In my mind, the greatest video game of all time is The Secret of Monkey Island! It’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s humorous, it’s adventuresome, it’s silly, it’s romantic, and it’s non-linear. Many people say that most graphical adventure games, up to Monkey Island, were fairly linear. With the advent of Three Quests, Guybrush Threepwood (that’s who you control in the game), could try to solve three puzzles concurrently. If he got stuck on one, maybe he could make progress on one of the others. Monkey Island was very innovative on that front.
How Many Times Have You Bought It?
Here’s a metric to see how much you like something: How many times have you bought it?Ask yourself, how many times have you bought Star Wars (or your favorite movie)? On VHS tape, on Laserdisc, on DVD, on Blu-Ray! Or your favorite album? On Album, cassette, CD, and streaming! Or … your favorite video game.
Here’s how many times I have bought Monkey Island:
The Secret of Monkey Island (original and Speical Edition): Amiga 3000, iPhone, iPad (twice), Playstation 3
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge: Amiga 3000, iPhone, iPad (twice), Playstation 3
The Curse of Monkey Island: Windows 95
Escape from Monkey Island: Windows 95 (?)
Tales of Monkey Island: Playstation 3
I love this game, and will replay it every few years. It makes me laugh every time, and I have a ball reliving the game.
Disney Acquires LucasFilm
Not that everyone doesn’t already know this, but Disney bought Lucasfilm lock, stock and barrel. And that barrel of Grog includes Monkey Island. Ron Gilbert even tweeted, asking Disney if he could get the IP for Monkey Island back:
Dear @Disney, now that you’re not making games, please sell me my Monkey Island and Mansion Mansion IP. I’ll pay real actual money for them.
As to my knowledge nothing ever happened on this front. I have heard that Disney is afraid that they might dilute their “Pirates of the Carribbean” franchise if they allow Monkey Island to move forward.
Pardon me while I beg for a moment: Please Disney! Please let Ron make the final Monkey Island! I will buy it three times! (See my record for buying Monkey Island stuff!)
And thus we come to the saddest part of this. Neither The Secret of Monkey Island nor LeChuck’s Revenge will work on your iPad or iPhone if you upgrade to IOS 11. The Monkey Island games are 32-bit applications, and the newest iOS won’t support those anymore.
And Disney won’t let them update it anymore. Or they won’t spend the resources. Or something.
In this day of viruses and security holes and hackers, you probably want to upgrade your devices to the newest IOS 11.
So, you can:
Upgrade and lose Monkey Island
Buy a Playstation 3 and download it
Keep an old iPad around and play it from there
Boot up your old Amiga 3000 (will it still boot? I think so!) and run it there
R.I.P. Monkey Island
I love Monkey Island. I would love to see it updated for IOS 11. I would love to see Ron Gilbert write the final installation (so we can know the real secret of Monkey Island!). I would love to design a Monkey Island board game (such a fun IP). I would love to just see Monkey Island get some more love.
I don’t know if we can do anything to bring it back … but HEY DISNEY! I will buy Monkey Island stuff if you put it out!
Did that help?
UPDATE: GOG has Monkey Island!
A few weeks ago, my friend sent me an email: GOG has the first few Monkey Island Games available!
Perhaps more exciting, you can also get The Curse of Monkey Island! I have an old Windows 95 Box whose SOLE PURPOSE is to run The Curse of Monkey Island (COMI)! With the GOG version, I can now play it on my Mac laptop. I know that COMI is not considered canon by some people, but I think it really fits well into the Monkey Island mythos. Heck, it’s worth it just because of Murray.
If you don’t know Murray, you have to play the game, he’s hilarious.
Anyway, just wanted to shared you can still get Monkey Island in other ways!
So, at the latest RICHIECON 2017, I decided to cull some games from my collections I just will never play again. I wanted to give them away at a raffle, but then I realized that people may not want some of the games I want to cull! So, rather than inflict a game on someone who doesn’t want it, I instituted a Penny Auction. Yes, a Penny Auction. Bidding starts at a penny and goes up however it goes. The record for highest bid this year was held by Junkerman for … Alien Uprising. For 100 pennies!
Why did I put my copy of Alien Uprising on the Penny Auction block?
I have decided that I really don’t like games where I have to roll dice to tell me what to do. I know the Dice Tower guys hate this mechanic too … see this video: Sam’s #1 is Rolling for Actions/Movement. And this is exactly what Alien Uprising does. You roll to see what you can do that turn. There are some strategies to mitigate this with re-roll abilities and the like, but I find I do NOT enjoy this mechanic and thus don’t enjoy this game. (Neither does Sam Healey). Sadly, this may be the reason I never finish my Nemo’s War review: I just really hate this dice-rolling mechanic for actions. (Nemo’s War looks great, I just don’t think it’s for me).
Junkerman, who paid 100 pennies for Alien Uprising, really went to town on learning this game! He found some house rules that Richard Lanius uses to make the game better, he brought it to his game group! I’ve asked him to share his review of the game below. Enjoy!
Junkerman Review of Alien Uprising
Alien Uprising review
The board can be confusing during the game, as several components and spaces are similar colors and shapes. Debris tokens are difficult to keep track of, and the character markers are too small. All the little fiddly energy markers and repair markers are such a pain –DON’T bump the table, or you may as well start over. Sliders are so much better in fiddly games. Heck, all you need is a bunch of those Hero-click bases with the number ranges you want, then just set one on the card and click to keep track of energy, ammo, repairs, etc… Also, am I the only OCD player who thought that the cardboard ship components should not be all different sizes? The odd sizes aren’t used for a larger, more readable font… No reason for this.
I was confused about a few things until I watched a YouTube play-through which went through all four phases. The first round was like, “Okay next I roll the dice… Looks like I got some wrenches –they might not be as useful on the first turn, maybe I should re-roll them. Hmm… Better check the rules to see what other things they can do…” And I had to do that with almost everything. The video play-through gave me a better feel for what’s good and bad, and where to push your luck.
This sheet chronologically organizes the rules through setup, then in order through all four phases. 20x easier to look up a rule.
There was a good deal of confusion about the (two) numbers on each space relating to movement, line of sight, melee, and where the aliens go –likewise there was also some confusion between sectors and zones relating to where the aliens can go, line of sight, melee. etc… Example: Diesel’s heavy blaster says it can attack all creatures in one ZONE. It says nothing about SECTORS. Also, it doesn’t specify if it acts like the grenade. Does one hit wound all aliens in that Zone (ie. does one hit represent one shot, or a whole clip of shots)? We extrapolated from other weapons that one hit represents one shot, but the weapon lets you use a lot of shots at once, and then you apply the hits (dice) to aliens one at a time in any order you choose –but only aliens in one sector (within line of sight), and only one zone. The ability to attack multiple aliens, and the ambiguity with ZONE are both answered in the FAQ.
Being able to wound aliens while defending (especially with the laser sword) was confusing. We just used Richard’s heroic defenders home-rule to do a max of one wound if the player’s defense roll was higher than the alien attack rolls, but technically, this lets you hit multiple aliens if several are attacking.
Because of the aliens being able to access the ship from all sectors, we thought players in the ship could help other players in any sector. The ship is actually not considered to see all sectors, only sector 4. Also in the FAQ.
Once we figured things out, the game mostly played smoothly. Then it was just a question of figuring out how to squeeze in some strategy while being overwhelmed with damage control tasks.
It feels like a cross between “Defenders of the Realm” and “Elder Sign.” We also compared it to “Lord of the Rings” with the expansion, which was so unwinnable that we just refer to it as “Getting Killed by Sauron.” We might start calling this game, “Getting Killed by Aliens.” My gaming group has a small masochistic element which causes us to occasionally pull out a particularly broken game which nevertheless has fun or nerdy elements. This game might fall into that category, but it could be too long and too fiddly to get played on such occasions (the elements aren’t as fun).
First off, I don’t favor the dice approach to taking actions. I think most reviews refer to this being a particularly frustrating element. I love Arkham Horror, but I hate Elder Sign. This has the worst of both. You can get stuck in Arkham horror, just from what’s happening on the board, and you can get stuck in Elder Sign from bad die-rolls. Here you can get stuck from both. Getting stuck is frustrating. You probably have 8 things you need to do on any turn, 4 of them might be critical, but you might not be able to do any. I generally avoid games which have a “lose your turn” effect –I’m buying the game to play it, not to just sit and watch… I do like the “Yahtzee” mechanic to get extra action dice, but I think the game would play better with every player having one or two standard actions, and then the random extra actions feel more like extra fun rather than scraping the bottom of the barrel to do something.
We used the three Richard Launius home-rules. We’re pretty sure we wouldn’t have won without them.
After playing, several of us described the game as “too swingy,” meaning that you can go from doing pretty good to doing terrible in one turn.
I give it a 4, because several elements were completely ignored in the base game. 1. We all chose characters whose powers affect the dice. This (and lucky debris) was the key to winning for us. I almost feel cornered by the game into choosing the same characters because of this –it doesn’t feel like you want a strategic mix of talents, just more control over the dice… …We almost always got the extra action dice. Now, although it’s clear that extra action dice are one of the keys to winning, at no time did we feel like we were really able to handle the alien onslaught. Basically, we were just slowing them down, and having barely won our first game, I can say that we really don’t expect to win very often. It’s brutal. 2. The “Line of Sight” numbers on spaces were initially confusing, and later ignored as shooting long distance was a very inefficient use of dice (which are the premium resource). We completely avoided these and always shot at short range. If these are to be useful, there needs to be a strategic weapon which is regularly used at medium and long ranges. 3. We found the turret, scanner, and energy thingy, but left them in the dust as they required both repairs and crystals –the critical resources for our escape. Our strategic interests in fixing the ship are too heavily opposed with using one of the devices. Interestingly, we did a couple of strategic “suicide runs,” where we’d leave a player in a zone with aliens to prevent them from advancing. Lucky rolls helped there, but regardless, that strategy was super helpful. I give the game a plus for that sort of situation. However, another down side was the alternate (impossible) win condition of the rescue ship. I don’t see how you could ever win this way. Even if you could manage the aliens (you can’t), you’d run out of gestation cards long before the ship arrived. Our ship made it only five spaces along the rescue track (12 to go) with only one gestation card left. Even if you start with the homing beacon, it looks impossible –not a strategic option…
This is definitely a coop game. I think there is a fair amount of true cooperation. First, you have to distribute the dice. That requires some teamwork. Second, there are often sacrifices which need to be made by an individual to help the group. Third, many powers and skill cards can be used to aid other team members.
Home rule ideas:
Next play session, I want to add a few of my own home-rules. Through most of these, I want to embrace the possibility of bad die-rolls being an ordinary part of game play, and not necessarily a game-ender. We noticed that this is managed to some degree by using “useless” dice to “pick up” debris. Here are a few other ideas to push the game into a true “easy mode.” Some of these ideas could be used to replace the lame debris (anything powered by crystals) with the “future expansion” debris, where “Future expansion #1” is one of the items below, etc…
An expendable “decoy” on the ship that can be launched (with an action die) to prevent all troops being added to one sector that turn. This would give the players at least one guaranteed option for strategy in managing aliens (obviously, Diesel has the sonic grenade if he is among the crew).
An expendable item that lets you spend ALL the dice to do something cool (a semi-strategic use for one terrible die-roll). Or a replacement for lame debris. Ideas:
Transporter: Teleport everyone back to the ship. This would be really nice if the previous turn everyone had used the last action to pick up debris.
Scanner: reveal all debris in one sector
Regroup: Everyone draw a character card
Energy Pod: Everyone recharge all items
Warp Field: Prevent drawing next alien gestation card.
Tractor beam: pull one debris (from any zone) into the ship. If it’s an alien and there are no players in zone 0, then you lose, otherwise fight alien.
Rolling three aliens gets you the bonus dice (current rule) and the addition of three aliens causes alien confusion (new rule) ==> alien special abilities (tunnelers, archers, leaders) don’t activate this turn, but melee resolves normally.
Alien Research. Spend 3 alien dice on the ship (all on one turn) to give +1 to all shields this round.
One crystal is a “blue crystal” (total: 1 blue, 2 regular, and 1 red). The blue crystal can be used twice (eg. to power the turret, and then transferred to the engines).
Earlier this year, my mother passed away. She was a wonderful Mom and a giving, caring person. One of the things I will always remember about my Mom is the hope and optimism she gave to my life. During her recovery, she always had a positive attitude and did the best with what she had. She taught me this lesson as a young boy by telling it to me: Make the best of the hand you are dealt and she showed me this lesson as she approached her rehabilitation during her last few months. I miss you Mom.
Game Design Philosophy: Make the Best of the Hand You Are Dealt
Each player is dealt 4 hero cards at the start of the game and as you play, you typically play 1 card and get 1 card per turn. Sometimes you start with junk, sometimes you start with exactly what you need, and sometimes you have to just survive until you get what you need! Sentinels embodies the Make the best of what you are dealt concept, and it’s very thematic! In sooo many comic books, the hero pulls out a victory by doing something slightly offbeat (working the stuff around him, using special information, or trying something risky). And sometimes, the hero loses! Sentinels captures this spirit by giving you some cards, and you have to make due with what you have.
Strategy vs. Tactics
My friend Josh and I have this discussion: what’s the difference between strategy vs. tactics? In the end, it boils down to the timeframe of a plan you concoct. If a plan is to be executed over a “long term”, then it’s “strategy”. If a plan extends to the “short term”, then it’s “tactics”. For our discussion below having to do with board and card games, strategy is the long term planning and over more than just a couple of turns. Tactics are the plan for the next turn or two.
Is Sentinels a strategic game? You could argue, since the villains, hero and villain cards are randomly dealt and selected, there can’t be any strategy, as you are just reacting to the cards being played. Clearly, Sentinels is tactical, as you react to the cards that come out. But is it strategic? Absolutely!
Consider Baron Blade (one of the bad guys from the intro deck). In order to defeat Baron Blade, you have to stop him from bringing the moon to the earth! You have 15 turns to do that. Once you stop him, then he becomes a combat terror doing quite a bit of damage. The long-term strategy: concentrate on stopping 15 villain cards from coming out by any means necessary. A secondary goal would be getting prepared for combat with him once you stop the moon from crash-landing on earth.
As you play cards, you must consider the short-term effects (tactics) and the long-term effects (strategy). Should I play an ongoing card now to help later (strategic)? (Fortitude, in the example above is an ongoing card that helps reduce damage) Or should I just do something immediately helpful?
The game can be hard, and you can still lose because of randomness. But that’s what I want in a game! I want to know I did the best I could at both long-term and short-term planning. And I may still lose. But at least you went out doing the best you could.
CO-OP: The co-op Game
Co-op: the co-op game, my own creation, has this design philosophy throughout: Make the Best of the Hand You are Dealt. You are given 5 cards to start, and from those you do the best that you can.
So, absolutely, it’s definitely a tactical game, as you play the best moves you can for the next turn or so.
Is it a strategic game? I would argue YES.
Many, many, many playtests have the players just barely winning or losing at the very end of the game. But only if they have some idea what’s going on! If players don’t have a longer-term plan for when to use COOPERATE actions, when to use DISTRIBUTORS, when to use CUSTOMERS, when to use the special powers of the characters in play, they will probably lose.
The end of the week is a critical time. At the end of Friday, goods move automatically from the Warehouse to the Storefront. This will only happen 2 or 3 times per game (depending on the number of players and difficulty), and you have to plan ahead to make sure there are enough Goods in the warehouse.
The Storefront will almost certainly close at least once in the game. Are you ready for it? Do you keep some cards in your hand for a good SHARE action on those turns? Or do use COOPERATE actions?
Managing the VIBE. Because the Park only lets you go to OKAY on the VIBE track, you have to be careful. Do you try to get everyone AWESOME early on so you can get some extra cards? Or do you get everyone to OKAY and save cards for the long-term to boost the VIBE?
Which cards do you keep? Each player has a hand-limit of 5. At some point, you will have to make some long-term vs. short-term decisions.
When do you play CONTINUOUS GROOVE cards? Most CONTINUOUS GROOVE cards are not immediately effective, but will shield the players from harm in later terms. By playing these cards, you are employing strategy.
I admit this blog posting is a reaction to some criticism that “Sentinels and CO-OP: the co-op game are too random”. CO-OP: the co-op game takes a big heap of design philosophy from Sentinels, and I believe BOTH games have both strategy and tactics that help mitigate the randomness.
At the end of the day, I like games (like CO-OP and Sentinels) where you “Make the Best of the Hand You are Dealt”. I believe the wide variety of cards makes it more fun to try to figure out new combinations. I like them both and think they are great fun.
Unicornus Knights is co-operative game for 2-6 players. Players take the role of advisors to the princess who is trying to take back her kingdom. She wants to march (naively) straight back to her kingdom, but that’s suicide! So, as her trusted advisors, you try to recruit, move, or (if you have to) kill other characters on the way there.
It’s a really neat, original concept that attracted me. The game has an Anime feel, but it’s not based on any known intellectual property. The Anime theme may make it “look” like a kid’s game, but it’s not. It’s a deeply strategic cooperative game that’s fun. In spite of the Anime theme (because Anime does nothing for me), I like this game. If you like Anime, I suspect you will like it more.
My impression in 4 words: good game, bad rulebook.
I have the AEG version (as of October 2017) of the game right now—it’s basically their first version of the game. My understanding (from some BoardGameGeek threads) is that some things were lost in translation for the rulebook.
The rulebook looks like it would be good: lots of colors, very readable text, page numbers, and references throughout.
But the rulebook has problems.
As of right now, a second edition of the rulebook is apparently being produced (see BoardGameGeek link here.) This is because there are a lot of things left unclear.
Units. Are Military Tokens on the board considered “fighting things”? Or do you only fight Empire Characters? (Short Answer: the Military Tokens move and fight as well as the Empire characters)
Combat. The main mechanic of the game is fighting, and it is very poorly described. Please please please read the rewrite before attempting this. There are about 7 things that need to be clarified! The rules describe one scenario in depth (number 1), but what about the other scenarios?
Kingdom Character attacks Empire Character
Kingdom Character attacks plain Military Unit
Kingdom Character attacks Empire Character WITH Military Units
Military Units attack Kingdom Character
Military Units attack Princess
Empire Character attacks Kingdom Character
Flavor Text. I love flavor text as much as the next guy, but 4 pages of flavor text when the combat needs SO MUCH MORE EXPLANATION is frustrating!
Wasted Space. Considering how big this rulebook is, there seems to be a lot of wasted space: the back of the rulebook, the last page holds no extra information except for credits. I wouldn’t care so much IF COMBAT WEREN’T SO POORLY EXPLAINED.
If I wasn’t so interested in this game, I would have given up on it. I ended up going to BoardGameGeek looking for FAQs (there isn’t one) and clarifications (I found a bunch in the forums). I tried watching a few videos on YouTube but they didn’t help.
At the end of the day, (I will say link this for the third time), it was only after I found the rewrite here that I finally felt I had a handle on how combat really worked.
There are production problems. The rules state the the Kingdom Characters (the good guys) have a white circle border and the Empire Characters (the bad guys) have a black circle. Can you see the difference? No, you can’t because they both have a white circle!
In order for me to figure out which characters were Kingdom and which were Empire, I literally had to put out all the Character cards and the Tiles (all of them!) and match the tile to the picture. I wasted at least 5 minutes of downtime sorting the tiles into Kingdom Characters and Empire Characters. And that wasn’t fun.
Where Are the Player Aids?
The only summary of the game is found on a two-page spread in the rulebook:
The game really needs a player aid to describe the turns. Honestly, they SHOULD have used the last page of the rulebook, but it turns out they just made it black.
It seems a wasted opportunity. As I was learning/playing the game, I had the two-page spread open, and honestly it took up a LOT of space and got in the way. It would have helped a lot to either have it (a) on the back of the book or (b) on some player summary cards.
No Solo Player Rules!
Okay, how many times do I have to say this? Saunders’ Law: All Cooperative Games Should Have a Solo Mode! The game officially only supports 2-6 players. My first blush was to play “as-if” you play in 2 player mode, but that means managing fourdifferent characters! So, I played “as-if” I were in a 3 player game, and it worked just fine. It was a little much working 3 characters at once, especially for the first time playing through.
So, I would have preferred some solo mode with fewer characters (because working more than 2 characters really makes it harder to learn), but the one player working 3 characters seems the “natural” solo mode for this game. Why couldn’t the rulebook had just one sentence?
To play Unicornus Knights in solo mode, the solo player works three Kingdom characters and the game plays as if it were a 3-player game.
The game works well as a solo game.
Now that I’ve gotten that frustration out, let’s get into the game. The tutorial (included in the game) is a good simplified scenario for learning the game. This is something the rulebook does right. You play with a much smaller map and just go through the game in a few rounds to get the hang of it.
The tutorial set-up worked very well. It introduced just enough of the concepts that I felt comfortable enough to try the main game.
The Main Game
The main game is a LOT bigger and intimidating, but it is really fun! There’s a lot to keep track of, and a lot of effects to keep track of—notice the display of Empire Characters to the left. As you play, you have to consult the Character cards of the Empire cards a LOT, so keep them handy.
The game takes up a lot of board space. Between player cards, Player character boards, the tiles, the Support and Fate and Event cards, the Empire character cards, the tokens, the dice and the Princess, the board fills up quickly!
The Fate cards are a very interesting concept!
When two characters (one Empire, one Kingdom) get close enough as they are moving around the board, something happens! They may fall in love, they may hate each other, they may become allies, they may immediately attack! It’s interesting! It throws a wrench in the works, because you never know what will happen when one of your (Kingdom) characters gets close to one of the other (Empire) characters. Not every Empire character will end up being evil! Some will help, some won’t. But it’s an interesting (and mostly well-executed idea).
There are a couple of problems with the Fate cards:
The rulebook describes how the Fate cards work, BUT IN A SIDEBAR. If you aren’t looking for it, you will completely miss this mechanic. And it’s so interesting!
You might miss this rule if you are concentrating on the main rules.
The Fate cards are described as a pairwise relationship, but it’s very difficult to notate that. The rules tell you to “place the Empire Character next to your Fate card and character card”, but this becomes so unwieldy so fast. As noted earlier, the game already takes up a lot of board space, and moving the Empire character cards around is NOT practical. What the games needs are a set of small tokens with the pictures of characters on it: you can then place the picture tokens on the Fate cards and take up no more space on the board. Or something like that.
Some Fate cards don’t make sense. The Fate card below says “This character gets …”. Since Fate cards are played on TWO CHARACTERS, which is “This character”? The one who played it? Both? Fate binds two characters together.
I almost stopped learning the game because I was so frustrated with the rules. Without BoardGameGeek and its forums, I may have given up. And that’s a shame! Because this is a neat game! It’s deep, it’s strategic, it’s fun, it has enough randomness to keep things interesting, but enough strategy for a good game.
There are a lot of problems. It almost feels like this was a Kickstarter game: there were enough rules problems, production problems, inconsistencies and poorly-thought out mechanics (Fate cards are cool, but poorly poorly notated).
If you don’t mind slogging through all the problems, there is a good, nay great game here! But, if a second printing comes out, just mayyyyyyvbe you should wait until they fix all the problems.
As of right now, I like this as a solo game (in spite of the rule problems). I suspect it will work well as a multiplayer game, but I need to get it to the table with some friends before we can decide that …