Sunday, 8 March 2015

001. The Cardboard Cartographer issue 1.


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Welcome to issue 1 of The Cardboard Cartographer.

Editorial.


In this issue of The Cardboard Cartographer we'll be reviewing Love Letter.
But first I'd like to thank you for visiting our new website!

Each issue we hope to post some news, a game review and talk about topics relevant to table top games, such as mechanics, conventions, Kickstarter and so on.

I'd also like to mention that all opinions in this issue, and all subsequent issues, are those of their respective authors.
Please don't feel like they are a personal attack or an attempt to undermine or void the opinions of others.
Feel free to agree, disagree, debate and discuss, or simply ignore any or all that is written here.
Whatever you do, be civil. Thank you.

If you have any suggestions feel free to comment, email us, or hit us up @TCBCartographer on twitter.

News.

Golden Geek Awards.
The biggest piece of table top gaming news recently has been the announcement of  Board Game Geek's 'Golden Geek' awards.
For those not familiar with Board Game Geek it is the single largest online community and depository for table top gaming. If you need to find out something about a board game (and even buy one) you'll probably find it here.
Every year the premium/paying community votes on which games it thinks are the best of the year in certain categories, such as Card Games, Expansions, Strategy and so on.
The results for 2014 can be viewed here -  https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1326066/2014-golden-geek-awards-winners

While I congratulate all of the winners on their success, it is fair to say I disagree with some of the outcomes.
My gripes are with the Board Game of the Year, Strategy Game of the Year and few others here and there.
I will not go into the details of that here, but if you want to know more leave a comment or tweet me @DarKHaZZl3

Kickstarter.
As usual there has been a hive of activity on Kickstarter.
A great deal of projects are coming to an end in and around this week , so let's take a look at a few that have stood out.

Ghostbusters.

001 Ghostbuster Kikcstarter

 'Ghostbusters: The Board Game is an episodic adventure game for one to four players, who are charged with busting ghosts and sealing gates to the Spirit World. The game is customizable, cooperative, and highly re-playable. It features unique illustrations and figures based on original artwork and designs by Dan Schoening, the artist of IDW's Ghostbusters comic book series. Each Ghostbuster has a distinct role and unlocks unique abilities by gaining experience. The game offers modes for different levels of players, making it accessible to beginners and challenging to experts. Now is your chance to save the world!'

Ending on March 11th 2015, Ghostbusters by Cryptozoic is well over 300% of its funding goal at the time of writing.
There are several game play trailers if you want to check it out and see how it works.

Ghostbusters is one of those games I am always wary of on Kickstarter; full of miniatures, and a lot of focus on theme.
I feel that this game, like a great deal of Kickstarted miniature filled board games, is all theme and not enough game play.
It doesn't seem to offer players any real choices of how they can proceed, and this is a huge downside. It is also a big problem for me with a large amount of co-op games in today's market.
If presented with a choice where A is always better than B, people will always choose A. In this case, B is redundant.
This is game theory 101.
In games like this the game plays you, and I just don't like that in games.
I like to feel like I matter, and not just how I roll dice.

Needless to say, I do not think I'll be backing this one.

Thunderbirds.


002 Thunderbirds Kickstarter

'In Thunderbirds, you and your friends take on the role of International Rescue – a secret organization formed to render aid when all other means have failed. Meanwhile, your arch nemesis, The Hood, is threatening to trigger terrible disasters around the world in an effort to learn your secrets. If you can foil his scheme while completing your missions, then you and your fellow players win the game!'

Ending on March 28th 2015, Thunderbirds by Modpihius Entertainment is another retro feeling co-op game that has smashed its funding goal by over 600% at the time of writing.
I think a large part of this initial success is down to the project having an outrageously low funding goal of $20,000. Possibly a more significant factor is that Thunderbirds has been designed by Matt Leacock; creator of the hugely successful 'Pandemic' and the 'Forbidden' series of games.

While I don't think Thunderbirds is a great theme in general, it is certainly aimed at a specific audience; people who grew up watching Thunderbirds are generally between 20 to 40 which is precisely where the gamer demographic is.
In addition I actually think the Thunderbirds are perfect for a co-op game focused on saving the world; something Matt Leacock has done before, and done well.

Certainly one to watch.


Empires: Age of Discovery.

003 Empire of Ages Kickstarter

'AoE III has been out of print for 7 years now, prompting many fans and reviewers to call for a new reprint of the game.  When the rights to the game were purchased by Eagle Games, the expense of license renewal of the name from Microsoft proved to be too much, so the game was re-christened Glenn Drover's Empires: Age of Discovery (EAOD), but never reprinted.  Early in 2014, Eagle Games asked for volunteers from the BGG community, who really admired the game and who had played it many times, to work with the designer, Glenn Drover, and the CEO of Eagle Games, Rick Soued, to envision what a new, Deluxe version of AoE III might look like and to help them implement it.  After nearly a year of work, culminating last month in the NEW rule book, that envisioning process was complete.'

Ending on March 10th 2015, Empires: Age of Discovery by Eagle-Gryphon Games is another game that has blitzed its funding goal of $25,000, sitting at round almost 800% at the time of writing.

Again this project has a low funding goal, which when you take into account the volume of content involved is somewhat suspect. This aside, the game is essentially a reboot of Age of Empires 3 which is a highly rated game.
In all honesty I think this game looks very good on many levels. It brings together the AoE3 content and FAQ's into one solid game, and adds a few twists on an already successful mechanic and theme.

My main gripes are;
Firstly this is a very expensive game. $125/£80 is more than Twilight Imperium, with nowhere near the content.
Secondly,  having already published 'Through the Ages', 'Roll Through the Ages', 'Age of Empires 3' amongst many others, do they really need to take the Kickstarter route?
I'm not a fan of established companies selling a product this way, especially when a good response is almost guaranteed. I'm looking at you Mantic.

Regardless, a very tempting offering, and my pick of the litter for this issue.

 
'Love Letter' Review by DarKHaZZl3.



004 Love Letter Review Opening

Google - Fu.

Love letter is a bluffing and deduction based card game for 2 - 4 players, designed by Seiji Kanai and published by AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group), as part of the Tempest 'Universe.'

 If you'd like to know more, you can check out the AEG/Tempest Love Letter webpage here - http://www.alderac.com/tempest/love-letter
Alternatively head over to the Love Letter page on Board Game Geek - http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/129622/love-letter



Contents and Impressions.
  • 16 Game Cards,
  • 4 Reference Cards,
  • 13 Red wooden cubes,
  • 1 Rule book,
  • 1 Red drawstring bag.
That is it. The game is very small, very compact and very portable.

005 Love Letter Contents

The card art is fantastic and helps deliver the theme of the Tempest universe ( a sort of renaissance era, aristocratic theme) very well.

006 Love Letter Card Art

The reference cards are clear and easy to read which is exactly what you need them to be.


007 Love Letter Reference Cards

The rule book is nice and simple, clear and easy to understand. 

008 Love Letter Rule Book

My only problem with it being the prevalent amount of background information to build up the lore of the Tempest universe and set the story.
Don't get me wrong I am a huge fan of storytelling in games, but for such a light game, there is more text than there really needs to be.
In all honesty this is not an issue. That game is so very simple to understand and explain that this filler doesn't really get in the way.


The wooden cubes are just wooden cubes painted red. They don't get me excited or animated, but they serve their purpose well enough.


Game Play.

The object of Love Letter is gain the most affection form the Princess.
To do this, players must ensure that their 'Love Letter' reaches the princess ahead of other potential suitors.

To set the game up you shuffle the deck and  remove one random face down card (three cards if playing a two player game).
You then deal one card to each player.


009 Love Letter Set Up

Players take it in turns drawing a card from the deck, and then choosing a card to play from the two they now have in their hand.
When a player plays a card they must enact the action on that card.
Once the action is resolved, it is the next players turn.


013 Love Letter Gameplay 4

This goes on until one player remains (in which case that player wins the round), or the deck has been exhausted.
If the deck runs out of cards, the remaining players compare the card they have in their hand. The one with the highest number wins (draws are decided by players adding up all the numbers in their discard pile; the largest total wins).
This player is then awarded a wooden 'affection cube.


017 Love Letter Gameplay 8

The amount of players dictates how many cubes a player needs to win;

2 Players = 7 Tokens
3 Players = 5 Tokens
4 Players = 4 Tokens

The first player to gain the designated amount of affection cubes wins the game.
You can download the rules from AEG website (click here to download)
.

If you want to see it in action, I recommend you check out The Love Letter episode of  TableTop (click here to watch).


Personal Opinion.

Love Letter is simply great.
Game play is fast, snappy and with very little down time. It is a quick game to play, simple to learn and very, very enjoyable.
All perfect elements for a light and casual card game.

For the sake of being balanced, we'll look at some of the 'potential downsides.'

The game does rely on luck a fair amount.
The only real strategy comes from the deduction aspect of the game; figuring out what could possibly be in other players hands based on what has been already been discarded.
 However, due to the fact that after each round the cards reset, and the shortness of these rounds, I personally do not think that the game having a high luck to strategy ratio is a big issue.
After all, the game is meant to be a 'fun, light game.' (The Rulebook's words, not mine).

Another potential downside is the longevity and depth of the game.
The game is short because it doesn't hold too much depth; there isn't a lot to think about.
You draw a card and then choose one of two cards to play.
I'll admit that my initial thoughts about this game focused heavily on those points; some people who enjoy big, heavy strategy games might not enjoy this game.
 However the more you play this game, the more you see that those potential downsides are missing the point of this game.

Love Letter is designed to be quick, snappy and above all, fun.
 While it isn't a game you and your friends get together to play as a 'main event,' you'll find hours can pass playing this game before you even consider moving on to another game.

For a quick, simple card game to grab your attention and hold it in such a manner makes it a fantastic game in my eyes.
In addition to that, it is super cheap to buy. You really can't go wrong.



Expansions, Reprints and Different Versions. 

018 Love Letter Batman

Love Letter does not have any expansions, but AEG are releasing different versions all the time.
If the Renaissance theme doesn't grab you, there is always a Munchkin themed version (Loot Letter) and a Batman themed version. The hobbit, Adventure time and even Adult Swim's Archer are on the cards too.
A couple of these actually change the rules to keep the new versions fresh-ish.



Digital Spotlight.

Despite our best efforts here at The Cardboard Cartographer we cannot find a version of Love Letter for any mobile platform.
However, there exists  a version of the game online created by Daniel Mullins.

 
019 Love Letter Online

This version is, well, not good.
The game has no multiplayer, so you are only playing against AI. The user Interface is far too small and there are no sounds, which when coupled with the bland visuals, makes it easy to drift out of focus.
But it is free!

One to avoid unless you really need that Love Letter fix.

You can check out here - Love Letter Online

Outro.

What did you think of this issue? Pro's, Con's?
Did any other Kickstarter projects grab your attention?

Have you played Love Letter, or any of the re-themed versions?
What do you think?

Feel free to comment on this post, or alternatively hit us up on twitter @TCBCartographer

Thank you for reading this issue of The Cardboard Cartographer, until next time!