Buyers Guide to Fantasy Flight’s Talisman

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.

 

talismancore

CORE game

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.

ESSENTIAL EXPANSIONS

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.

reaper

#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.

talisman-frostmarch

#2 Frostmarch

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.

HIGHLAND

#3 Highlands

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.

Chivalric Knight
Cleric
Dread Knight
Magus
Dark Cultist
Knight
Merchant
Sage
Alchemist
Highlander
Rogue
Sprite
Valkyrie
Vampiress
Assassin
Druid
Dwarf
Elf
Ghoul
Minstrel
Monk
Priest
Prophetess
Sorceress
Thief
Troll
Warrior
Wizard

 

NON-ESSENTIAL, BUT GOOD TO GET

sacred

#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.

 

dungeon

#5 Dungeon

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.

 

oh yeah!
oh yeah!

#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.

bloodmoon

#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.

city

#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.

The NON-ESSENTIAL

firelands

#9 Firelands

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.

 

woodlands

#10 Woodlands

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.

cataclysm

#11 Cataclysm

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.

 

dragons

#12 Dragons

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.

harbinger

Harbinger

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.

deeprealms

Deep Realms

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!

Maurice!Bastard:

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:
Base
The Reaper
The Frostmarch
The Sacred Pool
The Dungeon
The Highlands

Mouth:

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.

Gamehole con and Game of Thrones: Iron Throne

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).

got

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.

doreah

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.

img_1739

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.

Felithian Finance

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.

img_1744

Kickstarters of note- Dungeon Degenerates

I’m not going to be backing as many kickstarters going forward, but this is one I had to go for.

Dungeon Degenerates.  I’m not too sure about the actual game play, but I couldn’t say no to that art.  Very Ally Morrison-esque from the golden days of Games Workshop.

Still 12 days to go on this one!  Note the SLAYER references…

slayerdd

slayerdd2

Blood Bowl stuff!

Here we are, 13? 14 years since the last officially published version of Blood Bowl and finally a new edition is nearing release.

Stuff from the unboxing:

Watch that. Templates are plastic for scatter. Comes with 12 players per team, so you’ll need another sprue for an entire team of 16. The minis can be put together without plastic glue. The bases are BIGGER than we are used to but they have pegs for the balls! The pitch is pretty much awesome and double sided. That’s the main thing people have had to make from scratch if they couldn’t find an old version. Looks beautiful.

Odd and cool stuff:

Comes with a D16 dice for generating players getting hit with stuff, so no more chits!

Biggest thing is the RETURN of the special play cards. I loved these from the original game though they did cause problems in tournament play (serious tournament play that is). The design of these is critical.

All in all:
Fucking awesome.

Fantasy Flight and GW – there goes Talisman

Fantasy Flight and GW are no longer working together.  The announcement is here.  

talisman

Basically the only thing I really care about is that Talisman will go out of print again. I will have to care for my stuff instead of abusing it as this level of support for Talisman we probably will NEVER SEE AGAIN. I just picked up the Harbinger Expansion to make sure I had everything (except Dragons) that was out for 4th Edition.

Other stuff that was good from FF: Chaos in the Old World,  Dungeonquest (updated version, not the first FF version) and Chaos Marauders.   Dracula was cool, but not my favorite game.  Other stuff, like the 40K and Fantasy CCG’s, the 40K Talisman version and Blood Bowl manager were all totally forgettable.

RPG wise, this is going to fucking sting for people that liked the 40K RPG.  Since it was closer to WFRP and had a TON of support from FF, I can see people weeping about this.  It wasn’t anything I was interested in, but I can see this as a loss.

FF not having the WFRP licence anymore is FUCKING GREAT as the 3rd edition of the game was an experiment gone wrong. Yes, it had some very very good adventures (witches song and the new version of the enemy within are notable examples); yes, it begot Edge of Empire which is a fine game attached to a boring ass license, but WFRP still is one of my favorite RPG settings and 3rd edition with all it’s pieces and chits and crap was just too much to deal with.  I’m fully aware that both 1st and 2nd edition’s rules are not great as well, but you can play it with the book, some paper and pencils and regular D&D dice….  GW: Give the WFRP license to DESIGN MECHANISM and be done with it.

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!

New Fantasy Flight GOT game based on Cosmic Encounter

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The current big Fantasy Flight Game of Thrones board game is just OK, definitely not my favorite area control/war game engine.  It could and should have just been a direct heir to Avalon Hill’s Dune board game with the dials and treachery cards,  unfortunately, FF wasted that on their derivative space kitty sci fi setting with Rex, complaining the whole time that they couldn’t get the Dune license to remake the classic while to GOT one was right there!

I suspected the new GOT board game may be that Dune remake we’ve been waiting for, but it looks just like Cosmic Encounter, which is not a bad thing since Cosmic is the best board game ever made.  Should be out by end of the year, and may have a demo at gencon.

More info here.

 

The OTHERs will eventually come

After a pretty long wait, backers got an email from CMON about the OTHERS, which is a game by the design team that brought you such games as BLOOD RAGE (my pick for 2015’s best board game by FAR).  It’s a big game with a lot of miniatures as is CMON’s purview.  It’s been a bit late, but like Blood Rage, not terribly so.   The game is apparently on the boats from the China manufacturers as we sit here.  With Blood Rage, I actually TRACKED the boats coming in as I was peeved that I did not pick up a second copy at GENCON and had to wait months to actually play it.  I was overly excited and Blood Rage, as many of you know because I’ve made nearly everyone play it, was worth the wait.

The Others I just can’t tell yet how great it will be, but fuck…while I was amazed at the Blood Rage kickstarter and vast amount of stuff you get– the OTHERS is ridiculous.  I couldn’t afford to get all the add ons either.  And where would I put them? The boxes do look great though…

TheOthersteams
The (addon) good guys.

I’m a huge sucker for Adrian Smith’s art.   Look at that shit!

The bad guys
The bad guys