This past weekend was our Level up with Extra Life charity roleplaying event. At that event, I played in games of Paranoia and Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition.
In addition to some roleplaying on the weekend, I also played a couple of five-player games of Horizon on Monday.
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. Some games mentioned in this post were provided by publishers for review purposes.
Monday night I got to try Horizons with the full player count of five
Since bringing Horizons from Daily Magic Games back from Origins I’ve gotten it to the table a handful of times, but never with the full player count. I finally fixed that last Monday. We played two games with rather interesting results.
The first game was the quickest game of Horizons I’ve ever played. I don’t even think it lasted half an hour and that was with five players. This was due to the fact that my friend Mike Murphy got a mission card that required him to only build colonies and if he managed to build all of them score 10 point. 10 points is A LOT in Horizons and that’s exactly what he did. As quickly as possible he built six colonies.
The thing is, that the game immediately ends when a player builds their sixth colony. This made for a ridiculously short game. Far too short actually. While Mike did end up winning (we never stood a chance) and he had fun it wasn’t a very rewarding experience for the rest of us.
Our second game went much better and was also longer. For that game, we tried out the asymmetric alien sides of the player boards and does that ever change the game! Every single alien race is unique and that uniqueness is driven through modifications to the standard five actions. For one race instead of Exploring they Expand. Another gets Negotiate instead of Conspiracy. Each of these modified actions replaces one of the basic actions, giving two effects.
First off it really limits what each race can do. By eliminating a basic action these races actually change how you have to play the game. Secondly, they give each race a new action that makes them unique. For example, one race can build colonies on the stars themselves. Another race can build multiple buildings in one spot on a planet.
While I usually dig asymmetry, I found that the way it’s implemented in Horizons feels limiting. I did like that each race had something new they could do but by giving up one of the basic actions players are also restricted in what they can do. These restrictions felt punishing rather than just feeling like they added variety. This may be one of the few games where I think I will be sticking to the basic, symmetric player boards for most plays.
Earlier today I sat down and wrote up a detailed review of Horizons. I’ve now played it enough times and at all player counts, so I feel that I’ve got a solid impression of the game. As you can read in my full review of Horizons from Daily Magic, I think it’s a really solid game. It’s good, but it’s not great.
I played Paranoia the RPG for the first time at Level Up with Extra Life.
Last Saturday was our Level Up with Extra Life event at The CG Realm. Another one of our Road to Extra Life 2019 events, leading up to the big game day on November 2nd and 3rd. At this event, we had local gamers running RPGs in four hour slots. We had one slot running from noon until 4 pm and another running from 6 pm to 10 pm. In the middle, we hosted an RPG book exchange which also raised some money.
Originally I had planned to actually run some games myself, but the organizer (Ian form The CG Realm) suggested that this year I sit back, relax and actually play. That combined with the fact we didn’t have a lot of initial sign-ups online made me decide to sit on the other side of “the screen” this year, and I’m glad I did.
For the noon session, I joined a game of Paranoia ran by Randy McCall. I’ve actually never played in a game of Paranoia before, though I did run the 2nd edition of the game many years ago a few times.
The game Randy ran was a mash-up of the latest Paranoia Red Clearance Edition and the classic game I remembered. The reason for this is that the new edition has significantly changed from what I grew up on. A major part of this change is swapping to a card-driven action system for combat. Randy noted that he found that the game feels more like a board game using this system and he prefered a more roleplay based style of play. Personally, without having tried the new system, it did sound limited and I was happy to play by these house rules. We did use a ton of cards from the new system and I liked having those. We had cards for our roles in the team (I was the Happiness Officer), our Secret Society (I actually didn’t belong to one), our Mutant Powers (mine was Anomaly) and were handed out a hand of random equipment cards (specially chosen by The Computer and obviously vital to mission completion).
Another major change that’s happened to Paranoia is that it’s swapped to a D6 dice pool based system. That really threw me off at first, as I was used to the D20 version. The dice pool system here reminded me of Tales from the Loop, except that successes were had on a 5 or 6.
The one thing that hasn’t changed about Paranoia is the over the top, silly, post-apocalyptic, dystopian setting. I’ve always been a huge fan of Alpha Complex and Friend Computer and the insanity that ensues in this setting and Randy’s game did not disappoint. Our game had us starting off as newly recruited red level Troubleshooters sent to HOL-Y-WOOD sector, batting for our clones against classic sci-fi creations including Robby the Robot and The Thunderbirds.
Overall I really liked having the cards for everything. They worked especially well for the random equipment handed out throughout the game. The new dice pool system seemed solid enough. There was some neat bit Randy was doing behind the screen with custom dice with a computer logo on them that I’m curious to learn more about. The game was fun, though none of us lost even one clone, so it wasn’t very Paranoia like compared to those games I ran as a kid.
Most of all, I’m curious about this new system and this card-driven combat system. If I didn’t have a pile of stuff that I need to play right now I would be very tempted to pick up this new edition of Paranoia.
I also got to enjoy playing D&D this past weekend.
The other game I played at our Level Up with Extra Life event was a game of Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition.
Now at this point, I still haven’t actually read the D&D 5e rules. I have played in one convention game of D&D 5e at Queen City Conquest but that game was rather unique and not a very traditional D&D game.
The game I played Saturday was a much more typical Dungeons & Dragons experience. Our party of four adventurers was hired to scope out an inverse pyramid in the middle of the desert. A scholarly society wants to get in there and archive and document the place but they need a group to make sure it’s safe first. An initial group was sent and didn’t return and our group was the backup plan.
The game was mostly exploration and discovery, with a couple of trap filled combats, ending in a puzzle. It was very well run and I had a good time playing it despite having to try to figure out a 7th level character without any real D&D 5e experience. Thankfully I chose a fighter and my abilities were pretty straight forward. The game flowed well until the final scene which was a puzzle.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about puzzles in RPGs. The main problem with puzzles in games like this is that they completely remove the actual roleplaying. Once a puzzle is presented you are now relying on player skill and ability and tossing out any character abilities or mechanics. Yes, we did have the “make a history check for a hint” thing happening but it was really up to us to solve the puzzle and well, we failed. We never did figure it out.
This was partially because we ran out of time. With only 15 minutes left in the time slot and us stumped by the puzzle, we called it a night. Our party was down one member and we decided it was best left up to the archaeologists to solve the puzzle. We did our part, making sure it was safe up to that point. This worked but wasn’t a very rewarding ending.
Overall my experiences with Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition have been pretty good, and this was no exception. I’m glad I played and would sign up to play D&D again.
A couple of RPGs and two plays of a board game at a new player count. Not a bad week for me. How did you do?