In addition to our weekly Gloomhaven Live Stream, this past week I set up a game night just to work on my pile of shame.
As part of the #LessShameMoreGame quest I finally got Shafausa off my pile of shame along with the Scoville Labs expansion for Scoville.
For Gloomhaven we tried out the random dungeon rules for the first time.
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Shafausa has been in my pile of shame the longest. Far longer than any other game. When I decided to do the #LessShameMoreGame challenge this year one of the games I knew I had to get played was Shafausa. Of all my uplayed games this was the one that caused the most shame.
I finally got to play Shafausa last Saturday and I had so much to say about that play of this game that I wrote up an full detailed review of the game. You can check that out here:
Shafausa Review – Where Orcs, Trolls and Dark Elves Sit Down and Talk About The Economy.
What I will say here is that I’m very glad we took the time to sit down and learn the game. Despite having one of the worst translated rulebooks of any game I’ve played, some production issues (the worst being the fact everything is printed very dark), and a complete disconnect between the theme and mechanics, Shafausa is a really solid economic euro game. Not only did the four of us that played enjoy the game, more than half of us are excited to try it again.
I first mentioned Scoville back when we were talking about hidden gem 4-6 player after dinner games. Talking about that inspired me to bring the game to the Bellhop Boardgaming Birthday Bash. At the Bash we had a great six player game that reminded me just how much I enjoy Scoville, plus reminded me that it’s not quite as heavy as I remembered.
This led me to wanting to play one more time to get something off my pile of shame, the Scoville Labs expansion. I accomplished that last Saturday.
After we finished up Shafausa, D excused herself and headed to bed and the three of us that were left broke out Scoville and I cracked open Scoville Labs.
Most of what is in this small box expansion is just more of what you get in the base game. More peppers and counters for tracking peppers just in case you ran out of wooden and plastic pepper components that come in the base game. That was a big complaint about the original game, that it didn’t include enough peppers and it’s good to see Tasty Minstrel Games addressed that with this expansion. Along with more peppers you also get more market and chili cards. These are just shuffled in with the cards from the base game.
It’s worth noting that some of the market cards do add something new to the game. Some of them give bonus actions as rewards. These work just like the bonus action tiles that players start with every game. You can trade in the market card to take the specified action but by doing so you give up any points awarded by the card.
Speaking of bonus tiles, Scoville Labs also includes one more “plant an extra pepper” bonus tile for each player. There’s a reason for this and that is tied to the last new component: the lab boards. These are nice thick card board player boards that have spots to plant nine peppers on them, in a three by three grid.
These lab tiles add one new planting phase to the game. After players have planted a pepper in the main field they have the option to plant a second pepper into their own personal lab tile. The first pepper placed does nothing, but every pepper placed after that has to be placed next to another pepper in the lab and when placed the two automatically crossbreed and give you a new pepper. The bonus planting tiles can be used to either plant an extra pepper on the field or in a lab.
The other thing the labs change is the value of peppers when you sell them. You now add up the peppers in your personal lab plus those on the board to determine the money you get when selling peppers. This is interesting as it means that market values can be different for each player.
The last thing in the box is a new crossbreeding summary card that presents the same information that is on the base game pepper matrix but in a different way. I found that some people preferred this one to the original. Oh and there’s one of those social media cards, where you are meant to take a picture with the card if you win and share it online.
Overall I really liked this expansion. I loved the new market cards giving you bonus actions. Those are a great new edition. The new chili recipes are welcome, as are the increased number of pepper pieces. All of this stuff I’ve mixed in with the base game and see no reason to ever remove. What that leaves me with is the Lab boards. I personally liked having this new board a lot. It meant it was just a bit easier to get to some of the rare pepper types at the expense of having more peppers to use earlier in the game. However my friend, Sean Hamilton, did not like the lab. He found it added a new level of complexity that just muddled what was a really tight game.
I think Scoville Labs is still well worth picking up. Mix in the new cards and peppers. Give everyone the new player handout in case it makes more sense to them, then ask everyone if they want to use the labs part of the expansion or not. It’s easy to add or remove from the game and some players are going to like it and some won’t.
Gloomhaven Random Dungeon
Now that we stream our Gloomhaven games live on Twitch (and then share an edited version of those videos on YouTube), I feel there’s more of an obligation to play every week. We want to make sure we are sticking to our broadcast schedule as much as possible. So when D let us know that she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to play I wasn’t sure what to do at first.
We could just cancel. We could stream something else. We could play with just three players and have her miss out on whatever was going to happen in the game next. None of those really sounded like good options.
Then I remembered a few things about Gloomhaven. First off you can play in casual mode. Second you can start a second party, and third there were rules for generating random dungeons. So I grabbed my rulebook and researched these options to see which I thought would be best for our group.
Casual play lets you pick anywhere on the map and play through it. Your group gets all of the XP and Gold they earn but you don’t resolve the conclusion portion of the scenario. So you can’t get any quest rewards or unlock anything new. You can also use this mode to re-play something you’ve already played. That seemed like a viable option but I definitely didn’t want to go try somewhere new and end up spoiling it for when we returned to it later through campaign play.
Starting a second party sounds like a great idea. We would all make new characters and get to try out a different character class. We would also get to check out the other two starter character classes and see what we are missing out on. The problem is that we had three of us and only two characters that had not been played yet. So if we did this we would have to have someone share a character box. Which would mean finding a way to track and separate which version of the character had which cards and which items. Yes each box includes a pad of character sheets for doing exactly this but it sounded like an annoying amount of upkeep and then set up time each time we swapped up who played each character.
The last option was to check out the random dungeon rules. These use the casual play rules, so we would get to keep any gold or xp we earned. We wouldn’t have a travel encounter but we would get to stop in town and have a town encounter. A random dungeon also meant getting to play something new without having any spoilers. So D wouldn’t miss out on anything but some gold and XP. It also let us try a new way to play the game that we hadn’t tried before and that was very appealing. This was the option we went with.
So we started off the night in Gloomhaven and a city encounter. This ended up being rather ironic as the encounter we had ended up with a Vermling almost being strung and hung by a mob and eventually getting arrested. The irony is in the fact that D plays a Vermling Mindtheif in our group and it was the Vermling that wouldn’t be present for the night’s game. We all agreed that it was obvious that it was Karvo RatKing who we just witnessed getting taken away by the guards.
From there we set up the first room of the dungeon. We decided to give it a try at normal difficulty, which is level 2 for our group.
The random dungeon system in Gloomhaven is rather well done. You draw a random room card and then a monster card to go with it. You combine the two of those cards to get the encounter you are having. The first combo we had was an Infested Cave. The room card shows you what tiles to use, where the exits are and what overlay tiles you need. The monster card shows you what monsters to spawn and where any treasure or traps are located. The goal in a Random Dungeon is to defeat all the monsters in three rooms.
Things started off well for us, battling bears and hounds and sprites. All monsters we had never fought before. We moved onto the second room quickly and found it filled with undead and slimes. That room didn’t go nearly as well for us. To make things interesting, as soon as you open the door to the second room something bad happens to your group. This is indicated on the room card drawn. For us this meant getting cursed.
We fought in the second room for a long time. We got bogged down fighting the undead while the slime sat back and started to propagate. Tori’s Innox Brute went down first leaving just myself and Kat to handle the last room. We managed to get to it and open the door, and that’s when Tori noticed that we were playing the Xtreme version.
I was the one spawning all of the monsters as we entered each room and I messed up. I was so used to spawning the monsters for a four player game that I totally forgot that with only three of us we should have had to face way less monsters. Despite the fact we fought four characters worth of level 2 monsters, Kat and I managed to get it down to one bad guy left. I felt horrible for messing up the game.
I guess on a positive note, we only made it harder on ourselves so you can’t really consider it cheating. We debated giving the group the successful quest completion XP even though we had one monster left, but ended up deciding against it. Despite failing we still all got the XP we earned through card play and we also all earned a significant amount of gold.
Personally, I really liked the mechanics for the Random Dungeon. It was cool to be able to play short one character and not spoil anything for that player. It was also worked really well for our Live Stream as we were able to broadcast even with a player short. We even got some new viewers who also wanted to check out the Random Dungeon rules and had some great interaction in our chatroom. Despite making a dumb mistake we all had fun. Random Dungeons also look to be a viable option if you wanted to “grind” in Gloomhaven. If you have a character who is falling behind in XP or Gold this is a good way to give them a bump up.
Going forward this is going to become our default plan if one of the players can’t make it. We will still do a live stream with the smaller group and we will play through another random three room dungeon. Just next time we will be sure to spawn the right number of baddies.
That was my week. A couple boxes off the pile of shame and something totally new in Gloomhaven. How was your week? What did you get to the table?