Tag Archives: reviews

Review: Robinson Crusoe

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TABLETOP GAME REVIEW:

ROBINSON CRUSOE

Written by Anatoli on April 12th, 2015 at Anatoli’s Game Room

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the cursed island is a worker placement co-op game for 1-4 players where you take on the role as castaways trying to survive and escape 6 varied scenarios.
It’s a game with a very strong theme, and a game that can be extremely unforgiving and difficult if you have bad luck, make poor decisions and/or the scenario objectives work against you in perfect synergy. 

Each scenario is set on an island and has its own starting conditions, objectives and special rules. As such most of the 6 scenarios included in the game play as a completely new experience. Being a co-op game it is fully suited for single-player gaming as well – in such cases you randomly pick one character and play with Friday and a dog. The first scenario is really a take on Robinson Crusoe, you are shipwrecked and have to build a huge fire to signal to ships that start to pass by the island on a certain turn. Beside building the bonfire you also have to gather food not to starve to death, build a shelter not to freeze to death, build improvements that can stand against the increasingly bad weather and possible wild animal attacks. 

You also have to gather resources by foraging or hunting wild animals which can be extremely dangerous if you don’t have good enough weapons, and you can also build a select few inventions that are randomized and available at the start of each scenario. The inventions aid you with additional worker tokens which can be placed on specific actions or by giving you some other valuable bonus such as an increase to your weapon weapon/defense stats etc.

To sum it all up, there is a lot to do and you have to do it quickly – and most of the time you don’t have enough workers to do everything that need to be done each turn!

Each island is randomized during each game, only the starting locations remain roughly the same. When you explore the island you uncover map tiles which provide new resources that unlock certain type of invention cards – for instance steep grass is needed for making the Rope invention. And as you explore you can uncover treasures or traps, special locations and move your camp from the beach inland onto a map tile that provides better shelter or resources.

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The game mechanics are simple and clever and encourage co-operation if you play with multiple people. Each player character gets two tokens that can be placed on whatever actions you like. If you place a single token you need to roll 3 action dice that check whether: 1) You hurt yourself during that action, 2) whether the action was successfull and 3) whether a random event occurs during that action. In other words, taking actions with a single player token is risky. On the other hand, if a player places two tokens, or if two players help each other out by placing one token each on an action, that action automatically succeeds and you don’t roll any action dice. Of course, with the amount of work and actions that need to be done each turn, you must spread your forces thin more often than you would want.

So far Caroline and I have played scenario 1-5 out of 6 and find them to be quite different in style and range from moderate to extremely difficult to win. We find that the first scenario may be the most “fun” since the game throws both wild animal attacks and increasingly bad weather into the mix and makes you experience the environment at its most extreme. Then there is scenario 5, Cannibal Island, which is fun but extremely challenging, we still have to win that one a single time.

I myself wonder about the challenge level of the game, and how it may tune itself up and down the difficulty scale depending on the number of players. For each player character you need 1 food at the end of each night phase or else you take health loss from starvation, things are also cheaper to build if you are 1-2 players. However playing with more people building inventions and completing random events get easier as you have more player tokens to place on the board – on the other hand building stuff and finding enough food each day becomes a much harder task. I also have not attempted to play a solo-game with only Friday and the Dog as companions, that ought to provide an interesting experience as well.

As a whole I really like this game but there is one big flaw – the rulebook. The rulebook is abysmal and explains everything poorly, likewise the board and many of the cards included in the game would have benefited from having explanatory text or better written text to make you understand what’s going on. It can get quite frustrating having to stop midgame to look up something on Boardgamegeek or some other  forum. There is also a FAQ document that is 20 pages long!! That is more pages than the rulebook has so you get an idea of the chaos in the rules department. This is really sad because it detracts a lot from a really good game with solid game mechanics.

My score for Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is 7.5/10


Had the rulebook and some cards been written more clearly this would have been a solid 8 imo.


Caroline says the same, 7.5 only because you get frustrated with how the rules are written since they leave you with interpreting and guessing more often than you would want to before downloading the FAQ document  or checking online on a forum.

Still, we have played this game some 8-9 times so far in two weeks which shows the strength of the game itself despite the writing of the rules.

Review: BloodBowl Pitch from Deep-Cut Studios

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TABLETOP GAME (ACCESSORY) REVIEW:

BLOODBOWL PITCH PLAYMAT
FROM DEEP-CUT STUDIOS

Written by Anatoli on October 12th, 2015 at Anatoli’s Game Room

I love BloodBowl, and I really wanted a pitch to play on of my own – without having to shell out  ridiculous amounts for used parts on Ebay.

A friend ordered a custom made BloodBowl pitch a few years back but that option was too expensive for me, and as it turned out the squares on the board were slightly bigger than the original gameboard which made the throwing template inaccurate when reading the range bands.

So, an evening of browsing led to to DeepCutStudio and their array of gaming mats. Having weighed the pro’s and con’s I went ahead and ordered 3 gaming mats. One of them is this BloodBowl pitch which has its main play area mirror the original BloodBowl pitch from GamesWorkshop perfectly in terms of size (I compared with an original game that a friend brought over). Each square is 29mm wide.
The mat includes the pitch,  as well as a scatter template for both players, and areas marked out for the reserves, Knocked Out and Morgue. It also features a counter on both sides to keep track of the turns, which half of the match you play and number of re-rolls left. The only thing missing, oddly enough, is a score counter – I guess this was simply overlooked. You can keep score easily using pen and paper, dice or any other method.

The mat itself is made from durable vinyl with a high quality print. It is however like most vinyl gaming mats slightly glossy if a light source is directed straight at it from a sharp angle. On the other hand, you can roll it up and transport/store it easily

Imo it was well worth the money.

And as I had the pitch I also needed a measuring stick and some Blood Bowl dice, these I acquired from the NobleKnight games store in the US (the manufacturer for both products is Impact Miniatures I believe). A local retailer also had these products in his catalogue but they were sold out so I had to buy them from the US which turned out a lot more expensive than I would have wanted – but at least the dice and the measuring stick are also perfect matches to the original deal from GW so in the long run money well spent.

Now to paint up the remainder of my Orc team so I can alternate between them and my Humans. Caroline also shows interest for the game and plays the PC version so she will most likely also want to play the tabletop version. And as a small bonus, some pictures from the first game played on the new pitch against my friend Daniel and his Chaos Dwarfs. The game ended 1-1 after an intense first half where one of my linemen tackled one of the Bull Centaurs which got killed in the process. I then lost the initiative in the second half, and a mistake on my part opened a window for my opponent who scored a draw.

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Review: Frostgrave

frostgrave

TABLETOP GAME REVIEW:

FROSTGRAVE

Written by Anatoli on August 11th, 2015 at Anatoli’s Game Room

I was talked into picking up Frostgrave by a friend down at the club. I was quite skeptic about it, the bits that I had read did not really jump out at me but I figured that painting up a few fantasy themed miniatures would benefit my collection. At worst I would have a warband for whatever skirmish based fantasy game system out there if Frostgrave didn’t pan out.

Having read the rules through, back to back a couple of times, and played the game twice I feel confident enough to at least give an “early” review of the game.

At the core, Frostgrave is a skirmish based fairly generic/open ended fantasy game with a hint of Mordheim in terms of the setting. You command a wizard, his apprentice and up to 8 hired goons as they search for lost treasures in the ruins of “Frostgrave” a fallen city long abandoned to the ice and snow – inhabited mostly by zombies, undead and the odd creature or animal. The unique selling point of the game would be that your warband and indeed the entire campaign centers around your wizard.  Oh, and you use D20 dice!

That the game is written with the wizards in mind become even more apparent when you read the character profiles. Hired muscle characters come with static gold cost, equipment and stats – compared to the highly diverse choices that you have when picking spells for your wizard. This can probably be frowned upon by some who want to tailor their own characters, and all characters, in a warband. For others, this may be a welcome escape from having to put a lot of work in “building” your warband and focus on the wizard and spell combos instead.

Characters have six stats in the game:

  • Move which tells how far they can walk/run each turn
  • Fight which is a close combat modifier and also used to dodge projectiles
  • Shooting which is a ranged combat modifier
  • Amor which reduces the amount of damage you take
  • Willpower which modifies how resilient you are to some types of magic/spells
  • Health which tells how many wounds you have

Each character also has 2 actions each turn, but you are only allowed to cast spells, or fight/shoot with a single action. You can however use both actions for movement, in that case you move full rate with your first action and half rate with your second action. For instance  a character with Move 6 can move up to 9 inches (6+3).

Wizards (and the apprentice) have the same stats as described above, but also have an array of magic spells at their disposal. And it is here that the character customization part comes in. You can pick one of 10 schools of magic for your starting wizard. Each school has 8 spells, and they have varied casting difficulties. Spells for the starting wizard are picked from his own school, aligned schools and neutral schools – but may down the line of a campaign also be picked from the opposed school.   What this means in practice is that you pick a main school that you fancy, in my case it is the “Witch”. I get 3 “Witch” spells. But I am not locked to only casting spells from my school as I get to pick 3 spells from aligned schools (one each from Enchanter, Necromancer and Summoner) as well as two spells from different neutral schools (Thaumaturge, Illusionist, Elementalis, Sigilist, Chronomancer).

frostgrave minisSo I have a Witch that can elect to branch out into several different directions to support my main casting abilities. Finding useful combos and spells from schools outside of your own is both fun and rewarding.
There are of course modifiers for spells outside your own school. Casting Witch spells comes with no negative modifier. But casting Aligned spells come at a negative modifier of 2, spells that are neutral with a modifier of 4 and opposed school spells at a modifier of 6. This restriction helps to maintain something of a direction for your Wizard to stick to his own and aligned schools primarily and have the choice of school matter during character creation. The apprentice knows the exact same spells as the Wizard, but is slightly worse at casting all spells as he comes with a permanent negative modifier of 2 built into his casting ability.

Worth mentioning is that as the campaign progress, and your wizard gains experience levels he can tweak the casting difficulty of the spells he knows – and the apprentice takes advantage of this improvement as well.

The game uses a variant on the classic IGOUGO system. Both players roll initiative and the winner may choose whether or not he wants to go first. The first player then moves his Wizard (and up to 3 hired characters within 3″). Then the opponent moves his wizard. Then the first players moves his Wizard Apprentice and up to 3 characters within 3″ of the apprentice – opponent then does the same. This is followed by both players activating any remaining “soldiers” (hired characters) , and finally all creatures belonging to players and those that are part of the scenario. Breaking up the activation each turn among the two warbands this way is enough to not have one player steamroll his opponent.

Combat and magic uses a single D20 (twenty sided dice) and opposed rolls. In combat the player who rolls the highest wins the combat, and deals the total of what he rolled as damage to his opponent. The opponent uses his armor value to reduce the damage dealt. This way combat can sometimes be brutal with a single killing blow, or an ongoing fight lasting a couple of turns where characters are worn down. It’s a simple and very fast system that combined with the unit activation and unit actions keep the game fast paced. I can’t say that I am blown away with the combat mechanics, but they serve their purpose. The main attraction is the magic and the spells thrown around by the wizards the apprentices. The magic adds flavor and a lot of fun and is the main reason my interest in the game increased and stuck after the two games played so far.

As with many other skirmish based games Frostgrave want to get gamers to play a campaign. The campaign is a bit different from similar games in that only your wizard improves in between games. Your wizard gains experience for successfully cast spells, for taking out enemy models and for a couple other scenario related tasks. For every 100 experience points gained the Wizard gains 1 improvement point. Points can be used to increase the wizard stat line, learn new spells and decrease the casting difficulty of already known spells. Models who are eliminated in a scenario have to roll on a injury chart, the wizard and apprentice can get lingering effects or die while everyone else either stays healthy/misses next game/gets killed.

Players may opt to have a final goal with the campaign, in that your wizard learns all the spells of his own school – or you can just keep playing for fun with no end goal.  There are 10 scenarios included in the core rulebook – unfortunately imo they are mostly “specialized” with a unique goal such plundering a museum with living statues or scenarios that require specific terrain types/indoor locations/special models. Few of the scenarios are “generic” enough to warrant too much replay value, hopefully more generic scenarios are added in the expansion. I can think of a couple of scenarios right of the bat such as “assassination” of the enemy wizard or apprentice, protecting a piece of terrain from the opposing warband and escorting a character across the table. If you have other skirmish based games in your collection, I am sure you will be able to come up with a lot of your own scenarios.

What adds to the scenarios however is the option to have “random encounters”, you have a list of creatures and roll on that list every time a treasure is picked up. This way you can have wondering trolls, or roaming undead enter the table and shake things up. There are 25 different creature profiles that you can have great fun with and which add danger and unpredictable elements to your scenarios.
Another things that I really like, and which I have not seen in any other skirmish game that I’ve come into contact with is the ability for your gang to have a “home base”. The home base is picked after the first game in your campaign, and lend a fixed bonus feature for your gang. For instance you can make yourself at home at an abandoned Inn which allows you to increase your warband to a total of 11 instead of the maximum amount of 10. You can be based in an old library and get the chance to find grimoire and learn new spells. Be based in a  crypt to have an easier time summoning zombies and so on. Furthermore you can improve the home base with a bunch of gadgets and equipment, such as dog kennels, summoning circles and brewing pots. This is truly a great idea and makes you spend money not only on replacing hired goons but on long term improvements for your gang.

Now despite my mainly favorable opinion of Frostgrave I do see a few potential problems – some of which have already been brought up in other reviews. But my worries are mainly that there is no balancing mechanism for warbands of different strength/level. This could mean that a very successful warband get hard to beat if you are down on your luck. In games like Empire of the Dead underdog warbands are compensated with more reward money if they win a scenario. But in Frostgrave there is no such mechanism. My other main worry is the total focus on “treasure hunting” in the scenarios. The main objective in the game is to rush onto the table and grab treasure tokens, then haul them off table and cash in. This I predict, will become tedious in the long run. More scenarios need to reduce the number of treasure tokens and focus on the experience/leveling aspect instead imo. And finally some critique against the layout of some rules that I found to be spread out over several chapters. Such as preparing scenarios, deployment ranges etc are not concentrated in one chapter as I would have liked it. This can be frustrating when you try to find something mid game. This game needs a crib sheet with all the basic information!

Final thoughts? Frostgrave is very easy to get into. The model count is capped at 1 wizard, 1 apprentice and normally 8 hired goons per warband. And even though the warbands in the book are “human” and the stats have no racial traits for fantasy races – it does not prevent you to field say an Orc of Elf warband using the same character profiles. The rules are simple and play fast., not necessarily “beer and pretzels” light but definitely on the lower end of the complexity spectrum. This may be a good game for introducing someone into wargaming. Magic is the needed twist and is the main attraction of the game. If you want a game based around spellcasters in a campaign setting this is the game for you.

Publisher: https://ospreypublishing.com/frostgrave
Author: Joseph A McCullough
Contents: 134 pages in full color, hardback rulebook
Format: 2-players, uses a broken up IGOUGO turn order
Gaming aides: D20 dice
Price: £15 for the hardback, £12 for the PDF