Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 12 – Friday

You are Friday, an islander who’s trying to help the very weak, very stupid, very shipwrecked Robinson Crusoe get good at life, and survive long enough to get killed by the pirates – or to kill them, take one of their ships and get out of your life forever.

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If I was Friday, I’d want this guy off my island ASAP.

Sometimes your boardgaming buddies are busy. Or you just want a quick game by yourself, a private island of play. More and more games these days also serve as solo games, but some are made especially for only one player. Friday is one of those games.

In Friday, you’ll be drawing challenges to see what the island throws at you – from exploring the island or examining the shipwreck, to wild animals and cannibals. Each card has a white number showing how many free cards you can draw from the Robinson deck – representing your hapless visitor’s sparse capabilities and many, many flaws.

The traffic-light coloured numbers are the goal numbers for the various phases, showing you the score you need to beat the challenge. You start in the green phase, then reshuffle and increase to the next phase each time you run out of challenges.

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Friday’s components, all set up to play.

Robinson starts with a lot of 0, 1 and -1 cards, with an occasional 2. So, even just aiming for a goal of 1 or 0 can initially be difficult to achieve without drawing extra cards. Each extra card costs you a life point, which can only be recovered 1 or 2 at a time from some card powers.

You’ll fail challenges a lot at the start. But that’s good. Robinson may learn something! You have to pay a life point for the difference between your card score total and the goal. If you drew a 1, 0, 2 and -1 against a goal of 4, you have to pay 2 life points. Here’s the good part: for every life point you pay, you can destroy a card you played. Goodbye 0 and -1!

 

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After drawing 4 cards for a total of 3, I pushed my luck too far. Robinson’s distracted… -.-

If you win, you can’t destroy any cards, but you get the challenge card and flip it over into your deck, representing what Robinson learned from the experience, and also giving you some cool ability, like being able to exchange cards you’ve drawn with ones in the deck, or healing life points, copying card abilities, doubling the value of a card, and so on.

You’ll need these powerful abilities as the phases increase, and against the pirates.

Because of this, you may sometimes want to fail challenges, just to slim the dumb from your deck. You don’t even need to draw all your free cards if you don’t want to. As long as you’ve got life points to spare, getting rid of excess idiocy is often a great idea.

It’s always an interesting decision: win and get a new card, or lose and remove bad ones, but have that same challenge come around again later, but during a harder phase.

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Robinson does have his moments. He’ll have more, with Friday’s guidance.

Once you reach the bottom of Robinson’s deck, you shuffle an aging card into your deck without looking, representing even more debilitating effects due to the stranded idiot now getting older as well. He’ll get hungry, scared, and more, shown by negative card values and effects that make you lose life points or ignore the highest value card you’ve played.

And that’s pretty much the game. Once you finish all three phases, you’ll face the pirates. They’ve got super-slow ships, so you can see them on the horizon from the very start of the game, and try to prepare your Robinson deck to combat these specific threats.

There’s a bunch of pirate ships in the game, with all sorts of powers, from extra draws draining more life points, to variable draw and goal numbers, to just really high goals to hit – like in the 40 and 50s. When your cards are more like 3s and 4s if you’re lucky, you’ll need to use a lot of abilities that let you draw more cards, double their strength or copy other card powers to get you through these final boss battles.

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Pirates are visible from the start of the game, and you need to defeat both ships to win.

If you haven’t realise yet, Friday is a funny game. It’s Robinson art is just so derpy, and even when you lose, you often can’t help but chuckle when you set Robinson to a challenge only to draw: weak, weak, distracted, eating. I think Friday invented facepalming.

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He’s not the hero this island deserves.

He’s so pathetic and idiotic that trimming the fat of -1s and 0s and shaping Robinson up into a lean, mean deck of 2s, 3s, 4s and powers feel all the more rewarding. Especially when you combo a dozen or so cards at the end and realise you can beat the pirates!

And if it all gets too easy, add in the -3 Very Stupid aging card, or try one of several difficulty settings included in the manual. Friday is like a training montage, of Robinson facing the same types of challenges over and over, getting slowly better until he’s ready – or not – for the inevitable finale which, excellently, always seems to come too soon.

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Beating the pirates is oh so satisfying.

Friday has good strategy and choices, like which challenges to tackle, when to lose on purpose to destroy cards, when to spend life points to stretch for a potential win, and how to manage your overall deck. Various pirates, difficulty levels and striving to beat your previous high score means the game has a lot of replayability, too.

If you’d like solo games or would like to try them, you can’t go far wrong with Friday. It’s a cheaply priced, very small box with fun, easy to learn mechanics, interesting decisions and some laughs along the way. If you ever find your crew’s not around and you’re stranded alone, you’ll have a much better time if you seek out Friday.

 

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Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 14: Dead Man’s Draw

Dead Man’s Draw is a fast, fun card game of risk and reward for 2-4 players that can be setup and completed in under 20 minutes. Fantastic little game of strategy and luck. We recommend it.

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Dead Man’s Draw has pirate-themed suits of cards, all with different powers. On your turn, you draw a single card out of the deck and play it onto the table, activate its power, do what it says, then choose whether to draw another card to play. Repeat until you choose to collect your cards instead of drawing another one or until you draw a card of the same suit as one you’ve already played this turn – if that happens, you bust and don’t collect any of the cards you’ve just drawn. Bigger risks may equal bigger rewards or maybe mean all those lovely cards are lost to you.

If each card you got was worth points, one player could take a clear lead. But in this game, it’s only the highest card you have of each suit that counts. Suits go from 2-7 (or 4-9 for Mermaids, which have no other power in the base game).

Each suit’s power is interesting and affects strategy. The Kraken forces you to draw and play two more cards, Swords let you steal a card from another player’s Bank (cards you’ve collected), while the Cannon blows another player’s card right into the discard pile.

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Hooks let you put a card from your Bank into play. Why would you want to do that? Maybe so you can play an Anchor so everything else you’ve drawn can be collected even if you bust. Or maybe the Oracle, so you can look at the next card before deciding whether to play it. Maybe you’ll put in a Key to match up with that Chest you’ve drawn – they only have power together, letting you draw from the discard pile as many cards as you just collected.

Each player also gets a character card with a unique power. In this gameSuz‘s made her Anchors more powerful, protecting all the cards before the Anchor like normal, but also protecting the Anchor and the next two cards she drew after it. Very useful. I had more powerful Cannons, letting me blow a card from Suz’s bank into my bank, instead of into the discard pile like normal.

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On the box art you’ll see this is a special International TableTop Day version of the game. It has an expansion inside giving the Mermaid cards some powers, as well as giving different rules variations. It’s interesting stuff, but we haven’t felt the need for it.

Dead Man’s Draw is a good game, with nice art, easy to learn rules, and strategy deep enough to matter but not intimidating. You can play strategically, or just draw till it feels right to stop. In that way, it’s good for all sorts of players. We recommended it.

And with that, we end our final review of Game A Day Fortnight. Check out my next post for a summary and closing.

Posted in Settings

Demonsea: Setting Sail

Fact one: demons are awesome. Fact two:  everything is better with pirates.

Combining them is an obvious move, yet I can’t think of a campaign setting I’ve seen that was dedicated to this concept. Hence, my new campaign setting: Demonsea.

I’ll post more as I develop the setting. But for now, read on to get the first sneak peek at this swashbuckling, demon-slaying world of mayhem and adventure!

Five years ago the Demoneye opened and the fires of Hell boiled the seas. Demons sailed their Hellships, lashed together from flesh and bone, out of the furious inferno and straight for civilisation. They arrived at the shores of the desert kingdom of Kalarash and brutal war has raged between the Kalarashi and the demon invaders ever since.

Further north, the colonial empire of Darbrin remains relatively untouched by the war. Their former foes, the Kalarashi, now serve as their primary defence against the attackers. Yet demons are insidious creatures and their influence reaches far. Demonic cults have begun to appear all over Darbrin. Smugglers bring in hellforged weapons, demonic artefacts, cursed writings, and a drug called Ambrosia that is rumoured to be made from demon blood.

Darkness stirs and fears become reality. Walls of old houses bleed red, the dead rise from their graves at night, and monsters that existed only in nightmares stalk the shadows of the waking world. The mere presence of demons has corrupted life itself, transforming harmless creatures of the land and sea into deadly threats, and turning already dangerous creatures into living weapons of bloodshed and destruction.

Even pirates cannot deny that the world has changed. On the waves, pirates are harassed by other pirates, sea monsters, hellships and zealous law enforcers who make captured criminals choose between death and becoming demon hunters. At shore, these dangers are replaced by demonic cultists, pirates-turned-thugs who have abandoned the sea, corrupted beasts and suspicious inquisitors who passionately seek to root out evil in the world.

Pirates being pirates don’t put up with any of this and even while fleeing from the law and other dangers, they often find themselves the unwitting heroes of this dark new age.

So, that’s Demonsea in a nutshell. I picture pirates being attacked at sea by demons on a hellship, or raiding a town during a demonic cult’s summoning ritual, or capturing a ship only to find vials of ambrosia, cursed artefacts or hellforged weapons on board. It’s a recipe for excitement!

But, you don’t have to play as a pirate. You could be a naval officer hunting down demons that have made it to Darbrin’s shores, searching out demon artefacts to destroy and capturing pirates and deciding their fate – or even working with them to fight the bigger threat. Some of these officers are extremely zealous – paladins of the sea, if you will – and are deadly serious about fighting evil, whether it’s pirates, monsters, demons or anything else.

Playing an inquisitor is another possibility, and one of my favourites. Imagine a wandering detective/exorcist and you begin to get an idea of what these guys do. Add a liberal splash of Inquisitor Glokta and Harry Dresden and you’re getting closer still. Grim loners whose minds are their greatest weapons and who are mortal but take on the supernatural on a regular basis.

Inquisitors travel the coast by land and sea, investigating crimes, particularly those where demonic influence appears to be involved; they root out cults and demonic smugglers, exorcise demons, and hunt down pirates from time to time – after all, pirates are cutthroat villains who spread the influence of evil in the world and are thus, knowingly or not, aiding the forces of Hell.

Speaking of aiding the forces of Hell, there’s nothing to say that you can’t embrace the demonic. Pirates, inquisitors or even hardcore naval officers could be ambrosia addicts, wield hellforged weapons, attempt to bind demons into service or even – oh yes! – capture and captain a fearsome hellship! There’s plenty of demonic fun to be had by all! It’s likely to corrupt your eternal soul, of course, but who says you can’t have a good time during the process?

As you can see, there’s lots of potential for fun and a variety of play styles. I don’t plan to expand much on Kalarash or the Burning War – as the Kalrashi-Demon War has been dubbed – for the “main” part of the campaign setting. Kalarashi will have a big part to play in the setting, but their homeland will remain “off the map” for the most part. If this setting takes off and I want to add more to it, Kalarash would be the obvious place to work on next.

But for now, as I work on developing Demonsea I’ll post articles and excerpts here. As this is a campaign setting rather than a whole new roleplaying system, most of what I’ll post will be “fluff” rather than game mechanics. I haven’t decided what system I’ll use for Demonsea yet, and I prefer it that way – then I don’t feel limited by what each system does and doesn’t offer. That said, I’m running a Demonsea game for my wife to help me flesh out the setting, and for that we’re using Savage Worlds which appears to be an excellent fit so far.

I’m really excited about Demonsea, so you can expect to see more of it in future.

So, sharpen your hellforged cutlass, take a swig of ambrosia and get ready to set sail for Demonsea!