Monday, December 10, 2012

RPG Buffet - Card & Board Game 2012 Report

Happy Holidays, all!  Mags here, with a run-down of this year's RPG Buffet Annual Card and Board Game Night.

First, I'd like to thank Colin Moore of the Louisville Game Shop for providing us with a place to gather and play.  Colin's hosted the Card & Board Game Night for seven years now, and we appreciate his hospitality. 

There were only six of us in attendance this year, but that turned out really well because we all played the same games.  Usually there are about a dozen or so of us, so we break up into groups to play different games.

First game up was Cthulhu Fluxx, from Looney Labs.  Disclaimer: I received a demo copy complimentary of Looney Labs for review.

Cthulhu Fluxx is a new release, just shipped in August to stores, so most of us had not played it.  This is a dark yet fun interpretation of the game. Some notes:

  • Creepers are appropriately creepy. 
  • There are UnGoals as well as Goals. UnGoals allow for everyone to lose the game, and even for Great Cthulhu to win it! 
  • Some Creepers and Keeper have Doom points assigned on their cards, which can increase the chance of everyone losing. 
  • The cards were clearly designed with input from people who love their Lovecraft, because the game does a fantastic job of working in Cthulhoid themes.  You see Goal and UnGoal cards named after stories (The Dunwich Horror, The Shadiow Over Innsmouth, etc.), cards named after things that you see in the stories (Secret Cultist, which lets you win the game if an UnGoal causes everyone to lose; Keepers like Reanimator, Drunk, and Dreamlands;  FBI Raids, an Action card which takes away all Keepers and Sleepers, etc.), and some downright funny cards (At Home With the Whatelys, a Goal, and Mistkaonic Study Group, a New Rule). 
  • There are also some very powerful cards in this game. I won't spoil them for you, but when The Stars Are Right or Cosmic Instructions come into your hand, tread very carefully!
I think that Cthulhu Fluxx is probably the most intricate of the Fluxx card games precisely because you have so many additional rules and actions added in order to intergrate the Lovecraftian theme.  But, in classic Fluxx style, none of these additions are heavy-handed or weigh down the game at all, so whether your familiar with Fluxx or not, you just read the card's rules and go with the flow.  The one downside is, if you're not familiar with Lovecraft, the game probably loses some of its charm.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves Lovecraft or horror, or anyone who wants a slightly more challenging version of Fluxx to play.  Order it directly from Looney Labs, or via your favorite local gaming store.

We decided to play Oz Fluxx next. Disclaimer: I also received Oz Fluxx complimentary from Looney Labs to review.

Following Cthulhu Fluxx with Oz Fluxx was like a bright, cheerful day following a desperate, horrific night.  Even looking at the cards, with their merry designs and colorful pictures, was a bit of a mental shock after playing Cthulhu Fluxx

Fans of The Wizard of Oz are legion, so my first thought is that this is the version of Fluxx to use to introduce the non-gamers in your life to Fluxx--yes, even above and beyond the basic Fluxx game.  My second thought is, that's some really fantastic art!  Artist Michael Hays did an amazing job capturing both the whimsy and dark side of The Wizard of Oz.  I couldn't tell if he'd drawn for Fluxx games before (sorry, Looney Labs!), but his art for Oz Fluxx was so striking that I made it a point to go look up who the artist was.

Cards in this release are pretty much what you would expect from a Oz-themed Fluxx game.  You have Creepers like the Wicked Witch of the West and the Flying Monkeys, Keepers like the The Wizard, The Yellow Brick Road, and Toto, New Rule cards like Magic Shoes (click your heels three times to draw an extra card on your turn), and Goals like No Place Like Home (the player who has both the Dorothy and the Kansas Keeper cards on the table wins). 

In keeping with the light-hearted approach, Creepers are apparently not as powerful in this game as other Fluxx games.  From what I could tell, Creepers only have the effect of stopping you from winning--there doesn't seem to be any other mechanic assigned to them.  Oz Fluxx also apparently has more Goal cards than most other versions--31, as opposed to 29 for Fluxx 4.0, 28 in Cthulhu Fluxx, 25 in Pirate Fluxx, 21 in Zombie Fluxx, and 17  in Family Fluxx.  Only Pirate Fluxx has more Goals, with a total of 33.  It also only has 18 Keeper cards, so if my math is correct the number of ways to win has been reduced slightly.  That may mean for longer games, which is a bonus if you want to use it to keep kids occupied.

Oz Fluxx introduced a new mechanic--one also found in Cthulhu Fluxx--called Surprises.  If you're familiar with Magic: the Gathering, Surprises work like a bit like Interrupts: they're cards you can play when it's not your turn for one effect, or during your turn for a different effect. 

Oz Fluxx is another clear winner in the Fluxx line.  I think it's going to have wide appeal, wider than even Zombie or Pirate Fluxx.  It proves that there's plenty of steam left in the Fluxx line, too--there truly seems to be no end in sight for the adaptations they can do with this game.  I will say this: if you are a fan of Oz-derived works like the book or musical Wicked, or the L .Frank Baum books that came after the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel, you'll probably be a little disappointed in this game, as none of those works are referenced. This is a departure from Monty Python Fluxx, which referenced the show, the movies, and (IIRC) Spam-A-Lot. I imagine this is due to copyright and/or trademark issues. I also imagine it won't be that disappointing to an Oz fan.

Oz Fluxx was released in March, and is in available online and stores now.  Another great Fluxx game, especially good for the non-gamer in your life.

We went after Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space next.  I purchased this game myself at Gen Con 2011, and did a reading review of it in episode 131.  WOW.  This game was nominated for a Diana Jones award, and I can see why.  The details of the rules are in my earlier review, but we all agreed that this was a deeply creepy game, like Are You A Werewolf meets the movie Aliens.  It's slow, and intense, and the horror just builds as players get picked off one by one.  It was such a hit with us as we were playing it, that Colin ran to his computer to look up how he could order a copy into his store.  Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is available in stores and online.  BoardGameGeek has a video review here.

Finally, the biggest hit of the night was Escape: The Curse of the Temple from Queen Games.  We played a demo copy that Colin had in his store, and I bought a copy that night.  Some of you may remember that this was originally a Kickstarter project from Queen Games.  This was hands-down the favorite game of the night. We've never played a board game like this, and we were all deeply impressed with it.  It's quick to learn, quick to play--ten minutes!--fun, simple but extremly challenging, and intense.   But it's intense in a different way than Escape From the Aliens in Outer Space is--as Buffet John described it, it's a "cardiovascular adventure".  The game is now available in stores and online. Someone at BoardGameGeek put together a great game play demo on YouTube, and I recommend you take a look at it. It retails for $49.99, but the components are high quality and obviously durable, so it's money well-spent.

Summing up: if I were give these to anyone for the holidays, I would rank Oz Fluxx as #1 of the games we played because of its wide appeal-- you can't lose if you give this game to your kid, your eighty-year old aunt, or your gamer friend.  If I'm only considering the gamer on my shopping list, on the other hand, I have no doubt they would be thrilled with either Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space or Escape: The Curse of the Temple.  Not to say that Cthulhu Fluxx isn't worth giving as a gift, but I think the other three games would appeal to a wider group of gamers.

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