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Gaming Friday

Between me having viral bronchitis for a whole frickin’ month and the usual host being away at WorldCon, weekly gaming has been on hold for a while. But no more.

Game one was a two-on-two team match of Krosmaster: Arena. It’s a tactical board game from the makers of the online RPGs Dofus and Wakfu. Shaterri and I saw it for sale at PAX and recognized the art style since the property has a tie-in cartoon we’ve watched a great deal of.

The game itself is a fantasy gladiatorial fight on a grid of squares. It has a strong feeling of Final Fantasy Tactics or a less crunch version of the D&D tactical boardgame. The formal rules determine winners with a victory point mechanic, but we played by simplified rules and kept going until one team was eliminated. The losses were fairly even all game, but my team was eventually whittled to a single mostly-melee character against two ranged enemies, which pretty much decided the outcome.

From the very few times I’ve played it, it seems melee characters have a tough time doing well given how difficult it is to get next to an enemy who’s trying to avoid you and how their attack powers aren’t harder-hitting than ones that can strike foes three or five spaces away. More plays and practice should reveal whether I’m missing something and whether playing with the standard powerup items changes things.

Game two was the boringly-named DC Comics Deck-Building Game, also with four players. It doesn’t innovate much from Dominion or a one-resource version of Ascension. Each turn, each player draws a hand, plays any cards that have special effects, then counts up total buying power to purchase additional cards from a central supply or, if lucky, defeat and take a powerful Supervillain. Every card is also worth Victory Points, with Supervillains possessing appreciable amounts and nearly everything else being worth only about 1. When all Supervillains are defeated, the game ends and VPs are counted. High player wins.

Every player gets a specific Hero card with a special ability, like an extra +1 buying power for each unique Superpower card you play or an extra draw for each Villain you buy. This encourages different play styles from each player, even if the powers aren’t all good thematic matches with their Heroes.

In the end, I tied for first. It was a surprise, and I still felt a bit confused and frustrated despite scoring so well. The other high-scoring player generated lots of buying power in straightforward fashion and bought multiple Supervillains. I struggled all game to build up my bank, mostly without success, but I had managed to buy four copies of a parabolically-increasing minor villain card and got a huge boost from them. It worked, but it strikes me as gimmicky and easy for other players to stymie.

It was a simple game to learn. There is less variance from game to game than Dominion has since there is no variability in what cards are available for purchase. There’s also less deck-tuning, and fewer and weaker combos. That makes the game a lot more luck-driven, which might very well be a light, fluffy aspect that the designers were looking for.

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