I love #WhatDidYouPlayMondays. This was started over at Geeky Goodies. Every week people jump online and share what games they played last week. Since launching this blog I’ve been trying to take part every week. I wanted to do a bit more than just give a list of games. I can do that on Twitter. Here I can do so much more. So every week I will be talking about all of the games that hit the table in the previous week.
I’ve been playing more games on Board Game Arena. This week we added Terra Mystica to the regular rotation of 7 Wonders and Race for the Galaxy. Out in the real world, we got in not one but two games of Gloomhaven. I finally got Sean (my podcast co-host) to play Terraforming Mars and the kids “forced” me to run Mermaid Adventures for them.
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During the week I continue to play games on Board Game Arena. As mentioned previously, I’ve got games of 7 Wonders and Race For The Galaxy going constantly. When one game ends the host starts a re-match. 7 Wonders is 7 Wonders, and this is a solid implementation. I’m becoming more and more impressed with their version of Race for the Galaxy. We learned last week that in addition to including the expansions they also include the drafting variant rules. Our last few games have been using those.
The big news for me on BGA last week is that I learned that they have Terra Mystica. I’ve been itching to play this game again after reviewing Gaia Project. Now I would rather get my physical copy to the table again, but I do have to admit that Board Game Arena did a great job on this game. The interface takes a bit to get used to but it looks great. Everything is there and looks identical to the physical copy.
I’ve now played three games of Terra Mystica digitally and there are more differences from Gaia Project than I remembered. I still feel Gaia Project is very similar and so far I still think if you don’t own either start with Gaia Project. That said Terra Mystica is still a fantastic game. I expect to be playing quite a bit more Terra Mystica in the coming weeks and you can expect to hear more about the game here.
Friday my podcast co-host Sean was down here in Windsor. He had some family and work stuff to do and we worked on a few podcast things. Expect to see some improvements to our Twitch stream and a video where I build the Meeple Realty Gloomhaven Town insert.
While Sean was down I had two goals. The first was to get him to try the amazing Coney Dogs at The Windsor Sandwich Shop and the second was to get him to try Terraforming Mars. I talk about the game all the time on the podcast and he’s never gotten to try it. I even brought it to Queen City Conquest but we never found time to play. I’m happy to say he really enjoyed both.
I didn’t want to make the same mistake I did with Wasteland Express Delivery Service so made sure to just set up the basic game of Terraforming Mars. We removed all of the Corporate Wars cards and everyone started with one production everywhere. I gave Sean a beginner corporation and D and I drafted corps as usual. It was very interesting playing with just the “basic” cards. It’s surprising how different the game plays without those Corporate Wars cards. We all had a rather crazy amount of production spread over a variety of resources. For a first play, Sean did very well coming in second only about 6 points behind my score.
Last week I talked about how the first RPG I played with my kids was Mermaid Adventures. Now that Big G has started running Tales of Equestria herself I honestly didn’t expect to play Mermaid Adventures again. Which is fine, we had fun with it. Saturday I was sitting here at my computer working when both girls came down from their bedroom in costume. They both own these mermaid tail blankets that are kind of like half a sleeping bag. You put your legs in them to keep you warm and well they look like mermaid tails.
The kids had been playing at being mermaids who could walk all morning. They had these things on all day, shuffling around difficultly with these silly tails restricting their ability to walk. The only time they took them off was to go up stairs (something D and I insisted). I figured it would last a couple hours but no, into the afternoons we still had a couple mermaids in our house. I couldn’t help but take this opportunity and asked if they wanted to continue to pretend to be mermaids in Mermaid Adventures. They loved the idea.
There was one problem. Neither kid could find their old characters. Which is a bit of a shame as there is a simple experience point system where characters can improve over time. The kids didn’t seem to care though and we just sat down and made new characters. After some point spending and random rolls, we had two new Merfolk. One a RayFolk who was all about competition and the other a FishFolk who could turn into a piranha.
After making characters, I started them on one of the adventures in the back of the book. A simple recover the MacGuffin quest that involved finding and searching through a sunken pirate ship, dealing with some pirates and eventually facing off against an evil sea witch and her undead servants. We didn’t get quite that far. Supper hit just after the two adventurers were surprised by the pirates, after having successfully found and snuck into the pirate ship.
The game itself was better than I remember. I think it’s a better game for Little G at this point. There is no math and the target numbers are always the same. It’s a D6 dice pool where you are looking for 4-6 on the dice. Chatacter abilities add white dice and the GM (Navigator) adds black dice to represent difficulty. Success on black dice cancel success on white dice. If any white successes are left the task succeeds. Compared to Tales of Equestria, I noticed Little G was having more fun rolling the dice and figuring out if she succeeded or not.
So it looks like we now have two ongoing family campaigns.
After the frustrating failure we had on the first mission, I did a ton of research before we sat down to play again. I was reading FAQs, frequently missed rules, rules summaries, and more. I kept thinking we must have played something wrong. That didn’t seem to be the case. While doing this research I did learn two things, things I saw repeated on a wide variety of blogs and forum posts. Gloomhaven is best with any player count other than four and there’s no shame in playing on easy.
I was bummed out to learn that playing Gloomhaven at the max player count is not recommended. Having four players makes the game too chaotic. There are too many bad guys and too many heroes acting in what almost feels likes a random order. Multiple times during the game, depsite what seems like careful planning, one of us would find that the actions we picked were completely useless. When your cards are the most limited resource you have in the game and running out of cards is the most common way of being eliminated, having a turn where you waste your cards really hurts.
It just seems odd to me to have an RPG game where you don’t want a full adventuring party. To me, this is yet another reason this game doesn’t deserve it’s number one rank. At this point, we are going to continue to play with four players. Our Gloomhaven group is myself, my wife, and another couple. I’m not going to ask one of us to sit out each week. We are locked in at four.
This leads me to the second thing I learned. Quite a few people strongly recommend playing, at least the first few missions, on the easy difficulty. This is even more recommended for groups playing at four players, like ours. Before starting our second game we had a long talk about whether to do this or not. I have to admit we all started out as pretty adverse to it. Playing on easy feels like giving up, like we aren’t worthy or something if we can’t play at the normal level. We are all experienced game players, we should be able to handle a little difficulty in our games. It feels like a defeat to play at the easy level.
We eventually ate our pride and decided to play the first scenario on easy. We found that the only thing we “miss out” on is 2 xp per player. That really doesn’t seem like that big a loss, plus playing at easy we can probably get more cards that earn XP played and earn back any loss. The other reason we decided to play on easy is that it would facilitate all of us seeing more of the game. It’s the same reason I play most video games on easy now. I want the experience, I want to play through the story, I don’t want to fight through the game.
How did it go? It went very well, especially on our second game. Our replay of scenario one was very easy. The thing is that I don’t think playing on easy is what made it a cakewalk. It was the draws we had from the monster decks. The Bandit Guards did not move the entire game. Every round they stood still and used shields. We made sure to act before them and just tore them appart. The archers were similar. Every card we drew they had -1 attack. So even when they did hit they did almost no damage. The last room was the only part that gave us a challenge. What was interesting about this: it felt great being a bad ass. Way better then failing part way through room two. It did feel almost too easy though, and we again debated upping the difficulty back to normal for the next scenario. I’m glad we didn’t.
Our game of scenario two was a perfect game. This was the first time so far that I really enjoyed Gloomhaven. It was tight, it was tense. If one more door had been opened we probably would have failed and we prevented that just barely. We did cool stuff using summons and obstacles. We used the elements to our advantage. Status effects were used to great effect. We won and felt like we earned it. Even on easy.
So I need to add my voice to the growing number of people telling you: it’s not a failure to play on easy, especially with four characters.
That was my week. How was yours?