A Review of Ni No Kuni II: The Board Game

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Ni No Kuni II: The Board Game and Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch for PS3

This is a review for Ni No Kuni II: The Board Game: this is a cooperative board game for 1-4 players, ages 14+.  But of course, we have to discuss the video game first!

The Video Game

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - GameSpot

Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch was originally a video game I played for my PlayStation 3 back in 2013.  I had picked it up because it had gotten good reviews as a solo adventure game (and it was by Studio Ghibli, which has a stellar reputation).  It was surprisingly addictive, and I ended up playing through the whole thing.!  My intense like of this game was a surprise on multiple levels! Why? Because (a) I am not in Anime (b) the game’s theme is slightly “cutesy” (c) the first few plays was fairly basic.   The game was quite addictive and really evolved as you played.  In the end, Ni No Kuni was one of my favorite PS3 games!

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Solo Games for PS3

The Board Game

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Back of the board game and back of the PS3 game

When I saw an announcement for Ni No Kuno II: The Board Game, I have to admit, I was very excited!  The PS3 game really captured my imagination.  Would the board game?

Components

The components are very nice and evocative of the original Video Game.

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Nice components
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Character Card for Bracken and her Higgledies!

Each player in the game takes the role of one of the characters: Bracken, Tani, Roland, Etc.  Each character has a different special power and their own miniature.

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Player miniature with her Higgledy, going on a Quest against the Grimchilla! Note that there are 2 Space, so you need two Good Guys!

Each player also gets help on the form of the “Higgledies”: little pets/sidekicks who help you in the game.

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The Board

The Board is nice and has nice art.

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The monsters are far too cute, and very evocative of the original game.

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A quest! And it’s rewards! 0 Exp, 2 gold (guildercoin) and 0 supplies (tomatoes)

In general, the components are very evocative of the original game.

Rulebook

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The Rulebook

The rulebook is very good.  It’s fairly short, gets to the point, and it has some nice examples and art.

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Contents

I am always very happy when the game describes what comes in the box.  NNK does a great job of this, showing actual pictures of components with some descriptive text as well!  Very nice.

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Shows set-up

A good rulebook shows a nice picture of the set-up as well (see above).  I wish they had some labels and a little more “step-by-step” set-up, but honestly, this was good enough.  You get a sense very quickly what the game looks like when set-up and how to play.

I was up and playing fairly quickly because the rulebook made it easy.

Gameplay Overview

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A solo game set-up

The gameplay is fairly straight-forward: you take your character (and possibly some Higgledies with you) on some quest(s) (you can send multiple characters/Higgledies on quests simulaneously).   Quests involve rolling dice, depending on how many characters and Higgledies you send on the quests.

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A Quest! You need at least one character or Higgledie to go on this quest!

Each quest has a monster associated with it: if you defeat the monster, you get the resources (coin, experience, supplies, and possibly 2 special resources).

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You need to roll at 4 or more on some dice to defeat the banger!

After all quests are complete (a failure means you simply don’t get the resource), you can use your resources to buy buildings for the map:

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This building costs 0 exp, 4 coin, 6 supplies, and gives 2 for the final battle!

Every building has a cost, but you need buildings!!  To defeat the final bad guy, you need the Kingdom Influence (upper right corner) of your all your buildings to be MORE than the Influence of the final Boss!

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Only a total of 6 Kingdom Influence for the final battle, but tons of special abilities for the character

By the end game (the game only lasts 5 rounds), you need enough power of your buildings to beat the final Boss!

That’s the basic idea.

Gameplay Discussion

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A losing solo game!

The game moves pretty quickly: sually it’s over in about 20 minutes.  The decisions are fairly simple.

  1. Which Quests do I want? (Can I defeat the monsters ON those quests? What resources are on that Quest?)
  2. How many Good Guys (characters, Higgledies) do I send on a Quest?
  3. If I win, which buildings do I buy?

To solve each Quest, you roll some dice (based on your combat stat: combat, ranged, or magic) to see if you defeat the monster.  So, the number of Good Guys you send on a Quest informs how many dice you get.

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In the end, the game is .. a little bit of a math problem.  (Don’t say this too loud or you’ll scare some people away).  What are the odds I will win this Quest based on the number of Good Guys I send?  Can I get enough resources to buy a good building?  Do the sum of the buildings beat the (Big Bad) Boss at the end?  The trappings of the game are very cute and thematic, but at the end of the day, this feels kind of like an abstract counting/math game.  That’s not a bad thing, but once you see it, you can’t unsee it (so don’t tell your fellow gamers).

Solo Rules

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A solo game that will lose …

The good news is that this game has solo rules (ya, Saunders’ Law), and these rules are easy to understand.   Unfortunately, the game doesn’t work too well (as given) as a solo game!  As you are playing, you don’t have enough resources to make a lot of decisions: you only have your character and 2 Higgledies. EVERY time I played, I just went on one quest, because I didn’t have enough Good Guys to even try multiple Quests!  And I got unlucky, each quest has a “mininum” number of Good Guys you place, and I NEVER had a Quest that could take just one guy.  Honestly, as a solo game, I never felt like I had a lot of choices: there was an “obvious” quest I had to go on, and that was all I could do … all  I got to do is roll dice.  For a while, I  was pretty down on this game because of the solo game!

BUT, if you take the role of 2 characters, and pretend the game is a 2-Player game, your decision space opens up!  Then, you feel like you can make more decisions, and it’s a lot more fun!

So, I will say this: play the solo game (from the rulebook) to learn the basic rules of the game.  From then on, play the solo game as two characters in a 2-Player game.  The game is much more interesting.

Big Bad Boss Special Powers

One mistake we made almost every time (in the first few plays) was NOT looking at the Boss  The endgame Boss you choose really changes how the game plays and honestly changes up the game quite a bit.  I would almost recommend IGNORING the Boss special powers the first time ANYWAYS (because the Boss’ special power makes the game more random).  Honestly, since you aren’t supposed to turn over the Boss until the last turn, you forget the Boss even HAS special powers.

Just ignore the Boss special powers for your first few games.  You will (on accident) anyways.

Conclusion

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At the end of the day, this is a very light cooperative game.  Actually, it might be too light for some heavier gamers.  The theme and the gameplay itself are both pretty light. It works much better as a multiplayer game than a solo game (unless you use the special 2-Player solo rule presented above).

We found that this game works (for my game group) as a “I’m waiting 20 minutes for Andrew to arrive”  game or an “End of the Night: Our brains are fried” game.   It’s a light co-op with enough decisions to be interesting, but not a lot of huge decisions.

The 14+ age rating seems weird to me: I think that younger kids (with the guidance of an older parent/adult) would really like this game. (It’s probably because testing games for 14 and under is expensive, and it’s usually just cheaper for the manufacturer to put 14+ on the box).    I can see this being a gateway game for younger kids to learn about some more modern concepts (gathering resources, buying buildings, computing the number of warriors to commit) in board games.

At the end of the day,  this is a pretty simple game (with some luck) and some nice components.   I don’t think this game for everyone.  If you like the theme, I suspect you will enjoy playing in this universe.  If you want to play a simple co-op game with your young niece, I suspect you and your niece would enjoy this.  If you want a very light co-op (end-of-night game, waiting for someone game), this is a good time filler.  If you want a heavier game, this is probably not for you.

 

Changing Perspective: Playing Solo in Cooperative Board Games With Limited Communication

At Dice Tower Con West 2020, Tom Vasel (Dice Tower) and Richard Ham (Rahdo) gave their Top 10 Most Important Games of the Decade.

Top 10 Most Important Games of the Decade 

At the 12:25 mark in the Video, Rahdo comments on how important Hanabi is:

[Hanabi] is an important milestone in the evolution of board game design because it is cooperative game where you have imperfect communication between players …

There are other games previously that had imperfect communication (for example: Shadows Over Camelot, Battlestar Galactica), but Rahdo’s point was that Hanabi (by being Spiel des Jahres winner) made imperfect communication a common mechanic in cooperative games.  Rahdo goes on further to say how imperfect communication was important because it allowed cooperative games to have “zest” and “surprise”.

Whether you agree with Rahdo or not, (Rahdo says he can show you  data on BoardGameGeek to back up his opinion), cooperative games with imperfect communication are very common and here to stay (Hanabi, Mysterium, Muse, Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons, Shipwreck Arcana, Far Away to name a few).

But what does that mean for the solo gamer?

Solo Rules for Many Cooperative Games: Usually Just Play 2 Roles

Over the past few years, I’ve had to come up with some solo rules for many games to learn them. As I’ve said many times, game teachings go a lot faster when someone knows how to play, so it behooves a board game to have a solo mode so someone can sit down and learn the game by themselves.   Most of my solo rules have been for games without imperfect communication: Sentinels of the Multiverse, The Captain is Dead, and Unicornus Knights to name a few.  In those games, it’s usually easy to just expand and make the solo player play multiple roles (like 3 in Sentinels or Unicornus Knights).   Those games work because the solo player is simply taking over other players’ position(s) (as well as his own) and playing the game normally.   No information is hidden, and the solo player can strategize with himself just like he would strategize with his compatriot. Out in the open.

But how can you play multiple characters/roles if information is supposed to be hidden?

Navigating the Abstraction Hierarchy

Let’s take a pointed detour.

In my job, I am a computer programmer (Computer Science).  Much of my time is spent trying to figure out why a computer program is not working.  It can be as simple as the input wrong, or something as complicated as subtle logic errors across many programs.  The thing is, you almost never know what’s wrong until you dig into the program.  To find the problem, you have to start at the top (intro) of the program and work your way down.  As you go down, you are traversing different levels of abstraction:

  • Is this a high-level problem?  (Program run incorrectly by user, files missing, etc)
  • Is this a medium-level problem? (Logic error by programmer, modules not communicating correctly)
  • If this a low-level problem? (Memory not initialized correctly, array bounds error)

This is a gross generalization, because there are usually MANY MORE levels of abstraction in a real running system.  This simple example, however, conveys the main idea of problem solving when finding errors:

As you traverse the different levels of abstraction, you have to refocus your attention to the level of abstraction you are on.  This means gathering new information about the level you are on, and just as important, forgetting some of the details of the previous level.

In a real world program, there are too many details to keep in your head all at once.  It’s absolutely important to focus your mind correctly and “forget” the unimportant details as well as concentrating on the new details.

Any programmer can tell you how important it is to be able to navigate through different abstractions to get your job done.

Changing Perspective

Another way to phrase “navigating abstractions layers” is to call it changing perspective.   We have to be careful with that phrase, because it means different things to different people.   For an ambassador or a judge trying to settle a dispute, he has to be able to see both sides: he has to be able to change perspective.  Anyone trying to get along with new people has to be able to see where they are coming from: they have to be able to change perspective to the new people.

What’s usually forgotten when you talk about “seeing something from another perspective” is that you have to be able to forget: Forget your own preconceptions, forget your own situation, forget your upbringing.    Forgetting is just as important as focusing when you change perspective.

Of course, changing perspective is hard.  How do you know what to focus on?  How do you know what to forget?  What are the important features to remember?  What are the important features to forget?   With practice, it becomes a lot easier.

Solo Rules for Cooperative, Imperfect Communication, Board Games

We took that detour to point out that being able to remember certain details and forget other details can be an important ability.  It is also the key to making solo rules in cooperative, imperfect communication board games.

The broad idea is simple: when you have to change roles in a cooperative game, you have to learn to “forget” the hidden information of your previous role.

How does this work?  Let’s take a look at an example.

Shipwreck Arcana

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Shipwreck Arcana

The Shipwreck Arcana is an abstract, logic puzzle game for 2-5 people.  Each player has a hidden number, and gives abstract clues to help the other players guess his number.  The information about the hidden number is very precise and exacting: they are just tokens (“clues” if you would) placed on cards to help discover the number.

It seems like there is “no way” you could make a solo game out of this, right?   I mean,  if I know the number, how can I “change roles” and forget the number I am trying to get myself to guess?   In other words, how can I forget?

The idea is simple: you are either the clue-giver or the number-guesser.  Imagine yourself trying to help someone guess the number (that someone is you, but let’s move forward).

  • clue-giver: When you are the clue-giver, you try to think about “What’s the best clue I can give to help this other person?”
  • number-guesser: When you are the number guesser, you can ONLY use the information the clue-giver has given!   It’s almost like being a detective: looking solely at the evidence, can you deduce what the number is?  It works because ONLY the state of the boards represents all the clues!!!

When you play solo, you alternate between these two roles, “forgetting” the information of your previous role.  This works because you can look at the state of the board as “the only information you know”.  None of the information in your brain can be used when you play, just what’s on the board itself.

The complete solo rules for Shipwreck Arcana can be found here.

Conclusion

Quite a number of cooperative, imperfect information board games have solo rules that can work using this changing perspectives idea.

  1. Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons (with solo rules): Play two Amazon Warriors who must “forget” what the other has done when choosing actions
  2. Far Away (with solo rules):  Play two teammates who must “forget” what the other has done when choosing actions.
  3. Shipwreck Arcana (with solo rules): See above!

It can be hard to wrap your mind around this at first.  If you want to try this idea out, I’d recommend playing Shipwreck Arcana first with this idea—the state of the board very precisely characterizes what the solo player knows, so it’s easier to “forget” the previous role (as you just concentrate on the board itself).   Another idea that worked in Far Away was to to write down (with pencil and paper) “what is the shared information” between two characters—you can only act on shared information that is written down when you are in either role.

Changing Perspective is all about focusing on the important and forgetting the unimportant.

Review of Far Away. Part I: Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions

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Far Away: A Cooperative 2-Player Game

Far Away is a cooperative 2-player game that was on Kickstarter back from November 2018.  It promised delivery in October 2019, and it just delivered a few days ago to me March 14th, 2020.   It is a space-themed game, with a Star Trek Federation “tip of the hat”.  But, the Federation is much more … brutally profit minded in this game.

First Day!

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Back of the Box

So, when I first got this box, I was excited!  I set aside some time to punch it out and play my first game.  After two hours of punching out cardboard, I decided I would wait until the next day to play my first game.  There is a LOT of cardboard to punchout!

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So … much .. cardboard.  The leftover punchout Skeletons …

I normally keep all the punchout skeletons (see here), but there is NO WAY I can keep them in this game (at least, not inside the box).  There is just SO MUCH CARDBOARD!

Hexes make up the world: there are quite a few of them (a lot of them are repeated).

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There are a number of hearts (for representing lonliness) and stomachs (for representing hunger) and a variety of generic tokens (see above).

Without a doubt, most of the cardboard taking up the box are the monsters.  There are “about 6” tokens for every monster in the game.  There are a LOT of monsters!  They have thought ahead and given us baggies for the monsters … a baggie for every six monsters!

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So, it’s very cool that they have a plastic baggie for every type of Creature, it is OVERWHELMING.  The game barely fits together when you put everything back in the box.

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So many plastic baggies for the creatures!

If you are exhausted just looking at the pictures, imagine having to punch it all out!

Art and Graphic Design

The art in this game feels like a throw back to a different time.  For some reason, this game “feels” like Nemo’s War and games from a bygone era.

The art is definitely not super hi quality art … it feels like “dated” art.  But you know what?  It works in this game.  This game feels like it’s a “kit” for exploring space back in the 70s.  What little art in the game is mostly on the monster tokens and the hexes.

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Most of the art is either on the Creatures or Hexes

EVERYTHING ELSE in the game is written with a “dated” typewriter type font, with a few colors here and there.

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The game has completely embraced the dated theme, and, you know what?  It works for it.  This game will not win any awards for best art or graphic design, but it’s very functional and it works for this game.

The Rulebook

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The Rulebook is decent.  But it’s long, because this is a fairly complicated game.  The rulebook is over 28 pages, and describes a lot of rules, particularly for describing the monsters’ behaviours in the game.  Be aware that it will take some time to get through the rulebook.

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The game does talk about the components, but this game shows no pictures.  It only sorta describes the components. This was kind of frustrating (“Why are there 24 + 16 Anomaly cards?  What does the +16 mean?”), but I was able to sort of puzzle most everything out.  Usually, the +XXX meant that there were extra cards of that type for a particular mission.

Set-Up

The Set-up doesn’t show a picture of how the game looks, but it does show abstract representations of how the game should look. There are plusses and minuses to this method (Plus: easier to describe the cards and show more info, Minus: You can’t see what everything should look like EXACTLY on the table).  It worked ok.

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The first set-up!

I would have loved a picture (like the one above) showing set-up of my first game, but now that I have done it, it’s not too hard.

Tone

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So, this game has a sense of humor.  You can first see that when you open the box!  (See above!)

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Wrong Side! Humor!

All through out the game, there are little funny puns, dry humor, and little digs here and there.  This dry sense of humor accents the old dated feel, and again makes the game a little more.  The Rulebook was a little hard to get through, but the little touches of humor (nothing distracting) helped make it a little bit easier to read.

Only Two-Player Rules?

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This game has only rules for TWO PLAYERS.  That’s it.  This is a 2-Player game.

Normally, I would rant a little here (“Why can’t you have solo rules?  Please follow Saunders’ Law!“), but I will step back for a second before I present some solo rules.

The is 2-Player and doesn’t allow communication unless both players are on the same space.  Period.   I believe you are allowed to see what the other player is doing, but you are not allowed any communication (“No head scratching, no poignant coughs”) until both players are on the same hex space.  Thematically,  you have to be together to talk (and some silly thematic explanation like “The Corporation can’t afford comms, sorry!”).

Mechanically, the game MAKES you come together every so often or you get too lonely and die!  Seriously!  At the end of every turn, both players take “One Loneliness”, and if you ever have 5 Loneliness Tokens, you die of Loneliness!!  So, you are forced, by the mechanics of the game,  to get together every few turns.  In the meantime, though, YOU CAN’T TALK!

It’s hard to have solo rules when the game enforces “Loneliness”.

Solo Rules

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Can we even have solo rules?

So, I understand why it’s hard to have solo rules.   How do you turn off your brain and just run each character separately?  Well, you can!  Two simpler example of this are the solo rules for Shipwreck Arcana and Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons!

In the solo rules for both of those games, you have to switch roles and “ignore” the information from a previous rule.  You can do that here as well!

To enforce this, I have a pencil and paper and “write down” what our goals are while both players are together.  When the two players are together, they can talk and broadly strategize.  I physically write down what we say to make it clear what we “know” together!  Once both characters separate, you play each character independently.  Each player is still allowed to see what the other player is doing and act on that  (based on actions what the other player is doing, as you are allowed to “see” what the other player is doing and what resources they have).  But you just can’t have them talk.

It takes some practice to play each character separately, but this can work as a solo mode.  Many times during solo play, you ask yourself “Do I know what the other guy is doing?”  If not, then you have to move forward using only the information you have (written down) or can see (from the actions/resources) of the other player.

First Game

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All Set-Up to Play!

My first game was a solo game using Mission 0 from the Mission book.  (Oh! Did I forget to mention that this game has Missions that changes up the game?  Sorry!)   Mission 0 has you build 3 Scout Towers.  In doing so, you get to do something simple while still exploring, gather resources, exploring, fighting, and doing the majority of things you do in a main game!

You’ll notice in the picture above that I have the Rulebook open.  You will have your nose in this rulebook THE ENTIRE TIME.  There are just so many rules.

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Game Summary Card (only 1?)

Luckily, the game has a ROUND summary card which really helps the flow of the game. Even though the Rulebook was always open, this little card helped moved the game along.

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My first game took about 1.5 hours, although a lot of that time was resolving rules.  The game itself was probably 30 minutes.  I explored and built hexes.   That part sort of reminded me of me of Robinson Crusoe as you explore the island (or planet in this case).  Each hex you explore has “something” revealed: you role a die to figure that out!

  1. Resource: a cube endemic to that Biome type
  2. Monster: Gulp!
  3. Anomaly:  Something random from the Anomaly deck?
  4. Resource Track: More resources, like a mineral vein

I think the Exploration was my favorite part of the game!

Creatures

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In my first game, I only had one creatures.  I got VERY LUCKY in my exploration die roles.

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Each creature that comes out has SO MANY RULES.  Size, Habitat, Threat Radios, Pack Size, preferred Biome, type, diet, behaviors …  (see above).

Here’s the thing:  the Creatures are sooo complicated, the game says you can have a 3-Player game if the third player runs the monsters!  After playing just one creature, I am not sure I played him correctly!  It was aggressive, but he preferred a particular Biome.  So, when I left his Threat Radius, does it still move?  Maybe back to it’s preferred Biome?  Or does it try to move towards the last time it could detect me?  Both seemed reasonable, but the rules weren’t 100% clear when it came to Creature movement.

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Looking through every bag for the creature I want …

Oh yes, it’s very hard to find the Creature you want, as you have to search linearly through every bag!  I think to get a sharpie, put the name on each bag and put the in alphabetical order so I can find each creature much faster (log time)!  I just haven’t done that yet.

Conclusion

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A Winning game for Mission 0!

Back in the early 80s, I used to go to Wargames West every Friday night.   I played all sorts of different games at the store.  This feels like one of those games I used to play.

I liked this game, it felt like a throwback!  It sorta reminded me of Robinson Crusoe  (from its exploration and building) meets Nemo’s War (from it’s style, presentation and rulebook).  I think you REALLY NEED TO PLAY THIS SOLO before you try to teach it to someone else.  And you absolutely need to punch it out and organize it before you even show anybody this!  There is SO MUCH WORK to punch this out.

It’s going to be hard for me to play this with only 2 people, because it seems like I never have just two players: it’s either solo or 3 (or more).  I CAN see playing it solo and I CAN see playing it 3 players (with the third player running the monsters).  Playing solo (with the solo rules I have) is a bit tough:  it’s too easy to “cheat” and tell yourself what you are doing, but I kind of like that exercise.

Hopefully, you can get a sense of whether this is for you based on my description of the gameplay and art and tone.  At the end of the day, I liked it despite the perceived complexity.

 

Review of Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons. Part I: Unboxing and First Impressions and some Solo Rules

Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons, Ravensburger, 2020 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

I had seen that Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons was available from Amazon for March 2nd.  I went ahead and pre-ordered it, expecting it to arrive this week.  For “some reason” (probably money), it was delayed and Amazon asked me if I wanted to still get it … one month later.  Nope.

I went to Target: I saw that it was available on their website …was it in the store?  Ah rats. I didn’t see it.  Was it up front because it was new?  I looked around and didn’t find it.  I was about to give up when an employee asked me:

“Can I help you?”

“Do you have the new Wonder Woman board game?”  (Employee searches on his phone).

“You mean this one?  It’s in the back … we haven’t put it out yet”

Viola!  He brought it to me … and I went home and immediately played it.

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Wonder Woman from Target!

Unboxing

The box is nice, although something about the box art strikes me as  … off.  I like the art, but the proportions of the ladies (?) seem off a little bit?  Honestly, it’s very minor.

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The game looks good when you open it up:

The board itself has almost a “piece of art” on the back.  That’s pretty cool.  I would have perhaps enjoyed a different map for gameplay, but the art was pretty cool.

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The back of part of the board …
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The entire back of the board! Wow!

There are .. little cubes.   They are fine.

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Little cubes …

The cards aren’t linen-finished and they seem a bit rough, but I really like the art on them.   They are easy to read and easy to understand.

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Hero Cards
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Villain Cards
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Relic Cards (go into Hero deck)

Components

The board looks great.

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Main board: looks great!

There are minis!! The minis are much nicer than I expected!  They look really nice!

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Minis! In a nice plastic insert too!

The bad guys just get standees from the punchboard (hah hah).

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The resource cubes remind me of the cubes in Lords of Waterdeep: the cubes in Lords of Waterdeep are supposed to be Clerics, Fighters, etc.  I always thought that was a very weak corrrelation and kind of cheap.  I have the same problem here: the orange cubes are “Ares troops”, the purple cubes are “corrupted Amazons” and the white cubes are “Warriors”.  Really?   I feel like those are poor choices.  Shouldn’t black cubes be Ares troops?  (All the bad guys cards are black!)  And maybe blood red cubes or grey cubes should  be corrupted Amazons.  It’s fine, it just seemed … athematic/cheap. EDIT: maybe it’s for color-blind people ?  If so, I withdraw my objection to the colors chosen.

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Little cubes …

Solo Game

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Intro game: Playing Solo!

Gah!  No solo game! (Hello?  Saunders’ Law?) The box says “2-5 Players”.  So, I did a standard “trick” for solo play: I played two characters.  This worked pretty well, but there is some subtlety here.  In the game, you aren’t allowed to talk once you’ve seen your face down cards.  You have two cards up you can all see, but everyone also has 3 face down cards.  I think, thematically, you are strategizing, then once you get into the field, you can no longer communicate as much.

For solo play, this can still work:

  1. Strategize with yourself what each character will do “in broad terms”.  I.e., “Wonder Woman (character 1) will go after Ares and Artemis (character 2) will go after Ares troops on the other side of the board.  I plan to use one of my face up cards in action spot 3 because it will double the effect!  Meet up with me on the same space if you can!!”
  2. Turn over the 3 face down cards for character 1 and plan out her turn! Assign 3 of the 5 action cards to the 3 action spaces FACE DOWN.
  3. Move on to the character 2.  Without looking/remembering what you did for character 1, go ahead and plan out character 2.  This can be a little tricky, but try not to remember what cards you played  for character 1 when you plan character 2’s turn.  Assign 3 of the 5 action cards to the 3 action spaces FACE DOWN.
  4. Turn over each player’s action 1 spot simultaneously.  Decide what to do (which action on the card).  You can perform these in any order!  (Player-Selected Turn Order).   Then do the same for the action 2 spot, then the action 3 spot.  Basically, just like a 2-Player game, except you are playing two characters.

I was able to get through a full solo game with these rules.  Honestly, it worked pretty well.   (It felt “sorta” like the solo rules for The Shipwreck Arcana: you have to “forget” what you did as one role when you do the next.)

Rulebook

The rulebook is, in general, fantastic.  It’s easy to read and follow along with.

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Rulebook is quite good

The first pages show all the components.

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Components!

The next pages show how to set-up the game.

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The rulebook teaches the main rules, then shows exceptions.

This rulebook made it very easy to get going very quickly.  This is one of the better rulebooks I’ve read in a while!  My only complaint, I think, is there was no section for FAQs or typical questions; I had a few questions when playing that I am sure others have had too …

“Can I pick up a Relic if I land there?  Do I have to wait to the end of all actions or just one action?  It says at the end of the action, which implies I can pick it up immediately, but I don’t know”

Game Summary

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There’s even player summary cards!

The game flowed pretty quickly: Ares acts and moves, then “does something bad” (adds more troops, the corrupted Amazons move towards the palace, something like that …).

The good guys (pardon me, good gals) then do good stuff.  Generally, each player gets 3 actions, chosen from one of 4 emblems (symbols) on a card that they have chosen to play.

More concretely:

  1. Each character gets 2 face up action cards each.
  2. Players look at their face up cards and “broadly strategize” (honestly, not a pun).  Players talk about what they are going to do and maybe even decide to use one of their face up cards.
  3. Each player then gets 3 face down cards.  No more talking.  Each player now assigns 3 of their 5 cards to their 3 slots. FACE DOWN.
  4. All players now simultaneously show the action card in slot 1.  In Player-Selected Turn Order, the players cooperatively decide who should play what action from their card.  Once they are done, repeat for slot 2 and slot 3.

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The good stuff the characters can do: FIGHT, SUMMON WARRIORS, WISDOM, MOVE.

  • FIGHT (sword): do damage to Ares’ troops (2 swords) or Ares himself (4 swords).
  • SUMMON WARRIORS (star): If you are on a “starred” Location, summon Warriors (white cubes) which you can use to give extra pluses if they are on your Location.
  • WISDOM (book): Turn corrupted Amazons back to good (well, send them back for therapy: they don’t come back on the board)
  • MOVE (footprints): Either move or use 3 move to take out a barricade between Locations.

Once all the Good Gals have gone, your Defense goes down for every Ares’ troop on the board or corrupted Amazon in the Palace (by 2).  If you reach 0 defense, you lose!  If you take Ares down to 0 Hit Points you win!

First Game

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The first game was easy to set-up and get going.

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I played conservatively, and I think it took about 2 hours.  Which is surprising, because the box says 45-60 minutes!   I went through the Hero deck about 2.5 times, and I just barely beat Ares when his last card came out.  Turns out, I didn’t need to beat him then: I could reshuffle his deck and the game keeps going …  I probably could have played another 15 minutes, but I went for the final shot at Ares!

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I had fun, but it felt a little repetitive after a while.  I think it’s because my play style was to always eliminate all threats (Ares’ troops, corrupted Amazons) when possible and do damage to Ares if I could.  Basically, I kept the Bad Guys under tight control, and they were never much of a threat.

I never used the SUMMON WARRIOR action.  Ever.  There’s only a few places on the board where you CAN summon warriors, so first it’s hard to do.  And frankly, warriors seem like a liability.  Why?  Because so many of Ares’ actions are “Corrupt Amazon warriors” (turning them into corrupted Amazons).  So, I spend the resources to summon them, only to have to have turn into something I have to deal with?  No thanks.  It never made sense in my game.   I don’t know if other games will go like this, but I am very concerned that this will be an issue.

Conclusion

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A Winning Game!

So, I like this game.  I had fun.  Some components, like the mins and the board are great, the cards are decent (the art is good, but the card quality is just okay), and the cubes are probably the weakest components.  I am concerned that the game might be repetitive, and that the SUMMON WARRIORS doesn’t ever get used.  Luckily, there’s still 2 more Big Bad Villains to fight (Circe and Cheetah), so the game may take on a whole different dimension.

I plan to play some more solo games and some more multi-player games.  Stay Tuned.