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