Cypher, Warhammer, Keyforge and Digital Deck Building – Tabletop Gaming Weekly

This past week I got in a surprising amount of gaming with everything going on for the holidays.

I got Cypher and Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game off my pile of shame with my Monday night group. Then my wife and I had a night out away from the kids and we got in some games of Star Realms and Ascension. We also got to try out the hot new Richard Garfield card game: Keyforge.

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I actually gamed on Monday last week. The stars aligned and four of us were able to get together and play some games.

I took this opportunity to get a couple of four player games off of my pile of shame.

Cypher the card game from AEG. First up was Cypher from AEG.  Cypher is one of those micro-card games that comes in a drawstring bag and only has a small handful of cards. If I remember correctly it’s 16 cards in this case. Similar to the rest of these games, each turn players play one card and draw one card and try to have the highest card total at the end of the game. There are a few differences in Cypher compared to Love Letter and other games of this type.

In Cypher after you play a card and draw a card, you have a hand of three cards. You have to pass one of those cards to the player on your left and another of those cards to a player on your right, leaving you with one card. The other major difference, is that in Cypher you are building a tableau of cards in front of you and adding the influence of all of them up to determine the winner.

As usual for these games most, of the rules come from the cards themselves and they are pretty simple. The theme here is some cyberpunk dystopian future where factions from three social status’ work together to try to gain the most influence over the network (The Nexus). The three social status’ come up in play a lot and really add to the theme of the game.

Overall Cypher is one of the better Love Letter isotopes I’ve played and potentially my favourite. Previously that spot was held by Lost Legacy but I think I dig the theme better in Cypher and I really like how you have to pass cards to the other players.

After Cypher we finally got Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game to the Table.

This is a four player cooperative card game set in the Warhammer Old World. Not the new fangled Age of Sigmar stuff which I complained about when we talked about Shadespire, but rather the original Warhammer setting that I’ve loved since I was a kid.

Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card game from Fantasy Flight Games. In Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game each player picks one of four characters (a Wood Elf Waywatcher, a Dwarf Ironbreaker, a Warrior Priest of Sigmar or a Bright Wizard). Each character has four actions represented by cards. Explore, Rest, Attack, and Aid. Each turn they pick one of these actions to do and exhaust (tap) the card when the action is done. One of the four actions also lets them un-exhaust all of their cards. What’s neat, is that which action does this is different for each character.

Actions are resolved using a dice based system that’s like a very watered down version of the Fantasy Flight RPG system. Players get positive white dice for their actions but then add black negative dice for any enemy they are engaged with. White dice give successes and defense where as black dice indicate damage taken fighting enemies. Similar to the RPG, some of these symbols cancel each other out.

Before each game players choose a scenario to play through. They then set up a location deck, a dungeon deck, a gear deck and a monster deck. Players use their actions to fight the monsters and explore the adventure locations.  Every scenario we have seen has the party trying to get through a set number of randomized locations before getting to a final location and a boss fight. Each round a scenario tracker is advanced causing interesting and usually nasty plot based things to happen.

The base game comes with one “delve” scenario that can be played at any time and any number of times and a series of five linked story based scenarios. There are campaign rules for playing through the story which includes things like stopping in town between quests, buying gear and leveling up your characters.

Overall we all loved this game. This is one of the best cooperative games I’ve played. Now I do have to admit I love the theme. I’ve been a fan of the Warhammer universe for a very long time and the group I was playing with all finished a three year Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition campaign just last year, so they are also fans. That said, I think I would enjoy this system even without the Warhammer theme. It’s that good.

There’s a problem though, a huge one. The game is dead. It came out just before Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop split ways and due to that none of the planned expansions were ever released. So this is a dead end product. All you will ever get are the 6 scenarios included in the core box. That’s highly disappointing as we all really dug the game. We enjoyed it enough that we even played through two full scenarios in one night. That means all we have left is three more. While I guess you could re-play the campaign, I can’t really see doing that myself.

Last Thursday my wife and I took a day off. We took advantage of a holiday sale at Jack’s Gastropub and booked a night out in Kingsville. We had dinner at Jack’s and then stayed overnight at Inn 31. This is our favourite way to spend some time away from the kids and my mom.

Whenever we go away on a trip like this I always pack some games. The kind of stuff I talked about in my date night post. I have to admit we didn’t play much of what I brought. A part of this was that we got to the county later than expected. We basically showed up just in time to check in and sit down to dinner. I had hoped to stop in at a cafe before but it just didn’t work out.

Our table for dinner was a smaller two person table, not something really big enough to break games out on. So we took to our tech. I grabbed my iPod touch and we played a couple of app based deck builders. First up was Star Realms.

Screenshot of the Star Realms app. A fantastic digital implementation of the card game.Star Realms is still one of my favourite two player deck building games. You only need the core deck to play. No extra cards or tokens or life trackers. Everything you need is in the one box. Of course that doesn’t matter much when you are playing the app like we were. My wife and I fell in love with Star Realms at Origins 2015 where we first did a demo of the game and immediately picked up a box. We must have played it at least two dozen times that weekend.

Now the App version of Star Realms is solid but it did take us a while to get back into the groove of things. I kept messing up my tapping, where I wanted to blow up a card so I could read it and instead would end up buying it. Also we were playing on my iPod touch and I’ve got to say the display is a bit too small for this game. While the game looks great it tries to present the cards as if they are on a table. I found myself wishing you could just display the cards “flat.”  Overall every digital version of Star Realms is great, but I think next time I will try to play on a larger device like my phone.

After straining our eyes trying to play Star Realms we moved on to Ascension. Now ascension is a deck builder where I actually prefer to play on the app. Unlike Star Realms the physical version of Ascension requires a bunch of extra bits other than cards. There’s a central board and then counters for both victory points and two different types of counters to keep track of. With later sets they also added in special cards, separate decks and even a die.

Screenshot of the app version of Ascension. This is an excellent version of the board game.The app version of Ascension is expertly crafted. There’s none of the fancy animations and they cards are laying flat and easier to read. It did mess me up when we first swapped games as double tapping in Star Realms does one thing and it does something different in Ascension but I found we both adapted quickly. The one thing that did mess us up is that since the last time we had played the app they changed all the artwork. I have no clue why this happened but it was annoying as we both used to be able to recognize all of the cards by their images. Now we had to tap on pretty much every card to read what they did.

The change of art is a minor complaint though. I still really dig Ascension and the app. It was fine playing this on my iPod touch as well. The cards and graphics were just a touch larger than Star Realms making everything easier to read and interact with.

So before heading out to Kingsville we stopped in at one of the FLGS, The CG Realm, and tried to pick up a Keyforge starter set. I figured this short trip would give us a chance to try out this game that everyone is talking about. Sadly they were out of starter sets but the staff assured us that we didn’t need them and that the sets didn’t even include the full game rules. So D and I each picked out a deck to play on our trip.

My first KeyForge deck. The hot new non-collectible card game from Richard GarfiledDuring dinner (mainly while waiting for my turn in the deck builders we were playing) I read through the rules. When we were done eating and settled in upstairs I tried to do a quick unboxing video for each of the two decks. This didn’t go so great. It seems that Jack’s Wifi isn’t sturdy enough to handle live streaming on Twitch.

After our pretty much failed attempt at the unboxing videos we sat down and tried the game.

Our first experience was okay, but not great. First off I have to say that I dig the look of the cards. D seemed to really dig hers as well. She particularly liked art for her Mars cards. The artwork is rather over the top but evocative. Actual game information is clearly displayed and important things like the card factions are easy to see from across the table. No complaints about the look of the game.

The problem we had with our first game was that creatures just weren’t lasting. Stuff would come up for a turn and then get wiped out before we got to use it. It just felt odd. Of course, it ends up we were playing the extreme version.

KeyForge deck featuring Mars, Dis and LogosBoth D and I were too used to playing Magic where you compare attack and defense and only when attack beats defense is a creature killed. Well in both our decks the highest defense we saw was a 1. It ends up Keyforge doesn’t work that way. Instead creatures have hit points equal to their power and aren’t removed until they take that much damage. Defense just reduces the amount of damage they take from each source.

So we played a second game and it went much better. Much much better. It’s amazing how much difference playing with the proper rules can make when playing a game.

We liked it. The game wasn’t hard to learn (as long as you unlearn what you have learned and don’t try to play it like Magic) and played pretty quickly. Our two decks were very different. Mine was all about stealing Aember, wiping out all creatures in the game and playing some heavy hitters where as D’s deck was about getting lots of Martians out and manipulating her vault.

We both noted that it felt weird to not have any deck building aspect to the game. After playing our two rounds both of us felt the desire to tweak our decks. That’s not something you do in Keyforge. You buy your deck and that’s it. No deck building. No drafting. Just sit down and play. It feels odd.

A hand of KeyForge cards. The hot new card game from Fantasy FlightI also now get the desire to buy more decks. While I enjoyed my deck it didn’t really fit my usual card game playstyle. While I really enjoyed my Brobnar cards and the damage they did, I wasn’t enjoying my Shadows cards nearly as much. Dis did seem cool though. I can totally see buying a bunch of decks just to see what I really enjoy playing and then potentially seeking out a deck with the three factions I found I enjoyed the most.

I do still want a starter set. While it may not have the full rules it does come with a bunch of counters. That was something we were lacking during our night in Kingsville. We made due with Patchwork buttons for Aember and damage tracking and Azul tiles for Keys but I would rather have some dedicated components just for Keyforge.

So those were the games I got to the table last week. What about you?

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