Came out the day after the weekend the movie was out.
There’s been teasers for DOW 2 and the like and now footage is coming out so the game must be hitting in Winter/Spring 2017 or the hype machine wouldn’t be this fired up yet. I must say I’m pretty excited for this one. I played a lot of DOW 1 as it’s in the BEST RTS lineage of Warcraft 3 > Company of Heroes > Dawn of War (a lineage that Blizzard has since abandoned for the very boring Starcraft 2 style). Below is a run down of the factions and main characters in each. It’s the best three of course: Orks, Eldar and Marines.
Fuck yeah. I may have to work a bit next week (from home) but otherwise I’m off for the rest of the year. It will go too fast, I will get nothing I wanted to get done DONE, but I’ll at least get to try. We’ve had a bit of a snowmagedon here in Wisconsin and so I leave you with this, SNOWBEAST 1977.
General plans are to try to play a 6-man Blood Rage game, play something Martin Wallace (probably Struggle of Empires or Moongha Invaders), paint some miniatures, play some Warhammer 9th Age (am I allowed to say that in the same phrase), get some more time in with Attila Total War and Guilty Gear XRD Revelator.
and lastly, run a D&D game with the kids. They probably aren’t ready, but what the heck.
First off, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to play and review a new Master of Orion game. From my youth, MOO1 is still one of my favorite games and frankly stands the test of time just fine vs other 4X. Props to NGD for taking this project on and putting the resources and time into this game that so many people love. The shoes they are trying to fill are vast and were filled with space piss from MOO3.
So, I’ve got over 30 hours into the new MOO and I figure it’s about time for a review. I just finished a medium sized game and I’ll use that as a backbone to discuss various systems in the game and how they work. I have a lot to say, but I’m going to keep this at near exactly 2000 words! This is PRE-ANTARAN update, which changes the game in a few ways (and crashed on me too much this weekend to update this review).
If you don’t want to read further, I like the game and I cannot see going back to MOO2 ever again. MOO1: I would play that again for kicks, but there’s a lot of jagging around getting it to work right in DOSBOX with the himem sys and shit like that. The new MOO is an easy game to play, it’s not extremely complex and it plays fairly fast, but it’s a slow game compared to MOO1. You will finish a medium size game in about a week of playing a couple hours a day. This is in keeping with what MOO1 was– a lighter (and awesome) 4X game. It has elements of MOO2, but not overwhelmingly so.
This is not a review of multiplayer. Haven’t gotten a game of that yet. Maybe soon.
First off, I like playing Humans. I’ve always felt that the AI attacks the player-controlled races more than the others, and Humans have some abilities that stave that off so you can better choose when to go to war. They are fairly average in everything except shield tech, diplomacy and trading but really what do you need the most? Money. So this is with the Humans. Think they are boring? Fine. I also dig on the Meklars for just out producing everyone (even the Klackons).
The other choices are pretty standard because originally, they SET the standard! Most of the alien races, in MOO style, equate to some sort of animal. Dogs, Cats, Birds, Ants, Lizards are all represented and the designers didn’t hold back in the redux trying to make them NOT be directly anthropomorphic. A few of the aliens don’t fit the animal mode, and generally these are the stronger races in the game. Psilons, Darlocks, Meklars and Silicoids are all stranger aliens.
I lean towards the Total War style of ‘base’ management as in, I don’t want to do all that much of it, nor do I want to deal with a bunch of CIV style tricks that are required for optimal play. I just want it to be enough planet management to feel like I’m making interesting choices, and not too fuckn detailed.
I miss the sliders, but planet management in the new MOO is fairly easy. You pop open your planet and move your little guys around from farming to science to production (sorta sliders) and queue up what you want to build. Planets, based on their size and environment, dictate the capacity of the little guys you move around. Switch your environment for the better or pollute the shit out of your planet until it’s envirofucked (like our planet earth), and your amount of little guys goes up and down.
Buildings are pretty much what we had in MOO2. Hydroponic farms, Automated factories, research facilities, planetary shields, missile bases. What MOO does well is not having the same building being rebuilt in an incremental upgrade, like the lazy design of having Missile Base v2, Planetary Shields V, etc. When you get a tech level that allows a new type of planetary defense, it’s usually something very unique and non-mutually exclusive from what you’ve already built. The old building doesn’t go out of style to build, because it’s usually cheap!
Pollution is an important, but not too annoying concern. Production planets where you constantly build stuff get polluted and you need to dedicate time to clean them up. Leave pollution to hit a certain threshold and the planet will turn to shit, population will die, less production in the future. Simple and also a useful mechanic for disasters and invasions/bombardments. There has been an update since I started this review where you cannot explicitly ‘work off’ pollution like you used to could– so I’m not sure how that effects the game, yet.
Moving out from the planetary level is the system level that can hold multiple planets. Systems are just like the ‘points’ in MOO1, except they have specific points within them where they connect to other systems. Your ships can only move from systems along these ‘tunnels.’
You will need a colony ship to inhabit the other planets in your first system, you can’t just jump people over there with transports. This means it’s as costly to colonize in-system planets as out of systems.
At each tunnel entrance, you have the ability to build military installations or ‘listening posts.’ Military installations block any non-allied aliens from moving past into the system. While easily destroyed, they are a good idea to build all over the place to stave off nasty surprises. Anything built at the entry-points of systems will stave off the enemy for a turn as they will typically destroy whatever’s there instead of hitting the planets right away.
Overall, system management is more complex than MOO1 because there are multiple planets within each system. However, fleets fight it out within systems and not just at ‘points’ in space, increasing the ability for tactical play. Sometimes you will share systems with other races in harmony. Most times not.
Outwards from the systems is the galaxy map. This is where most of the action takes place from a strategic level. There are various configurations of galaxies, some of which start with a mosh, and some are turtle-esque. What to watch out for is if your race is bounded by RED warp lines as these can only be traversed by your ships much later in the game. I’ve been cornered off from most of the galaxy instead of thrown into the plague pit from the start and it’s a different game.
While most ship movement is forced along the warp lines, you can build jump gates that connect two different systems in a straight line. Your ships still have to move at their rate between them, so it’s not instant.
I can’t find a way to AUTOMOVE built ships from my factory systems to the war front. Need to look into that.
Overall I dig the look of the galaxy map.
The diplomacy in MOO1 was built to piss you off so you attacked all the aliens relentless. They would talk shit, make stupid requests and be generally annoying when you were trying to deal with them in any meaningful manner. In newMOO, I found the AI not annoying, more logical but more silly. They still have stuff they say that will pysse you off, but not at the same level as the old MOO games. You can make much better and more robust deals with them, and other than most strategy games I’ve played, they actually sometimes accept these deals instead of never accepting anything. The “What would make this work” button helps a lot to speed up diplomatic actions and guesswork, which I appreciate. Playing the Humans, I use diplomacy a lot, and have no complaints here.
MOO1 had two types of useful ships. Big ones with the massive weapons that would destroy whole stacks, and small planetary bombers that you could build thousands of and clear out whole areas of space of aliens by bombing their planets, and leaving their fleets to rot.
The new MOO has almost an Ascendancy level of customization, where you add on modules and hope for micronization tech so you can fit more shit on a ship. I really don’t care about this part of the game very much, so did little customization, feeling that if I built enough of the stock ships, it would be fine. You do not have many ship slots, so if you build a custom ship type, it better fucking work well or you will be deleting it before you get many of them into space.
I think a key part of making custom ships is that you run them in real time combat. Otherwise, just build and upgrade the base models and build enough shit to overwhelm everyone!
This is where MOO1 has it over MOO2 (and MOO3). The way the turn-based system worked in MOO1 was excellent, where you could make a couple moves, then let the AI take over to finish off the battle with out dealing with the tiresome grinding and moving when you know you’ve won. You could still see what’s going on with your weapons’ effectiveness, but you controlled what you wanted and then stopped when your control didn’t matter much.
In the new MOO, the designers chose to go the Total War route: real time battles. I think this was a good move as certainly I have a shitload of mileage in TW games and really enjoy that part of the games the most. Like Gratuitous Space Battles, it’s all about those key battles with massive fleets that take up the whole screen. While the combat is certainly better than say, Endless Space, MOO2 and Birth of The Federation, I have some issues with it being sorta fuckin boring.
Coming to new MOO as a Total War fan, I expected the real time battles to have benefits to some tactics and maneuver. In TW, you can win battles or cost the enemy dearly if you use the correct tactics for the situation at hand. For example if you are a non-horse archer empire in TW (I pity you!) you’re going to be hunkering down in your castles a lot. If you use your army to attack and destroy a horse archer opponent’s infantry (of which he won’t have much), he will have a very, very difficult time in later sieges against you, allowing you to whittle down the rest of the horse archers at you leisure. So far as I can see, there’s nothing like that in the real time battles in MOO except kite around and shoot missles, which I’m not a fan of doing, it bores the shit out of me. You can target specific ships and try to take them out, but I found in the games I’ve played that it just didn’t matter that much. You throw your ships across the void and just watch the explosions. Making a couple choices here and there. Overall I just run most combats without going into the tactical view. I hope they improve this (just fucking copy Dominions 4).
It’s there, you put dudes on planets and try to do stuff. As you succeed, your spy starts to unlock more bad stuff he can do. I didn’t do very much with spying in my games, but it seemed fine. I’d have to play as the Darlocks to really get in on this as a ‘catch up’ mechanism. I like all the different spy portraits for each race– there are tons of them and they are beautiful.
Space monsters look stupid with the exception of the Guardian. The alien portraits and animations, voice, all that stuff that gives the aliens character: it’s grown on me. When I first saw the cat lady there was an OH JEEZ, yet MOO1 was campy and they’ve followed through with that. There’s not much you can do when more than half the alien races are anthropods right out of the gate! There are races I hated in MOO1, that I would always destroy immediately (Silicoids, Sakkra, Klackons) that I feel differently about in MOO1 based on their graphics and presentations. They’ve captured the feel of the aliens, but if there’s one thing that MOO3 did well (and only one thing) it’s the alien design/animations. It was great.
Ship designs are descent, but not really inspired. We just don’t see the level of art here that Endless Legends has. All ship levels have two types of chassis so at least you can tell your carriers from your warships, bombers from frigates, etc.
Overall, it’s functional, looks fairly good and most importantly, isn’t annoying.
Unlike MOO3, MOO is not a cascade of space piss into my open mouth, nor is it the greatest 4X game ever made (like MOO1 is). That said, MOO is a really good game and I’ve been playing since early release. There have been a lot of addons and changes to the game that has fleshed it out quite a bit, so I don’t think they are done with development (and the recent Antaran patch proves it). They have made some LARGE shifts in the gameplay based on player comments since early release, ripping out minor races and then putting them back in fixed up, which is pretty cool. Despite having to suffer people pissed off because new MOO is not a direct rip of MOO2, over– very vitriolic complaints as people on the internet are wont to do.
MOO does not grab me like Empire or Rome 2 Total War* did where I can’t stop playing for months, but I do not believe that was the ultimate aim of the developers; MOO is a lighter 4X. I can sit around on a Sunday, put a few hours in and get a good game going that I can finish up by early the next week with a few more hours of play. The game has enough depth to feel meaty, but it’s light enough for me to just want to jump in and not feel like I have to relearn the spreadsheet like Civ players do.
Lastly, the game crashes and hangs up fairly often late game, and sometimes games cannot be recovered. This is no different than MOO, MOO2 or Birth of the Federation, but I think we’d all love if this didn’t happen!
*my favorite thing in TW games is the real time battles within the campaign context. For example, to be fighting an enemy for a long time on the campaign map and finally catch their big army short or in a bad position where you can watch the slow, methodical slaughter of their entire force for 15-20 minutes or so is just my meat and potatoes. Especially when you trap a huge amount of them in city streets and slowly grind them down where they have no where to run. The battle was over in the first 5 minutes, the rest is just raw butchery.
I typically hate D20 microlites. There are a shit load of them reaching for some perfect design goal of streamlined play that in my opinion has already been done by Moldvay and further improved by Lamentations of the Flame Princess. There’s only so much you can strip away before your game becomes boring as fuck or, worse, Dungeon World.
However, Into the Odd is where I’ve eaten some crow on this hatred as it’s one of the best designed RPG’s to come forth recently, and it’s squarely in the microlite sub-genre.
That said, character generation takes about 2 minutes, such a long time right? But with the online generator below, not only can you generate your character in seconds, but you can make all stat rolls right in the browser!
This is Alberta, about as good as you are going to get, and I don’t know what she’s scared of because she’s quite the badasche.
ALBERTA “SCARED” BICKLEY
Harpoon Gun (d8), Fire Oil, Mirror engine (arcana), Grappling Hook, Magnifying Glass
Make a bunch of guys here:
We had a bad experience at Gamehole con with our 5e game and it wasn’t completely because the GM was terrible (he was tired, wasn’t too great at adapting to three extremely experienced players at the table) but more because the module he was running was completely derivative crap. Orc attack on a village, cave with orcs in it, Zzzzzzzz….
Since the game I’ve been thinking of what the main issues with that session and did the 5 whys with myself to suss it out.
- Session sucked, why?
- Adventure was boring, why?
- Generic ho hum: Orc attack, Orc cave, why?
- In a setting where that’s obviously common and accepted. why?
- Forgotten Realms. Why?
- It’s the default setting for all D&D 5.
The root cause of this, and it’s not my normal whipping boy Pathfinder, it’s Forgotten Realms.
I started D&D when there was no real campaign world, it wasn’t even slightly defined for us when we bought the box sets at Hobbyhorse. There was Greyhawk and Blackmoor and stuff like that, but unless you looked hard for it, kids starting with Holmes or Moldvay didn’t get that full in the face– it was OUR world to create and it started small with the first adventure. Whether it was X-1 (I worried about where on my world map that island was quite a bit in grades school), Hommlet, or with just characters at the entrance to a made up dungeon or trapped in a chateau that had no fixed location or full placement in a realm at all, the setting grew outward from the first adventure as the DM and players desired or required from that initial small kernel adventure and became more defined by other kernels like Castle Amber or the G series. The monster books also defined our world, with tons of odd things on my map coming out of the acquisition of the Fiend Folio. Death Knight empires were now laid down on hexes! What we had was a ton of space for imagination and very little constraint by over definition of the setting by the modules at the time’s authors. This is exactly how Greyhawk came into being. Dungeon first, then local environs, then out from there. I really appreciated in INTO THE ODD how the author has the first expedition start at the dungeon entrance and has a local map on pages after that and the larger area maps/keys after that in the book; implicitly stating that this is the order in which players should encounter such things. Dungeon – near environs – realm. The onion is peeled from the inside out.
While I was vaguely aware and mildly interested in Greyhawk, I never much looked at it while in my very hardcore grade school and early middle school days of playing D&D. Later came Dragonlance and while people must have loved it, I felt all of it was garbage in a really shitty setting. Dragons can be cool and horrifying (see Dark Souls and Glorantha), I run them in my 13th Age game as either incredibly violent fiends or …something totally different. But when you have dragon men and little dragons and big dragons and an empire of dragon men it’s all just shite to me. The closest I got to it was the gold box games on the Apple 2E, which were quite good.
Dragonlance must have sold a lot because next we got Forgotten Realms and D&D has suffered for it ever since. Yes, this likely had to do with Gygax’s ouster from TSR in 1985, and the end of Greyhawk at that point, but Dragonlance had paved the way a couple years before for a default, shytte setting.
I’m certainly not the first person to say this, but Forgotten Realms is the absolute essence of generic fantasy. It has every trope one can possibly imagine rolled into one ‘land’, every race is represented, all screaming out ‘potential’ for great adventure, but ending up absolutely mundane. The pseudo-medieval culture, architecture and technology levels are extremely trite, and border on the shear horror of steampunk. For awhile there I thought I was just jaded and had experienced too much to enjoy such simple things in Forgotten Realms (for example, the lackluster Neverwinter nights games), but then I thought back about how much I disliked Dragonlance as a kid, wasn’t interested at all in the Greyhawk box-set after I got it and had switched instantly to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay as soon as I became aware of it. This was as a pre-teen, so it’s not like I had some eclectic, jaded taste or anything. I just looked at the WFRP cover with it’s punk-esque adventurers in a vicious Early Modern setting and found it incredibly awesome compared to some Clyde Caldwell, Elmore or Jeff Easley’s unicorns and dragons paintings that adorned Forgotten Realms stuff. Not surprisingly, I don’t think my tastes have changed that much since late grade school, and if anything the forgotten realms has gotten more generic, less interesting and certainly more treadover trite!
Now we have 5th Edition D&D established, dare I say loved, and clearly superior in all ways to Pathfinder, yet as much as 5E has going for it, the game has a core problem that for me make it much less appealing than it could be– it’s still stuck in Forgotten Realms. It may not be forever, but for now, everything out for it is set squarely in the totally generic fantasy, risk free, “base” D&D setting.
What’s also sad is that the sandbox adventures that are being put out for 5E are exactly what I want in a campaign: sandboxes, cool optional encounters, lots of characters, gazetter shit when you need it and not just gazetter shit for the sake of gazetter shit, and a huge lack of railroading in most of the adventures. The two that are IMO the best: Strahd and Out of the Abyss, are the least Forgotten Realms of the set. Strahd actually feels very out of place in the context of Forgotten Realms, which is solved by it being a pocket dimension rather than a real part of the map (which is stupid). I’m not saying any of the adventures are automatically bad because they are set in FR, but I am saying that they are automatically generic, mundane fantasy in many ways, and will take work to rip them out of FR.
With the newest Against the Giant’s 5E module, I think it’s time for Forgotten Realms to be left behind by 5E forever, with the exception of the Demonweb pits. There are other settings from the TSR era that are far more compelling, notably Dark Sun, and I would really like to see something sword and sorcery, maybe Stormbringer /Hawkmoon, maybe at this point WOTC could get the WFRP license and meld that and 5E. Others have suggested stuff like Pendragon. Low fantasy works well in 5E. Or shit: STAR FRONTIERS! Despite what 5E has done with clinging to the high fantasy, generic setting, D&D is not Forgotten Realms in the same way that Vampire the Masquerade is set in the World of Darkness and only World of Darkness. It’s not just a craving for OSR or nostalgia to openly state I’d love to see more of THIS:
and less of THIS:
Howdy. I’ve played a lot of Talisman. Hundreds of games with the Games Workshop 2nd edition and maybe a tenth of that with Fantasy Flight’s version. They came out with more expansions than the number of times I get to play in a year for a bit there, but now that FF and GW have ended their long, fruitful relationship, Talisman will again be in limbo and eventually prices will start to rise and things will become scarce. Here is a list to help you spend your ducats.
The following list and thoughts are not for collectors, but may help you determine what may be sought after by players. For the completionist, just buy everything. If you didn’t get the print on demand stuff– ouch! I would AVOID Deep Realms unless you are the most ardent collector. However, the Nether realm Expansion is fantastic.
For players, if you are new to the game or new to this version of the game (from 2nd or 3rd editions), here is what you really need to buy, what you sorta need to buy, and what you shouldn’t buy.
Make sure you are getting the Fantasy Flight version of the game and not the Black Industries version. The FF box is ‘less black’ than the Black Industries version (see above). If you do end up with the Black Industries version, you will need to purchase/find the upgrade kit with the fate points and stuff in it. These will likely be SCARCE. Obviously, you need the core set, but in my opinion it’s not enough for the full experience of Talisman. The base set doesn’t have enough characters, nor spell cards and the adventure deck is too small.
The following are what I feel are the absolutely essential expansions to Talisman. There are very few of these that you actually need to have to get a good experience forever with the game. This will likely run you about 100$ retail.
#1 The Reaper expansion
This is stuff that really could have all been in the core game. While you can leave the actual Reaper and his rules in the box, the cards and characters in this expansion flesh out the base game enough for me to say, “yes, you are really playing Talisman.” By far, this is the most important expansion to the game, with the absolutely essential adventure, spell and characters as well as the Warlock Quests. If you get only one expansion, Reaper is it.
Frostmarch is the first of the “more stuff” expansions that fits very well with the core game, Reaper and Highlands for a base set to play with forever. It has few new rules (unlike Firelands or Harbinger), just cards and spells and a few more characters. Because this is just ‘more stuff,’ one could argue that it’s not essential, but if you are going to expand your Talisman and have Reaper, this is the next one that you will want to get, especially if you are going to play without the Board expansions and keep your Talisman SANE.
MauriceBastard: Meh, I can’t think of anything great about it, I bet there are some good items in the pack but I don’t associate them with it, I most likely just assume the good items in this pack come from The Reaper.
Highlands is an ‘extra board’ expansion that has a lot going for it. Why this instead of Dungeon? First, it does not offer a pathway to the Crown of Command, so players will still need to go up the normal method. What happens when you have a lot of boards in a Talisman game, and especially if you include Dungeon, is that players scatter all over the place and have no interaction with each other at any time during the game. Sure they may cast spells up against each other late game, but the concept of landing on another player is totally moot if there are four separate boards (and deep realms) in play. Characters like the Thief and Sorceress become fairly useless in these situations and once someone gets rolling and chooses to chase down the other characters to destroy them, it’s a lot more difficult with all the boards. You have to decide on whether or not you have the table space and also want to have your players all over the place by picking up the board expansions. If you are going to get one, Highlands is the one to get first. It has few special rules that effect the base game, critical characters to the game (Valkyrie and Alchemist for example) and does not have that egress to the Crown that Dungeon has, while still giving brutally strong magic items if you win the board.
MauriceBastard: Makes the outer region of the main board almost completely useless as this area is good for starting characters.
With the core set and the essential expansions, you have 28 characters. Fantasy Flight, compared to GW, were REAL stingy with the characters they put out in each expansion (compare 8 in 2E’s Talisman: Adventure to FF’s expansions at on average 4 each), probably because they came with miniatures instead of having them sold separate, so this is not a massive list. However it covers the basics: varied strength attackers, shitty trick characters (elf/dwarf), and the all important craft attackers (ghoul, wizard) and lastly, spellcasters.
NON-ESSENTIAL, BUT GOOD TO GET
#4 Sacred Pool
This, like Frostmarch, is another ‘more stuff’ expansion with more Adventure, Spell and characters to include in the game. Because it has rules that do not mess with the core gameplay, I place this as one of the best expansions to get. What’s more, if you are trying to stick with just the main board, this is a good one to get after Reaper and Frostmarch. I like all of the characters that came with this one.
MariceBastard: Ya again the items that are worth it in this pack I attribute to The Reaper.
The 4E Talisman Dungeon expansion is far and away better than the 2nd edition one, with awesome monsters, great magic items, good characters and a means to get to the Crown of Command to boot, circumventing the entire randomness of the middle region with a straight up combat instead. Many players B-line it to the dungeon as soon as they feel strong enough to farm it for goodies and strength/craft. Unlike the Highlands, the Dungeon is not an easy board to make it through, and many characters will die if they go in before they are ready (usually after 2-3 stat upgrades). That said, Dungeon is not an essential expansion because it’s a new board section and while some people may like it, the fact that you can circumvent the inner region’s perils and get the the crown of command changes the game drastically, adding to the sad fact that more boards = less player interaction.
MauriceBastard: Fine. Allows a end round run to the center for overpowered heroes which is a needed mechanic late game.
#6 Nether Realm
The Nether Realm expansion is one of those funky print on demand ones and when it came out, I thought that was the end of support from FF for Talisman (i.e.: no new expansions). The components were very good quality and this expansion is fantastic. In the new victory condition, instead of a Talisman, the players must kill a certain number of Nether Realm creatures and get to the Crown of Command. The creatures are represented by a Nether deck that has some of the nastiest stuff I’ve ever seen in the game! This win condition also promises a shorter, tighter game, so I like it a lot. This expansion also adds back in the Pandora’s Box card for the inner region, using the NetherRealm cards in place of Adventure cards! Once out of print, this one will be very expensive, but if you can get it no for 15$, it’s great.
MauriceBastard: Great shit, excellent way to change up the center region for extra challenge, make sure to exclude The Dungeon so you can’t end run the mosh pit of the center.
#7 Blood Moon
Like the Reaper expansion, the Blood Moon expansion has a guy that goes around and does stuff to people independent of the characters. This is less optional if you are going to play with everything from this expansion than the Reaper is. We’ve played with both the Reaper and the Werewolf and that was a clear mistake that slowed the game to a crawl. This has some interesting characters and most importantly, it has the HORRIBLE BLACK VOID card which makes the first trip to the Inner region even more dangerous than before. We play that once the void is drawn, it goes away for the game and at that point no other characters can be drawn. This gives both players going through the dungeon or up the inner region method a bit of pause about hitting the Crown of command space.
In addition to the Werewolf mechanic, Blood Moon introduces the Day/Night cycle to the game with +1 and -1 vs monsters during this time. This is one of my most hated mechanics that has been added to Talisman. Don’t bother with it.
MauriceBastard: We’ve entered the arena of where expansions stop working when you are playing completionist, while there are some good cards here the day night and werewolf shit becomes too much to keep track of if you play with reaper as well.
#8 Talisman City
There are a lot of options that open up in the City, and a lot of strange new cards. I like the pets and I like the fact that with the City expansion GOLD actually starts to have value again where normally it was pretty useless mid to late game. You can pay to win using the City, with very powerful cards on sale. We’ve enjoyed this expansion but you have to make a choice: do you go the standard Highlands/Dungeon configuration or do you remove one of those, or do you make the game board MASSIVE and play with all three. Frankly I would probably play with Highlands/City at this point and leave the Dungeon out.
MauriceBastard: Overpowered shit galore the Alchemist will gape you.
While this has some interesting cards and characters, because it fundamentally changes some of the rules of the game with the firelands tokens, and does not mix well with everything else (if you play with EVERYTHING, the firelands cards won’t do much in the game), you do not need to get this expansion. “Destroying spaces” is a mechanic we started to see a lot more of in nearly all the later expansions.
MauriceBastard: Great expansion that needs to be played without other shit to help keep shit manageable, extra punishing late game.
We have only played with Woodlands 2-3 times. It is another big board to add, so you have to decide which to play with and which to leave behind. Most of the time I would choose to leave the Woodlands in the box except that it’s new and we need to find out what the designers were trying to do here! The board comes with a new mechanic where players draw Fate cards, which are quite cool, but it’s yet another mini game– and since Talisman tends to be beer and pretzels, some players are not keen on it’s complexity. If you use Woodlands, I would use it alone with just the main board for a few games and see how you like it. There are some really interesting and cool characters in this set like the Leywalker and Spider Queen. The art in this expansion is superb.
MauriceBastard: Shite, feels completely shite / haven’t played it enough because there tons of great content already so who wants to bother with Woodland.
This is really new, and I’ve only gotten one game with it so far. What I like about it is that it’s Fantasy Flight’s artists going to town on the main Talisman Board. They inherited the main 4E board from Black Industries and the art on it, while OK, was not up to the normal Fantasy Flight standards. Just compare the older main board with all the art on the other boards and you can see the difference.
Cataclysm fundamentally changes the game in that none of the spaces you are used to going to are going to be on the board at first, nor will they end up in the spaces that you normally get to them. Depending on the card draw, there may not be any place to heal, there may not be any place to get FATE points back or buy stuff. I think the best way to play this is to play without the city, with the Dungeon and possibly the woodlands/highlands. Since this is an expansion late in the development of the game, it will be very hard to divorce the content enough from player’s sets to see how it stands on it’s own. Overall I would say this is probably a good buy to get, event though the characters in it are a bit trash; much like Harbinger, there’s nothing that great except for the Barbarian and maybe the Scavenger. The Arcane Scion is powerful, but I hate the art on that card.
While cool and a bit of a must have since it’s the last blast we’ll ever see of FF’s Talisman, it’s not essential.
Mauricebastard: A last gasp at keeping Talisman fresh, a honest attempt to switch some shit up a lot, played once and it seems FINE.
I do not own this expansion, but probably will someday. The brilliance of the 2nd Edition Dragons expansion is that it was just a set of cards that went into the main deck which shifted the way the game played without fundamentally restructuring the entire experience. You knew there were dragon problems in the 2E game because dragon cards kept coming up and destroying you and stuff on the board.
FF went full bore on the Dragon’s expansion and it’s a totally different game, one which I would not play with any of the other expansions, including none of the other game boards. There is a lot of book-work between turns and Dragons will be a slow slow game compared to normal Talisman. This one is almost in the Don’t Buy section, but not quite. It does make for an interesting game if you are prepared for it.
MauriceBastard: FUCKING BROKEN EXCEPT WHEN PLAYED BY ITSELF WITH THE BASE, a way to switch shit up if you are playing weekly, a attempt to spice shit up that fails in a completionist “play with all expansions” game.
Mouth: My dragons is still sealed, and I think I may have only ever played it once, and maybe just the heros [sic], which were Meh at best.
PROBABLY DON’T BUY THESE
Only two on this list.
Totally forgettable. The characters in it are pretty dumb and I just don’t even want to integrate the adventure cards from this, let alone the added mechanics. I may comb this for adventure cards to add to my CORE SET+, but probably won’t play with the rest. Collectors only.
MauriceBastard: Unsure what this one is, I own it and have played it once I think, fucking can’t remember what it is, expansion fatigue has set in fully, old man who plays once or twice a year.
Collectors only. It’s just a total mess in play physically– it just doesn’t work well with another board between boards. We tried it once and it’s been in the box ever since. I’m not even sure I would recommend ever playing with the boards you need all together to make this work.
MauriceBastard: Shitcakes with a side of diarrhea.
The End papers
There wasn’t and there will never be a Talisman Timescape expansion for 4th Edition. Instead FF decided to make Relic which, yeah, no interest at all. We will never have the Astronaut, Space Pirate, Cyborg or essential ASTROPATH to round out the what used to be the top three characters in the game (from 2E :Prophetess, Monk, Astropath).
I also make this post with some emotional feeling that FF’s run is over despite at the same time thinking: THANK the GODS since there was just too much coming out for the game for awhile there (right around Firelands I was overwhelmed). I’m proud of what Fantasy Flight and John Goodenough did with Talisman. They did right by the license, for the players and obviously it was lucrative to some extent! I was happy to support them by buying (nearly) every single expansion the day it was released.
With the end of the Games Workshop relationship we are absolutely at the end of an era with Fantasy Flight (though that could be said when they were sold to Asmodee too). They will be putting out some great individual games for sure (like the new Game of Thrones: Iron Throne), but their Golden Age is over as they will never have a license so rich with possibilities and an amazing board game back catalog as the Games Workshop one: not Star Wars, not Warcraft, not anything. Lament though we might, what we need to do is pick up the GW licensed stuff that we want right quick!
Talisman has become a pick and choose your expansions game, different from v2 of Talisman which played WONDERFUL when you used everything. Version 4b can’t be played in total, or perhaps it can if you are 16-24 years old and don’t have true responsibilities and can focus fully on playing epic turn maintenance cluster fuckery. Now some people want Talisman v4 to be like v2, to have a “complete” version. A version that includes the best expansions that play well together. A version that you keep “shuffled” together and play over and over, ignoring the expansions that add too many new rules or to much turn maintenance bullshit. Fucking just play v2 if you want complete. Perhaps my picks for a complete V4 would be:
The Sacred Pool
For the small boxes… The reaper, is essential. Frost March and Sacred Pool are also good… More endings and the warlock quests were good additions. The blood moon is a little Meh and managing the whole day/night mechanic is tedious. Firelands is cool, but the flame shit and destruction of everything is again tedious, but can prove both beneficial and Terrible all at the same time… I think it’s a keeper. I have no experience with the harbringer.
For the big boxes… Dungeon and Highlands are both great, borderline essential. City is better than the original and makes gold worth having, but not essential.
Other… The neither realms is cool, and brutal… It’s good. No knowledge of the deep realms.
Also, I purchased the conversion kit for the original black library release of talisman. This gives you a complete second set of cards for the base game so it matched the ff version. I selectively added duplicates of the adventure deck cards to the base game. Basically adding all of the monsters and events… And I think some of the bad cards like the poltergeist and hag. I did not duplicate any of the magic items or bags of gold… But I would have to check to be sure. This was necessary when 4ed come out, as the base set was not balanced enough for a good play through, deck cycling was too frequent, and monsters scarce because people were holding them for trophies. I think it was also good for the first few expansions… At this point I could probably take all of the duplicate cards out since the adventure deck is massive with only half of the expansions in use.
We need to face facts, despite the size of the Iphone 6+, it’s still not a very good form factor for gaming. All the really good stuff, with a few exceptions, is on the ipad (or the 3DSXL!). Mostly I can’t read the stuff on the iphone (I want to say — “anymore” here but it’s not that) since the screen size is still super small, and they just don’t do the type big enough for most games. While I liked quite a few games for a short period, many got too annoying at the screen size to really bother with for long, including, unfortunately, Heroes of Normandie.
So I’m left playing Tigris and Euphrates, (cheating) Backgammon, King of Dragon Pass and now and then, Ascension. For those with iphones and no ipad to play actual games on, I want to point out a game in a genre that I thought could not be done at this size: an RTS!
Auralux 2 is a stripped down RTS game with a lot of stuff going on for all it’s minimalism. The staples are there: real time attacking and moving fleets, building up fleets and timing. The setting is an abstract space war. I thought that there was no way this could be anything good seeing the istore entry, but it is and quite addicting at that.
What’s good about it? It’s an RTS on the phone for starters, and because it’s so minimalist, the controls are super easy. Tap and drag is pretty much it. There’s no base building per se, just minimal upgrades and moving fleets. For the basic gameplay, everything is awareness and timing. When to attack, when to defend and build up, and when to move a fleet to a strange position for a ‘drop.’ I figured from the demo I would play just a little bit, but then it got real addicting once I tried some of the not-free constellations. They have some really odd stuff, like moving planets, super novas and the like. This adds some tactical challenges that are not present in the free demo so if the demo doesn’t totally grab you but you like it, grab one of the constellations.
The game is relaxing, but it does get very difficult at the INSANE stars within a constellation. I’ve only beaten the base one and the first Constellation so far. There’s one level I just CANNOT get past currently.
Best thing is that it’s free for the basic game and just a few bucks per constellation (about 8 levels each) after that. I’d recommend getting the free version and then one constellation if you liked that. If you can finish all levels in that constellation, you are probably going to be itching for more.
A rare occurance: an iphone game recommendation!
Gamehole con in Madison is growing. Though a local Wisconsin con, it’s very professionally run an organized, with good swag and lots and lots of gaming. This year was definitely bigger than last year. It seemed a little crowded last year, but it was actually crowded this year. We were there on Friday and Saturday for most of the day. We got in a meh 5E game (it was for new players, so we probably should not have signed up) and a game of the new Game of Thrones: Iron Throne FF game on Friday. Saturday was all Tom Wham, with 2 games of Felician Finance and a 5-player game of Feudality (with my 6 year old kid). I got some food poisoning on Friday night, so felt like shit for part of it. The food trucks at the con were great (I don’t think my food poisoning was from them).
Game of Thrones: Iron Throne
Matt picked this up the day it came out in stores. Iron Throne differs from FF’s CCG and strategy board game takes on the game in that it uses a modified version of Cosmic Encounter to resolve the conflict in Westeros. It’s not heavily modified, so Cosmic Encounter players will have little problems picking it up. People that have never played CE before may have a bit of a brain shift as there is no map to fight over and the win conditions are different from many of the other GoT games.
How does it play? We got in a single game on Friday and I can speak to the changes from CE but not too much on how a big 5 player knock-down drag out game will be as we only had 3 players. First, your planets in Iron Throne are your characters and they can get killed. Second, you have a faction and a leader of that faction chosen from your characters. Depending on the leader, your faction will have a different uber power.
Unlike CE, your goal is not to put your influence on characters (planets) but spread all 5 of your influence to other player’s faction boards. While this is similar to CE, it’s worth noting that, as far as I can tell, there is no way to remove influence once it’s placed.
Characters each have 4 power on them to start (like CE ships). This can go down and up, but unlike CE, if the power on a character ever goes to zero, that character is out of the game. They can no longer attack or participate and their character cards in your deck only count as a zero attack card. Power flows back and forth from the faction’s leader to the character based on what’s happening in the game. Factions usually have 24 power between the leader and characters, but this can change.
The Flares from Cosmic are now included in a faction specific deck that each player has. The faction deck has your attack and negotiate (called Truce) cards like CE, but has a set of what are essentially Flare cards that are tied to each character in your faction. Each attack of defense must involve one of your characters, and in each encounter, you can play that character’s ‘flare’ card, or that of your leader, to effect the outcome. The powers on the cards are pretty wild. My favorite during the game (as Baratheon) was the Onion Knight who allowed me to change my played card for any attack card in my hand instead.
Other than picking your faction, you have to choose one of that faction’s characters as your leader. That character cannot die, and his or her ‘flare’ cards are always playable. The rest of your leaders can be killed during the game.
Challenges work similar to CE with some subtle differences. Offensive and Defensive allies can choose to join either side with one of their characters, and the helped player can decline the help (rather than the other way around in CE). Attack cards and Negotiate cards are in the game, but no other types (no Kickers for example). The number range caps out at 20, and doesn’t hit the higher numbers like 30 and 40 that CE does. This means that what you bring in terms of character power is a lot more important at times than the cards played.
Truces and Negotiation work a bit differently in Iron Throne as well. If your opponent plays an attack card and you tried a Truce, you lose but you get to take a hostage from all the players on the winning side.
Hostages are cards taken from another players hand or their deck. Sometimes you will get trash, but other times you will grab a character card or one of the high attack cards. In our game, Dan was sitting on Matt’s 20 attack card the whole game. Hostages can be traded as part of a deal or any type of discussion. Hostage character cards give leverage over characters, as they can be used to do 4 damage to that character, which in most cases will take that character out of the game. This is good to do to the clear leader, but in Iron Throne, as in CE, your enemy today will be your friend tomorrow, so ham-stringing a potential ally later in the game may not be the best idea.
There are also mechanics to reduce a factions overall power by cutting down the crowns that they have in their pool, either on their leader or on their characters. This is a bit like removing ships from a game of CE, except it has the added effect of making characters more vulnerable to being killed.
The main factions are all represented in the game, and there is a good sense of asymmetry with the leaders and the different flare cards that characters have. This is not as variable as CE, but I think that’s just fine. The factions are internally diverse, with 5 potential leaders within each faction (so about 25 ‘aliens’ included in the game). No, it’s not a new DUNE, but Iron Throne is a keeper.
We got in on one of Tom Wham’s game sessions during the con and played Felithian Finance. Great game, should be officially published! It’s essentially a stock market game which seems super boring to even imagine, but it’s not. It reminds me of a goofy version of Sid Sackson’s Acquire with a lot more randomness and fun. Where Tigris took Acquire’s concept to mechanical perfection, Felitihan takes the abstract concept of ‘companies on a grid’ and turns it into something definitely Wham-esque.
The basic play is buying stock (secret or open) and then starting or increasing the size of companies on a board. Dice are rolled and if the number comes up on top of a company, it starts paying dividends. Players get the stock price (which they control to some extent) and dividends (which they don’t control) at the end of the game. The game has a lot of interesting choices and is very quick for the depth– only about 45 minutes each game we played.