Friday, 28 December 2012

Playing games that have gathered dust for too long!

We all have those games that really grabbed our attention when we first heard about them so we rushed out and bought them. Then as one gaming weekend rolls on to another we never quit seem to get those games on to the table. Suddenly, it's been a year and you still haven't even fully read the rules! So with this in mind we thought it time we tried out Android and give Super Dungeon explore another crack. But how did we get on? Is Android really a long wait for a train won't come in the fun department? Can Super Dungeon Explore really capture both the fun of a video game and the explosive fast paced action of a Dungeon crawl board game?

That's a hell of a lot of card, and this is only the three player version
First up Android:
A 3-5 player game of who dun it in a sci-fi world of flying cars, non human psychics and robots! Set up time took around 30 mins but as with so many games a rigid application of box control could get this down to a healthy 15 mins once you are familiar with the requirements. 

The basic game play revolves around gathering evidence as to who carried out a brutal murder whilst also ensuring that your investigators personal story progresses positively. These things will score you victory points at the end of the game and similarly to games like Civilisation there are additional avenues to victory (collecting favours, corporate tokens  and solving a grand conspiracy puzzle). The game happens over two weeks and each player gets a number of actions each day that they can spend. Once the two weeks are up you total up the evidence against each of the potential culprits and the on with the highest score is guilty. The twist is that each player has a different combination of which suspect they need to be guilty and which innocent for them to score points. 

Just to add an extra layer of complexity each player has light and dark cards which they will need to use to boost themselves (light cards) and fully screw over the other players (dark cards).  In order to be successful a player will need to balance these cards to help them to gather more positive baggage than negative so that when you plot resolves you get to a happy ending rather than a miserable one (which loses you points). 

I found the story element of the game gripping. I wanted to give my Corrupt Cop character Louis a happy life that lead him out of his terrible predicament it just so happens that doing so was going to win me the game! Every card adds to the story and as you play you delve deeper into the stories. Some players won't give a monkeys but I feel these players will be missing the point of the game.

The light and dark cards force players to interact in a way that causes true back stabbing, but none of it is personal as it is clear to all players from the start that this is an important mechanic to the game. Whilst a lot of the cards are conditional and it can be frustrating that a player avoids triggering the card effects you as a player can force the issue through placement of clues etc. 

Visually the game is beautiful and the graphic design, whilst initially confusing, becomes very intuitive once you have played a turn or two. 

Things that made me go hmm:
It is very hard for any player to understand whether they are winning or losing and whilst this can add a level of tension to the game it also makes it hard to make decisions on where to focus your efforts as the game comes to a close. I won the game 49 pts to 40 odd and 25 ish, but it was really just down to a couple of decisions  made by all three players in the last two turns that none of us understood the ramifications of until the totals were added up. This wouldn't be a problem but it is a game that requires 3+ hours to play and to lose it on a players whimsical decision seems a tad annoying.

Each character has a completely different set of rules and play style (each comes with a guidance sheet on how to win and how to combat the other players!). This adds a lot of potential replay value but is a real barrier to learning the game given that you could invest 3-4 hours in a game that is scuppered from the start due to a quirky set of rules (Nic's character in particular was a bit of a ball ache for him as all the other players start with special cards just to screw him over big style during the game). 

The rulebook is pretty poorly written, with many questions we had requiring some real searching when it should have been a simple thing to look up a term in a glossary.

Final opinion:
I really enjoyed the game which I was not expecting. Really caring about my character was a big surprise and building his story up added to a theme which is already pretty rich. I'm not sure the game will work as well at 5 players as the maximum hand size would mean that you would be constantly struggling to have the cards you need to interact with all the players. It's length also puts me off as it's not a game which I feel I could just pull off the shelve and play without prior notice. 

Good game but enter with caution.

Killing giant evil turtles with a massive axe? Damn right I'm in!
Super Dungeon explore:
We played a 16 bit game with three heroes so I chose the Dwarf (a hairy tank of a character which can take a real pounding), Rich chose the Beserker (who dishes out an obscene amount of damage) and we chose a ranged character (the wizard girl) to allow use to kill enemies at range. Chuck in a nice long dungeon and we were away. It turns out that our combination of characters was awesome! We managed to pick up some great loot/treasure that really augmented our characters skills. 

The aim of the game is simple, find the Boss and kill it without dying. The game timer is based on the number of wounds dished out, so if the players are canny they can minimise the number of wounds they take to ensure that they generate more loot (based on the number of wounds the warriors cause). 

Nic added in his new rock expansion which allows his turtles to pull into their shells and then throw each other, great fun and gives the Consul (bad guy) more tools. 

At three players it was quick and silly enough to keep my attention and build a real sense of tension. Our Characters felt like they progressed without having to trudge through lots of repetitive board sections.

The opposed dice system for combat works really well in terms of creating those amazing successes and failures.

Things that made me go hmm:
Nic as the Consul had a real anti climax as he put his boss out on a limb and due to our amazing combination of characters we took it down in one turn (bonkers!).
Take that brimstone breath!
Our wizard character allowed us to weaken big creatures whilst the beserker made short work of anything that got too close and the dwarf took on any damage likely to kill the squishy axe wielding nut job thanks to his potion. I just felt that you choice of characters really affects your chances of winning as you can only score one hit per attack no matter how much you beat the armour by.

It could just be me but playing a longer version of this game would suck a lot of the fun out of the game as I want to hack, slash and pack away without it taking up the time I would put into a game of Battlestar. 

Final opinion:
It's never going to steal me away from Descent dungeon crawling roleplaying but when I just want to switch off and beat down I can't think of another game that does this better.

Pick you characters carefully but you'll have a great time beating face!


  1. Nice write-up dave, you did more justice to android than i could have i think, I tried explaining it to brenna and she just looked confused. nevermind. Id definitely be up for another go at it some time. When we've got 4 hours and a large(r?) table free.

  2. I did qrite it up as soon as I got home so I had it fresh in my memory! Definately give it another run out on a saturday gamesday. Probably a good game to use up the whole of my kitchen table. Does need some aerious box control to keep the set up quick, I'll look into it.