Thoughts on The Others (aka the Xmen vs Cthulhu board game)

The big ass the Others Box was waiting for me when I got home from GENCON (pretty nice timing there) and I’ve played four times now with three very different groups of people.  I know some that read this may not have gotten their kickstarts– I’m sad for you, truly I am.  That waiting SUCKS ASS!

I was the SIN player three times, and played as Faith agents once.  This is not a review (won’t review a game unless I’ve played it at least 10 times), but some feelings about the game and it’s mechanics, both because I do not normally like this style of game generally, and because it is a MONSTER.  The Others will draw you in with it’s beautiful art (Adrian Smith), solid graphic design and cool miniatures, but does the gameplay match the aesthetic quality that it’s worth buying? I think so, but it’s not for everyone.  Unlike Blood Rage, which is one of the best board games ever made, not everyone on the planet will like The Others.

What is the game like?  One side plays as the Faith agents (the Xmen) and one player plays as a SIN (Cthulhu).  The game is played on a small, fully revealed map filled with monsters.  The Faith player has to complete a mission tree to win the game, and the SIN player has to kill off most of the Faith team (4 kills out of 7 members).  The missions involve killing certain monsters, rescuing people or gaining objects.  Each ‘story’ has an initial mission, then other missions after the first one is completed that the players can choose from.   This is complicated further by a type of story: Terror, Corruption or Redemption, which determines the type of bad stuff that happens during the game.

TheOthers2

How does it play?  Unlike Dead of Winter where players have their own objectives, there is no real need to have multiple people playing the Faith team.  The Others is essentially a 2-side, 2-player game.  However, managing all the Faith team members can be a chore and just like in an RPG when planning an ambush or get-away, multiple heads are better than one.  I think the game is best with three (two Faith players controlling two Faith Agents each, one Sin player), BUT, if you only have one friend to play with, The Others will be JUST FINE.

I’m going to compare the game play itself with Descent and Advanced Heroquest, which are similar to The Others in that you have a GM that is trying to kill the players.  Descent though, while fun, is a mass of details, a total mess of counters and tracking all this shit everywhere. AHQ is a random dungeon crawl that can really drag with the totally random map.  The Others stands on the shoulders of Decent, Doom the board game and Advanced Hero Quest in that it strips out all the bullshit you don’t need present in those games.  Especially as the SIN player where you control all the monsters and events, it’s surprisingly easy to run and play.  The Faith players, mechanically, have it very easy as well and can concentrate on WHAT they need to do and not crap on their sheet.

First Mission ready to roll.
First Mission ready to roll.

Faith Agents can take 2 actions in a round and actions, like the new XCOM, consist of moving and attacking or attacking and moving, with ‘attacking’ being replaced with ‘cleansing’ when needed to put out fires or destroy corruption. n The board is full of hazards, so moving around can be costly– no move is done without careful thought (unless you are the guys that demo’ed the game before I did at Gencon, as you were not putting any thought in).

The SINS player can only react to an Agent’s move/attack, and can only effect that acting Agent and none other, so there is a dynamic risk reward there.  We’ve had multiple games where a hapless agent went in to complete a mission knowing she (looking at you Morgana) would immediately be swarmed and killed.

Faith characters consist of the following:

  • Health Track
  • Corruption Track
  • Special Power
  • Fight value
  • Skill value

That’s it!  The Xmen… I mean Faith agents can pick up items that add a few special effects (mostly just more dice) but running a single Faith team member or ALL of them at once is no problem as there’s not too much to keep track of.

There are four ‘classes’ (Bruiser, Shooter, Fixer, Leader) that equate to your standard thief, tank, caster, buffer and you must have two of each class and one leader to make up your team. Each agent breaks a rule in the game in some way and there are a LOT of them.  Six full teams (Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma, Omega, Sons of Ragnarok) exist with all the expansions and a group of extras that can be a full team themselves.  That’s just under 50 agents…lots of asymmetry for you there.

As SIN, you have a bunch of other stuff to deal with, but it’s not super complicated.  You move the monsters and play little trick cards and remember the effects of your SIN on the game and the Apocalypse card.  Probably the most complicated period is the end game where there could be members of the Hell Club, the Avatar, Controller, Abominations and Acolytes all on the table with multiple Apocalypse cards out to remember effects from. All in all, I feel that it plays REAL SMOOTH either side with very few burrs.

Play itself is exciting, with nearly every agent and monster move making a ton of difference.  There’s very few slough-off plays for either side where nothing happens.  Due to the Apocalypse track, the Faith side is always pushing ahead as it gets much unpleasant for them about turn 3 on.

Overall I would describe the play of the game as fairly fast and clean, with the only lags being when Faith players discuss what to do next, which they should and need to do throughout the game.  Like games with an antagonistic GM, such as Fury of Dracula, it can be tough as SIN not to fuck up and accidentally hand the players the win, but ever game seemed fairly close.

The game takes about 3 hours for a single story.  I think if we play more games, this will get shorter and may even hit between 1-2 hours.

Hell Club (grin) making an appearance!
Hell Club (grin) making an appearance!

Lastly, The Others has a lot of stuff out for it with it’s initial release, the box it came in dwarfed the Blood Rage box which I now keep in a massive pelican case so I can take it to work gaming club, people’s houses and stuff.  I’ve humped that fucker 2 miles walking in mid-winter from the bus stop and that wasn’t fun.  The Others has even more stuff– a mountain of miniatures and boxes. What should you buy? What should you not buy until you’ve played a bunch of games and know your group likes it?

The base set is FINE to start with, but get extra dice if you can.  +3 for both sin and faith dice is really essential.  You can play through the entire seven stories with just this set. It may be better to do this with just the Alpha team so Faith players don’t go insane with choices of Agents until they know what the fuck is going down.

Most of the expansions are additional Faith team members and the remaining seven Sin boxes (5 others).  All five remaining Sins have a box with two types of miniatures and the cards that go along with them.  Given multiple plays, your players may be able to put together a Faith team that can deal with your normal Sin choice (say Pride or Sloth that come in the main box) so you have a ton of choices to shake that up.  For simplicity, I have run Pride every time, which is a good learning tool to punish the players for going alone about the city, but I’m ready for LUST or SLOTH next.

Faith boxes have full teams that you can jump in with that likely synergize with each other in some way.  Most of the big Faith team boxes have extra stuff, like monsters (Hell Club members mostly), new city tiles, more cards or the dice bags.  I would say get at least one of the team boxes, probably Sons of Ragnarok biker gang (7 characters, no other bullshit so it’s probably cheaper than the other boxes) or the Beta team.   I did not get the Delta or Gamma team addons and I’m not regretting it at this point, but I may.  Gamma is probably the team I would get next.

Gamma team.
Gamma team.

The Apocalypse box adds an 8th story into the mix with massive miniatures.  You can probably wait on this until after you’ve played all the stories in the main game.

For those of you looking to pair down your collections and not buy massive games there’s a LOT of boxes of stuff with the Others to fill your shelves and unless you are going to replace Descent + expansions with this game, you may need a larger board game purge to fit it in your house!

There you go, after unpacking a lot of this massive CMON kickstarter and playing a handful of times, that’s what I think of the game.  Bottom line is, I was worried that I would not like the game as I do not like Descent very much (why I kickstarted Massive Darkness I just don’t know…) and The Others was better than I thought it would be.

Bruisers!
Bruisers!

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