Cardboard Children: The Catch-Up

By Robert Florence on June 3rd, 2012 at 7:59 am.


Hello youse.

I’m back. Even better than that, I’m back full time as a fully integrated member of Team RPS. That means I’ll be here every weekend, delivering all your board game and card game and RPG content. Basically, if it’s a game, and you need to sit at a table to play it, I’ll cover it. I’ll write about it, photograph it, film it and show you it. And I’ll also do those things with the game.

It’s a big responsibility. Where else can a fella speak about board games to OVER TWO MILLION UNIQUE USERS? Nowhere else. Only here. Only on the best games website on the planet. I will make you spend mad money in the months and years ahead. You will hate me for it. You will be penniless. You will have no space left in your house. You will wish death on me.

This week, a catch-up.

THE CATCH-UP – DESCENT SECOND EDITION

Well, we’re all still waiting for the Second Edition of Fantasy Flight’s Descent. I played the hell out of the first edition of this dungeon crawler, despite it being an unwieldy, messy terror of a thing. The biggest problem with the original Descent was the time it took to play, and the unthematic way that movement and combat unfolded. The heroes would move through the dungeon like a SWAT team, covering angles and trying to limit bad guy spawns, while the Overlord player would try to find gamey ways to execute his plans. And there is constant rulechecking. You could be enjoying your hundredth experience and still have to check you were doing it properly, like the world’s most unconfident lover. It just didn’t ever feel right, despite being deep and fun.

I had high hopes for a clean, stripped back version of Descent. And it’s all looking a lot better than I’d hoped, to be honest. This looks like a very different game, meaning that the first edition remains relevant. That’s always a good thing for people like me who spent a fortune on all the first edition stuff because I’m a fucking idiot. Take a look at the most recent update from Fantasy Flight, unveiling the Necromancer class for the Mage, which allows a player to use the Overlord’s own minions against him.

That looks good, right? That looks like a focus on theme, right? The designers are also saying all the right things about correcting the weaknesses of the first edition. I think this is going to be one of the best releases of the year, if it stays on target. Descent: First Edition is a great game. This refinement could lift it into awesomeness. I’ll try to bring you the earliest possible review, like a professional or something.

THE CATCH-UP – NETRUNNER

Netrunner is back! No, I don’t know if that’s a good thing either. I’ve never played it. But I’ve heard about it. Oh, have I heard about it.

INT. BOARD GAME SHOP

ROBERT is looking at some MAGIC: THE GATHERING cards. He picks up a deck, looks at it. DAMP-SMELLING MAN shuffles over.

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: Well, well… you like Magic?

ROBERT: Um, aye.

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: Okay.

There is a pause. The man stays close, invading ROBERT’s personal space.

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: You should really try Netrunner. It’s Garfield’s masterpiece.

ROBERT: Really?

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: Best card game ever. Ahead of its time.

ROBERT: Where can I get it?

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: That’s just the thing…

DAMP-SMELLING MAN vanishes in a puff of damp-smelling smoke.

DAMP-SMELLING MAN: (From beyond) You can’t…

But now you can. Fantasy Flight are moving it into their much-loved (hoho!) Android universe (I’ll be telling you about Android down the line) and turning it into a Living Card Game. That just means that the collectable/random aspect is removed and you lose all your money by trying to keep up with the monthly releases instead. Oh, and Richard Garfield isn’t involved with this new version either. I don’t know. I think I should be excited about it, but I’m not. Do any of you have experience with the original version of the game? Comment! Tell us about it. Should we be excited?

THE CATCH-UP – MY WORRIES ABOUT KICKSTARTER

I need to talk about this. It’s been bothering me.

Kickstarter bothers me. It really does. I love the notion behind it. And I think that most of the stuff on there comes from a positive place, especially anything involving fetishes or cats. But board games? Really? I dunno. Here’s my thinking – most board game Kickstarters try to pull people on board by showing a nice bit of artwork, or an explanation of the game’s theme. Or maybe even an explanation of how the game plays. But how well are these things playtested? Publishers usually demand a certain level of playtesting before a board game ever makes it to market, because it’s the publisher who is taking the risk. When it’s the consumer carrying all that risk, through Kickstarter, where is the necessity for a rigorous playtesting process?

I’ve only played one game that came from Kickstarter so far, and it was awful (Miskatonic School For Girls). It worries me. It all worries me. Great games need to be tested and refined and tested and refined. Looking or sounding cool isn’t enough.

Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Make sure you’re not funding a first draft.

THE CATCH-UP – MAGE KNIGHT REPRINT

Hey! Mage Knight has been reprinted, and if you haven’t ordered it yet you should drown yourself in a bath of vomit. Take it from me – this is one of the very best games ever made, and a PC gaming audience will take to it like a duck to vomit. Seriously, this game was made for you, and you can even play it solo if you struggle to find people to game with. It was my game of the year last year, and nothing else really came close.

You seriously better order that shit before it’s gone again.

THE CATCH-UP – TABLETOP

Have you seen Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop yet? Basically, it’s Wil Wheaton playing boardgames with some other people, and filming it. I get asked about this show ALL THE TIME.

“Hey, Robert! What do you think of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop?”

I think anything that brings more attention to board games is a good thing. I think Wil seems like a lovely guy. And I love the part in this episode where he says “This is bullshit”. I’ve been there a million times.

The trouble with any show like this is that it all hinges on which game is at the table. I am never going to sit for half an hour and watch people play fucking Smallworld. Never. Not even if they were all Charlize Theron and the game table was vibrating and I had an X-Ray TV. But something like Mall of Horror? You bet. People brawling and shouting. Fantastic. Still, the show is a positive thing and I’m glad it exists.

THE CATCH-UP – THE FUTURE

Now that this is a proper full-time thing for me, I’ve made some arrangements that will allow me to get games onto a table on a regular basis. I have the place, I have the people, and my friend James Purefoy might be joining us for a few sessions too. That means I should be able to bring you solid up-to-date coverage on new releases in the months ahead. I think when you’re speaking to so many people on a weekly basis, you have a responsibility to try and stay CURRENT and VITAL. If there’s anything coming down the line that you’d like me to check out before you waste your money, do let me know.

I think we’re all caught up.

SATURDAY

Yesterday I went to a wargames show here in Glasgow. It was called Wappinshaw 2012, and it was a bunch of people in the Royal Concert Hall’s Exhibition Hall flinging dice onto giant tables. I’m not a wargamer, so the show didn’t really speak to me. It was fun to walk around and hear what people were chatting about, though. The big talking point seemed to be Empire of the Dead, and whether or not it was better than Malifaux. Both of these are skirmish games with a Victorian horror angle, making use of beautiful miniatures. The demo game of Empire of the Dead certainly looked great. But it’s so expensive to dip into these things. Man! A rulebook and a couple of starter sets for Empire of the Dead would set you back about 80 quid. How do young people get into these games? How can you possibly afford it? The 12 year old boy playing that Empire of the Dead demo I watched surely couldn’t ever afford to take the game home, could he? (And no, I don’t have an answer to that talking point question of the day. I should maybe try to answer it, though. Or maybe you can! Empire of the Dead or Malifaux? And are either better than Necromunda? NAHHHH.)

GOODBYE

Bye now! Next week I’ll be recommending a beautiful new game, and introducing you to my new friend Dr Paul Mawhire.

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67 Comments »

  1. hoobajoo says:

    Thank god you are back; I had almost managed to acquire every game I really, really wanted. Now my wishlist will once again surge with must-haves delivered on a weekly basis, and my wife will continue to be subjected to my board-game-lust, no doubt with CONTINUING MIXED RESULTS.

  2. Jackablade says:

    I’m not sure that I’m an especially unique user.

  3. The Innocent says:

    Welcome back, Cardboard Children! This is great news.

    And yes, Mage Knight is phenomenal.

    • JB says:

      So, when can we look forward to your write-up of Mage Knight, Mr Innocent? Hmmm? (And it being part of your boardgame box review piece doesn’t count!)

    • Stromko says:

      I heard it described as King’s Bounty: The Boardgame, but that doesn’t convince me. I didn’t like King’s Bounty that much. Though I think what I didn’t like about it was the essential linearity and too much grind.

      Those problems might not translate to the tabletop, granted, and it’s not like Mage Knight isn’t its own game, but it’s a lot of money to put down when I don’t have any actual idea how it plays. I’ll look around for a ‘let’s play’ or a walkthrough of it, but right now I have my eye on Merchants & Marauders as my next boardgame purchase as it runs a bit cheaper and sounds quite fun.

    • OpT1mUs says:

      I think this review
      http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/800679/an-adventure-game-with-no-surprises-a-negative-rev
      shows a different perspective of it.

      • DeVadder says:

        What bothers me the most about it, is the inconsistency! Wether you fight a goblin in the wild or a monster in its lair plays quite different. One you have to step onto, one you attack from the tile next to it. One attacks you if you pass by and thus can be slain without wasting your turns action, allowing you to move on, one doesnt.
        And it does not stop here. Taking a keep or a mage tower or a city all has different rules.
        Buying at a monastery, a keep or a village all has different rules. Even healing has.
        In what way your followers can help you changes wether you fight in the open, a monastery or a dungeon. And even more so when fighting other players. Heck, when fighting other players, the whole ‘taking damage’ part is quite different. Allthough with quite similiar results. It just IS that way.
        So annoying. Reading the rules takes more time than playing the game. Even after a few rounds and allthough the playing of rounds often takes quite a lot of time as well.
        And watching other players rounds is boring. They look at their hand, the rules and the monster card for 2-10 minutes and then either kill it with an admittably cool combo of their cards (often at least) or they don’t. And then it is the next persons turn.

  4. geerad says:

    Welcome back!

    Eminent Domain was a Kickstarter game, and I thought it was pretty good.

    • ulix says:

      Alien Frontiers is supposedly very good (a friend owns it, I should play it…), and it came from Kickstarter.

  5. Chris D says:

    It’s way too early to attempt a coherent response to all that so, in no particualr order:

    1.”I will make you spend mad money in the months and years ahead. You will hate me for it. You will be penniless. You will have no space left in your house. You will wish death on me.”

    Too late. Quinns and Paul already make me spend all my money.

    1 and a bit. “Where else can a fella speak about board games to OVER TWO MILLION UNIQUE USERS?”

    Shut Up and Sit Down doesn’t have that many yet? What is wrong with people?

    2. Netrunner! Netrunner is one of my favourite CCG’s of all time. It saddens me a bit that Magic so dominates the CCG space. Don’t get me wrong it’s a fine game but it still has some of the idiosyncracies of being the first and other games have surpassed it but never really gained traction in the same way and died out. Netrunner is sneaky, asymmetric goodness dripping with atmosphere, and really deserves a comeback.

    Also glad to see it moving to the LCG format, these day I’ve sworn off CCG’s in favour of games where you can get everything in one box.

    3. Looking forward to hearing your take on Android. I have it but never yet managed to get people together to play it. It’s one I suspect I love the idea of more than I’d love actually playing it.

    4. RE: Fortune and Glory. I notice you and Quinns have come to different conclusions regarding the games merits. I demand some kind of duel/dance-off to settle the matter.

    5. Welcome back, Rab, it’s been too long. (I mean that in a nice way, 95% of it a least, well 85% for certain.)

    • malkav11 says:

      I’m with you, man. Magic is reasonably solid, but it’s pretty theme-light and the resource mechanic that defines the game is archaic and painful. I’ve enjoyed later CCGs and indeed later Deckmaster CCGs much more.

    • Baines says:

      I wonder if I have a Netrunner deck. I can’t remember if I ever bought it. I wanted to, but no one else was playing it. I might have played one game of Vampire, for example. Magic was king, and you needed some kind of extra kick to even get a small following, like a Star Trek or Star Wars license.

  6. Grimgrin says:

    The netrunner reprint is going to be fantastic, I finally get to see what all the fuss is about. Also is Mage Knight really THAT great?

  7. JB says:

    Good to have you back, Rob.

    Now, get to work. Make me want more boardgames, you bastard.

  8. markside says:

    Yay!

  9. caddyB says:

    Even though I’ve never played any boardgame for at least 8 years, I still read every word Mr. Florence puts on RPS. Because he’s awesome.

    Glad to see this back.

    • Danny252 says:

      I am not alone in my somewhat detached interest in Cardboard Children, then!

    • bill says:

      Me too. Finally something to read on a sunday… other than the papers of course…

    • Sleepymatt says:

      Same here – I only started reading it back in the day because that opening “Hello youse” made me pine for my Weegie roots, and then was sucked in to that happy zone where listening to a man talk with real passion about his hobby makes you want to take part, even though you’ve not been in that scene for years…

      Ya wee dancer! The hairy bampot’s back!

  10. slightly76 says:

    Welcome back Mr F!

  11. Tom Camfield says:

    Hi Rob, can you look at ONLY WAR when it gets released, please. I’d also like more video presentations, like the zombie game roundup. Thanks.

  12. Bob_Bobson says:

    I played the original Netrunner and it was brilliant. The asymmetry between runner and corp works really well, both thematically and as a gameplay mechanic, and either side could build a deck aiming for a different type of victory. I enjoyed it way more than magic and spent way less on it that most magic players have to in order to get to interesting deckbuilding choices.

    • SAM-site says:

      Absolutely spot on. The joy of Netrunner was that you never needed to expand it unless you felt like it. The art style was really good too.

  13. Rhygadon says:

    Some friends and I tried to get into Netrunner, back when it first came out, but it never really grabbed us. The asymmetry was fun, but it never really felt like any given match amounted to a “story” in the way that the best CCGs can. It was mathematically sound, but it didn’t feel like there was enough room for interesting strategic interaction between the players. Or at least, that’s my distant memory of it …

  14. Namey says:

    This Mage Knight reprint dealie confused me quite a bit, since I’m not too invested in the board games scene. I immediately thought that they had resurrected the original Mage Knight miniatures game, which would have been pretty strange.

  15. Trithne says:

    The Netrunner reboot is one of those situations where I get to look at something and say “Well that’s very nice, and I’ll buy it to play it with friends, but it just won’t be as great as the original was”. I’m pleased about the LCG aspect, since Netrunner really should’ve been one of those in the first place, but FFG are making a few changes that I’m just not entirely on board for, like the addition of Factions and Identities to the game, which mean that corp cards are no longer just corp cards, but now a “Jinteki card”. I don’t see how that benefits the game.

  16. pakoito says:

    James Purefoy is finally back. I guess what has he been up to lately.

  17. Easy says:

    Great to have you back Rab. And about damn time too :)

  18. Maldomel says:

    I thought you were gone forever. And I was sad. Glad to see you’re back.

  19. bill says:

    So what came first? Netruuner? Cyberpunk or Shadowrun?

    • Jigoku says:

      Netrunner is heavily inspired by the Cyberpunk pnp rpg.

      I’m not sure, however, which came first between Shadowrun and Cyberpunk.
      I recall playing Cyberpunk way before Shadowrun, but this does not mean it came out first, so I don’t know.

      • malkav11 says:

        Netrunner wasn’t just inspired by Cyberpunk, it was an officially licensed spinoff. The new Fantasy Flight reprint is going to adapt it to the setting from the Android boardgame, though.

    • nindustrial says:

      That depends on whether you’re referencing Cyberpunk the rpg or cyberpunk as a literary genre (and setting applicable across mediums), in which case the genre includes the rpg, Netrunner, and Shadowrun, having its origin in the early 1980s.

  20. SmallGods says:

    Huzzah, glad to see you back man! I was wondering what the radio silence was about. This column was pretty much solely responsible for getting me into board gaming, and slowly but surely shifting me away from my “It’s nothing but Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit; I’d rather gargle toilet duck cheers” mindset. The evolution of this was me recently being up in Leeds for the weekend, and popping into the basement of the Travelling Man there, only to discover nothing but wall to wall boardgames, and subsequently die of a small geekgasm.

    I’ve also managed to get the wife on board (no pun intended) now, slowly but surely. Started small with Forbidden island and the LotR LCG, before slowly shifting into Carcassone and Catan. We recently acquired 7 Wonders (amazing game!) and Small World (she saw the box and insisted..), and I’m hoping I can shift her onto Pandemic since it’s basically the same as Forbidden Island, but with a better theme.

    After this though, I may have to jump off the fence on Mage Knight. The single player aspect definitely appeals, and she likes the potential for even some kind of co-op as well. Plus, King’s Bounty rocked..

    So thank you sir. Thank you for opening my eyes, increasing the opportunities I’ve had to spend time gaming with the wife, and for emptying my wallet till my bank account cries. You utter utter bastard. :-D

  21. jolson42 says:

    Good to see you again!
    I’m looking forward to playing Mage Knight. I preordered it along with the King of Tokyo reprint aaaages ago, and I’ve been waiting as IELLO keep pushing back KoT over and over. Apparently it’s done now though, and I should have it mid-July-ish?
    Unrelated: You should check out Cards Against Humanity. Simple, evil little party game.

  22. wodin says:

    About time…where the hell have youse been????

  23. Jigoku says:

    Netrunner LCG was the great news of last week. Hell, it would have been the news of the year if CDProjekt didn’t announce a Cyberpunk RPG (in which we MAY play a Netrunner, by the way).

    The game was truly great. It was told enough here, the asymetry being truly unique (allowing for true, poker-intense bluff moments), as well as the ambiance of the game.

    But the CCG format and the cards oldschool imagery drove people away from it, and it is trully a shame, for it was the best card game I ever played from a “game design” point of view.

    So, there are every reasons to be excited about this news, I guess, as a new LCG format will get rid of a major flaw of the game (some mismatch between very “specialised” runners decks and corp decks) while new (and mostly great) illustrations will attract new players to the game.

  24. nli10 says:

    Well I’d love it if you also covered the iOS and other mobile versions of board games. Just brief notes on whether they do the originals justice. Ascension is spot on, but some others are less worthy.

    Magic from a non-obsessives perspective has never been better. Planechase is back and that XBox game is around the corner again for more relaxed multiplayer. Going to FNM has resulted in more trips to the board game shop too.

    And Cthulu Fluxx!! We never had it so good.

  25. Saarlaender39 says:

    Hello Mr. Florence,
    nice to see you and your cardboard children back here on RPS!

  26. PopeJamal says:

    “…like the world’s most unconfident lover. It just didn’t ever feel right, despite being deep and fun.”
    Oh my!

  27. malkav11 says:

    It’s certainly worth being cautious about Kickstarted boardgames, but frankly terrible boardgames get released through the traditional channels all the time. And playtesting doesn’t guarantee the game will get fixed. I playtested Runebound repeatedly but despite my feedback and that of the Fantasy Flight employee who conducted the playtests, the author of the game refused to do anything about the core mechanical issues that wreck the game for me.

  28. DrGonzo says:

    Wil(l) Wheatons show explains a lot. It explains why I had to play both Zombie Dice and Smallworld with my flatmate. Both of which were shite by the way. Not sure where the fun in random dice rolls, or basic mental arithmetic is meant to be.

  29. MadMatty says:

    Necromunda for the win

  30. Synesthesia says:

    Hey! Really glad you are back. Rps wasnt the same! Now, make my wall of boxes in the living room assimilate the rest of the walls, please?

    Have you heard about city of horror? Asmodee seems not to be reprinting mall of horror and instead doing that. Do you know anything about it? I wanted mall of horror so bad after that review, but getting even a used copy here to argentina seems absolutely impossible. Got cyclades and ghost stories, though, they are amazing.

  31. oldkc says:

    Glad you’re back, it was your contributions that kept me coming back to RPS.
    Looking forward to the next installment!

  32. Arglebargle says:

    Steve Jackson’s Ogre Designer Edition boardgame kickstarter. Nearly a Mil. Dang!

    Is this something that classic boardgames’ designers ought to consider now?

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/847271320/ogre-designers-edition

  33. yutt says:

    Miskatonic School for Girls is an excellent and fun game. It is one of the most enjoyable interpretations of the deck-building genre yet, with a cool theme and amazing artwork. The designer (Luke Peterschmidt) works fulltime in the industry as a tabletop game designer, so he is probably well aware of how to do this. Frankly I’m not sure how you could consider the game “awful”, unless you are just far too infatuated with Dominion, or don’t like deck-building games at all.

    Also, Tabletop is excellent, and the Smallworld episode was the best, bar none.

    So much random negativity around the very coolest things going on around tabletop games right now. If you could just criticize Shut Up Show as being too campy, I can solidify your opinion as too disparate from mine for value.

  34. TheTourist314 says:

    You’re back! Hooray! I can get my fix again now.

  35. BathroomCitizen says:

    Hello youse.

    Welcome back, rab!

  36. claumoe says:

    You are back. Finally!! Great!! Missed your take on games.

  37. subshell001 says:

    Got Mage Knight. Played a solo game once, and didn’t finish it mainly due to time constraints and the inevitable “everything takes 3 times as long the first time you play it” problem with most games that have lots of rules.

    I did enjoy it a lot, especially knowing it is somewhat more of a puzzle game than an RPG. If you keep this in mind and don’t expect it to be a pure RPG-like experience, you will enjoy it.

    It would be quite fun for there to be a companion iPad app where you could actually explore randomly generated dungeons instead of just beating a single monster on the dungeon tile. You could also accomplish this with more physical tiles I suppose.