Cardboard Children: A Murder Of Crows

By Robert Florence on August 26th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

Caw, cor
In this world of pain and misery, we survive from day to day on the promise of better things. We look down the line, and pinpoint a moment that we can move towards in hope. For people like us, these moments are often the release dates of toys and games. There is a moment at the end of that line, and it is always in sight. It is death, and it is inevitable. We stack our toys and games in front of that moment and try to hide it from view. Today I help you hide it.

LIBERTALIA

I want to tell you about how I cover board games.

Most games I cover I buy. Let’s get that out of the way first. So when I recommend some 60 quid monster, I’ve usually paid that 60 quid just like you’ll have to.

But I’ve also got a really good relationship with a guy called Ben Hogg at Esdevium Games. They’re the big distributor of board games in this country. Ben’s a good guy, and he sends me stuff every so often. We have an understanding. If the game is good, I tell you all about it. If the game is shite, I don’t. Ben knows that he will sometimes send a game and it will simply never be mentioned again. It will vanish into the mists.

I’ve always said that this column is for recommendations, and not for slagging off the games I dislike. I think it keeps the column a nice, fun, positive thing. You’re cool with that, right?

Well, here’s the situation with Libertalia. Ben sent me it a couple of months ago. Our gang has played it to death. I love it. We all love it. Ben knows we all love it. But here’s the thing – there’s still no solid date for the UK release of the game. When I cover a game I prefer it to be available. It’s better if it’s on the shelves that week. Why? Because you will forget.

Seriously. You’ll forget. There is so much stuff these days, so much cool stuff, and there’s only so much space in your head. If you can’t do that whole impulsive this sounds so amazing I am buying it right now thing, then there’s a good chance it just gets shuffled aside for something else. And that is not fair. That’s not fair to Libertalia.

So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to START REMEMBERING ABOUT LIBERTALIA.

When it becomes widely available, I’ll cover it in some depth. But for those of you who are in America, or anywhere where you might be able to pick up Libertalia, I want to give you an advance nod that this is POTENTIAL GAME OF THE YEAR MATERIAL so it’s safe to buy it now.

For those of you who are in the UK – WAIT. It’s coming soon, very soon, and I’ll do a nice big write-up to let you build an idea of whether it’s the kind of thing you think you’ll like. I don’t want to spoiler things, but if you like amazing games, you’ll like this.

It’s about pirates. There’s a monkey in it. It’s beautiful. Please start remembering it every day.


CTHULHU FLUXX

Fluxx is one of those games that every gamer has played, except me. With the new Lovecraft themed edition of the game I decided to give it a shot. I played it a few times on a camping trip, in a big teepee called a “Kata”.

First of all, let’s state this fact – Fluxx is nonsense. The gimmick with Fluxx is that the game changes constantly. The rules change, the goals change, things switch from player to player… it’s chaos. It’s not cool chaos like in Cosmic Encounter, where you try to ride the chaos and make it work for you, it’s just shitty chaotic chaos.

The basic rule is that you draw a card then play a card. Some cards are “Keepers” that can lead you towards fulfilling a goal, and some are “Creepers” that will usually block you from winning the game. Action cards allow you to fuck with other players’ cards, and New Rule cards let you affect how the game plays. Goals and Ungoals are cards that change the winning conditions and introduce losing conditions.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth Goal card, for example, states that you will win the game if you have the Federal Agents Keeper card and the Innsmouth Keeper card on the table. The minute a new Goal is played, this winning condition is gone, and you are nowhere.

So everything constantly shifts, and you can go from being close to a win to being at the back of the pack in the playing of one card. There is no real strategy you can bring to the table. A game can end in two minutes, or can go on for too long.

Sounds terrible, right?

Well, it isn’t. We happily played about four games in a row. It was late, and there was only two of us, and it was all a bit mindless and fluffy and silly and annoying and actually sort of fun. The Mythos illustrations on the cards are nice, and it’s fun to see an Ungoal kick in, with the game ending on an appearance of Cthulhu and an overflow of doom points. It’s ridiculously easy to play too. It’s something that you can pull out and play with the merest glance at the rules. There barely ARE any rules, until some get played.

I don’t event know why I enjoyed it. It’s a game that tries to be nothing more than a little bit of filler, and it serves that role quite well. Although, you could be playing -

A MURDER OF CROWS

Here’s another little card game I played recently. It’s just as light as Fluxx, but it’s a better game. It’s also beautifully illustrated, and has a wonderful macabre theme.

Every player starts with five cards, and they all have a value of either One Crow, Two Crows, or Three Crows. They also all have a letter on them. Either M, U, R, D, E or R. There are Wild Crow cards too, that can be used in place of any of these letters.

The objective of the game is to play your cards out in front of you to spell MURDER. On your turn, you draw a card and play a card. Each letter you play also has a game effect. So, let’s say you play a D card. That D means “Drain” and you must declare a letter. Every player loses that letter from their MURDER. M means “Misplace” and allows you to take a letter from another player’s MURDER. Nice, right? You can stop these card effects from hurting you by playing a card from your hand with the same Crow value as the active card, so you can often avoid the worst stuff if you manage your hand well.

So you draw one, play one, all of you trying to spell out your MURDER. You steal from each other, drain each other’s cards, and ride the chaos until you complete the word. And when you spell out MURDER, you read the story of the murder from the cards.

It plays quickly and makes sense, and the stories you create with the cards make a lovely end point for the game. It’s even better when you’ve used a Wild Crow card in your murder and have to invent that part of the little story.

A charming, lovely, dark little game.

SOME GAMES

1. Cosmic Encounter
2. Descent: 2nd Edition

I propose that Descent 2nd Edition is our second entry into our list, dealing with the “dungeoncrawl adventure” area of things. Here’s why I think it’s a good pick.

It’s available. That’s the first thing. While I might prefer Warhammer Quest, it’s no good if it’s not available to buy. (Games Workshop really need to do the sensible thing and get a new edition on the shelves.) Descent 2nd Edition is available and well supported. A new expansion is announced already, and I imagine that they will be regular events.

It’s a crowd-pleaser. I’ve spent some time with the game, and it really makes people happy. The negatives are few. While the recent D&D games (like Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon) are fine things, there are often voices of dissent. The mechanics feel a little bit gamey, some say. Others say they’re a bit dull. Dungeonquest too, is a game that I love and probably prefer to Descent. But it’s not for everyone. Christ, no. It’s a horrible, nasty bastard of a game, heavy on luck, and some people detest it. Super Dungeon Explore is also a fantastic dungeoncrawl game, but it requires you to assemble and glue miniatures, and that moves it into the more “hardcore hobbyist” area of things. So, Descent 2nd Edition is the safe, fun, awesome bet.

If you disagree, please tell me why. This list can change. I’m delighted that we were all in agreement about Cosmic Encounter, and I’d like every entry to be as popular.

Until next time, stay fuckin’ dicey! (Even with a swear-word in the mix, it’s naff.)

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42 Comments »

  1. Kaira- says:

    Murder of Crows sounds brilliant and lovely. And apparently my local game store even has it with a cheap cheap price (less than 15e), so I think I’ll go spend some of my money there. Reading Cardboard Children and Shut Up & Sit Down can apparently hurt my wallet much more than I thought.

    • Ravenholme says:

      I was thinking just the same thing, though I’m really not sure where I would find it in Aberdeen – I will hunt around for it though because it sounds like it might be some fun for the girlfriend and my friends.

      • thebaron says:

        Go see Mike in Asylum on the Adelphi, he always has nice things and used to have a pretty good stock of good games. If not, I’m sure he’d be amenable to getting it in somehow.

        Assuming you don’t religiously attend Asylum anyway, which, living in Aberdeen, you really should.

        • Ravenholme says:

          I was actually recently introduced to Asylum by a friend whilst we were looking for a birthday present for a mutual friend, so I guess that would’ve occurred to me sooner or later.

          Cheers for the tip :)

          • lijinkiss1544 says:

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          • Groove says:

            Is Assylum better than it was, now?

            The only time I’ve been in they had a pitiful board game selection, on the floor in the corner, and the whole building stank like an open sewer. Also when I went in there were six people standing around the counter who all turned to stare at me, then all carried on talking themselves without saying a word in my direction. Genuinely disconcerting.

            I’d love to believe it’s got better but I’d take some convincing.

          • Galcius says:

            Plan 9 might stock board games too, though I haven’t been there in years. The only other shop (apart from Asylum) that might carry it is Forbidden Planet, but I think they’re more into comics and action figures.

            Of course you could always use the Magic of The Interwebs. Royal mail does deliver to Aberdeen :P

            Regarding Asylum, I doubt much has changed. I too found it a rather intimidatingly bizarre place and the owner is an extremely odd guy…

    • Kaira- says:

      Finally got a chance to actually play Murder of Crows. It’s very lovely and contains lots of neat little things you can discover while you play. It’s also cheap, so I’d recommend everyone to go and get it.

  2. toomany says:

    Rab, with that swear in there I can see myself saying that to my mates as we leave the pub. God it’s awful but it’s so good.

  3. Pamplemousse says:

    Lovely as always Rab.

    Plus sticking to recommendations avoids needless controversies and is just a better use of everybody’s time.

  4. President Weasel says:

    I love that opening paragraph. Love it.

  5. TooNu says:

    Coincedently I want both Cosmic Encounter and Descent 2nd ed. and while I’m playing lot’s of Elder Sign these days I fancy something a bit more epic. Descent it is.

  6. mrwonko says:

    What? No big versions of the images? But I can’t read the murder story! :(

  7. Shadowcat says:

    I too played Fluxx for the first time recently, and I had the same reaction as you up until the “Sounds terrible, right?”, and the opposite reaction thereafter. Shitty chaotic chaos, sounds terrible, and it is terrible. We played two games, and I have no particular desire to ever play a third.

  8. Duke of Chutney says:

    Deskent 2, fair cop

  9. malkav11 says:

    Fluxx is the sort of thing where it’s not really possible to bring any strategy or thought to bear, but it’s…y’know, something to do while you hang out with friends. And it’s okay in that regard. Not much more.

    Games Workshop needs to at least reprint Warhammer Quest, yes (though it’s coming to iOS next year), but unfortunately they seem completely uninterested in pursuing their properties aside from their core business of miniatures games, hence them having struck a deal with Fantasy Flight to license -them- to do all their boardgames and card games and roleplaying games. Except, as I’ve said before, apparently, according to a friend of mine who worked there for a while and who is a huge Warhammer Quest fan, the terms of their licensing deal make it impractical for them to do anything with Warhammer Quest. Which sucks ’cause I keep hearing how good it is and want to try it. :(

  10. Palehorse says:

    I love these articles. At this point it is a sincere struggle to NOT run out and buy each week’s entry(s).

    Descent, eh? I have been flipping back and forth between this and Dungeonquest. DQ is in my game store now…and I can play it solo (sob)

    Still flipping.

    • malkav11 says:

      I haven’t played the new edition of Descent, but if like Rab says it’s an improvement on the original, I would strongly recommend it over Dungeonquest. (I also wouldn’t play Dungeonquest solo. I don’t find it particularly enjoyable at the best of times but the competitive aspects are the main source of what entertainment value it holds. For solo play I’d go with things like Arkham Horror and Mage Knight.)

      • Palehorse says:

        I’ve been reading reviews on both games and it sounds like they play very differently in terms of session length and complexity. there could be room for both, really.

        For solo play I will check out Arkham’s Horror and Mage Knight. I’ve only played AH once a few years ago.

  11. kadeton says:

    I just bought Descent this week, and played through the introduction and one quest with a group of five players. We had an absolute blast. So far at least, I prefer it enormously to Warhammer Quest and Dungeonquest regardless of their general availability. I heartily agree with the inclusion in the list of some games.

  12. Commissar Choy says:

    I’m not sure if anyone else is aware but Warhammer Quest is coming to iOS. I’m interested to see how it turns out.

  13. oatish says:

    Thanks for the coverage of Libertalia. We got sent a copy by the publisher at work and are planning to film a review this week about it. I’m the moving-boxes-round guy so I haven’t seen a thing of it yet but definitely sounds interesting.

    ps. shameless plug but boss makes board game reviews for work and they are good breakdowns of the games – http://www.starlitcitadel.com/games/articles/video-reviews.html

  14. Manbrarian says:

    First, I must say that I’m really enjoying Cardboard Children, especially the new “Some Games” list!

    I find that Fluxx is a great game for when I’m with people who aren’t interested in playing something more in-depth and rewarding (he pretentiously said). There is a lot of fun to be had with the punny goals and the chaos of the game; on the other hand, after two or three games I’m done with it for about a year and want to play Magic. I would caution against dismissing it too quickly because of how casual-friendly and easy to learn the game is, but I also recognize it’s not necessarily a good choice for “real” gamers most of the time.

  15. Unruly says:

    Just wanted to point out here that, as of yesterday, the Reaper Miniatures Bones kickstarter finished up and totaled up at just over $3.4 Million. http://kck.st/SQRe2M

    It’s not exactly board game related in the traditional sense, but it’s very much tabletop gaming related. If you were one of the vast majority who pledged for the Vampire($100) level, you might want to check out their kickstarter page and see what all new stuff you’re getting, if you haven’t already. And if you didn’t manage to get in on the kickstarter, I understand that there will be a way to pledge funds even though it’s already closed, so you don’t miss out on the great stuff, but I’ve heard that the prices will be slightly higher than they were during the kickstarter itself.

    • Palehorse says:

      I really had to hold myself back from pledging to this yesterday in the final hours. It looks like a fantastic deal but I myself have no real need for that many minatures. But the savings! Man i had to click away and think of other products I’d like to purchase.

      • Unruly says:

        Honestly, I’m in pretty much the same boat but I pledged the $100 anyways because those minis just looked awesome. Well, that and I’d just like to have them because I don’t have many minis of my own for my Pathfinder nights, and so I’ve been having to borrow off of other players. I probably won’t ever get around to painting them, because I would never be able to make them actually look good, but with my group no one really cares about paints. We just care about how cool the mini itself looks.

        Oh, and in a couple years they’ll make for great substitues for the old green and tan army men. So when my nephew is old enough to be playing with stuff like that(he’s only 2 right now) we can have big fantasy battles instead. Or put the army men up against a horde of skeletons, goblins, and a giant dragon! Because every imagination game is made better with dragons!

        What?.. Why’s everyone looking at me like that?..

        The minis being made of plastic rather than metal or resin makes them better for that kind of thing because they won’t break as easily, and, with the fact that I got something like 230 minis for $100, I won’t care if a couple get lost here and there. Now I just need to scrounge together an extra $40 or so to buy a few of the bigger options, like Cthulhu, the Mythos monsters, and maybe Kaladrax.

  16. andytt66 says:

    Figured this might be of interest to the Blood Bowl fans :

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1744629938/dreadball-the-futuristic-sports-game

    It’s… well. It’s Bloodbowl 40k, isn’t it?

  17. Easy says:

    Upcoming Mice & Mystic looks like a real crowd-pleaser in the dungeon crawl category. But yeah, Descent seems like a really good choice.

  18. Nick says:

    Huh.. why is Joey Ramone on that Murder of Crows D card?

  19. cutegirl says:

    love it ..

  20. EdoBarafu says:

    Delighted you enjoyed MoC!
    Cheers,
    ~Ed

  21. unununun says:

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  22. GojiraPrime says:

    I feel the need to defend Fluxx (not that it was actually being attacked). Of course there are strategies you can bring to the table, it’s just a matter of keeping 3 or 4 of them in mind so that when something changes (and it will) you can adapt and still win. We play Martian Fluxx at our games nights, usually while setting something bigger up, and there are people in our group who are visibly getting better at the game. You don’t get a learning curve in games with no viable strategy.

  23. zebramatt says:

    Personally, I’ve found that after a few games of Fluxx, once you get a feel for which combinations of keepers have winning conditions out there, you can bring a fair amount of strategy to bear. The fact that we were playing Monty Python Fluxx (which also involves silly voices, singing and the like) and the combinations of keepers seemed to make a lot of thematic sense probably helped a great deal, mind you.

  24. zebramatt says:

    Also, I wanted to mention my go-to casual game: King of Tokyo. Really nice, quick little dice game that one!

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