Last Week’s Gaming – August 31, 2020 – Board game arena is great

Battletoads - Quick Time Event game fixing the computer by hitting it

Where did all my time go? Apparently into playing a heap of different games this week!

This week, we had a significant release at work. We are frantically trying to get a couple of other features implemented as quickly as possible, and trying to fix a bunch of stuff for other people.

Even Harry has had a lousy time this week. Poor little fella broke his dew claw, but after a trip to the vet, he is a very happy chappy again.

Harry happy after his dew claw was fixed by the Vet
He wasn't running everywhere straight away, but look how happy he is now his claw is fixed

But even with all that, I got a couple of nights of mindless video games. And I got to catch up with some friends from Melbourne I thought I wouldn’t see this year with no PAX Aus and all! Online catchup, obviously, but it was great to catch up and spend an evening playing a few games.

How did we do it this time? That’s easy. We used…

Ok, so this is more thoughts on a service rather than a game. Board Game Arena lets you play lots of different board games for free (with ads) or for a small monthly fee.

I am not going to go too far into how it works, but it does work. And reasonably well. Once you are in the game, there are quirks you need to learn, but on the whole, it works well.

While the ability to make game matches seems to be overly complicated, the gameplay itself is much easier to learn on the fly. As I was playing with only friends on voice chat, a couple of small questions we had were quickly answered. Those that couldn’t be answered from experience almost always ended up working as you would have thought.

I might see if I can talk Alpal into playing a few games this way with me during the week. I couldn’t catch up with her because of work and other commitments this weekend, but this might be a mid-week alternative.

Sushi Go – Board Game Arena

When someone suggested we play Sushi Go, I mentally froze. I remember enjoying Sushi Go, and Sushi Go Party, but I forgot everything about actually playing them.

Yay for genre standards! At its heart, Sushi Go is just a fun set collection game. I made a couple of silly mistakes early on, but I was never at a severe disadvantage.

Bottom line, a couple of rounds of Sushi Go was a great choice. We got to chat without being distracted by complicated gameplay, and have a fun silly and quick fun time.

Playing a round of Sushi Go
Get a choice of cards at the top, and pick one for your table. Easy to pay, hard to score well!

Saboteur – Board Game Arena

Saboteur is a game I have owned for a long time. I even have the second game and keep them combined in a large box. I have taught many games, overseen many games, but I have only played it myself once or twice. On top of that, it’s been a good 4-5 years since I even thought about Saboteur.

Well, until now.

The idea is pretty simple. All of the players are dwarven miners, and you are tunnelling trying to find gold. On your turn, you play a tunnel card, and you complete a clear path to one of three locations trying to find gold.

Saboteur game in progress
All you have to do is reach the end cards and find gold. That's it. No one would betray you...

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Well, there are Saboteur’s in your party, and they will try and stop you from collecting the gold. They can tunnel the wrong way, break equipment, lie about peeking at goals, anything to make the party run out of cards.

Once this happens, the Saboteur’s win. After three rounds of this, players with the highest score win. I was the Saboteur twice, and I helped the party more than I hindered them. Oops :p

Saboteur final scores
Names have been removed to protect the cheaters... I mean innocent better players :p

Tokaido – Board Game Arena

I have spoken about Tokaido a few times, and last week I was actually playing with the people that coined the name of ‘The Hangover Game’. If you want to more about the game itself, check out my review.

Playing Tokaido is always a relaxing time for me, and this was no exception. I will say I much prefer the presentation of the stand-alone app, which also gives me the ability to play solo. But if I am playing multiplayer, I will play with friends on Board Game Arena anytime.

The graphics are more basic and the help text not quite as refined on Board Game Arena. The ability to play without everyone buying a copy of the app more than makes up for these superficial shortcomings.

Tokaido mid-game
It is nice to see all of the player cards al laid out compared to the dedicated app

Colt Express – Board Game Arena

I have missed playing Colt Express. You need to play this in large groups, and even without the current isolation, that can be hard to achieve.

Colt Express has players as bandits robbing a train. Actions happen with cards, but instead acting on your turn, you program your moves to act them out later.

This delayed programming can make things so challenging and fun. While you think you can move, shoot and then pick up loot is a simple sequence, it can be much more challenging. 

Colt Express moving meeples around the cardboard train
Which way should I go...

For example, you move, and another player punches. They may have thought they were hitting another player, but you are now a potential target. You get punched, and you get moved to somewhere else and drop some loot. Ouch!

It’s not all bad. You might have thought to shoot another player, but now you are in the wrong spot. But now you can shoot the player that punched you first, just saying.

While there is a digital app for Colt Express, I really don’t like it. Colt Express is an example of a Digital Board Game that changes the rules way too much in the digital implementation.

Colt Express - Staying out of harms way
I will let the rest of them fight it out. I have a lot of money bags - should be good for second place 🙂

Onirim – Android

Jumping back into another game I haven’t picked up in a while, I decided to give Onirim a whirl during a bit of downtime.

I am not going to talk about Onirim too much here. It’s a great game, and the digital implementation makes quick solo play a breeze.

If you would like to know more about my thoughts on Onirim, check out my review. Short version – there are good reasons why Onirim regularly cycles back in my list of played games.

Onirim - I almost beat my previous best 'score mode' score.
I don't play scored mode often, I was surprised I had a score this good.

Smash Up – Steam

Smash Up is a game that reminds me of Munchkin. The premise of this ‘simple’ deck builder sounds fine. Pick two teams with their own deck of cards, shuffle them together, and go for it.

The execution is a lot more involved. Some rules completely contradict each other, and timing takes a long time to get the hang of. Actually learning to play Smash Up takes a lot of time. This alone makes the game not for everyone.

Smash Up - Board Layout and inspecting a card close up
The layout of the game makes for a clean simple affair

I have had Smash Up on Steam for ages, and with an extended bit of downtime decided to finally give it a go. It’s been at least 5 years since I had a round of Smash Up, and I thought it would be a simple case of readjusting.

I was wrong. To be fair, Smash Up is a complex game that is a rules lawyer’s dream. Or their worst nightmare. The digital implementation seems to do a pretty good job of letting me play, but getting what I want to do to happen isn’t intuitive.

Smash Up - I am losing badly to AI opponents
Somehow this is about the third turn in? Smash Up changes quickly

I might try it again next week in a focused play session, but I think I just found out why I haven’t played it for so long.

Fall Guys – PS4

What a sensation Fall Guys has turned out to be! Last Monday while you guys were seeing what I was playing the previous week, I chilled for a little while with this insane competition game.

I jumped back in for a little bit with spookedshibe again, but neither of us did well. It was still a heap of fun playing, and that is always what counts.

The medieval theme for season 2 looks interesting, and that is only a few weeks away. Fall Guys just doesn’t seem to be slowing down!

Fall Guys - People racing. I am close enough to see the goal, and everyone in front of me I can't catch.
Close enough to see the goal, far enough to know that only a miracle can help me.

Battletoads – Xbox One (Game Pass)

The poster child for hard beat ’em ups in the early 90s, Battletoads was a game I know a lot about but never actually played. Turning on the Xbox to watch some movies, I saw the notification pop up that the remake was available on Game Pass. So as I had access, I thought why not give it a go?

Battletoads - Quick Time Event game fixing the computer by hitting it
Fixing a computer with a raised fist. We have all been there but...

Right now, my thought is honestly “Why did I give this a go”. It’s not terrible, but the remake shows that the Battletoads are a product of their time.

Combat wise, battles are satisfying, and the different characters have very different playstyles. Enemies have different attack styles, and learning the patterns and various combat techniques are satisfying.

Level design is… Unique. There are plenty of genres mixed in to break up the straight beat ’em up style play. These have you do quick-time events, platforming, and the (in)famous hoverbikes are present.

Battletoads - Racing through tunnels avoiding obstacles
The hoverbikes are just as infuriating, but this time at least come with checkpoints

There was also a weird glitch during an early boss battle where the boss just got ‘stuck’ in the top left corner. I couldn’t touch him, and if I went close to him, I just got hit. The checkpoint system made this easy to work around – quick restart from the checkpoint, and I was back. But a bug like this less than 10 minutes in? Not a great start.

Then there are the cutscenes. You are thrown right into the fray with an over the top introduction that brings you up to speed pretty well. But the forced jokes and over the top nature has me dreading the next break rather than looking forward to it.

Battletoads - Boss just stuck in a corner of the screen
I beat up minions for about 10 minutes before I decided the bugs I was eating wasn't the only one

I don’t think I will be going back to Battletoads. I might, but not quickly. Instead, I was reminded that I have Streets of Rage 4 on the Xbox as well. I think I will be going back to that well before Battletoads. Even Penny Arcade had a comment on the quality of the writing.

Speaking of Streets of Rage 4…

Streets of Rage 4 – Xbox (Game Pass)

I thought I would play a ‘good’ beat ’em up after Battletoads, and my memories of Streets of Rage 4 were fond ones. Unfortunately, enjoying the gameplay is all that I remembered. It wasn’t long before I was looking at the help files for how to perform different moves.

I played my way through most of the fifth stage, only to get owned by the boss. Twice. I gave up not in frustration, but in recognition that I was too tired to be playing.

Streets of Rage 4 - Stage 5 boss beating me soundly
I worked out the Stage 5 boss won't summon help if you don't break any bikes. Unfortunately, he breaks bikes all the time.

So, save slot two has been started. When in doubt, start again – especially in a game like this. It’s not like I had been playing for weeks and had to throw it away. Beat ’em ups are distractions more than anything else after all.

I did consider jumping into arcade mode after clearing the first few levels. Unfortunately, I discovered I need to finish the story mode before anything else unlocks. While not the end of the world, it did diminish my will to make Streets of Rage 4 my next ‘finished’ game. We will see how that one goes.

Streets of Rage 4 - Retro style stage unlocked with CRT filter effect
I did manage to unlock a retro inspired level. That was a lot of fun!

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

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – May 4th, 2020 – May the Fourth be with you!

Star Wars Day

It was another light games week. You would think I was tearing through games while stuck at home!

So many things are going on. Working in IT is an interesting experience under the best of circumstances. The mental gymnastics of working with multiple projects, codebases, technologies and time zones is a workout.

We are doing all this while everyone is working from home as well. That is a mental and time management toll that has been hard to manage.

Luckily, today is not only Star Wars Day, but Labour Day public holiday here in QLD! After working Saturday and resting yesterday, I am finally going to see Alpal today! It’s going to be great catching up, and I am sure a game or two will break out.

It’s the future for me, but I would have done it when you read this. Expect to hear the outcome of that next week! 🙂 For now, let’s talk about what I played last week!

Jackbox Party Pack games – PC/Stream

Another streaming games night, have almost everything sorted, which is working well. I not only got to play Jackbox with some of my regular games group but also with my work team! So much Jackbox!

Guesspionage still makes you question the survey results, but Murder Trivia Party is always a group favourite. If we Jackbox this week, I think some drawing heavy games will in the mix this time.

If you catch up with Zoom/Teams/Skype/whatever, you need one person to share their screen with the host game. Everyone else plays on their phones/browsers. The format works surprisingly well!

Murder Trivia Party Ooops
I won a round of Murder Trivia Party! And the hotel exploded. Ooops.

Finally worked out how to get the sound working correctly as well. On the Windows Game Bar (Windows Key and G at the same time), there is an audio mixer. You can drop the game sound while leaving peoples voices alone. If anyone wants a hand with this, drop me a comment, and I will do a quick tutorial! 🙂

Elder Sign: Omens – PC

During the week, I was sitting back and waiting for someone to get back to me. I was in the mood for a dice game I could play quickly, but also walk away from if required.

I thought I would fire up One Deck Dungeon. Somehow, I started Elder Sign. I wasn’t complaining – I haven’t played it for a while, so I jumped into the Hastur campaign.

One of my team was driven insane, but I made it through. I haven’t forgotten everything it seems! It was satisfying to finish a campaign after a few weeks of almost ignoring board games. It also felt great to finally log a play after three weeks on inactivity!

Elder Sign Omens
I'm sorry Kate. She was driven insane. Also, I need to fix my screen settings apparently...

Streets of Rage 4 – Xbox GamePass

I knew this retro Kickstarter had released, but I was surprised it was also available on Game Pass. Free try? Yes, please!

Short version, it’s a faithful continuation of the SEGA classic series. I started a game as Blaze (my old favourite character) and felt at home. The downside? It’s a faithful continuation of the old series. Weird hit windows, being a pixel off on a plane, animation locking – it all exists here.

Streets of Rage (and games like it) work best in cooperative play. You can now not only play with someone online but apparently have 4 players at once? I haven’t tried this, but it would be an excellent way to play.

Streets of Rage 4
Graphically, it's a great balance between retro feel and modern improvements

I will probably grind my way to the end of the story as I have always done with the series. If I can talk Rabbit or someone else into playing with me (even online), I might also do a proper review. But it was fun for an hour, and for no more than my Game Pass subscription for entry, that’s not bad.

Animal Crossing – Switch

Oh, the progress I have been making in Animal Crossing. Honestly, I know I am playing the bare minimum most days. I hit the Nook Stop for my daily miles bonus, find my money tree spot and plant some bells. I visited my first Nook Miles Mystery Island and found the photography island. And of course, I have also been trying to do Nature Day activities.

This week, I built my campsite and invited my first guest. Resident Services got upgraded, and I started adding Art to my Museum.

Is Animal Crossing basically gamified real life? Yep. But it’s so satisfying to be able to run around for 15-20 minutes each night and say “I have done what I wanted to do”.

How’s your island going?

Animal Crossing
Campsite completed, and I even managed to snag a new resident!

Final Fantasy VII Remake – PS4

I finally sat down Sunday night and started playing Final Fantasy 7 Remake again. Rabbit and I set ourselves up on the couch, transferred my save, and settled in to continue the story a bit.

I haven’t played for a while, so I thought I would have trouble with the controls for a little bit. The controls aren’t terrible, just not entirely intuitive. And I have been switching consoles to make things worse.

So I load my save, talk to Aerith, and get dropped straight into a boss fight. This is the best way to describe my weeks lately!

Still, progress was made. I am now in the next section where I can side quest to my heart’s content. Shiva has been defeated, so I have my third summon.

During the week, I will probably chill with the side quests while Rabbit does what she needs to. Then when I am ready to continue the story, we will move back to the couch and play together. Great way to play through everything quickly? Nope. Nice way to spend time together and savour the experience? Absolutely. 😀

Final Fantasy VII Remake Shiva Battle
Don't try taking on Shiva by yourself. You will do OK for a while, then your butt will be handed to you!
Final Fantasy VII Remake Moogle
Not going to lie, not the Moogle I was expecting!

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

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD