The Crew uses Potion Explosions to find Incan Gold and Elden Rings

Finally tested negative for Covid, but we still have some lingering tiredness. It’s been a long week for Rabbit and me, but we are definitely on the mend. It did put a big crimp in my gaming plans. As bad as I felt, I am still very happy to be fully vaccinated. That could have been a lot worse!

I picked up Switch Sports on day one, but I still haven’t felt well enough to play it. This week should be different! One thing that did surprise me was the amount of Elden Ring I could still play! I will talk more about that in the entry, but the exploration and grind helped relax me.

A couple of packages arrived during the week. These included Pandemic Hot Zone: Europe, and the expansion content for Escape the Dark Sector. Something else to look forward to opening when feeling a lot better!

Incan Gold / Diamant

Is it a chill games day if we don’t play Incan Gold? We hadn’t caught up for a while, and the incredibly relaxed and fun gameplay was the best call to start the day.

I have talked about Incan Gold a few times – draw a card, and as long as perils don’t match choose to continue or turn back. That’s it. A little bit of card counting, but really it’s pushing your luck and seeing how many points you can get.

The very first game was a strange one though. Not for anything bad, but it was a rare combination of cards. In Incan Gold, seeing high gem cards is rare. We had a run where we got 7 cards out, and only 1 was a peril. On top of that, there were a lot of gems on offer!

20220502 - Incan Gold - Interesting first round
The above isn’t impossible, just rare

This was the first time we got 15 cards out before a peril caught us. Well, I say us. Rabbit and I had already bailed. Alpal decided to keep going. It’s a playstyle that works for her though – she will score 0 or 60, rarely anything different!

The other strange thing this round was it took a long time to see an artifact. Late into the second game long to see one. We were joking that Alpal had shuffled all the artifacts to the bottom of the deck. Again, not a bug or an issue, just rare.

20220502 - Incan Gold - It took a couple of games for artifacts to appear
It took 8 rounds to see an artifact. That’s a strange run.

Bottom line, we play Incan Gold a lot because it’s fun, fast and easy to talk around. There isn’t much else you can say about it. We had fun, there was trash talk and jokes, and then we got into ‘proper’ games.

Incan Gold is great, and you should definitely give it a try. It’s one of the few games I think should be on every gamer’s shelf because it is easy to teach, learn and quick to play. And being able to try it out on Board Game Arena is a great plus!

I should do a proper review soon…

Potion Explosion

Potion Explosion. It came out big time in 2015/16, and for good reason. On one hand, it’s simple set collection. Collect colours to create a potion, harder ones give you more points. As a bonus, potions also give you a one off bonus when you ‘drink’ them.

The big draw is how you collect those resources. In the physical version, there is a large contraption that sorts out coloured marbles. Pull one, and any matching colours that hit each other cause an ‘explosion’ and you collect those as well. Little hard to explain, easy to demonstrate, and get’s people looking at the game every time.

I love the gameplay, but being colourblind makes the game a little tricky for me in person. Because of that, I jumped into the digital version on my phone big time. The only downside was playing with someone was a pain. Rabbit also got into the app big time, but setting up multi-player was a pain so we rarely played against each other.

Luckily for us, Potion Explosion on Board Game Arena is a good implementation and easy to play against others!

20220502 - Potion Explosion - BGA is a great adaption
The BGA adaption is great, but could use some control tweaks

Compared to the app, the controls on Board Game Arena are a little janky. You have to select marbles in a specific order, and it can take a minute to learn. This can be frustrating, but luckily it’s a couple of minutes at the start of the first game to come to grips with things.

I have made Potion Explosion sound pretty basic, but it’s one of those games that can reveal layers as you go. For example, there are more potions available that you can use in a game, so you can’t focus on one strategy all the time. Also, the marble hopper does a great job of mixing resources and hiding later effects.

As you play, the explosions don’t stop until the same colours don’t connect. This means sometimes you can setup massive chains, and others you can hope that a colour is coming out but there are no more marbles.

20220502 - Potion Explosion - Animations are simple but fine controls could use some work
It’s hard to show anything exciting gameplay wise

Potion Explosion is not a game that sounds good on paper. It is a game that looks great in person, and the digital versions do a great job translating this.

I am thinking of a way to demonstrate this, but I need to feel better then have more time to work on it. But in the meantime, if you like resource collection and variable powers, try Potion Explosion. You probably won’t regret it.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

We haven’t played on Board Game arena for a couple of weeks, so I floated continuing The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. I am pretty sure I have worked out how the campaign settings work in the options, and we could always drop out. Rabbit is only feeling mostly better, and The Crew requires more brainpower than it seems.

We settled in pretty quickly again. Alpal made a comment that made me laugh. I can’t remember her exact words, but I can sum it up as “The Crew is so much easier when you cheat”. That said, we played within the spirit of the rules, and took the couple of looses on the chin.

We played from Mission 20 to 26, so we are halfway through the campaign. The mission objectives are getting more complicated, and we are getting new formats.

20220502 - The Crew - Pick objectives one at a time with limited info
Assign objectives evenly without knowing what all the objectives are. Yep, no pressure.

This one took my a little while to get my head around. It’s pretty simple. Crew members can say if they think they can do each item or not, and the commander assigns the visible one as they wish. Normally this is done once for everything on offer. Above was a new twist.

You assign each item as you progress, but you only see the task on offer. No information on later tasks. And everyone has to have an equal split of tasks – for us, 2 each. The Crew seems to revel in making sure any losses were your fault. Setting up a mission like this seems to be the peak of this cruelty though!

And then we ended on a ‘simple’ mission. We only had to win 2 rounds with the 1 card, except trumps.

20220502 - The Crew - Winning hands with 1s is hard
Win 2 rounds with the worst cards in the game, without communicating. This can be very frustrating!

When you can freely talk about what is in your hand, simple. When you can’t talk about your hand, tense is an understatement! The path is simple – play a 1 when no one else has that colour to win. Maybe bleed trumps first if you are concerned.

But when you have to guess what suits others don’t have without asking, it’s a time. There are times that a ‘relaxing’ play session of The Crew has had me more stressed than a horror game!

Either way in a couple of weeks (roughly) we will continue on from Mission 27. 50 missions total in the campaign, so plenty more The Crew is on the cards! (No, I will not apologise for that Dad Joke 🙃)

Elden Ring

One thing I was worried about this week was losing where I was in Elden Ring. Being sick and playing a game with very specific timing rarely go together. Turns out, playing in areas I had already been and exploring more was the perfect game mix!

I did explore Caria Manor and met Ranni. Those spider hand monsters are definitely the stuff of nightmares. Anyone following Elden Ring knows what I am talking about. If you don’t know, well I will leave the surprise intact for you!

One thing I have been doing is trying to work out some of the more obvious quests. Some assassination missions from the Volcano Manor have been nice. They are one of the very rare Elden Ring quests with map waypoints. Exploring where some portraits were painted though has been far more elusive.

20220502 - Elden Ring PS5 - Hunting down paintings
Finding the right spot where the view matches these paintings is very time consuming without a guide

The idea of these quests is simple. Find the view shown in the portrait, and if you are correct you will see the ghost of the artist. They will point to what they were painting and vanish leaving some rewards.

What this did let me do was go over many areas where I was already familiar with enemies. There weren’t any new difficulty jumps or patterns to learn from new enemies. This turned Elden Ring from an exercise bordering on masochism to a very relaxing way to spend some time.

This has allowed me to grind my way up to level 90. My stat allocation isn’t as optimal as it could be, but I have decided against respeccing at the moment. I have some handy incantations I can use, including a dragon breath that causes Scarlet Rot. My vigor allows me to take quite a hit, and my stamina lets me panic roll without exhausting my stamina at times.

I have managed to take out some more Elden Ring Rune bosses, including Starscourge Radahn. That was an interesting fight. And by interesting, I mean I died continually for a while! But for now, I am exploring the capital city at the base of the Erdtree.

20220502 - Elden Ring PS5 - Making my way to the capital
It took me about 4 hours to work out how to get into the capital. Elden Ring does not hold your hand!

It took me way too long to work out how to get into the capital. And the answer was ridiculously simple in the end. I had to walk around the city some more (OK, a lot more) to find the way in. That was it. Without the map for Leyndell, I thought I was following the directions of grace correctly. Oops. Still haven’t found that map fragment!

This is where From Software games tend to earn their ‘brutal’ reputation more than the combat. Unless you spend time looking at descriptions of random items you pick up, there is nothing to tell you what to do. The portraits you find can be taken more as collectibles on their own, rather than quests to complete. I was looking for something completely different when I discovered they were more.

To me, Elden Ring has made the combat difficulty easier by allowing mechanics like a summon. This allows you all the benefits of online coop play, without needing someone else online. But the quest and lore structure remain intact.

This is why I think Elden Ring is the best introduction to From Software games. Instead of facing a world telling you to ‘Git Gud’, you only have to focus on decrypting the world around you. Combat has some handholding, without making the difficulty ‘easier’. Once you crack the code of the world, you can then look at dealing with combat on your own without summons.

Or not, it’s completely up to you. Bottom line it took playing Elden Ring sick to see how different that experience is from Sekiro or Bloodborne.

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know! 

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Until next time,

JohnHQLD