Welcome to the Isle of Cats where I land in The Quarry
I am looking down the barrel of one more week before I can take a proper break. It’s well needed at this stage. I was so turned around this week, that I forgot about Stanley Parable Tuesday! That said, Rabbit and I did manage an outing last week, which has been a rarity in itself for ages.
We went and saw Penn & Teller live, which was a fantastic night out. There is one act in particular called Shadows that I have been trying to see live for about 10 years. And now I have done it! I have been a huge fan on Penn & Teller for years now, and the last time I saw them live was as they started performing at The Rio. It’s been far too long!
There was also some fine tuning of my retro collection. This coincided with the Australian update of PlayStation Plus going live. This was fortunate, as I got to compare Jak and Daxter on PS5 and other emulators.
I may have fallen into a small trap though. On PlayStation, I played through the tutorial, the same as I did on PC. The difference is that I completely forgot a lot of these classics now have trophy support.
I have 100% completed The Precursor Legacy a few times already. There may be a Jak and Daxter Platinum run at some point! I have way too many games with only 1 trophy. I am not going to let a game I love be the same!
Enough about all that though, let’s get into the games I got to sit and play this week! 😁
Alpal and I have been eyeing off the Isle of Cats for quite some time. A gorgeous game with great reviews, what caught my eye was the ‘setup’ for the cat on the inside of the lid. If there is a new box in the house, Enzo claims it. It’s a common cat thing. That demonstration of humour alone put it on my radar. Now that Isle of Cats is on Board Game Arena, we finally got to have a game.
One of the things that have been an obstacle to playing has been the rules. Each rule isn’t too complicated, but some terminology throws me. Quick example – end-of-game scoring goals are ‘Lessons’. Why do I need a lesson for scoring? There is also the round setup incorporated as gameplay ‘stages’.
All that out of the way, Isle of Cats was a lot of fun once we got playing. Watching Rodney’s how-to-play video on Watch it Played a couple of times helped, and Board Game Arena does a lot to help.
So what is Isle of Cats? Well, the narrative is in my opinion a little weak. Players are rescuing cats from the titular island before a nefarious pirate arrives. There are worse narrative reasons to do things in a game, but the ‘story’ was quickly lost on me during the game.
The short version of Isle of Cats is you rescue cats by luring them into baskets with fish. Then you try and fill up your ship with the cats and treasure, and go for area placement scores. So there is some card drafting, auctioning, resource management (fish and baskets) and finally tile placement. It sounds like Isle of Cats is a complex mess, and there is a learning curve. If you get past that though, the final game works quite well.
If you play the physical version of Isle of Cats, everything is laid out quite well. There is a bit of table space required, but each player is quite self-contained with a shared small central area. Replicating this on Board Game Arena though was apparently quite the challenge.
Their workaround was a very vertical ‘board’, with the shared area on top, then your board, then your opponents. There is a quick summary section in the scoring area which was quite handy. The only downside is it took a couple of rounds to learn how to read it. Tile placement on Board Game Arena also works, but we had to get used to its quirks.
What I did appreciate is while other players are taking their turn, you can ‘try tiles’ in BGA. This lets you try different tiles on your ship without impacting others. You can maximise your planning while minimising player wait time instead of twiddling your thumbs. This was very much appreciated.
We only played one game, which took us the better part of two hours. Maybe 40 minutes per player? Almost half of this time though was learning not only the game but how BGA let you play Isle of Cats. Rabbit and I were pretty tired going in, but we will have a game next time and I am pretty sure we can get it under an hour.
If Isle of Cats is on your radar, give it a try. If you can find someone that knows the game and knows how to play on Board Game Arena, that will be the best way to learn and try. I haven’t tried yet, but you can select the solo rules on Board Game Arena – something I haven’t seen very often. I might try a solo game during the week and see how that goes, but that is another option for you!
After the relatively long session of Isle of Cats, Rabbit and I wanted to keep playing. We needed something but needed to give our brains a rest though. We left it up to Rabbit to nominate a game, and to my surprise, she picked Welcome To. I honestly thought we would be playing 7 Wonders Architects to end the session.
Alpal and I weren’t complaining. Alpal had been playing solo lately, and I enjoy Welcome To. Usually, the placement and almost card-counting aspect of Welcome To is relaxing to me. This week, I lulled myself into a pretty deep relaxation, as I achieved my worst scores in Welcome To almost ever!
We still had a lot of fun, but I somehow talked myself twice into believing no one would elect to shuffle the deck. Sometimes resetting the deck allows new combinations, but usually, it forces the endgame. Number spreads are already all over the place. Forcing the same numbers back in the mix makes the chances of placing a home lower.
This is part of the pull of Welcome To for me. I know the stats, Alpal and Rabbit have a good grasp on the odds, but nothing is certain. The chance and almost push-your-luck elements mean no games of Welcome To are ever the same. There is no ‘perfect’ strategy because it is destroyed by the simple act of shuffling the deck. And that is a choice.
If you want to maximise your score with card counting and probability, you can. Welcome To lets people reset the optimal method players with one simple choice. You can’t score quite as high with risk mitigation, but you won’t be forced out well before you are ready. But if you are super lucky with the card draw, your score will soar.
We had a great couple of games though. The fact I scored poorly wasn’t the important part. The fact we all had a fun time chatting and messing with each other was. And Welcome To once again proved it allows for group fun with minimal effort on anyone’s part.
Very quick one on The Quarry this week. I got to play another couple of chapters, and if I am lucky I will get to play a couple more after I write this Sunday night.
I am up to Chapter 6, so all the setup is done and twists are starting to appear. The game enemies are no longer hinted at and are instead spelled out for the viewer. It’s the “See, there really is something very wrong here” part of the ‘movie’.
If this was an actual movie, this would be about 30 minutes into the film. With games like The Quarry, Until Dawn and similar from Supermassive, it’s about 2-3 hours in. This is part of what splits the audience for games like The Quarry. Part of the charm of B movie horror is 90 minutes give or take and it’s done.
A 90-minute game would be crucified by many players. So padding out the content can be hit or miss and has been from game to game. The Quarry seems to be hitting and Until Dawn and Man of Medan are great. That said, I haven’t had the urge to play the rest of The Dark Pictures Anthology again after the initial run.
I have been enjoying all these games, and I am going to grab the final The Devil In Me on day one. But these games are niche. They aren’t survival horror, choose your own adventure is close but not quite. An interactive movie is apt, but who wants to watch an 8-hour B-grade horror movie?
I have four more chapters of The Quarry, so I think that will be about 3 solid hours. That is because the chapters in The Quarry seem to be going for about 30-45 minutes each. Supermassive seems to be dialling in the ‘better’ length of these chapters.
With any luck, I will have The Quarry finished next weekend. Even if I don’t get to play any more this week, one big session to end it once the end of the financial year is over seems like a great goal.
Also, I want The Quarry finished so I can spend one weekend with retro gaming before Stray comes out. Guess what new game I am looking forward to next!
What about you? I hope you got some great games in. Or are you looking forward to a new one? Let me know!