or break alliances with people or factions as you see fit. You can choose to explore the worlds, or just follow the quest markers. There are many ways you can build your character to let you play the game as you want to play it.

All this, coupled with the chance to play portability of the Switch, made me look forward to the port. Playing the opening title, I was impressed at how the Switch handled things in handheld mode.

Things looked a little fuzzy, and the dense foliage seems to have been pulled out, but it was playing a lot better than I thought it would.

Even the load times, which on my Xbox One S drove me mad every time entered a town or loaded my game, seemed better.

Then I started seeing the negative headlines on my YouTube feed. I have stayed away from as many reviews as I can, but the negative press is prominent.

So this week, I am going to get a fair way into The Outer Worlds and see if I can see what everyone is talking about. Expect to see all this as a review in the next week or two.

The Outer Worlds Switch Load Screens
Do thigns take a while to load on Switch? Yes. But these screens didn't ge to me like I thought they would.
The Outer Worlds Switch Edgewater
In handheld, it didn't look quite as bad. But it did look soft, and the world not as full of life.
The Outer Worlds Xbox One S
On the Xbox One S, more details and no 'fuzzy' buildings, but a lot more powerful hardware than the Switch.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

So after last week’s lack of Turnip purchases, this week I paid off my 4th extension and bought up a bunch of turnips to start trying to build up some cash.

During the week, I didn’t ignore Animal Crossing, but I didn’t go out of my way with my island either. At least 5 nights was login for Nook Miles, bury bells and grab the money tree – that was it.

No, I am not helping with the anniversary photos either. I think the new activity is kind of cute, but I am not much of a wedding person at the best of times, sorry Harv.

I do now have the clothing store, so that’s progress. I completely forgot the game told me about the sisters wanting to set up shop permanently.

This means I might have to sit down and actually look hard at what other possible buildings or structures could be in store. Time to get ‘serious’ about finishing my island and getting 5 stars – then I think I can ‘finish’ my game of Animal Crossing.

Animal Crossing Erik is an adorable weirdo
He is cute, and his heart is in the right place, but really Erik?
Animal Crossing Able Sisters Opens
Is this my last building? Looks like I will need to go look it up!

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

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Blood Rage Digital Edition Review (and physical game thoughts)

Blood Rage Cover Art
Released 2016
Designer Eric M. Lang
Publisher CMON (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (5 with expansion)
Playing Time 20 – 30 minutes per player
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map
BoardGameGeek View on BGG
Released 2020
Platform Steam
Publisher Asmodee Digital (Website)
Developer Exozet (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1 – 5
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map

To play Blood Rage alone, this is a great adaption. There are quite a few caveats, though.

The first in a series of games from Eric M. Lang and CMON, Blood rage mixes minis on a map with strong Euro game elements. Released about four years ago, Blood Rage had a lot of hype and for many just faded away.

I still remember my first game of Blood Rage fondly. It was at PAX Aus 2016, and I managed to luck my way into a Loki strategy win. What’s a Loki strategy? I tried to lose more than I won and got to penalise the winners and steal points.

But the bottom line is I only want to play Blood Rage with that general group. It was a group of people that know each other reasonably well, and in-game rivalry with smack talk and tit-for-tat making sub-games within the overall game. We all enjoy heavy games now and then, and while Blood Rage has heavy elements, it’s ‘medium’ style gameplay makes it more likely to hit the table.

So when Blood Rage Digital was announced with its own Kickstarter, I was intrigued. A lot of digital Kickstarters get started and go off the rails. CMON was (in my opinion) padding the finding by offering physical copies of the game at higher pricing. So I decided to sit and wait rather than back it.

But the game is here now, and I grabbed a copy.

Well, that’s interesting and all, but what is Blood Rage?

Blood Rage is a Viking/Norse Mythology based game for 2-4 players. This can be increased to five players with an expansion, and the digital version plays 5 out of the gate.

A lot of different game elements are blended into a glorious mess. At its core, you put your army on the board and fight to pillage villages for bonuses and Glory. There is card drafting and hand management, which adds strategy elements to the game.

This drafting also adds memory elements to the strategy. Each player has a selection of cards, you pick one, then pass the remaining cards to the next player. This means players see almost all cards that are available that round. But each round, a certain number of cards are never introduced into the selection, so you never know if someone beat you to a card or if it isn’t in that game.

Blood Rage Physical Components
Before you ask - yes, this takes ages to setup properly

When you are playing, you also have resource management to consider. Most actions cost Rage, so think of them as Action Points in most other games. You can only have a certain number of minis on the board, as denoted by your Horns. When fighting, you will earn Glory (points) for fighting, and you can upgrade the number of points you earn by upgrading your Axes.

Combat is relatively simple – the player with the highest strength in the contested area wins. Each player in combat must play one card during the battle. These cards can add strength, modify abilities, or be virtually ‘blank’ cards.

Blood Rage Physical Cards and Boards
It looks like a lot, and it is, but once you have the basics down information is easily read at a glance

At the end of each phase, Ragnarok happens. This destroys an area on the board and sends any mini in that area to Valhalla. During this part fo the phase, you can also complete Quests for more Glory.

At the end of three phases, the player with the most Glory wins.

Wait, what? That’s a lot of game to follow!

Blood Rage is a simple enough game, but it has a lot of ‘simple’ things to keep track of all at once. This is why I don’t consider Blood Rage a game for everyone. Only certain types of gamer will enjoy this sort of game style.

That said, Blood Rage is a lot simpler than many popular ‘heavy’ games, so it’s an excellent middle ground for a wider audience.

So I should pick up the physical copy?

If you can find one! The physical copy of Blood Rage also suffers from what I term CMON Kickstarteritis. Yes, I know that’s not a real word. :p

Blood Rage really shines with more players. The physical game lets you do up to 5 players with an expansion, but once you play the retail copy you quickly realise you need to Kickstarter exclusives to make the most of it.

It’s almost impossible to track down retail copies this far after it’s release, and if you can find a Kickstarter collection, it will either be a steal or incredibly expensive.

Blood Rage Physical Amazon Listing
This was a snap of Amazon.com Friday, June 5th. Remember, that's USD!

That’s why I was excited about the digital edition. Apart from being able to play Blood Rage far more often with AI players, it also included almost all of the Kickstarter expansions.

But because the physical copy was getting hard to find in 2018 when the digital version Kickstarter launched, it looked like most of the money was going to the physical copy. Only about 12% of the number of backers wanted the digital-only copy. 

That leaves almost 8,500 backers that wanted the digital copy with the physical game add ons. I have no idea how many of those people then added the original game to their pledge to get a ‘complete’ set.

So without being able to see how much would actually go to the development of the digital version, I decided to hold off and wait.

And now, Blood Rage Digital exists. The Good Points.

I have had a few games solo with the AI, at 3 and 4 players. I am still playing against ‘easy’ opponents. Still, as I have won the last 3 games mainly by upgrading my stat tracks, I will be upping the difficulty soon.

Being able to play a few games kicking back and relaxing whenever I want is great, and I have really enjoyed playing the few games that I have.

I can say hand on heart that the game plays very closely to the board game. The feeling of dread waiting for cards to be revealed is all there. The disappointment at missing a favourite card is there.

The pacing of the game is a little slow. It takes a bit too long to resolve quests, combat, that kind of thing. Having to sit and wait without a ‘speed up’ option is confusing.

Blood Rage Digital Drafting
Decisions, decisions. The feeling between digital and physical for if you are choosing right is just as stressful!

Why do I include this in the ‘good’ section? Because when you are learning the game, being able to see each card and each section slowly helps you quickly determine the flow of the game and tactics involved.

Seeing the minis on the board look great. It’s not the best graphics I have seen in a game, but you can play it on almost any Windows machine. I will take a little bit of a graphical presentation hit to play Blood Rage on any device happily.

Access to the information on cards and rules mid-game is also reasonably well done. From the main menu, you can browse all the cards and their effects. Not all digital implementations do this, and I am glad Exozet and CMON included this.

Blood Rage Digital Compendium
I wish more digital board games let you look throught he decks outside of the actual 'game'

And the bad.

A common issue I have with many digital implementations is the tutorial. Blood Rage Digital’s tutorial isn’t the worst I have seen, but it could still be a bit better.

My advice here is to watch a tutorial on the board game. The rules are the same, and some of the intricacies are explained a lot better in tutorials like those from Rodney at Watch it Played.

That’s not to say the tutorial is terrible – there are even sections of the compendium that describe drafting strategies, which is great!

But even as someone that knows how to play the game, there were sections of the tutorial I looked at and was confused why some information wasn’t there. Prior knowledge of the rules going will definitely a plus.

If you want to learn Blood Rage completely within the digital game, everything is in the compendium but it’s a lot of text to absorb. So if you rather learn by watching a video, check out the video.

If you look at the Steam reviews, there is one facet of the game that apparently needs a lot of work – online multiplayer. Apparently, people are having a lot of trouble being able to play against friends online.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I did grab Harls a copy recently as a gift with the idea of playing against him online. Harls is the sort of player I can have a lot of fun playing Blood Rage with, but it’s not much of a two-player game. Adding AI fixes this while letting us play together.

At least, it would if it worked.

Blood Rage Digital Steam Page
If you were just browsing, I could understand skipping the game on this alone

There is also the controls themselves. Earlier, I mentioned that the pacing is a bit slow. Sometimes, you can hit a skip button if you can’t do an action, for example, if you can’t play an additional card. This doesn’t always happen though, which is strange.

I can’t say for certain that this is a design choice. If you play, you will notice at times cards and other screen elements sit over the controls. I wonder if at times you have this speed option available, but you can’t see it on screen.

Blood Rage Digital UI Issues
Why is Skip hiding? And this is at 'normal' screen size

Playing on an ultrawide monitor makes this user interface issue a lot worse. Playing on my ‘game’ screen at 2560×1080, elements like the strength of my army are hidden by my cards.

When 21:9 and similar aspect ratios first started appearing, a typical display issue was the game/application would zoom the screen. The program would fill the width of your screen with the contents, but that would crop the height from what you can see.

Five years ago, with the tech being still new, this was mostly understandable and early adopters needed to work around the issue. In 2020, this just feels sloppy.

Blood Rage Digital Funny Aspect Bugs
You can see where the title and bottom of the banner is being cut off. I am supposed to click on Continue. The button below the bottom of the screen.

Even worse, when finishing a game in ultrawide, you can’t continue on to the final score, because you can’t click on the continue button. So you will never honestly know if you won a game or not.

These display element issues might seem like a problem only for a few users. Still, the fact they are happening at all makes me wonder what other glitches are happening at ‘normal’ resolutions.

The only other thing I wish was available was a ‘save’ system. It can be an XCom ironman type save, where you only have one save slot that happens at the end of each player turn. This way, you can’t go back and try and cheese the game with different strategies until you dominate.

Blood Rage Digital Widescreen Issues
Why hide my army strength? I can count my minis, but once cards come into play, that doesn't help!

Playing solo, a game takes me about 30-40 minutes with 2 AI players. I would love to be able to leave and take a break mid-game. Also, such a system may help when multiplayer crashes instead of the entire games progress being lost.

So stay clear?

Here’s the funny thing – I think Blood Rage Digital is a great implementation, it just needs a lot of fixes. Some are hopefully simple to make, some might take time.

Playing solo, I have had no real problems other than having to change my screen to 1920×1080 when I want to play. I have enjoyed quite a few games, and I don’t regret the purchase at all.

While I am yet to play online multiplayer, until more patches have been made (and to Exozets credit, there have been updates quite often already), I won’t even by trying except as an experiment.

You can’t even play Blood Rage with a screen sharing local game properly, because this will reveal players entire hands to everyone. The multiplayer needs to be fixed to recommend Blood Rage Digital to more than solo players.

Overall Thoughts

Blood Rage is a sound implementation of the original board game and makes for an excellent alternative for solo players.

The low system requirements mean that players can play on pretty much any computer that runs Windows 10. This means the entry-level for a ‘video game’ is easy to achieve.

If you want to play Blood Rage Digital online though, a lot of work needs to be done to get this working properly.

I would rate the Kickstarter version of Blood Rage’s physical copy a 7.5 and the retail copy a 7. But until the issues mentioned are addressed, I couldn’t give the digital version a higher score. Even though it works great as a solo game, board games are better played with others – even digitally.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  • A lot of fun to play solo against AI
  • Can play well even on ‘work’ computers
  • Faithful adaption of the board game

Cons

  • Lots of issues with multiplayer
  • Some screen elements seem to be broken or having issues

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 1st, 2020

Animal Crossing Shooting Star

One full week back at work, and I am back to being overly tired. I didn’t play any PS4 or Xbox this week. But I did get in some digital board gaming – let the gaming challenge counts finally rise!

OK, so it wasn’t a huge dent, but a dent is a dent. Kicking back and playing the AI isn’t as good as playing with my friends, but it was still good to do some board gaming.

Turn-based, take your time, board gaming. I needed it last week, and probably will again this week.

But enough of all that – on to what actually got played!

Istanbul – Steam

I quite enjoy Istanbul, but it can be a brain breaker. This is why I generally prefer Istanbul: The Dice Game. It’s one of those rare times where the dice game captured the feel of the ‘original’ game perfectly.

Early last week, I nabbed the Steam digital version and gave it a go. The tutorial is as good as I can ask for. One of the downsides to Istanbul is there are a few different things to keep track of, and it takes at least a couple of games for everything to click.

Going to see if I can get a game or two in on games night, and see what everyone else thinks of playing it digitally.

Istanbul Board
It's the board game, with everything laid out logically.
Istanbul Caravansary
It is a lot easier to read what the locations do though!

Small World – Android

Well, discounts got me last week. Google Play gave me a $1 credit, and I started having a look to see if there was anything that jumped out at me. Turned out there were two titles.

The first one was an old favourite that I hadn’t played for quite some time – Small World.

I had a couple of games, and I enjoyed it. That said, I can’t recommend people that haven’t already got it run out and buy it. First and foremost, I got the ‘this was written for an older version of Android’ warning as soon as I started it up. That doesn’t bode well for staying on your phone much longer.

Playing it on mobile is a little frustrating when your finger misses a token. Everything is just so small, and my gorilla fingers had trouble moving my tokens.

It did remind me that I do have Small World on Steam though. On a bigger screen, the gameplay will be a lot smoother. And just as fun as the board game, without the micromanagement.

I will have to see if I can use Remote Play Together on it for a games night…

Small World No Support Die
Three sides of this die are blank. You will swear it has 7 blank sides.
Small World You Have How Many Land
It was at this point, I thought this may have been a mistake
Small World Victory
And this is why you never give up trying

Dragon Castle – Steam

I reviewed Dragon Castle last week, so I won’t be talking much about this one. But how could I do a review and not grab at least one screenshot of the game? Oh no, I had to play a game. Such a hard life :p

Today I will talk about how disappointed I was that Dragon Castle doesn’t work with Remote Play Together. Like Tokaido, Dragon Castle is a great game to be playing during a conversation, and I think it would work really well in the remote play format.

I think if people could jump in for a round or two on someone else’s copy, more copies would be sold. Yes, it was on sale for a very low entry point cost, but you had to want to already play to be willing to pay it.

But that’s just my rant. 🙂

Dragon Castle Poor Decisions
I was getting worried. The compute started targeting my dragon tiles.
Dragon Castle Tie Loss
Lost on tie breaker though. Can't be unhappy with that comeback!

When I got an email saying that Imperial Settlers was coming to mobile, I was very excited. I have had my eye on the roll and write version for a while, and a portable solo version could bump Onirim for plays.

I bought it, loaded it up, and played the tutorial. And I have no idea what is going on.

Teaching board games is hard. Anyone that has tried can tell you that. Learning board games is harder, and some manuals do not help with this.

That is where Imperial Settlers: Roll and Write fell down for me. There is a manual you have to read that will hopefully explain enough to understand the tutorial. The tutorial itself was basically ‘pick this, move it’ with little explanation as to what you were trying to achieve.

So now I am going to sit with a few video tutorials and the rule book. This is the only way I believe I can get the full experience. I will come back to this one in a few weeks with a full review.

Imperial Settlers Tutorial
Why do you want crowns? Read the manual to find out!

Blood Rage – Steam

As I wrote last Wednesday, I was looking forward to this. I enjoy Blood Rage, but it’s a hard one to get to the table. Not that it’s a bad game – just one that takes a lot of coordination getting certain types of player together.

I was hoping that the digital version would help me get some plays in, and I believe it will. I have played two games against AI opponents so far, and the ‘easy’ difficulty still gives a challenge.

The biggest challenge was actually my screen. Playing in ultrawide in my first game, I realised that I couldn’t see my army strength. The number was blocked by my cards. This wasn’t a problem in the tutorial, as I didn’t have enough of a hand for it to happen.

Changing the resolution to a standard size 1920×1080, this wasn’t an issue, and I handily won my second game. Both rounds were fun, but this was a bit strange. I will look more into it during the week.

Initial thought though – this could be a lot of fun on the go. Maybe a Switch version?

Blood Rage Cards Blocking
Below my card is supposed to be my army strength
Blod Rage Bad Card To Play
If you don't have cards, it's not a problem. Except I shouldn't have entered this fight!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

It was another week on Sleep Cove. Did some fishing, bought some stuff, started toying with my island setup. Still trying to get it right in my head.

Yesterday I messed up though. I completely forgot that Daisy Mae only sells turnips Sunday MORNING. When did I remember this? When Isabelle proudly informed me it was 12:01.

It’s far from the biggest issue in the world, but it was indicative of most of my week hahaha.

I need about another 100,000 bells to pay off my upstairs room. I think I will spend a night roughly planning out the changes I want to make to my island, and having fun fishing. Now that winter has officially hit my island, hopefully I will find some new fish and bugs to collect as well!

Animal Crossing Shooting Star
I also finally got to see a shooting star! Star fragments acquired, finally crafter a wand 🙂

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition – Switch

RPG’s are my game of choice for when I want to settle down and immerse myself in a world. I don’t have much time for that lately, but it is what I enjoy.

When Xenoblade Chronicles was announced, I was excited. I have a version for my DS, but that hasn’t been pulled out since last PAX. The Switch has basically replaced all of my handheld gaming, except for quick mobile diversions.

One reasonably universal downside to RPG’s is starting them. Fans are nodding, some people are probably confused.

Vast RPG worlds are great when you are in them, but it’s hard to invest in a game that drops you into it completely blind. So you get to do the introduction to the world. This is part story building, and part tutorial.

I am 40 minutes in, and I haven’t gotten to the first town to ‘start’ the game. This is what I mean by ‘starting them’ is a problem.

It looks gorgeous on the Switch, even playing in handheld mode. It might take a week, but I will make it to the village and get my first taste of the game soon.

Figure 3-4 more weeks, and I can start playing it properly!

Xenoblade Chronicles Titans Clash
The bodies of these two huge creatures is the world you will explore
Xenoblade Chronicles Bad Day
No spoilers, but when I watched this happen all I could think was "Justice"

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

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Dragon Castle Review

Dragon Castle Cover
Dragon Castle Cover
Released 2017
Designer Hjalmar Hach, Luca Ricci, Lorenzo Silva
Publisher Horrible Guild (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (Can use AI in digital for solo play)
Playing Time 10-15 minutes per player
Category Tile Placement
Mahjong Solitaire
Pattern Placement
Town Building
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

I used to play Mahjong when I was young. Back then, it was usually a tile-matching game. Dragon Castle takes me back to those days.

Going through some digital games to play while my games group is separated, I found Dragon Castle had a digital version. Jumping at the chance to play via Steam Remote Play Together, I bought it.

Why was I so excited? When Alpal introduced me to Dragon Castle, I ordered a copy before I left her place. So much of the gameplay and presentation just makes me happy.

So what is Dragon Castle?

Dragon Castle is a mix of quite a few games. There is the evident Mahjong Solitaire influence, with the titular Dragon Castle’s being built from Mahjong tiles. Selection is simple – grab one of the edge tiles from the highest levels. Next, you can collect an edge tile of the same symbol from anywhere around the castle.

You don’t have to select a second tile though. You can choose to destroy the tile for a point or store up a shrine for placement later. This isn’t a legacy game though – destroying a tile just takes it out of the game.

Dragon Castle Pieces
You will be collecting and placing tiles and shrines for scoring

Once you collect tiles, you then build your own new castle in a solitaire pattern placement affair. You can place tiles anywhere on your player board, except on top of tiles that are face up.

How do you turn over tiles to build higher? Have four or more of the same coloured tile touching each other orthogonally. They don’t even have to be on the same level, adding some 3D complexity to the game.

Dragon Castle Player Castle
Building up your castle is strangely satisfying, especially when the tiles click together

The more tiles you can complete this way on one turn, the more points you collect. Once you have done this, you can also place a shrine on one of the tiles you just flipped over. The higher the shrine is set, the more bonus points you gain.

That doesn’t sound very interesting.

Not when explained like that it’s not. But as solitaire sounding the gameplay is, there is a surprising amount of player interaction.

Trying to make a large 8 tile collection of green tiles? Other players can start taking your tiles before you can make a match. Even worse, if you need a pair, players can choose one of them and take it from the game!

The purple Dragon tiles also allow you to place two shrines if you can make a set. Sounds great, but you have to remember there aren’t many of them!

Dragon Castle Tile Placement
Pleacement is the trickiest hurdle. If the bottom sword was one higher, a group of 4 would have been made

There are also optional modules you can add in the form of Dragons and Spirits. Spirits introduce random special abilities that can be used during the game. Dragons themselves add more of a strategic element. Some add more points for shrines, others offer bonuses for your building arrangement.

Both spirits and dragons are optional to add to play, but I like that you can expand the game without buying expansions down the line.

Dragon Castle Spirits
Sample of the Spirit Cards. Include as you choose!

And there is also the tiles themselves.

Just like when you play a game with metal coins or poker chips, the tactile satisfaction of the tiles themselves shouldn’t be underestimated.

The art style of the game is simple yet beautiful. Every board shares a theme, and yet is visually distinct. In fact, my biggest disappointment with Dragon Castle is the boards themselves. The cardboard used is too thin, in my opinion. Not severely so, you won’t be creasing them accidentally making them unusable without going out of your way. But thicker boards would have completed the premium feel the tiles provide.

Premium – that’s code for expensive.

That’s an understandable concern. And yes – those tile pieces couldn’t have been cheap to produce. I picked up my copy for about AUD$70, and I think it was worth every cent.

This is where Dragon Castle’s value becomes subjective. I enjoy abstract games, and the primarily ‘multi-player solitaire’ nature of the game means conversation during a round is easy.

However, you can do the same sort of gameplay with many Roll and Write games, which expensive ones are around the AUD$55 mark. You can’t deny there is a cost to so many mahjong tiles contained in the game.

Dragon Castle Boards
I have played with much flimsier boards, but thicker ones would have been nice

Everything you get in the box though makes it hard to suggest you aren’t getting what you paid for. The question is really if it’s to expensive for the enjoyment you will get from Dragon Castle, and I can only tell you I think it’s all worth it.

Dragon Castle Components
Just picking up the box, you know you where the cost goes. Dragon Castle is heavy.

You mentioned a digital version?

The purchase that prompted me to finally review Dragon Castle! At the moment, there is a Steam sale where you can grab a copy for AUD$7.12. This deal ends on June 2nd. Full price is close to AUD$13. Much cheaper than the physical version!

Gameplay-wise, Dragon Castle translates well to digital. The music in the game is relaxing, and the art style is carried across as well. The tutorial is a little bit confusing – and this is coming from someone that already knows how to play.

The AI is available in different skill levels, and so far seem very well balanced. I have only played a few games on PC so far, and I haven’t braved the hard levels yet. You can also play online against other people, or locally in a pass and play style mode.

Dragon Castle Digital
Relaxing and challenging at the same time, the digital implementation works very well

The biggest downside for me? The controls. I miss picking up a tile from the pile. Instead of dragging tiles over as I expected, you need to click on the tile once to select, then again to confirm your choice.

Once you get used to it, the flow of the game works well. It just didn’t control as intuitively as I would have liked.

There is another downside. The reason I bought Dragon Castle was to play with my group with Remote Play Together on Steam. Unfortunately, Dragon Castle doesn’t work with this feature, so if you want to play with others online you will need everyone to buy a copy.

Overall Thoughts

If you enjoy Roll and Write and/or abstract games, Dragon Castle is a game you should definitely add to your ‘To Play’ list.

Dragon Castle is easy to teach and learn, and players will have the flow down during their first game. Once you have the basics down, a game of many layers slowly unfolds before you.

While the physical game can be seen as expensive for the type of game it is, the quality of the components justifies this to me. If you are unsure, the digital version is considerable cheaper – and easier to buy!

If you are looking for a game to play while everyone is still separated, again Dragon Castle is definitely worth a look.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Simple to teach and learn
  • Beautiful art and quality components in the tiles and shrines
  • A game that can grow with you as you gain experience.

Cons

  • Can be considered expensive to buy without playing it to justify the purchase.
  • The digital tutorial isn’t the best

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Blood Rage Digital comes to life Tomorrow!

Blood Rage Digital Edition

Blood Rage in both forms were initially Kickstarted. That counts. Doesn’t it? CMON, sure it does.

Look, it’s been a day work-wise. I couldn’t resist the pun. Little things, right?

Looking around Kickstarter the last few days, nothing has really jumped out at me. I’m not saying there is nothing good on Kickstarter this week – just nothing that particularly caught my eye.

That said, a couple of weeks ago, I got my Kickstarter code for one of the rare video games I have backed – The Wonderful 101. It’s downloaded on my Switch, I just haven’t played it yet.

This got me thinking, a Kickstarter for a digital adaption of an Eric M. Lang classic releases tomorrow. That’s right – Blood Rage Digital is coming, and even though I didn’t back it, my Steam preorder is ready to go!

Why didn’t you back Blood Rage?!?

With the first Kickstarter for Blood Rage, I think I was already heavily invested in other projects. The idea had appeal, it was just juggling finances.

Then at PAX Aus 2015, a friend of mine got to buy it. We quickly cleared a section of the table and jumped straight it. I remember confusion, shenanigans, and being the Vikingist Viking at the table. :p

Not long after, I bought my own copy. This instantly made me regret not backing Blood Rage. The Kickstarter Exclusives were quickly seen to fill in some gameplay gaps not available at retail.

Blood Rage Digital Edition Gameplay
It looks like you can see all the essential information easily

I did not repeat this mistake with Rising Sun.

But the board game is always better.

When you have people around to play with, absolutely. Sharing out setup, the friendly digs, just the general atmosphere – this always beats digital for me hands down.

But.

Digital board games have come a long way over the years. Not just in looks (although the increased graphical quality is nice), but in actually recreating the gameplay feel.

You don’t always have people around to play with. Having the computer available as other players means you can play when you want. Setup time is replaced by load times. Saving a game and coming back to it later is simple.

Blood Rage Digital Edition Sea Monster
I am pretty sure the monster is the mini Eric Lang grabbed during a convention and jumped on

So we should preorder Blood Rage?

As always, that depends on you. I have, and I grabbed a copy for Harls. As long as he isn’t neck-deep in Destiny 2, it’s another way to play a new game, and we can do it without travel. We can even play over multiple sessions easily.

This is mainly a heads up that Blood Rage is coming to digital. There is a 10% discount for preordering, but the full price is only AUD$28.95. Compared to the board game, that’s a steal!

Preordering also get the official Soundtrack and Mythical Monsters DLC. This will let you set lose the Mountain Giantess, Garm, Seer Troll, Wolfwoman, Ymir, Hildisvini and Nídhöggr. Each has their own special abilities, and can change the flow of the game.

Blood Rage Digital Edition Mythical Creatures
Not someone you want to see wander into the battlefield

There is a lot of talk about how the beautiful miniatures were digitised into Blood Rage, and they do look good in the pics. You don’t even have to paint them! Yes, I realise that is a drawback for some.

From the screens, it looks like a lot of work has gone into capturing the feel of the game, so yes, I am looking forward to it. Hopefully, I will be jumping on it this weekend for a couple of games, and I will give at least my First Impressions next week.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Control Review

Control
Control
Released 2019
Platform PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher 505 Games (Website)
Developer Remedy Entertainment (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Adventure
Paranormal
Third Person Shooter
Abilities
Exploration

Ever wondered what happened if you mix Twin Peaks with a shooter? Control is the closest thing I have ever found.

Remedy’s Control is a game that sounds like it was made for a niche. The storyline is laced with paranormal elements. It’s a shooter that emphasis exploration and interaction.

On PC, it was hailed as the ‘right’ way to implement Ray Tracing. I know a few gamers that were put off. The thought they needed to buy a new graphics card to enjoy Control.

Like a meal that sounds wrong, if you are brave enough to take a bite, the rewards are worth it. This is one of those times where your worst fears are unfounded.

So what is Control?

You play as Jesse Fayden, and all you know is you have walked into a government building. That is empty. You have no idea what is going on, or what your goal is.

You get some objectives to give you direction, but you have no context to help you. If you watch an action movie, you know the first few minutes are the setup justifying the ensuing mayhem. The first few minutes of Control are you investigating an empty office building.

Jesse talks to herself, and then suddenly you realise she is talking to someone. She reacts to a soft geometric ring that we see as the player. At first, I thought this was an immersion technique, where Jesse talked to the player.

Spoiler – I was wrong.

Control First Document
Security checkpoint in Federal building. Normal. No one investigating why you set off the alarm though...

Eventually, you pick up a weapon. In the world of Control, this makes you The Director of the Federal Bureau of Control. No, it makes no sense. But it becomes a substantial part of your game world.

From here, you explore The Oldest House (the office building) and help others to stop a potential invasion while finding your brother.

Why play a game that makes no sense?

Why stick with a television series that makes little sense to you? There are small elements that promise potential and draw you in. For me, I just had to know what was going on.

Remedy nailed the opening story pacing. I spent maybe three minutes walking around thinking “Huh? What’s all the hype about?” Twenty minutes later, I knew I was playing until I couldn’t anymore.

That’s a bit vague. Details?

I know Control came out a while ago, but I also know that many people haven’t tried Control. Because of this, I don’t want to spoil any of the stories for anyone.

Yes, stories. Control evolves from a relatively short story game (maybe 6-7 hours?) into the story you want to make. Side quests can be a massive grind in adventure games, but I was genuinely looking forward to helping others in Control.

Now, these side quests don’t change the ending. There is a definite ending, and The Foundation DLC picks up right after this ending. There is no ending for this story yet in the traditional sense.

Control Objective Found
The screen stays pretty clear. Objective in the top left, markers fairly obvious.

That said, the ending of the main game isn’t a cliffhanger. I would describe it more as a good season 1 ending where you don’t know if season 2 is coming.

OK, so what actually is Control?

You can sum up Control as an adventure game with light RPG elements and shooting. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it?

This is where I try to get across that Control is greater than the sum of its parts. The exploration of The Oldest House is satisfying. Even though I got the Platinum Trophy, I have much more to explore. I grabbed the Deluxe version on sale on PS4, and now I have even more to explore.

By introducing the Astral Plane and having The Oldest House literally move, it makes progression feel satisfying. When you unlock new powers like Levitation, areas you have already explored suddenly have new paths available to you.

Control Astral Plane
The Astral Plane has a few uses, the most obvious being the tutorial mode for new abilities

The Service Weapon, your gun in the game, changes forms. Having one weapon sounds boring, nut you unlock these forms as you play. It means you get a pistol, Gatling gun, rocket launcher and sniper rifle all at the same time. It also makes sense of how you can carry so many weapons at the same time.

Most of the previous paragraphs sound strange, and yet in the context of Control makes perfect sense. Every character looked at in isolation is just weird, yet make perfect sense in the story. Actions and powers you utilise or set pieces you come across make sense.

Control Dr Darling
These video presentations actually feel right in the game

Even the Threshold Kids, the video series that initially freaked me out, became fun things to find. The lore you come across in the form documents and videos is interesting. Files and letters redacted nature serves as a hook rather than an annoyance. Videos that made you pull a face suddenly make something else click later.

But. There is always a but.

Yep. Control is no different. Side quests are fun, but some of them are so hidden that many people can pass straight past them. One of these quests was a room investigating luck. The instructions for how to ‘solve’ the puzzle were in plain sight, but there was no mission in my objective list.

The missions that are spelled out for you are relatively obvious fetch/hunt type quests. There aren’t many, so the ‘fetch grind’ that many adventure games suffer from. You can skip most of them, but if you do, you won’t end up as powerful as you could be.

Control Alternate Suits
Doing optional missions can unlock some new looks. This one is a paid DLC bonus.

The other catch is the action. People that don’t like shooters (like myself) can get turned off by an action-oriented game. While Control has a lot of action happening, it rewards patience and practice. Boss too hard? Level up and come back. These bosses tend to be optional – such encounters aren’t a wall.

The biggest hurdle to me is the story itself. It won’t click with everyone. A lot of people could give up purely because they are lost in the story. Every other ‘negative’ of Control has a subtle fix, except for this.

If you don’t get the story – ignore it. Control will let you do this very easily. I am not trying to say the story is irrelevant. People that dig will be rewarded. But you can focus just on the next objective and levelling up your powers and enjoy it.

Console, PC, RTX?

So here is a big one. I bought Control on PC cheap on the Epic Store, and again for my PS4 Pro. The PC version I bought to show how good it plays on my laptop compared to my PC, and that comparison is coming. I haven’t played it on any system that can take advantage of Ray Tracing.

A few people have commented that I am an RTX hater. This isn’t correct. Two years after the release of the Nvidia RTX line, only a handful of games take advantage of it. That is changing this year, but right now it’s still a very niche tech.

What does RTX bring to Control? Real-time reflections, beautiful lighting and realistic shadows. The cost to do this though is pretty staggering. I personally wouldn’t play Control on PC with Ray Tracing on with less than a 2070 Super.

This video shows Nvidia’s examples of Ray Tracing in the game.

Differences between my laptops 1660Ti and my desktops 1080Ti were slim. I don’t remember any difference in the experience. Sure, if I examined individual frames, I am sure I could spot differences. The feeling of awe is what I remember, and Control looked great on both.

Control 1660Ti
Jacket looks a little flatter but details are still crisp on my laptop 1660Ti
Control 1080Ti.png
Control on my desktop 1080Ti ultrawide

I only played a tiny portion on PC though. I played the game ‘properly’ on my PS4 Pro. Even at 1080p, there were some very noticeable frame rate drops on PlayStation. These only occurred in larger battles with a lot of powers in use. Not enough to ruin the experience, but it’s evident that Control is pushing the older consoles to their limits.

My personal feeling is paying anywhere from AUD$300 to AUD$2000 more depending on your graphics card (e.g. RTX 2060 Super to RTX 2080 Ti) is a lot to make one game look better. Hands down it looks a lot better, but I can do a lot more with that extra cash!

Digital Foundry did an excellent tech review of the different technologies implemented in Control you can check out below. But bottom line, I think you will enjoy Control on any platform you want to play it on.

Overall Thoughts

Comparing Control to Twin Peaks is very apt. The story is deeper than it appears, but it doesn’t drag everything out while feeding you the lines to follow. It also allows the player much more choice than might be immediately obvious at first glance.

The story won’t be for everyone. The action won’t be for everyone. But the way that Remedy has blended everything into an experience that is both familiar and unique is phenomenal.

If you are on the fence, with various sales now that it has been out for a while, Control is a safe buy for many people.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Gorgeous graphics
  • A lot more room to explore and customise than it appears
  • The balance between story and playing is pretty spot on
  • Much more to discover than the objective lists suggest

Cons

  • You get over close-ups of Jesse quickly
  • Frame rate dips even on PS4 Pro in battles with lots of enemies and powers can be distracting for that battle
  • Paranormal heavy storyline not for everyone

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Resident Evil 3 First Impressions and Thoughts

Resident Evil 3 Raccoon City Demo Capture 2

Everyone’s First Impressions on Resident Evil 3? STAAAARRRRS!

Resident Evil 3 is finally here, and I have captured my first impressions! Don’t worry if you don’t get all the STARS references that will be flying around – it’s an injoke from the game, that you will get quickly if you play 😀

There is only one game I have been waiting for with more anticipation, and it is teasing me on my shelf.

Final Fnatasy VII Deluxe
It teases me :p

I am waiting for April 10th to look at this one. Not just because of the request for no spoilers from Square Enix, but day one patches and the like aren’t available. So, my plan is to do my first impressions as per normal – even though the start should be the demo that was recently released.

But enough of that teaser, on to todays game – RESIDENT EVIL 3! Resident Evil 2 blew me away last year, and the only reason I haven’t Platinumed it is because I haven’t had the time to dedicate powering through the later skill and time based challenges.

As much as I have been trying to stay away from reviews, headlines have flashed before me. Apparently the game is a ‘mixed’ experience. So what do I think after a half hour of gameplay?

Only one way to find out!

Is Resident Evil 3 a game you have been looking forward to? I can tell you from the demo, it plays equally well on PC, PS4 Pro and Xbox One S so you should have a great time playing it if you do!

Not sure if Resident Evil 3 is for you? Play the Racoon City demo – it is very representative of what Resident Evil 3 is like.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Doom Eternal First Impressions – I made a video!

Doom Eternal First Impressions

Doom Eternal has the tag line ‘Rip and Tear’. I play ‘Sticky Bomb and Pray’!

So I have had some start/stop video experiments that I have shared in the past. Today, there is another 🙂 Rather than try to write up how I feel about Doom Eternal, I thought I would do a video of my Early Impressions!

My plan was to play 15-20 minutes of a game for the first time, and give my live first impressions and reactions. What do you know – even with prep, that didn’t work out quite as well as I hoped! Doom Eternal’s soundtrack in particular turned out to be a challenge. Life finds a way indeed! 🙂

You can watch the video below, expand it up to full screen and all the usual stuff. You can also go over to my YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/johnhqldplaysgames if you have trouble casting or want to leave a like/dislike and a comment. Feedback is appreciated!

So today, let me introduce you to my first ‘First Impressions’ game video, where I sit back and enjoy Doom Eternal 😀

Slightly Extended Impressions

Once I had played through the above, I was actually a little sad that I stopped recording. Not that I wanted to make a longer video, but because I found out I was only a little distance from another really cool secret!

I discovered another secret only a few minutes after finishing up my Thoughts in the video. And this secret had me grinning like crazy!

Doom Eternal has cheat codes that you can find in the secret areas!

Doom Eternal Cheat Codes Found
This is such a great idea. And I had my original Doom collection on such disks!

I haven’t tried messing around with them yet, but I think these are a great idea. Plenty of times I would fire up the original DOS Doom games, throw on invincibility and all guns, and just blast away for a bit on fun for a little while.

Doom Eternal is going to let me do the same thing, and use these overpowered features to let you explore the map more as well!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

One Deck Dungeon Review

One Deck Dungeon Box Art
One Deck Dungeon Box Art
Released 2016
Designer Chris Cieslik
Publisher Asmadi Games (Website)
Players 1 – 2 (4 with special rules and 2 copies)
Playing Time Physical: 30-60 minutes
Digital: 20-30 minutes
Category Fantasy
Dungeon Crawl
Light RPG
Worker (Dice) Placement
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Who could have guessed playing an RPG with one deck of cards was so fun!

I love playing RPGs. Playing in a new world, enjoying the camaraderie both in-game and around the table, it’s a great time. The downside is RPGs need a group of friends. Not the people themselves, but trying to get everyone together at the same time is a massive undertaking.

There are plenty of board games that recreate a lot of the fun of RPGs. Dungeon Crawlers are especially good at this. Exploring an area, fighting monsters, and collecting loot. Some even have a basic levelling system. Almost all of them have one fundamental flaw – setup and teardown.

Mansions of Madness 1st Edition was a great example of this. It would take me 40-50 minutes to set up a game. And I had to try and do it before anyone showed up. There are plenty of other games that I can set up and play in that amount of time.

True, those games don’t have the same feel as an RPG, but it’s quicker to get into. But what if it didn’t have to be?

I have had One Deck Dungeon, and it’s stand-alone expansion Forest of Shadows, for a while now. I have even taken it interstate and overseas on work trips. Somehow, things just never seemed to align themselves for me to sit and learn how to play it.

Well, that changed a couple of weeks ago, and boy have I been playing it!

One Deck Dungeon Boxes
Both game boxes. Standard gel pen for scale. These are small!

One Deck Dungeon – What is it?

The best way I can describe One Deck Dungeon is a solo or co-op light RPG dungeon crawler. I know this is a very jargon-heavy description, but it’s really the best way to describe it.

You play as an adventurer making their way through a dungeon. During your dungeon run, you fight various monsters until you take on the boss. The monsters can give you new weapons, skills or experience to level up. Hence, light RPG dungeon crawler!

You get five different bosses in the box and five adventurers. Each boss has different conditions for their dungeon, and combined with the five adventurers means there is plenty of variety. More on that later.

One Deck Dungeon Components
A Deck of cards, some tokens and character boards, and a lot of dice. What more do you need?

So how does it work?

This is where the solo and co-operative part of One Deck Dungeon comes into it. You can play solo with one or two adventurers (the way I have come to prefer to play), or play with someone else using one adventurer each.

Each adventurer has three different stats – strength, agility and magic. Fairly standard fantasy RPG stuff. These stats are represented by different coloured dice. Unlike most RPGs, instead of rolling a dice and adding stat modifiers, you use a certain amount of dice depending on your stat.

So for example, if you have 3 agility, this means you roll three agility dice. Nice and simple! There is also the fourth colour of dice in the box – black hero dice. Hero dice can be earned with experience levels or skills, and are used as any coloured die (wilds).

One Deck Dungeon Adventurers
Each adventurer has pros and cons. Playing one adventurer or two is shown with 1p and 2p on each side.

Shuffle the 56 cards, and put it on the table. This deck of cards is where One Deck Dungeon gets its name. Each card is a different room with a monster or trap, but it’s also almost every other thing used in the game. They are also equipment, skills, experience markers and the game timer. It doesn’t sound obvious, but it works really well!

Each player turn, you burn (discard) 2 cards. This represents time in the game. The very first turn, you spend the first turn exploring. All this means is you draw cards and place them in front of you until you have 4 rooms to explore.

From now on, each turn you can choose to explore or enter a room. Entering a room means picking a card and turning it over to see what’s in it. This is where the card layout hopefully becomes a little clearer.

The card will either be a trap or combat, shown by the icon next to the card title. Below the title is a picture of the room’s contents. To the right of that shows what is needed to clear the room.

One Deck Dungeon Game Start
This is setup. Pick a coupel of characters, shuffle deck, set things out. Done.

You will also notice other parts to the card. On the left shows the extra skill dice you will roll if you choose to take an item from the room. On the bottom shows a skill you can possibly learn, and top right is the amount of experience (XP) you can earn.

If you decide to try and clear the room, you roll all of your dice. To beat the challenge, you need to place your dice onto the various squares on the right of the image. If it’s a square, you need to put a die of the same colour with the value equal to or higher than the number on the card. If it’s a rectangle, you can put any number of dice on that area, as long as the total at least equals the value shown.

One Deck Dungeon Sample Encounters and Rewards
It just looks like four cards, but each card serves 5 functions.

If you cover all the squares, you win! If you can’t cover all of the squares, you still win! You lose some time (discard more cards) and/or health, but you succeed. This helps you build your character even at the start of the game.

And that is basically it! There are some additional rules like mandatory extra requirements depending on which level of the dungeon you are on, hero dice and some other things. But what I have outlined is all you need to know about playing the game. 

That sounds rather simple. Why wouldn’t I play Yahtzee instead?

Simple isn’t always dull. Not that I am saying Yahtzee is dull, but for me, Yahtzee is at it’s best when playing in a group. 

The amount of depth and immersion in One Deck Dungeon cannot be understated, especially if you are a fan of RPGs or Dungeon Crawlers.

Yes, the mechanics are streamlined, but for a game designed to play solo and quickly do you want a lot of bookkeeping?

There is also the sheer variety of the dungeons. Initially, I believed I would get bored of One Deck Dungeon once I saw all of the enemies. Straight up – I was wrong. I have almost 20 games under my belt now, and I don’t think I have seen all of the cards yet.

One Deck Dungeon Dungeon Bosses
The bosses aren't just different battles, the rules for their dungeons change as well

Forcing you to burn cards during the game pretty much guarantees you will always get new choices each game. Do you take the powerful skill, or use that XP to go up a level and be able to carry more items and get a hero die each round?

That is the challenge and immersion of One Deck Dungeon. Each game is different. Dominate last game mashing a particular skill? You might not see it again for 10 games. Your character can be a relatively weak hitter, but take damage like a champ. Or you could be a glass cannon, dealing damage left and right but only take one hit to go down.

One Deck Dungeon Upgrade Decisions
When setting up a shot, I realised I had not seen the skill on the mage OR the room card before.

But each game, don’t you start again at level 1?

This isn’t as cut and dry. Yes, you start each game at level 1, but this isn’t always the case. For starters, you can choose difficulty level in One Deck Dungeon. Playing on Novice starts you on Level 2 each run.

On top of this, there is also a progression system. While you don’t keep your levels from game to game, you can start with skills, carry more items, heal between levels, all sorts of things.

Like any RPG game, you will need a few games to build up your adventurer. But you will get more powerful, and that old game grind becomes a different experience. You can also level up different groups of benefits and change at the start of each dungeon to tailor your run.

One Deck Dungeon Progression SHeet
You earn different symbols by playing harder dungeons

OK, so what’s the catch?

So the game is ultra-portable and a blast to play. But using cards for everything as well as tiny dice makes for a fiddly experience. For someone like me with large hands, I find myself spending as much time cleaning up my play area as I do playing the game.

I found a perfect fix for this, though. 

I’m Listening

Some of you may be wondering why this review appears in both Board Game and Video Game Reviews. That’s right – there is a digital version! And it’s a perfect translation from the physical copy. In fact, because it’s digital, it takes advantage of being able to move the level challenges to the room you are facing. This means you only have to look at one area to see all of the dice and values you need to clear a room.

There is also the added bonus of getting a sixth adventurer for free! Mist from Aeon’s End is a promotional card that you need to hunt down or buy for the physical version. Mist comes for free on the digital version, or at least on Steam.

You aren’t restricted to Steam either – you can also get One Deck Dungeon on your mobile. I am not buying it, as I am honestly worried about how much time I would spend playing it when I should be working 🙂

One Deck Dungeon Digital Character Selection
No knocking dice, no covering cards accidentally - let the game manage the fiddly bits
One Deck Dungeon Digital Progression
Everything works the same as the physical version
One Deck Dungeon Digital Boss Fight
Rolling a bunch of physical dice is so satisfying, but the app manages everything so well

Overall Thougths

One Deck Dungeon got a lot of love when it came out a few years ago, and today I can say it deserved it. While not the perfect game, it scratches that Dungeon Crawl/RPG itch for me in a solo experience.

The portability of the game is excellent for throwing my bag on trips. The digital version means a small install on almost any PC as it has meagre graphics requirements. Basically, if you can run Windows 10, you can play One Deck Dungeon. Don’t take a PC with you? Grab it on mobile!

While the dry explanation of gameplay can make it sound like another dice game, actually playing One Deck Dungeon throws that idea out the window. I can highly recommend One Deck Dungeon to everyone that enjoys an adventure.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  • Simple to set up and learn
  • Incredibly customisable experience
  • Replicates the feel of Dungeon Crawling/RPG very well
  • Can play solo very quickly
  • Portable both physically and digitally

Cons

  • Using cards can be awkward mid-game
  • High random nature of exploration may put off some players
  • Hard to describe how fun it is unless people can play it

Until next time,

JohnHQLD