Posts tagged ‘fantasy’

The Curious Case of the Tomb Board Game

About a year or so ago, AEG released a game called Tomb. It did not get a lot of fanfare at the time. As a matter of fact, we only sold a few copies of it, so we did not even stock it. This year, at GenCon, we met with some of the AEG folks and learned of an expansion for this game, called Cryptmaster. I even spent a little bit of time playing it. It seems promising – and we will get to that in a minute.

So, the premise of Tomb is fairly straightforward. Each player seeds the different tombs with Tomb cards, so it is mildly random – but some of the players have an inkling of what they can expect. Over a few turns, they recruit a raiding party, and they venture into the tomb for a hack-n-slash. This is supposed to be a get-in-get-out dungeon crawl where your raiding party is essentially monster fodder. The box says you should be able to play up to six people and it says the game length is about one to two hours.

The premise is great and our gaming group was revved up and ready to go. They like this kind of stuff, so it was a good bet to open the evening with this. Well, that was not the case.

This game was “broken” when we played with a full set of players. There were six people playing plus myself. We all wanted to really like this game and we wanted to believe that it was slow and plodding because we were learning the game. The game lasted for FOUR HOURS and it became a grind to get through.

Each player had a full raiding party of 5 characters, so there were tons of decisions on what to do, and each player’s turn lasted as long as 10-15 minutes each, so, that is an hour per round. There was very little of the players going back and “banking” treasure, recruiting more characters, drawing more cards, etc.

What started out as a fun adventure went on to be a boring monster kill session. People got up, got food, chatted with other friends, and Gary even mentioned that he had considered getting a shower. One of the players actually had to leave and go pick someone up and was gone for an hour or so. They came back and missed one turn. The essence of this game was lost somewhere in the process. Quick and dirty is how it is promoted!

So, this gets us back to GenCon and our meeting with AEG.

It seems that they are releasing an “expansion” for this game called Tomb: Cryptmaster. Now, I was hooked at the idea of this game from the demo – before I played Tomb.

I believe in the premise of the game, so I am still positive about Cryptmaster and its ability to fix the holes in the core game. Let me share with you what AEG told us (and I paraphrase):

“There were some issues with the original Tomb rules, so we adjusted them for this expansion. As a matter of fact, we would prefer that people buy the expansion as the core game and use the base game to expand your ability/weapons cards, quantity of characters, and a second stack of Tomb cards (about 40 go out per game and there are 200 in the box, so that’s a lot of cards). “

So, essentially the new Tomb expansion is the patch to Tomb. Which, if it plays well is great. Sadly, they should not have released a game that needed a patch.

Something else that is cool is that the new board has four entrances to the crypt. This is good, because it took people a turn or two to get to the back of the crypt. Now, they can zip out to the Inn and re-enter at the back of the crypt.

I am not going to spend a lot of words here spelling out all the changes to the rules that have been incorporated into this new “expansion”.

What I will say is that Best Dang Games was going to offer Tomb, because it seemed like a cool game. But after our experience with it, we are choosing not to carry this game (ALONE). We may try to play it one more time or two, to see if first impressions are accurate. Once Cryptmaster comes out, we will shoot to get a demo copy of that game with high hopes once again. If Cryptmaster passes the “fun” test, we will sell it as a single option and we will offer Tomb and Cryptmaster as a bundle together, since that is how it seems you should play it.

The rules for Cryptmaster are available for download.

If you own Tomb and had a similar experience, you may want to consider downloading these rules and using them, rather than the rules that came in the original box of Tomb. Here are the rules for Cryptmaster. If you have played this game, please leave comments to let us know if we are off base on this. If you went to GenCon and demoed Cryptmaster, let us know what you thought. We really want to like this game.


September 2, 2009 at 2:03 am 2 comments

Battlelore: An Epic Fantasy Game


In Battlelore, Richard Berg (the designer) once more employs the battle system based on command cards that he used so effectively in Command and Colors: Ancients as well as in Memoir ’44. Like Memoir ’44, Battlelore started out as a Days of Wonder game, although the rights to it are now owned by Fantasy Flight Games.

Battlelore aims to recreate the battles of the Hundred Years War, but does so by adding a fantasy element. You can command the English longbows at Agincourt against the flower of French chivalry, or you can send a horde of goblins to attack strongholds staunchly defended by stalwart Dwarfs. With over 200 miniatures, numerous command and lore cards, a good variety of terrain tiles that allows you to customize each map as you like, and much, much more – this is not just a game: it’s a gaming system.

If you’re looking for a game that has endless re-playability and completely immerses you in theme, then look no further.

Innovative Rules

With a rule book that has more than 80 pages, this game may seem a bit daunting at first. However, many of those pages have full-page colour illustrations, and indeed this is one of the most accessible and even beautiful rule books that I have come across.

What is unique about Battlelore is that you don’t need to learn all the rules at once. For instance, when you play the first scenario from the Scenario Book (Agincourt) you only need to read the first few chapters. No need yet to worry about the dwarves, the goblins, the lore council, or the monsters (the Spider, Hill Giant and Earth Elementals – the latter two are expansions). All you need to know are the basic rules of combat. And if you ever forget a rule you can use the handy compendium at the back of the rule book for a quick reference check.

So, rather than review all the rules, let me point out some of the elements that really set this game apart.

The Command Cards

In every game you will have access to a number of command cards that allow you to control troops in the centre or on the flanks of the map. This is the only way you can allow your troops to attack the enemy, so if you run out of command cards for one section of the board then you’re in trouble. It’s important therefore to make the best of your command cards and manage them carefully.

Troop Strength and Resolve

Each infantry unit includes four troops and each cavalry unit has three horsemen. However, the number of dice rolled for the entire unit always remains the same, even if individual troops are lost.

The Battle-Back Mechanic

When a unit has two friendly units beside it, it is said to be supported, and so it can battle back when attacked. This means that if you keep your troops in formation you allow them to fight even on your opponent’s turn.

The Dice

The dice make resolving battles very straight-forward. Three of the sides show a helmet (coloured green, blue, or red). Each colour corresponds to a level of troop strength. A red unit, for instance, includes the most heavily armed fighters. For each helmet that matches the colour of the troop’s banner that you’re attacking you score a hit. The other symbols on the dice are the bonus strike symbol, the retreat flag, and the lore symbol (which allows you to collect lore tokens).

The Lore Council

More advanced scenarios allow players to recruit a lore council. You can recruit various leaders who will help you in battle. These range from a rogue to a cleric, and each one allows you to play lore cards (once you collect enough lore tokens) to play alongside your command cards. These cards further range in strength, with the most powerful costing 13 lore and allowing you to command all your troops at once for the entire turn.

Final Assessment

Personally I think this is a great game, and I play it regularly, even two years after pre-ordering it. An average game takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half (including set-up time). The game also lends itself well to a tournament setting, if you can get enough friends together for a series of sessions. Despite my enthusiasm I will point out that the game has a few drawbacks. For one thing, the set-up time can be quite long. It often takes around 10-15 min. to set up a scenario, although if you play two sessions in a row the set-up time for the second scenario will decrease dramatically.

Another issue some gamers may have with Battelore is that strategic planning will not always win out. The dice add a significant luck element. If you know this in advance then you can enjoy the thrill that comes with rolling the dice. If you want complete control, then this game will not be for you.

Lastly, some players may not like the odd mixture of medieval and fantasy warfare. What is a Giant Spider doing in medieval Europe? And why are goblins riding on ostriches? Who came up with that ridiculous idea? Yet the gaming experience Battelore offers is rich enough to overcome these challenges. The different types of troops, the banner and command card systems, the lore council – all these elements are woven together seamlessly. There’s nothing quite like playing a command card like Darken the Skies (which unleashes a storm of arrows), along with a lore card that doubles the effect. Or let’s say you have a mighty cleric in your lore council, and you notice that all the enemy troops are crossing the river that flows across the board – time to cast River Rage and watch the enemy get swept away!

The game also appeals to a wide audience. Compare this, for instance, to a system like Warhammer – which is really only for those dedicated to invest in huge armies of miniatures and an extremely complex rule-set with many modifiers – and you’ll see the difference. Battlelore will appeal to the whole family. Even younger children can play, and the ability to customize the rules and set-up to allow for different gradations of difficulty really helps.

This is a game I will be playing for many years, and the fact that there are many expansions will keep this game fresh for a long time to come.

You can get your own copy of BattleLore here

March 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm Leave a comment

Warcraft Board Game – New Board Game Video

The first of my newest videos is the original Warcraft Board Game by Fantasy Flight Games. This game mirrors the PC game fairly closely in how it handles many aspects of the game. You have four races and you play through different scenarios. You have a town center, where you train workers so you can harvest wood and gold. You then use these resources to ramp up your buildings. The amped up buildings allow you to create stronger creatures…which allow you to kick the other players’ butt’s. And it is all in the name of victory points.

September 20, 2008 at 7:29 pm 1 comment


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