Cardboard Children: Minigame Library

By Robert Florence on March 4th, 2013 at 4:00 pm.


Hello youse.

An interlude. I need to talk to you about Minigame Library, Level 99′s collection of small games in one box. I haven’t played all the games yet (there are 6 in total) but I’ve played enough to make my decision on whether or not you should pick this up. And you should. You really really should. Let me tell you why in a column I like to call “EVENTUALLY I GET TO MY POINT AND JUST SAY THIS – PLAY INFINITY DUNGEON”.

MINIGAME LIBRARY

A collection of small games is a great idea, isn’t it? And listen – when I say “small” I’m really talking in footprint terms. These are games in little card deck boxes, all stuffed into a larger box that resembles a treasure chest. If you have a particular favourite, or are in a particular mood, you could easily put any one of the games into your pocket. That’s always a good thing. Visiting a friend? Stick Noir in your pocket, just in case. Of course, some of you might wear tight little denim short shorts, with the pockets super-tight as your sexy round arse stretches the material, so I can’t promise you the games will definitely fit. But I’d bet that if you are wearing those, that friend you’re visiting won’t be planning on playing a card game with you anyway.

Let’s talk about NOIR first. You could try Noir right now if you wanted, because there’s an eeh eye eye oh ess version of the game – It’s a two player deduction game. You lay out character cards in a grid. One of the players will be the Killer and the other will be the Inspector. Both players have a secret identity on the grid. The Killer must kill other characters, by moving around the grid (sliding the card positions) and flipping adjacent characters. The Inspector has to deduce who the Killer is, by Exonerating (drawing cards off a deck to find out who is innocent) and attempting the arrests of adjacent characters.

It’s a really simple game, but it’s a lot of fun. You’ll enjoy a healthy scoop of deduction, a little bit of a logic puzzle feel, and the simple pleasure of being chased. The art style is great too. It’s one of those games you’ll learn in a few minutes and then want to play multiple times, to hone your technique. Recommended.

The next game I tried was MASTER PLAN. This is a weird one. Each player is a super-villain, in some sort of game show or something. I dunno. There’s a trophy, anyway, and it’s represented by a card. You place that card on the table, a little distance away from the players. Then each player draws a hand of cards. These cards represent spaces on the board. On their turn, players can place these cards face down on the table. Like, anywhere on the table. And before they do that, they can move their pawn from one card to another. You see? Basically, you’re all trying to create paths of cards, leading to that trophy. When you step on a card, however, it flips over and some kind of effect triggers. It might be a bomb, destroying the card you’re on and all cards a card-distance away from it. It might be a laser blaster, allowing you to shoot at another card, destroying it. It might be a springboard, allowing you to move again, or a switch, allowing you to swap spaces.

I liked this game. It’s nice to play a game that uses “real space”, if you know what I mean. In fact, it caused a little bit of confusion with some players at first, because it’s just such a strange concept.

“You can place the cards anywhere on the table.”

“Anywhere?”

“Anywhere.”

“What?”

Master Plan is all about mind-games. If you place a card into another player’s path, they’re immediately suspicious of it. You can bluff and bluff again, which is always fun. As the table starts to fill with cards a memory element comes into it too. “Do I move there? Did I place that card? Is that the bomb?” The game doesn’t go on too long either. Sudden Death eventually kicks in, meaning a falling player is out of the game for good.

I liked it. I should say that one of the people I played with really didn’t like it. It’s one of those games. Silly, chaotic, and a good time. But it has such a loose, woolly feel that some people might just dismiss it. I dunno. What can I say? I liked it.

Let’s get onto INFINITY DUNGEON. Can we do that now? Could you tell I was rushing onwards to get here? Oh man. I’m even going to put its name in bold. It’s that good.

INFINITY DUNGEON

This game is worth the asking price of the whole set. I haven’t laughed so much at a board game table in years.

Okay, it’s not a board game. At all. It’s a role-playing game. Yep. Relax. You might not be into RPGs, but hear me out.

No, wait. It’s not even an RPG really. Because it isn’t a game. Nobody wins or loses, really. It’s an activity. A role-playing activity for up to 8 players. You with me? Okay.

Each player is dealt two characters from a BIG character deck, and chooses one. Man, these characters are brilliant. You might be a Space Marine, sent into the dungeon through a dimensional portal. You might be a Butler, who must serve another player for the entirety of the game, right down to calling them “Master”. You might be a Pop Star, booked for a gig in the dungeon, accompanied by your stylist and some paparazzi. You might even be You. Yes, You. A character card that says “You”. With, get this, “…the exact same skills, drawbacks, and powers that you possess in real life.”

Yikes.

Every player makes an introduction, in character, then we all head down into the dungeon, to face our first room. To make it through the dungeon, the players have to negotiate a set number of these rooms. Each Room Card is different, and has an item printed at the bottom. When you enter a room, you deal out five room cards, but only the top one is visited. The rest are tucked under so that only the items are showing. This means that every time you encounter a room, there will be a different set of items there.

For each room, one player will be the Active GM, and one will be the Active Player. The Active GM describes the room, and the Active Player proposes a plan. Every room has some kind of door that needs to be unlocked, or some kind of peril that needs to be escaped from. The Active Player just has to concoct some kind of cool, funny, brilliant way to make it through. The items in the room can all be used in the plan. Characters carry stuff too, and that stuff can be used. The Pop Star’s stylist could be used, for example. Characters also have little quirks that can complicate plans. That Pop Star? He mustn’t get injured or dirty during any plan. The Space Marine must destroy any inhabitants of the dungeon in his plans. The Evil Overlord must justify how all of his plans advance the cause of Evil.

Once the plan is proposed, all the other players can vote for it, or challenge it. If you challenge, you must have a specific condition that you want met. For example, you might say “No, there aren’t enough show tunes in this plan.” Or you might say “I think this plan would be much better if we all had to get naked for some reason.”

I fucking love this game.

The Active Player can then try to meet any challenges by incorporating them into his plan. After that, a little scoring card lets you find out your “points” (accumulated through votes and meeting challenges). Then you flip a card, check the number in the corner, and if you exceeded that number – HOORAH! You made it through the room.

Infinity Dungeon, for my group of players at least, was a SMASH HIT. It was hilarious. It’s like improv comedy. When it’s your turn to be the Active Player, you can’t wait to get started on those rooms.

PLAYER: “Okay, so we’re in a monster’s belly. The stomach acid is eating away at us. What’s in the room? A laser gun. Nice. Psychiatric Help. Okay. Bruce Springsteen is in here. And a stuffed moose. Cool. Is he on the moose?”

GM: “Of course The Boss is on the moose. Why would he not be?”

I’ve never seen a game of this type get everybody into character so quickly. The Postman having that condition on his card that says he MUST deliver a letter to someone in every room makes role-playing that character so easy, and so much fun. It’s a really smart thing to put those conditions in. It helps with role-playing AND helps with making everything funnier. This game is role-playing stripped right down to the bare basics, with a fun-first attitude, and players encouraged to just let their imagination run wild.

“Infinity Dungeon” is the perfect name for this game, because there’s just so much variety across the two decks, and infinite possibilities in terms of plans and fucking around for laughs.

Seriously. I love, love, love this. Buy this set just to get your hands on it. And I haven’t even tried Pixel Tactics yet, which is apparently the best game in the box. Better than Infinity Dungeon, though?

Impossible.

NEXT TIME

Sorry, next time we’ll do the new board gamers bit. I just HAD to tell you about Infinity Dungeon. Keep bonin’!

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28 Comments »

  1. Swanny says:

    I need to pick this up. Infinity Dungeon sounds just like my groups’ d&d sessions, with all kinds of elaborate plans, A-Team style. We’re looking to get out of 4th edition, it’s just so slow. This is just what we need, this post made my day.

    • pakoito says:

      My friend group tested D&D Next (a.k.a. 5th) this past chirstmas and we LOVED it. Dynamic yet with D&D flavor. Our lvl 6 chars did more than our old lvl 16 ones.

    • Dusk777 says:

      We had the same feeling then moved to Pathfinder, it’s awesome!

    • TWChristine says:

      Hrm, I didn’t know it was slow.. I actually just bought the starter box about 2 days ago! I have the Warcraft RPG and Dark Heresy but everyone I try to play with seems very intimidated by it, and I’d heard that 4th Ed was apparently more user friendly so I’d hoped maybe I could ease them in that way! (Every day I push the box slightly closer to my spouse, thinking perhaps she will be overcome with curiosity and read the contents..)

  2. pakoito says:

    It can only be bought directly from the publisher, right? I wish I had friends :(

  3. Bluerps says:

    I know at least a dozen people who would love Infinity Dungeon.

    • Choca says:

      Lucky you.

      I’d buy it but I don’t want it to join “The Pile”.

  4. TWChristine says:

    WOO! I was really looking forward to another Cardboard Children as I was at the two local purveyors of cardboard games wot children (and adults) may enjoy. I have been looking for some games for my spouse and I to play and one of the ones that stood out was Killer Bunnies and the Quest For the Magic Carrot. Initially I thought this would fit right in with today’s article as well, but I guess the whole time I had just been looking at the expansion packs, and there’s actually a starter box set. Anyway, has anyone given this a shot?

    This game though certainly sounds like something I might try and take to work..can a round be completed during a roughly 30 min break?

    • Soolseem says:

      It’s kind of awful. Horribly random and way too long, best avoided. To make it even worse it’s really exploitative in the way it tries to get you to buy expansions, the base game has cards that are useless without expansion cards. There are good games that offer random, silly fun but I’d skip this one.

      • TWChristine says:

        Well that’s good to know, thanks!

      • Berzee says:

        I second what Soolseem says.

        I’ve played a lot of games of Killer Bunnies — well, about 10 games, but it feels like a lot. I thought it was good until I knew better =P but now that I’ve played other “Hand of Cards + Cards On Table” games, I see lots of ways that Killer Bunnies is ridonkulous.

        It has some good ideas too, like “run cards” which need to be face-down on the table for two turns before they flip over and take effect — but the aforementioned expansion-pushing and the weird randomness (the magic carrot might be any carrot out of the 20 or so you can collect, so you’re never really *sure* you’re winning unless you get lucky and totally kill everybody else) annoy me after a while. It also has lots of poorly explained fiddly card-specific rules, which can make people feel tricked if they base their expectations on its cartoony facade.

        It’s still a fun game to play with 5 or more people (needs at least that many so all the area-effect attacks in the game start to become meaningful) but I’ve gotten tons more mileage out games like Citadels, 7 Wonders, and even Bang! if you want some social subterfuge thrown in.

        (Ok, I mention those card games because I haven’t really played many other fancy card games =P but I’m sure they would be near the top of my list even if I knew things about other ones!)

  5. Temple says:

    If Infinite Dungeon’s premise is interesting to you it could be worth looking at the Machine of Death kickstarter
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1234131468/machine-of-death-the-game-of-creative-assassinatio

    It is already funded 10X over so it is stretch goals all the way and making sure you get a copy before they sell out.

    Don’t know what Machine of Death is? Then check out the preview stories from the second anthology on the Kickstarter page and go http://machineofdeath.net/ if they tickle your fancy. My fancy was tickled.

  6. DeepQantas says:

    I accuse. It was Bruce with a screw loose on the moose using a gun that goes zwoozz.

  7. writerryan says:

    Maybe I’m a simpleton, but I just can’t grasp the gameplay of Infinity Dungeon. What would the Active Player do next upon being presented with those things? I mean, obviously come up with a plan, but what might that plan entail specifically?

    • pakoito says:

      The game is more an “activity” than a game. You get the people around, the active player comes up with a plan, people agree or make him add stuff to his plan just in spite and then he passes/fails and the round restarts. No collective winning, no coop, no victory condition, just a past-time puzzle for your imagination.

      As for the mechanic itself, I saw one example in their rules. The door is full of potatoes that have to be cleared. You have a police car, Donald Trump, Robot Midgets, lemonade stand and minibar. One solution is using the toolbox of the police car to reanimate the robots, and make them distill vodka-lemon from the potatoes while you speak with Trump to save you from boredom. Then people vote positive or challenge with “I want explosion” “this needs some ponies” so the active player has to change the story accordingly.

      To see if a story succeeds, there’s a random deck with a number, if your approval points are superior to that chest, you earn it.

      EDIT: I guess maybe the person with the most treasure points wins?

  8. madscientist117 says:

    Looks like this is where you can purchase:
    http://www.lvl99games.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=15

    That’s the best I could find, at least

  9. unitled says:

    Great article, as always. Infinity Dungeon reminds me a lot of The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, a game involving making up fantastic stories from the amazing James Wallis. It has a similar system for adding complications and voting on winners. If you like the sound of Infinity Dungeon, check it out, best of all it’s really available as a pdf copy!

  10. Chris says:

    Fourth Edition D&D. Lousy RGP, but could be turned in to a great boardgame.

  11. Nixitur says:

    Note that you can also get Infinity Dungeon by itself for $24 which is a pretty good deal. However, Pixel Tactics, Noir and Master Plan (all of which are available for $12) all seem very interesting, so it’s probably worth it to get the whole thing.
    You also get the expansion for Infinity Dungeon with the Minigame Library, so it’s a pretty good deal.

    The shipping costs, however, are horrendous.

  12. Berzee says:

    Considering it takes me literally (no, really) at least 5 minutes to decide what to write on every Balderdash card, these games like Infinity Dungeon always sound like fun things I will never ever play. Thinking about participating fills me with anticipatory embarrassment and subsequent regret/wistfulness.

    (Not joking about Balderdash, I fear. Once last year I spent 10+ minutes trying to decide what to write, and then mournfully quit the game and resolved never to trouble my friends by being present in a game like Balderdash again — a vow which I have easily kept).