The Rival Networks (Formal Ferret Games, 2021)

Basic details: 2 players; 45 minutes; competitive

Date played: November 28, 2021

Gist of the game: You are the owner of a new TV station, equipped only with 3 public access shows and a little money. Your ambition knows no bounds, however, and you have your eye on beating your competitor owner of the other new station in town. You’ll do so by developing the hottest new shows with the biggest star you can get, plus selling ads. The player whose TV station has the most viewers at the end of the game wins.

To set up the game, each players chooses a color and takes their respective viewer house/bank. The 3 time slot boards are placed between the players so that colors align with the correct player. The Green Room and Reruns boards are placed on either end of the time slots. Ratings point discs are placed in the 0 space of each time slot. The Pilot Season show cards are shuffled and one card is dealt face-up next to each time slot so that each player has a show for each time slot. Each of the other season decks is shuffled and a season finale card is added to the bottom of each season deck before season decks are stacked in ascending order. The show deck is placed between the players and the top 3 cards are placed face-up into a Show Display area. The Starter Star cards are shuffled and placed on each side of the Green Room (so that each player has one). The player who has been dealt Star #1 will be the 1st player. The 4 Mega Star cards are placed to the side. The rest of the Star cards are shuffled into a deck, as are the ad cards (into a separate deck). The top 3 cards from each deck are placed face-up in columns next to each other, so that each start is next to an ad. The Network cards are shuffled into a deck and placed near the players, and the top 3 Network cards are placed next to the deck. The Awards cards are shuffled by season and 1 card is drawn for each season. Seasons 1 and 2 are placed face-up in a row and season 3’s card is placed face-down in the row. Viewer and ratings point chips are placed near the players.

To play the game, players take turns developing a show, signing a star, and possibly attaching stars to shows, and buying and playing Network cards. At the end of each turn, players refill the open displays and add viewer chips to their bank. Each round ends when the season finale card is taken. The other player then begins the next round. At the end of the 3rd season, the player with the most viewers wins.

Shows in a player’s lineup produce ratings, which in turn produce viewers.

The first stage of a player’s turn is to develop a show. Players take one of the show cards from the show display and place it in one of their time slots or in the rerun area. If a player develops 3 shows of the same genre, they receive a genre bonus.

Shows placed in a time slot replace the show previously in that time slot. When that happens, the show is moved to the reruns area, regular stars are discarded, mega stars are moved to the mega star deck, and starter stars are placed face-down in reruns. Any rating point chips on canceled shows are returned to the supply. The ratings disc for that time slot is returned to 0. The new show immediately scores ratings points. If the show is in the appropriate time slot, it scores more points. The ratings points disc is advanced appropriately on the track based on the number of ratings points. For each viewer icon the ratings disc passes over on the ratings points track, the player receives a viewer chip.

Players can also place a new show directly into their reruns area. Doing this will not score any viewers, however.

For each show of the same genre, beginning with the 3rd, players earn the genre bonus for that genre.

After developing a show, players sign a star and an ad. To do so, they take one of the pairs of stars and ads and place them in their Green Room. Players have the option of drawing the top card from the Star and Ad decks if they don’t want one of the existing pairs.

After signing a star and ad, players have the option of attaching stars to a show. Stars must match the genre of the show. Players may place any number of stars, but only to a single show per turn. After stars are placed, their ratings points are scored and the ratings disc is moved along the ratings track, with viewers scored as the ratings disc passes over them.

At any point during a player’s turn, they may also buy a Network card from the display. Each Network card has a cost, and ads are discarded to pay that cost. The Network card is then placed face up in front of the player. Ads with the time slots symbols pay out based on ratings for that slot. Other ads are worth $2 million each or $5 million for a pair. Players can buy as many Network cards from the display on their turn as they can afford, but the Network display will not be refreshed until the end of the player’s turn. Players can also play a Network card at any point during their turn. Each card can only be used once per game and the card is turned 90 degrees once played.

At the end of their turn, players refill the star/ad display, the Network card display, and add a new card to the show display (unless the season finale card is already in the show display). Players then bank the viewer chips they gained that turn.

Once the season finale card has been chosen from the display, the season ends at the end of that turn and season finale scoring takes place. During season finale scoring, players score time slots by giving the player leading in more time slots one viewer per time slot they lead in. The other player draws a star from the star deck and plays it face-up in their Green Room. Next, players score the award card. Each award card has 3 awards. Player score rewards (stars or viewers) for each award criterion they meet. Both players can score the same award.

After season finale scoring, the game either continues (after seasons 1&2) or ends (after season 3). To prepare for next season, all remaining cards in the star/ad display and Network card display are discarded and replaced. The current season’s award card is discarded. At the end of season 1, season 3’s award card is also revealed to allow player to plan ahead. The player with the season finale card discards it and the other player begins the new season.

For end of game scoring, players count all stars and ads in their Green Room. The player with the most combined cards gains 1 viewer. Players then empty their banks and count viewers. The player with the most viewers wins.

Color commentary: Another specially-designed 2-player version of a bigger game (The Networks, which, it may surprise you, we own but haven’t played), which I appreciate. It’s a much smaller box and generally feels less overwhelming than the bigger box games sometimes do. All the shows in the game are spoofs of existing shows, and the various stars are silly archetypes, like “Dies in Everything.” The ads are absurd, and as M will comment on further, the artwork is funky and fun.

I’m wondering if I have some kind of bizarre game-explaining skill where M seems to not understand in his consciousness but his lizard brain understands perfectly and can execute strategies neither of us are aware of until it is clear he is trouncing me. I crawled back to win 39-44, but it came down to the third season’s awards, which gave me the edge I needed. Season 2 was a blowout in M’s favor, not even close. He was banking 5+ viewers every turn while I scrabbled for like 3.

The genre bonuses are interesting, and overall represent a mix of longer-term vs. shorter term gain (gaining a star and ad, or multiple ads, or multiple stars, to your Green Room, for instance, as opposed to gaining 3 additional ratings points for a show, which may more directly tie into an increased number of viewers. Anyway, M blocked me from getting the “action” (police procedural seems more accurate) genre bonus, though, and as the bona fide police procedural fan in the house, I took umbrage at that. It rankles me even now, just remembering it. Then again, I interfered with him getting the sports genre bonus a second time, and I can assure you I am not the sports fan in the house (but since I know he’ll read over this before we post, Go Green!).

The awards are also interesting, since you know what they are before the season starts. Sometimes luck runs against you and you can’t do anything to win a particular time slot, but there’s at least some room here for strategy in terms of replacing (or not) shows, and putting new shows in their “best fit” time slot (or not), or hoarding stars to give you a big boost as opposed to playing them as soon as possible. I tried to keep an eye on the awards, though I’m not sure if M did, or if he did but couldn’t figure out how to capitalize on that information.

Our stamina is waning here in the closing day of HovelCon, so we only played this once, which was a little plodding, but I think it has nice potential for a second game, and I’m curious how the big-box version differs in terms of game play or anything beyond box size and the number of components (since you only need to have enough for 2 players, as opposed to 5 or 6). Also, I got to use some of our extensive board-game baggie collection to tidy up the components when we were done, and as I find board game organization strangely soothing, that was a nice one-time bonus to cap off the game.

Thoughts from M: The artwork is fun. I know I say that a lot, but these new wave games usually have good artwork (Petra here: He does actually know that “new wave” games as a category are 20+ years old, but he remembers a simpler, drabber time, where Yahtzee was the height of entertainment). (M here: so what are these games called now? Yes, “new wave” doesn’t make sense as a term, but it’s still the term that people use. Also, when it is possessive, why is there not an apostrophe after “its”? I know there isn’t, but it makes no sense and I am usually scared to use any from of its for fear of getting the apostrophe wrong.)

Like most games, on the first playthrough, I really didn’t understand what was going on at first. I caught on, but as the game progressed, I was unable to come up with an all-purpose strategy that looked ahead more than one turn. Such games can be fun, but this one was less fun as a result of that feature.

The game feature of putting your viewer chips in a literal tiny bank at the end of each turn and not being able to count them during the game was interesting. As is often the case when there’s something to keep track of that you’re not always allowed to check as the game progresses, a smart player should keep a running tally of these points. I’m not sure if there’s anything I could have done differently to beat Petra, but since we both thought I was winning, I didn’t even consider it.

What did amuse me greatly is that this, ahem, new wave board game would harken back to a time when being first in a timeslot was extremely important for network. And the game doesn’t even taking into consideration demos! Who’s even heard of the key demo?! It was a simpler time. Many would say a better time. Would I say it was a better time? In some ways, yes, but for entirely different reasons. Correlation does not equal causation, and such.

Petra rating: 7/10
M rating: 5-6/10

Western Legends (Kolossal Games, 2018)

Basic details: 2-6 players; 90-120 minutes; competitive; 2-player variant adds dummy 3rd player

Date played: November 27, 2021

Gist of the game: You take on the identity of an Old West personality. The game allows players to earn the legendary points required for victory through the means of their choice, either becoming an outlaw or a marshal. Outlaws rob banks, rustle cattle, and steal from other players. Marshals fight bandits, wrangle cattle, and arrest wanted players. The player with the most legendary points at the end of the game wins.

To set up the game, the game board is placed in the middle of the play area, and then money cards, item cards, poker cards, cattle tokens, prospecting dice, and gold nuggets are placed in their designated areas. Each player takes a player mat and the scoring cubes, story discs, and ring in their chosen color. Each player draws 2 character cards, chooses 1 and returns the other to the box, and selects a miniature to represent their character. Each player gains all the starting items, money, poker cards, and Marshal or Wanted points indicated on the back of their character card. Their mini is placed on the board on the indicated starting location for their character. The player whose character is most wanted is 1st player. Each player places their wound token on the starting spot on their player mat and places a scoring cube on the Legendary Points track. The story cards are shuffled and divided into two equal piles. Each player puts their story discs in the designated place on the board. A remaining mini is chosen to represent the sheriff and is placed in the Sheriff’s Office on the game board. Six remaining minis are chosen to represent bandits and are placed in the bandit hideouts on the board. The fight cards are shuffled and the deck is placed in the designated area.

Players compete to gain Legendary Points, which are obtained by fighting with other characters, driving cattle, or completing story cards. Players choose the length of the game they want, which determines the number of Legendary Points required to trigger game end. Once game end is triggered, the current round is finished and each player takes one last turn and the game is scored.

Each player’s turn has 3 phases: start of turn, action, and end of turn. During the start of turn phase, players check for start of turn effects; choose between gaining $20, drawing 2 poker cards, or gaining $10 and 1 poker card; and choose a weapon and mount for the turn.

During the action phase, players perform 3 actions. Actions include moving; using an action on a card; fighting another player; and taking a location action.

If a player chooses to move, they can move up to 2 spaces if they don’t have a mount or up to the mount’s maximum if they do. Players can move into locations orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to their current location.

For the option of using an action on a card, players choose the poker, item, or character card whose action they want to use, and carry out the necessary steps. If the action comes from a poker card, that card is then discarded.

To fight another player, which can take the form of an arrest, duel, or robbery, there are 4 steps. Fights can only occur between characters occupying the same space. The active player must declare the target and what kind of fight it is. The active player then chooses a poker card from their hand to fight with and places it face down in front of them. The target player must decide whether to fight or decline. If they fight, they choose a poker card from their hand and place it facedown in front of them. If they decline, they lose the fight automatically and the active player receives the spoils of victory.

If the target player fights, both players simultaneously reveal their cards and resolve any bonus effects. During the 3rd phase of the fight, players, starting with the active player, can use reaction effects on poker cards they have in hand. This continues until neither player wishes to play a reaction.

In the reward phase of the fight, the players receive bonuses and penalties based on the type of fight. The winner is the player with the highest value card after effects are applied. The active player wins ties. The losing player gains 1 wound and 1 poker card.

If the fight is an arrest and the active (marshal) player wins, they gain a Marshal Point. In the arrest, the losing player, in addition to the wound and poker card, is placed in the Sheriff’s Office and loses all Wanted Points, all cattle tokens, and half their money and gold nuggets.

If the fight is a duel, the winning player gains 2 Legendary Points.

If the fight is a robbery, and the active (outlaw) player gains 1 Wanted Point and can steal either half the target player’s money or half their gold nuggets, rounded up.

All poker cards used during the fight are discarded. A fight can only occur between a specific pair of characters once per turn, but the active player can engage in more than one fight by targeting other characters.

The 4th type of action players can take is to take a location action. Depending on their location, players can purchase or upgrade item cards; play poker; prospect for gold; deposit gold nuggets; stage a bank heist; heal wounds; trade money for Legendary Points; acquire cattle; or work.

In the end of turn phase, players resolve all story cards; discard their hand down to 5 poker cards minus 1 poker card for each wound; gain Legendary Points based on their Wanted status; and trigger end game if they have the required number of Legendary Points.

Story cards are resolved if they have the required number of discs, based on player count. If the story disc slots are full for the player count, the discs are removed and all contributing players receive the reward when the card resolves. Players may only place one story disc per turn, and do so when they have met the triggering condition listed on the card.

Players may pursue Marshal or Outlaw points, but never both. An outlaw can never gain Marshal points. If a Marshal gains any Wanted points, they forfeit all their Marshal points and pursue Wanted points for the remainder of the game.

Marshals can gain Marshal points by: defeating a bandit in a fight; wrangling cattle; arresting a Wanted player; using the action on the Living Legend poker card; and through story card rewards. Outlaws can gain Wanted points by: staging a heist (1 Legendary Point if it’s unsuccessful, money and more points if it’s successful); robbing a player; rustling cattle; using the Living Legend poker card; and through story card rewards.

If a player enters a location with a bandit, their movement ends immediately and there is a fight, with the player to the right of the active player drawing cards for the bandits. Unlike in fights with other players, ties favor the bandits, not the active player. Regardless of fight outcome, the bandit is removed from the board at the end of the fight.

The Sheriff is only active if there is a player on the Wanted Track. If the Sheriff enters a location with a Wanted player, the Wanted player immediately discards a poker card and an arrest attempt is initiated by the Sheriff. Similar to the bandits, the Sheriff wins all ties. If the Wanted player wins, they have evaded capture. The Sheriff is returned to the Sheriff’s Office but the player gains no further reward.

At the end of the game, additional scoring takes place. Legendary Points are awarded for each upgraded mount and upgraded weapon they own and for each $60 they have. Players lose 1 point for each wound. The most Wanted player gets 3 points. Marshals gain points based on their row in the Marshal Track. The player with the most points wins.

In a 2-player game, the Man in Black serves as a dummy 3rd player for players to interact with. The Man in Black has a 10 action card deck. Otherwise, game play remains the same.

Color commentary: M had a blowout victory the first game, 18-8, while I adopted his strategy (only stuck to it even more fervently) and won the second game 22-13. I bow to his strategy and the rewards it reaps (although some luck on my part kept him from stealing quite a bit of gold and money during a robbery attempt).

I’m pretty sure this is the first sandbox game I’ve played — where there are a wide variety of actions players can take to work their way to victory — and I’m intrigued by how they work out. I like that there can be limited player interaction, though the Man in Black complicates that in 2-player games because he sometimes directly targets players, and avoiding player interaction really only works if every player does it, as opposed to one player minding their own business and another player constantly fighting them (not that I’m bitter about M’s strategy in the second game or anything. Honest. I’m fine. *sniffle). I think M prefers more player interaction in general, but I’ve also noticed that in games where there is the option, I almost always opt for no player interaction and he opts for high player interaction in the form of messing with me, a la the botched robbery attempt in the second game. I still remember a particular game of Villainous we played where he adopted such a strategy, and how it basically ruined the game for me because he blocked me from taking any meaningful actions. I guess what I’m trying to say is that writing this is making me concerned that he and I are not as compatible as I thought we were, and that to avoid strife, there may need to be discussions before a game about the possible strategies that might be employed and what that will mean for player interaction so that each player can at least be prepared. I don’t think necessarily knowing the strategy ahead of time would make a difference in terms of ability to win the game, but might make it psychologically easier on the player who is probably going to be a constant target (aka me. I think that discussions ahead of time about the fact that I’m going to be harassed would make it psychologically easier on me, as opposed to being surprised by it in the midst of gameplay).

I’m wondering in general about games with these possibilities for asymmetric strategies, though, where one person opts for less player interaction and other players can completely thwart that player. It seems kind of like a design flaw, but I also don’t know how you could fix it without either ratcheting all players’ interactions up or down. So see above the comment about pre-game discussions about how players plan to proceed. Also, perhaps all of this is a broader indication that I should really explore cooperative games with greater vigor. We have multiple shelves of them; perhaps I should start prioritizing them.

Overall, I liked this game, and I think if our strategies (low vs. high player interaction) were synced up it would be more fun. Both have the potential for a fair amount of luck: in low player interaction games, how you do at prospecting or fighting bandits would make a big difference, while in a high interaction game it would come down to what cards you have to work with in fights. We also have all the current expansion content, which includes a playmat that I believe is larger than our table, so we played with just the base game. Some expansion content just adds characters to choose from, while other expansion content seems to involve more changes to how the game is played, and I’m curious as to how those changes impact whether low or high interaction would be more profitable. It is clear that being a Wanted player carries higher rewards, by scoring Legendary Points every turn, but also more risks, as you can be arrested and lose all those points. Being a Marshal seems like a much more plodding strategy, and to avoid direct player interaction you would just be perpetually fighting bandits, which isn’t quite as dynamic as a fight with another player would be.

Thoughts from M: The game certainly looks great. The character cards are really nicely illustrated and provides some immersive details about the characters, all of whom are based in real-life figures. I thought the game was a neat combination of resource management and take-that dynamics. I focused on getting gold and staying out of trouble in the first game. In the second game, I tried to be aggressive in terms of getting into fights. That didn’t work out as well, so it appears the key is to mind gold and stay out of trouble, which would be successful, but also lead to more boring games. Alternatively, you could have friends and play with additional players instead of being limited to your spouse and that Man in Black fellow. As a second alternative, you could also just convince your spouse to fight back so that there’s some real interaction and a more dynamic feeling to the game (in my case, the former may prove to be easier, even in a pandemic).

Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I was once a vicious gunfighter; a gunslinger, if you will. I rode into town and killed who I wanted. Amongst my victims were William Blake, Paladin, and Fievel the mouse. What I’m most proud of is that I was never kind to poor villagers, which is something I guy I never knew the same of can’t say. I did it for the money and the idea that I could have made more money mining gold is deeply offensive to me. Also it makes a duller game than if there are interactions (Petra here: I feel like this is something off a Johnny Cash scrapped songs bootleg. Also, it seems like I’m definitely going to have to look inside myself and get comfortable thwarting other players to make sure M can enjoy games he’s really excited about to the maximum degree).

M rating (with low interactions): 6/10
M presumed rating (with high interactions): 7-8/10
Petra rating (with low interactions): 8/10
Petra presumed rating (with consensual high interactions): 6-7/10

Duelosaur Island (Pandasaurus Games, 2018)

Basic details: 1-2 players; 30-60 minutes; competitive; automa solo mode

Date played: November 26, 2021

Gist of the game: You are the CEO of a new dinosaur park, in stiff competition with the owner of the other new dinosaur park in town, with whom you used to work. Obviously, you want the park that attracts the most visitors, and will engage in a variety of tactics to achieve that goal.

To set up the game, the main board and draft board a placed in the middle of the table. Dice are placed in the dice bag and entrusted to the first player. The Park cards, which feature both a dinosaur and an attraction, are shuffled and placed on the draft board, and the top 3 cards are revealed and placed on the draft board. The Specialist cards are also shuffled and placed in a deck next to the draft board. The plot twist tokens are shuffled face down and 4 are randomly selected and placed on the draft board, with the remaining tokens returned to the box. The Public Relations token is placed on the starting PR space on the main board. Coins and other tokens are placed in supply piles next to the main board. The game length is chosen and determines how many visitors are needed to trigger the end of the game. Each player receives an individual company board and 10 cubes. 6 cubes are placed on the DNA track, 1 cube in the threat track, 1 cube in the security track, and then 1 cube on the excitement track of the main board and 1 cube on the 5 visitors space on the visitors track. Players then take their 3 Park starter cards. They choose 1 as their starting dinosaur and 1 as their starting attraction.

The game is played over a series of rounds, each of which has 4 phases, until the game end is triggered by a player reaching the visitor threshold.

Phase 1 is the income phase, in which players gain coins and draw park cards. Each player receives 3 coins plus additional coins based on food attractions in their park and their location on the excitement track. They gain 1 Park card plus additional cards based on the number of merchandise attractions in their park. When drawing Park cards, players may choose from the 3 face-up cards or choose one face-down from the Park deck.

Phase 2 is the draft phase. The 1st player draws 3 specialist cards, selects 2, and discards the 3rd. The 1st player also draws 5 dice from the bag and rolls them, pairing each die with a plot twist token on the main board. The plot twist tokens have various effects, like multiplying the amount of DNA received, granting additional coins and cards, or providing wild DNA choices. Beginning with the 2nd player, players taken turns choosing a die or specialist card until each player has 3 items. When drafting a die, players receive its effect and move it below its accompanying plot twist token. DNA gains are tracked on the player’s company board. When drafting a specialist card, players place the card to the right of their company board, and can only have up to 3 specialists at a time, requiring players to discard a card if they draft a 4th specialist. Players can also discard a specialist immediately after drafting it to trigger the discard effect (they do not trigger the discard effect if they are replacing the specialist with another). The undrafted items are moved to the threat area of the draft board (threat levels are indicated with purple pips on the various cards and dice). When tallying the threat level at the end of the round, players must include any threat pips from these leftover items.

The 3rd phase is the build phase. Players take their actions simultaneously during this round. Players can take any number of actions any number of times. The phase ends when neither player wants to take another action. Actions include a) creating a dinosaur, using a Park card and the requisite DNA. The dinosaur is then added to the company board and the player increases their threat and excitement levels by the indicated amount; b) build an attraction, using a Park card and the requisite coins. The attraction is then placed on the company board. Attractions come in 3 varieties: food, merch, and rides, with each attraction producing a different effect: food produces money, merch produces Park cards, and rides produce PR bonuses; c) mix DNA by discarding a card and converting any 2 basic DNA into 1 advanced DNA or vice versa and adjusting the DNA tracks accordingly; d) sell DNA for 1 coin (2 basic or 1 advanced), adjusting the DNA tracks accordingly; or e) increase the security level of the park by paying the appropriate amount of money for the desired level.

Phase 4 is the visitor phase. This phase has 3 steps that must be completed in order: a) compare threat vs. security. If the level of security is at least as high as the threat level, nothing happens. If the security level is lower than the threat level, dinosaurs escape and visitors are killed (the instruction manual says visitors are eaten, but what if only herbivores escape? The penalty still applies, so I’m thinking that perhaps there’s a stampede or something as people try to flee). The number of visitors killed is 2x the difference between the threat and security levels, and the player’s cube on the visitor track is moved accordingly. If a player would go below 1 visitor, they stay at 1 visitor and receive a lawsuit token instead, worth -5 visitors at the end of the game; b) gain a number of visitors equal to the player’s level on the excitement track; and c) choose public relations bonuses. The player with the lower excitement level chooses first and can pick any item to the left of the PR token. The next player must choose an item to the left of the item chosen by the first player.

At the end of the round, if any player has the requisite number of visitors, the game ends and final scoring occurs. Otherwise, each player discards their hand down to 3 cards, all items are removed from the draft board, and the PR marker is moved one space to the right. The player turn order switches for the next round, so that both players have the opportunity to be the first player.

At the end of the game, players gain additional visitors based on their dinosaurs, attractions, sets of all 3 attraction types, and specialists. They lose visitors based on lawsuits. The player with the most visitors wins.

Color commentary: Per tradition, we played some portions of this game incorrectly, and as I’m typing up my notes, I’m wondering if we might have made things harder on ourselves to some extent. We were treating the threat level as cumulative, so that all dinosaurs counted on all subsequent turns, but that makes less sense if the threat values from the leftover draft items changes per turn. I’m wondering now if the threat level is calculated each turn based on new dinosaurs and then leftover draft items. Because the threat track only goes to 10 (you can buy additional levels of security, but there’s no convenient space for the cube), but I can also envision a bonanza round where you spend a lot of saved up DNA and create up to 10 new threats from dinosaurs (especially when you factor in any specialists or leftover draft item threat levels as well). On the other hand, we consistently forgot to move the leftover specialist cards to the undrafted area, and thus were consistently undercounting the undrafted item threat levels. I’ll have to think about that some more.

Also, I think I’ve lost whatever pittance of talent I had for explaining games in the intervening months since our last new game, because it took M a really long time to figure out what was going on. Then again, he won 64-65 even after having visitors killed on two different occasions (no lawsuits, unfortunately), so he clearly eventually figured it out. That lag took a bit of fun out of the game, as I knew what I was doing but couldn’t seem to help M find his footing, but I think if we played it again it would go more smoothly.

I do like that companies are making 2-player versions of their games. We own but have not played Dinosaur Island, which I imagine plays fairly similarly, but there was something nice about knowing that this version was specifically made for 2 people and we wouldn’t have to potentially alter any rules to make it work for 2 players (yeah, I’m looking at you, Western Legends. We’ll see how you play out tomorrow with your dummy 3rd player, the mysterious “Man in Black…”). I guess what I’m saying is that since 2 is our default player count, it’s nice that there are games specifically designed for us rather than merely accommodating us. That said, we do own big Dinosaur Island, and bigger Dinosaur World, and I’m hoping that figuring out this 2-player version will help us when we decide to break out the big games.

Thoughts from M: This game was very confusing at first. Should I blame Petra for not explaining it better? Well, that’s a question that’s either neither here nor there or one that goes back to the time we all remember when the East St. Louie Boys were playing a game of IOU in Western Arkansas. I believe the former is true, and therefore Petra is clearly not to blame (Petra here: I wish I could tell you what M is talking about here, but I’m just as lost as you are. I even checked with him to make sure I was reading his handwriting correctly, and he assured me I was. He often recounts historical events that clearly did not happen or, if they had happened, were so insignificant that they would have been lost to the historical record anyway, and thus functionally didn’t happen. I do like that he says I’m not the blame, though.)

What is my goal? Even once I finally figured that out, how should I go about attracting the largest number of visitors? With time, it became clearer and it made sense to be aggressive in both increasing my security level and getting new dinosaurs. This did result in my winning our first attempt at the game, which is rare enough that it gives me greater confidence that the strategy I ultimately settled on (even though I had a one-level threat-security gap a couple of turns) was a solid one.

Petra rating: Honestly, the first playthrough? 4/10 If we play again and both start out understanding the game I think it could be a solid 7/10 or 8/10
M rating: 7/10

Horrified Reprise

Date played: November 26, 2021

Color commentary: It was a close one, folks. For our second game (the first being months ago, and the subject of a previous post), we pretended that we remembered the game well enough to move on from their recommended first-game monsters to our own choice. We also have little faith in ourselves, and picked the two easy monsters, Dracula and the Invisible Man. We dispatched Dracula with little difficulty, but the Invisible Man was a trickier foe. He required items from specific locations to be dropped off at the precinct. Let’s just say we spent all of the possible items from one of those locations trying to defeat Dracula and ward off attacks against our persons that would have raised the terror level and forced us to being our next turn from the hospital. So we’re steadily making our way through the Monster deck, with no hope to get an item from the last location we need until we cycle through all the items in the item bag and then refill the bag with the discarded items.

You lose the game if the terror level gets too high, or if you need to draw a Monster card and there isn’t one available. We were hoping we would get lucky and draw an item from the Inn soon after we replaced the items in the item bag, so M and I had our characters lurking around the Inn (conveniently located two locations away from the precinct, and 5 locations away from where the Invisible Man was generally skulking around, since he always moves toward the closest player). M draws the last Monster card (which thankfully gave us the item we needed), so the next turn is mine. I use a perk card to get me to the Inn (not an action) to retrieve that item (action). I use another perk card to go to the precinct (not an action) where I drop off the item we need as evidence (action). M plays a perk card to move the Invisible Man three spaces so he meets me in the precinct (not an action). Once we’re in the same space, I deploy enough red items to trap the Invisible Man (action). So we won the game with one action to spare.

I think the first time we played (but I have not actually re-read that blog post), we didn’t worry too much about helping Villagers make it to their safe locations because we were too preoccupied trying to figure out how the game worked. This game, though, we dutifully shepherded villagers around, depositing them at their safe locations as we came to them. Doing so allowed us to draw perk cards, which are what ultimately enabled us to win the game. And let me just add, the monsters are only “easy” if you are able to manage your items in a reasonable manner and don’t blow the items you need less than halfway through the game!

The game was more fun than I remembered, which was pleasant, especially since there’s an expansion coming out with US cryptozoological monsters like Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil that is already on M’s wish list.

Updated ratings (assuming we rated it before):
Petra rating: 9/10
M rating: 9/10

HovelCon 2021 Preview

Feliz Navihovel!

Hoveleux Noel!

Frolich Hovelnachten!

The season’s upon us, when the weather turns, and we are no longer in danger of dying of heat stroke by trying to play a game out of reach of a fan.

In what we have decided will be a yearly tradition, M and I will mark the beginning of HovelCon, our DIY board game convention held within the confines of our apartment and involving only us, tomorrow, lasting until Sunday.

Although the exact order of games is yet to be determined, we have on the docket:

M’s choices:
Western Legends
Godzilla Tokyo Clash

My choices:
Marvel United
The Rival Networks
Duelosaur Island

While we took a break for the summer months due to the aforementioned lack-of-fan-accessibility-in-gaming-space issue, HovelCon will be providing us with 4 new opportunities to blog. You may recall that we’ve already written about Horrified and Godzilla Tokyo Clash, but the remaining games have yet to be played. I’ll also try to be better in the coming months about playing somewhat more consistently. The past year has been challenging, but I’m starting to re-emerge from my shell again and am excited to play games more regularly.

Watch for updates throughout the weekend!