September has been an interesting month for me. I have found myself playing more and more as my desire to game has returned. Unfortunately, lockdown left me in a position where I had lost a lot of motivation to get a board game out, but this month has been filled with all sorts of great games.
The stand out one for me though has to be Escape the Dark Sector! Themeborne, creators of Escape the Dark Castle, have finally released the sci-fi follow up to their superbly crafted choose-your-own adventure, storybook style game. Players take on the role of a crew member, locked away and imprisoned in the depths of a space station.
Finally managing to escape their cell, you must battle through hazards, guards and monsters in an attempt to reach the final boss, hopefully defeating them and escaping on your trusty ship! The game uses story cards, split into three acts to generate different storylines every game. The players must use their specific character dice to try and resolve encounters and defeat enemies, while also collecting items and weapons to aid in their escape.
Escape the Dark Sector adds some exciting new mechanics too, with the addition of ranged combat as well as the ability to flank the enemy at the start of combat, giving you the advantage. These extra strategies make for a more exciting and suspenseful experience and with the optional soundtrack playing in the background, you are sure to have a really in-depth experience with this game! This is a must have for those who enjoy choose-your-own adventure books, but for anyone looking for something a little different this is certainly something to pick up!
“We have an asset out of containment… This is not a drill!” I love it when board games help you recreate memorable moments from pop culture history. Tiny Epic Dinosaurs is one of the latest titles from Gamelyn Games’ Tiny Epic… series. It sees you as a dinosaur rancher, where you can capture over 20 species of terrible lizards. Check out our recent feature where we shared our favourite "tiny epic" game!
Tiny Epic Dinosaurs is a worker placement game. Despite its ‘tiny’ box, it lives up to its ‘epic’ forefathers. My gut instinct is to christen it with the moniker: Dino-Agricola. There are no accumulation spots like in Uwe Rosenberg’s farming game, but bear with me. The comparison here is with fences, and the animal husbandry side of things.
Your aim is to fulfil specific dino contracts for the InGens of this world. They might want, say, a Velociraptor, a Stegosaurus and a Brachiosaurus. But first you need to get these Jurassic beasts into your ranch. And you can’t let them run wild in there! You need to build fences to keep different species separate and safe. You can’t let the Allosaurus wander in and out of any paddock it likes!
So, you need fences (like, erm, fences around pastures in Agricola). Not enough fences? Dinos escape! You need to feed the dinos – leaves for herbivores, a leg of goat for the meat-o-sauruses. Not enough food? Dinos escape! Then life, uh, finds a way, and same-species dinosaurs breed, producing babies. Not enough room to house the infant? Dinos escape! They eat each other and “crash through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously, and uh, well. There it is.”
I’ve played Tiny Epic Dinosaurs multiplayer and solo this past month. There’s a deck of delightful unique Research Cards. Half come with adorable accompanying dino-meeples. There’s also four different solo modes. You can play versus a Breeder, Poacher, Scientist, or Contractor. Each seems challenging! There’s a whole lot of teeth in this tiny little box.
After months of just me and my housemate during lockdown, it was great to get another player involved. This broke our vicious battles of head-to-head Shards of Infinity with an equally vicious game of 3-player Shards of Infinity.
We'd gone a few weeks without playing anything at all and had pleasantly forgotten just how cruel our Shards rivalry was. Nothing normally gets between us, but once those crystals get involved, things just get nasty. We figured maybe a third player would be fun. It was, but it did get scrappy. It also didn't help that our third player was the partner of my long-term opponent, though. And it showed.
The game began with jabs here and there, with a majority against myself. I cautioned my long-term foe that targeting me too much could back me into a corner and result in a petty squabble between us. I'd torpedo his chances of winning too, leaving the newbie to unceremoniously claim the crown. It was no good. Squabble, squabble, scratching away at me, they both chipped away at my health points.
Then, I snapped. I gathered enough power in one to turn to slam my long-term opponent in a single attack. He wasn't out, but he might have well been. He flipped, becoming properly irate. Good stuff. I was quickly knocked out, but my prophecy was fulfilled. The new player won, because our petty rivalry was relentless. Petty, petty justice.
For the record, we had another game with a different ruleset (damage is dealt to all enemies, not targeted against one), which ended amicably.
Fair warning, boys and girls: if you play Shards of Infinity at more than 2 players, deal that damage to everyone.
For the crime drama fans among you we have Detective: Season One from Portal games. Here 1-5 players take on the role of detectives solving a case within the time limit by travelling to and searching different locations, interviewing suspects and witnesses, and gathering clues. It reminds me of a modern version of the sleuthing classic, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. In just the same way, you answer a set of questions once you're done to see if you do well enough to beat the case.
Now, rather than reading the newspapers, you can tap into a vast database known as “Antares”. Find out about people's criminal pasts, see what the FBI or Armed forces know about witnesses, cross reference fingerprints and DNA samples with historic cases, store interview transcripts and information you have found in a case file and so on.
Although you'll need an internet connection, the game is primarily card-driven with you getting access to a new card when you visit a new person or location. You are pinning pictures of key characters to your noticeboard and annotating it with important details. You'll be flicking though the information you have written down when questioning people and discussing possible scenarios with each other, making you feel fully engaged in the theme.
The difficulty seems about right. I've never felt completely lost but at the same time is is very easy to find yourself going down the wrong path. If you do fail a scenario, cleverly the game does not tell you the truth until you tell it to, allowing you to reset the deck of cards and have a second try.
The three cases in the box are stand-alone so you don't need the game group to play them. Play time is around 90 minutes or so, and the rules have been refined for a more accessible experience.
I imagine I am not alone in the board gaming community with my Game of the Month. It has been hyped and anticipated by a lot of people. It is the smaller sibling to the (currently) number one game on Board Game Geek. That's right, it's Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. It might seem like a cliché that this is my game of the month but here is why. I have always been intrigued by Gloomhaven, but the sheer size (and cost) of it put me off. The behemoth box, the hundreds of components just intimidated me to be honest. When I heard about Jaws of the Lion, I was very excited.
To bury the lede slightly, this game is amazing. There is still a lot of content in the box, but it is manageable. The campaign is shorter and therefore not as daunting. The learn-to-play rulebook is probably one of the best I have seen at gradually introducing mechanisms, abilities, campaign elements and rules to the players. It is such a welcome addition into what might have been a difficult game to grok.
The story is engaging and interesting and the narrative is very well done. The cooperative nature of the game and the hidden information elements work very well, and I love the tense moments this presents in the game. You can plan the optimal move, but it requires you to go first. Then the other player (or even the enemies) have a better initiative and go before you, forcing you to pivot as best you can.
There is a real sense of progression through the game from changing you attack modifier deck, gaining items, modifying your action deck and levelling up. I have only played the first five scenarios, but I am hooked. I can’t wait to delve back into this game and explore the world and the story.
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