Oh my GOODNESS! Today marks the start of a brand-new series for Shut Up & Sit Down.
Every two weeks, Card Games That Don’t Suck will teach you how to play a game that we love, that you can play with an ordinary deck of cards. In doing so, we hope to make table gaming more accessible and wide-ranging, and maybe even learn a little bit of history along the way.
But there’s no history in our first instalment! Ricochet Poker is, in fact, a brand new game by designer James Ernest, and we think it’s just superb.
Quinns: How was your weekend, Matt? I got in some of our first playtests of Blood on the Clocktower. Adopting the role of a devious moderator, I cast a room full of players into a cutthroat logic puzzle that had them doubting not just their friends, but themselves. As I stalked back and forth with my grimoire that held all of the game’s secrets, men screamed, women died, and the forces of evil proliferated in the shadows.
Matt: I had IBS
Quinns: Oh no
Matt: Men screamed, women died, and the forces of evil proliferated in the shadows. Also I mostly slept and drank a lot of water.
Quinns: The third and final game in Emerson Matsuuchi’s Century series has been revealed. Century: A New World (pictured above) will take place in North America, and where Century: Spice Road featured card management and Century: Eastern Wonders used area control, A New World will use the mechanic of worker placement. Players will dispatch settlers to wrest a living from the buffalo-stuffed continent, trading and building in a quest for the series’ precious cubes.
If you missed our double review of the first two games in the series, then let me tell you the twist here, with has the dramatic scale of an alligator twisting in a death roll. Any games in the Century series can be /combined/, creating a new, bigger game that features mechanics from all of its constituents. With the arrival of A New World, we’ll finally be able to combine all three little games into a grand… well, a game that’s actually about the size of most normal board games.
Matt: Adding a twist to the newly popular Roll and Write genre, Era: Medieval Age is a Roll and BUILD game designed by Matt Leacock, creator of Pandemic. Plugging dinky little buildings into a player board filled with a neat grid of holes, it’s an immediately cute and enticing idea. At this point though I have to say, it’s tough to say what makes this design any different from a game that simply used pencil & paper – the gimmick of a mini 3D town is strong, but I can’t help but immediately leap to the fresh possibilities of a game in which you also build your cities /up/.
The bit that most piques my hype-gland today is the suggestion of more interaction between players than we usually tend to see in these games, promising “extortion, scorched earth, and, of course, disease!”. It’s adorable that Matt Leacock’s reputation at this stage is that /yes, of course Leacock is providing additional contagion/ – I look forward to one day discovering the other three horsemen of the board gaming apocalypse.
Matt: Exciting news! Did you know that Arkham Horror: The Living Card Game is fantastic fun? Fantasy Flight’s support for this grim and frequently ludicrous adventure continues into 2019, with the release of the /fourth/ campaign, ‘The Circle Undone’ (also known as ‘An Oval’ or ‘The Wobbly Oblong’). Featuring Tarot cards, witches, and all sorts of new hexes – those hungry for details will have to click through to the official FFG page, as I’m miles behind on Arkham Horror and still having a blast playing it glacially, and blind. What a game, what a sweet little game.
Reading that review again, I’m hyped for this new 2nd edition. My experience of Quartermaster General left me feeling disappointed that the series was so obtuse, but Ares Games has promised “a careful revision of the original game, improving its ease of play, clarity, play balance, and more”.
…That said, the whole reason I chose to review 1914 instead of the original game is that it only needed 5 players for the best experience, rather than the original game’s craving for /6/ people. And if you don’t have that, players have to control multiple hands of cards each, which – as anyone who’s experienced it will tell you – is a quick way to go 100% insane.
Matt: It’s rare these days for any saccharine knife to cut so cleanly through my cynical shell, but one glance at the Kickstarter for PARKS and I’m thirteen years old, eating extremely salty chilli in Yosemite while heavy snow covers everything outside. This gorgeous game celebrates the absolute best thing about America: did you know that it is massive and full of natural beauty? For now, IT IS!
Exhibiting the flavour of twee that would usually find my eyes gently rolling, this game sees you trekking across 48 of America’s National Parks whilst doing your best to create lovely memories – the winner being the player at the end who comes back with the most mementos and photos, just like with real holidays and Instagram. This could easily be one that ends up fronting way more style and heart than substance, but with an undisclosed percentage of profits being donated to the National Parks Service, it’s tough to be anything other than charmed. Speaking as a clueless Brit, it’s quite evocative of Firewatch, a videogame which I absolutely loved. I’m off to eat a sandwich and think about sunsets.
One of the most popular games of recent years is Great Western Trail (2016), an intricate resource-management and set-collection game … that also has a relatively minor deckbuilding component. But, as it turns out, that deckbuilding includes some pretty innovative aspects, and so is worth discussing as part of my overall series on deckbuilding mechanics.
ThreeFour Generations of Deckbuilding
I’ve typically classified deckbuilders as falling into three generations — or three degenerations if you prefer, as each moves further from the original precepts of Dominion(2008), now a decade old. These generations aren’t entirely separated by time, but instead by the maturity of the mechanic.
The first generation of deckbuilders cleaved so close to Dominion that even if they evinced some originality, they still mistakenly incorporated some of Dominion’s specific design decisions, such as the ability to purchase just one card a round, as core elements of the mechanic. I’d classify Penny Arcade (2011), Resident Evil (2010), Tanto Cuore(2009), and Thunderstone(2009) as first-generation deckbuilders.
The second generation of deckbuilders remained pure deckbuilder games, but reimagined what deckbuilding did rather than just blindly copying the design decisions of Dominion. Obviously, different people would draw this line in different places, but I think Ascension(2010) was one of the first game to (barely) cross this line, with its randomized purchase cards, its dual currencies, and its strong “suits” all showing very different design decisions. DC Comics(2012) and Lord of the Rings(2013) deckbuilding games similarly stand on this border. Arctic Scavengers(2009, 2013), with its array of actions; Nightfall(2011), with its chained card play; and Star Realms(2014), with its focus on combat, all show that this generation can go even further beyond the simple card management of Dominion — though they sometimes maintained some of Dominion’s specific design assumptions as well.
After the second generation of deckbuilders, the mechanic was also spun off into other components like the dicebuilding of Quarriors! (2011) and eventually the whole bagbuilding subgenre.
And that brings us at last to Great Western Trail. Like the third-generation deckbuilders, it incorporates deckbuilding as part of a larger whole, freely mixed it with other mechanics, but unlike those games, the deckbuilding is really a small part of the whole. It’s a handy way to manage one particular game element (the cattle that you’re selling), and although that’s vitally important, it’s not a very loud, attention-getting mechanic. So call it a rare example of a fourth generation of deckbuilding play, which deckbuilding has become not just a mechanic, but a relatively minor mechanic.
Despite its minimal footprint, the deckbuilding of Great Western Trail is still intriguing, and something that could easily be an influence on other, more fully featured deckbuilding games (as much as they still exist).
The Art of Deckbuilding
So what does the deckbuilding in Great Western Trail look like? It’s generally what you’d expect. You get a starting deck with a variety of cards, and you can make new purchases over the course of the game, giving you both better game resources and victory points. You can also choose to filter cards out of your deck, to maximize its potential.
What might be surprising is how minor the deckbuilding actually is in Great Western Trail. A player’s deck contains the cattle that they’re trying to sell each time they finish the trail, but they typically only improve their deck one time through the whole (long) game board. The rest of the time they’re hiring workers, constructing buildings, and raising funds.
The cattle cards: a small part of a big game.
Mind you, it’s still integrally connected to everything else, which is the first nice element of the game’s deckbuilder design. You need those workers and that money to buy cows; you need to accomplish other goals if you want to become able to filter your deck; and you often need to play cows to earn money.
However, it’s the game’s set collection, required at the big round-up at the end of the trail, that really innovates its deckbuilding play, because that expands the deckbuilding to … handbuilding.
The Art of Handbuilding
The standard model for hand management in deckbuilders is that there isn’t any: you draw cards at the end of the round, you play them the next round, and you discard anything you have left. The occasional deckbuilder allows players to hold cards from one round to another if they want, to support some longer term strategy, but even then it’s usually better to play as fast as you can.
Great Western Trail totally uproots this model. Not only are players able to hold over cards, not only are they encouraged to do so, but it’s actually a core part of the game. That’s because the ultimate goal of the game is to have a hand containing an unlike set of cattle when it’s time to sell. That takes not just careful building of your deck to have a diverse set of cows available, but also diverse building of your hand, so that you actually get those different cattle into your hand by the time you reach the end of the trail.
Supporting this requires not just the ability to keep cards from turn to turn, but also the ability to play some of those cards, in a constrained way, when and if a player decides. This in fact is built into the entire game system: whenever a player has the option to play a specific cow in order to earn money, he’s also getting the opportunity to build his hand to his specifications. There’s also a totally new mechanic, the “hand cycler”, which gives a player the ability to discard and redraw cards.
The cycler (gear 2) and the remover (gear 5) can both help build your hand.
Not only does handbuilding provide a new level of tactics for deckbuilding play, but it also introduces interesting strategic questions: do you use sacrifice parts of your set to earn money? And conversely, do you sacrifice your momentum to improve the set of cards in your hand?
Great Western Trail is intriguing for a deckbuilder because of how much it does with so little. The deckbuilding is a pretty small mechanic in the overall game, but it’s still a critical part of the overall game, tightly entangled with everything else.
Great Western Trail also introduces a great new mechanic, where players are building not just their overall deck, but also what’s in their hand, working toward sets at specific points in the game.
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Starship miniature & poster map for Starfinder & other sci-fi RPGs. A sleek bounty hunter on one side – a grungy slaver on the other. – [currently $155 (5%) of $3,000 goal] This article has been syndicated from the ever interesting Kicktraq.
Do you feel a faint stirring in your heart? That’ll probably be because of Quacks of Quedlinburg, a game about stirring, excitement, dread, capitalism, and even more stirring. It’s also the second game about managing your own personal gambling den we’ve reviewed recently, following on from the very good Space Base. But this is better.
Special thanks to Wizarding Harry of Wizarding Harry’s Child Wizarding School for Top Wizarding Harrys for being such a superb special guest.
Using real mythology & folklore a folklorist & GM will give you new options to play Pathfinder/5e and develop your own worlds. – [currently $38 (2%) of $1,600 goal] This article has been syndicated from the ever interesting Kicktraq.