Welcome to the Elden Architects of the Dark Castle

It’s been a bit of a week. There has been a lot going on for Rabbit and me. Overall, it’s all been positive and progress in a positive direction. To say it’s been ages since I have been able to say that is quite the understatement. It’s been nice!

One thing that surprised me is I have managed about an hour of Elden Ring each night. I start playing at a far too late time, but my brain finally lets the day go and I can enjoy some playtime. The time between logging off from work and firing up the PlayStation around 9 pm has been recovering.

Saturday was an amazing day though. After the usual Board Game Arena with Alpal and Rabbit, Rabbit and I got to play some physical board games. That was a real treat!

What did we play? Well, you will have to read on!

7 Wonders: Architects

It was a great gaming day, and we needed a game to end the session with. So why not a favourite? 7 Wonders Architects was quickly decided to be the last game of the day.

Well, I say last game. As usual, the ‘one more go’ and quick playtime came to the fore, and we played three more games! You know a game is good when the time you have been playing is less important than one more round. 7 Wonders Architects is such a game.

Board Game Arena seems to have listened to my complaints about the Colossus of Rodes. In three games, none of us had the Wonder once. It felt a lot more random and made the repeated games of 7 Wonders Architects more fun for me.

There were a few more topsy turvy elements to this round. For example, in one game Alpal went on a science blitz – a strategy she normally follows because of accidental science draws!

20220516 - 7 Wonders Architects - Alpal dominated science
It was a strange game – Alpal rarely dominates science like this

Even Rabbit went on a bit of a different tack. We normally don’t concentrate on the military as a group. Alpal tends to rack up military points drawing horns, but like science, it’s normally because of random luck. 7 Wonders Architects sometimes leaves you no choice in what to pick.

Well, this time Alpal and Rabbit both went military at different times, and I became a free points station. So in the actual last game, I decided this wasn’t going to fly. I nabbed every shield I could and started as many battles as possible.

20220516 - 7 Wonders Architects - So I started fighting back
I rarely pick military, but I was getting whomped. So I fought back.

Was it fun? Only in the meta with the group. The sounds of the horn became an in-joke as I built my army, and left everything else almost falling by the wayside. Will all games devolve to this? Nope. But in the moment, we were all laughing and being silly.

One day I am going to have to pull out the physical version for a games night. In the meantime, Board Game Arena makes 7 Wonders Architects a no-brainer pick.

Escape the Dark Castle

I have mentioned many times that I love narrative driven adventures. When I introduced Alpal to the site via Blatherings, we recorded the two of us playing one such game. That game was Escape the Dark Castle, and it was a great time. I had actually forgotten that the playthrough actually made it to the Escape the Dark Castle: The Legend grows campaign!

There have been many plans involving Escape the Dark Castle that haven’t quite come to pass. The audio playthrough in the Blatherings I have taken off the web. I was going to play with a digital proof of concept, but time hasn’t been kind. There were even streaming plans for campaign runs due to its simple design.

So unfortunately the game has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. That changed this week, as Rabbit and I went on a couple of adventures!

20220516 - Escape the Dark Castle - Central game setup
This is it – the ‘game board’. Not the most exciting, but for a story prompt, it doesn’t have to be.

Escape the Dark Castle is pretty simple. Each player selects a character to play. Each character has their unique die, with specialties shown by skill symbols being more or less likely to appear. Shuffle the boss cards, and place one face down at random. Then shuffle the pile of 45 chapter cards, and place 15 face down on top of the boss card. Finally, up the starter card on top of the pile.

That’s it. You now have a dungeon ready to explore! Well, thematically you have a dungeon ready to escape from, but you get the idea. Replayability is pretty high, as you don’t use all of the chapters or bosses at once. There are expansions available from Themeborne. These add new characters, bosses, chapters and even starting cards. The expansions are there for even more variety, and you don’t need them to start playing.

20220516 - Escape the Dark Castle - Chapter Card
Each card is called a chapter, as they are contained and together form the story

Escape the Dark Castle is a fun time. If you were to play it over and over as a primary game, even with all the expansions the basic gameplay can get very samey. This is my only ‘downside’ to it.

For people looking for more to sink their teeth into, Themeborne released Escape the Dark Sector. While it can look like a sci-fi skin to the existing formula, there are a number of improvements and changes made. Ranged and Melee combat, chapter ‘Acts’ controlling progress difficulty, and much more. Alpal and I played the base game when I got it from Kickstarter, but again it has remained on the shelf.

Well, what prompted the game of Escape the Dark Castle was I finally got around to setting up my deluxe Dark Sector. At the moment, it looks pretty in the box, but in a couple of weeks, I plan to sit down and solo a few games to cement the rules. Then I can play with Rabbit, and she can decide which version she would like to continue playing.

20220516 - Escape the Dark Sector - Deluxe Box Sorted
A little more to get your head around to begin with, but keen to explore the dark sector

Welcome To

Back in 2017, the Roll and Write genre got a huge boost in popularity. A style of game seen as ‘basic’ suddenly became the hot property. Yahtzee is the oldest Roll and Write I can think of. While it’s a game that is well known I wouldn’t call it super popular, but its lets people understand Roll and Write as a concept quickly. Roll dice, write down results to optimise points.

And then in 2018, Welcome to appeared in a huge way. Essentially a Roll and Write, but replaces dice for cards. One side of the card shows a street number between 1 and 15, and the other an action you can take. Shuffle the deck and flip the top card, and you have a set of three numbers and powers. So the same effect as rolling dice, but cards allow more combinations without increasing the number of dice.

But why does Welcome to have you doing anything? Well, you are a developer building your suburb. You want to create a well ordered and popular building development. This is done by ordering house numbers from lowest to highest, building parks, swimming pools and groups of homes as requested.

20220516 - Welcome To - A relaxing planning puzzle
Put houses in order and collect sets of pools or parks. It sounds simple, but random chance can bite you!

One of the things I love about Welcome to is what I call a ‘multiplayer solitaire’ game. You do what you do, and you solve the puzzle of points optimisation on your own. No one can do anything to sabotage you or mess with your score. This takes a lot of pressure off many players. Welcome to becomes a challenge of the highest score on your own skill.

And puzzle it is. Put a high numbered house to early in the row, and you lose placement opportunities. Building pools is good, and the more you build the more you score, but the house numbers and locations are scarce. Do you build a park and boost a score, or build a fence and group houses for points? Which serves you better?

You can see what other players are doing, and the choice of three options helps you avoid painting yourself in too much of a corner. But as I said, there is nothing anyone can do to you to mess with you. You won’t be forced to place something that hurts you, or picking something you don’t want in Welcome to. The most you can do is try and complete a set of houses before someone else – that’s it.

20220516 - Welcome To - You can see where opponents placed at the end of the turn
You have to go out of your way to look at other players sheets mid-game, but you can see where they made their move each turn

If there was a digital version of Welcome to, it would have a permanent place on my phone/computer. As a puzzle, it scratches a lot of itches for me. At the moment on my phone, Elder Sign: Omens takes this roll, but it’s a bit too involved for me to destress with. Welcome to doesn’t have this issue.

On Board Game arena and on the physical table, I have only ever played the ‘basic’ rules. There are many other options in terms of how to play. These include more complicated planning objectives, roundabouts and even keeping specific cards. One day, I might give them a go.

But if this intrigues you at all, have a look at Welcome to on YouTube for a rules explanation, and try it on Board Game Arena!

Elden Ring

As I mentioned, Elden Ring this week has been quite the saviour for me this week. Some hard days at work coupled with recovery would have banished gaming this week. Elden Ring managed to draw me in an hour or two before I should have been calling it a night though.

It’s been a long time since I have played a game that pulled me in like this. The last one I can remember is Cyberpunk 2077, and I still blew through it as I was playing version 1. Before that was The Outer Worlds. That was 2019, about two and a half years ago!

Being tired has allowed me to explore the world of the Lands Between in chunks. Knowing I had a limited play session, I wasn’t keen to try and make large jumps in Elden Ring’s story. But little by little, I made my way through elements of the capital, with more still to explore.

I did manage to fight a couple of story bosses, even though I wasn’t looking for a fight!

20220516 - Elden Ring - Morgott the Last King
I thought I had seen the end of this boss already. Elden Ring continues to surprise me.

It took me a bit to work out that Morgott the Omen King and Margit the Fell Omen were actually one and the same. I thought they were siblings, or at least related. Nope, turns out it’s a single character. I wish I had bought Margit’s Shackle from Patches after all.

Margit’s Shackle binds the boss to the ground for a few seconds. Enough to stop a combo, and serve up some punishment. As I found this item for sale after defeating Margit, I thought why waste the runes and didn’t buy it. Elden Ring doesn’t like thinking this simple though!

I did manage to point out this to one of my favourite streamers though. I didn’t watch her first run as I didn’t want spoilers, but she is doing a second run with a unique challenge condition. She is taking on the game using a single move, affectionately referred to as the ‘Butt Slam’. This is as funny as it sounds. I recommend checking out Rin Vixen on Twitch if you like chill happy corners of the internet.

20220516 - Elden Ring - Still finding new areas
While the Lands Between are huge, the underground is almost as vast

I am holding off referring to guides, but I have had to look up a couple of bits here and there. Elden Ring’s lack of direction is both a blessing and a curse. One thing I had to look up was how to get out of the capital towards the Mountain of the Giants. Short version – I had to go back a little bit and walk through a newly open door. That’s it. Ooops.

Elden Ring has kept me very happy for 70 hours on PlayStation so far, and about 85 overall. As for me, I am continuing to explore. There are so many things I missed and new areas to explore everywhere I go. I did push forward to the Mountain of the Giants and got slammed every time.

So backtracking and exploring while grinding a bit more is the call. When this stops working for me, then I will reach for some guides. But right now, I think I have another 20 hours exploring Elden Ring at least.

20220516 - Elden Ring - Nothing suspicious here
Nothing suspicious here at all

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