Barnes on Games- Tyrants of the Underdark in Review, 51st State H2H, Lost Patrol

Barnes on Games- Tyrants of the Underdark in Review, 51st State H2H, Lost Patrol Hot

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Michael BarnesMichael Barnes   June 30, 2016  
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Lukewarm.

Wow. I don't know if I've ever felt more "meh" about a game than I do about Tyrants of the Underdark. It isn't especially "bad" at all. It's a "solid" game, no doubt. It's just so unbelievably ordinary, mundane and - just for Repo - workmanlike. It is a game almost completely devoid of energy, excitement or enthusiasm. It feels like the designers- the guys that did Waterdeep- looked at the popular deckbuilders of the day circa 2013 and made their own version of that. It's odd that it is so non-compelling though, because they have a couple of ace ideas. There's this spy thing where you can circumvent the usual requirement to have presence in an area to impact it...and there are multiple effects that spies can have, so you might be kept guessing what a player's agenda is where they have spies. It depends on what cards they are buying out of the market. There's also a great card dumping thing where you "promote" cards to your Inner Circle at the expense of banking the card out of game until the final point count. And it has some good area control antics including supplanting, assassination and ousting. I thought "Ascension plus El Grande" was a can't miss proposition, but the game has practically no voice of its own. Even the setting- Menzoberranzan and its suburbs- is boring. It doesn't help that it looks like they took a prototype board and said "fuck it, let's just print that." The pieces suck too, terrible little shields. And the whole thing is like $80 retail...

So the first miss from the D&D board game line...and from Gale Force 9, who co-produced this thing. But regardless of my opinion in this review, I have a feeling that this is going to be a really popular game. Probably  because it is so bland, redundant, and uninteresting. If it had come out in 2013, I think I would have received it more warmly. But this one just bored me in 2016, especially in a year where I recently played A Study in Emerald which does the deckbuilding/intrigue/area control thing MUCH better.

The other Debbie Downer review is 51st State Master Set, which I look at with my writer Grace P. over at The Review Corner. I really, really wanted to like this. I had the old version for a while but I could never get into it. I liked Imperial Settllers OK, but prefer the post-apocalypse setting over the freemium mobile game illustrations it had. So after several games of shuffling resource counters around, trying to make guns or people turn into oil cans or bricks, I realized how much I just did not really care for it. The solo game is the pits, Imperial Settlers did it better. Multiplayer does that same thing that IS did, which is to say the last turn takes as long as the first four as players try to figure out the best path to navigate through their assortment of cards and abilities. I enjoyed playing it a couple of times because there is a lot of potential for combos and some good depth, but I'd be alright without ever playing it again.

Zombicide: Black Plague is tracking well and I've got a set after playing a friend's copy. There's a lot of things I really like about, especially as a reasonably playable six player game. The leveling mechanic is great, I really like the medieval zombie-smashing more than the usual grim and gritty umpteenth generation Dawn of the Dead stuff, and it has PEGBOARD CONSOLES which is one of the greatest and most unjustly derided developments in game production history. They even have little card racks so you stick your backpack cards in them! Of course, it's CMON so there is a ton of content not included in the box (but in the rules) so that's irritating, but overall it's a fun hack and slash.

But I would also rate it as INFERIOR to Deathwatch: Overkill, which is kind of a similar concept. Genestealer cults>zombies. They don't have a limo. But D:O is a two player, non-solo affair. Also much simpler with no cards/equipment.

In other GW Summer Homecoming 2016 news...I got Lost Patrol and it's great. I never played the old edition so I can't compare them, but this is a really fun game. It fits right in with D:O and the other recent games- very simple rules, very straightforward dude-moving and dude-shooting concepts. But it has the typical minimal but impactful chrome rules. In this, it's scouting tiles with easy visibility rules and this nasty business where the jungle sort of changes (or you just get lost) which can result in your group of SM scouts getting separated and lost. It is SUPER HARD for the scouts, no doubt, and that has caused some usual internet bitching. The Genestealers are just crazy hard to kill and defend against. There's a couple of ways to tweak it without breaking it, but what I settled on was allowing the Scouts to shoot with two dice looking for sixes (but only allowing one hit) and the one with the Heavy Bolter to roll three dice, same thing. It seems to have balanced it out more. But you could also do hits on fives/sixes too and I think that might work.

I've played it with River maybe 20 times in the past week. At first, he didn't get playing the Genestealers at all but I think he gets it now, attacking aggressively and using the Infestation markers to create deeper spawn points. We've had a couple of games that wind up in these brutal "last 100 feet" battles right before the drop pod.

Can't wait to paint the models in this one, I want to do the white/purple Genestealers and Ultramarine scouts.

We have also been playing Warhammer 40k. The Battle for Vedros version. I'm writing up a three part article about Battle for Vedros chronicling our experience with this new, almost secret product line. In short- it could be really great if GW can figure out how to sell it. It's kind of a shambles though. "Snap fit" minis that aren't, a HUGE gap between the two pages of rules in the box and the real 40k rules, and marketing it toward younger kids but having human heads dangling from an Ork's belt on the Ork Boyz box. I love it, but it seems like whoever is handling this particular product line doesn't quite have a handle on how to make it work. The GI Joe like packaging is great, the paint set is awesome, the rules are simple and fun. More on this later.

To bring us back to the summer of 2014 and the ERP, I got in the new Ra yesterday. Please do not spend $60 on this awesome game. That is a ridiculous price for it. The board is really cool, it's embossed/textured and it has a nice cloth bag and a plastic Ra figure. But it SHOULD retail at $39.99.

 

Posted: 30 Jun 2016 21:03 by Egg Shen #229581
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Damn...really surprised to read the "meh" review on Underdark. It's easily one of the games that I've been most excited about for 2016.

Reading the review it sounds like the did exactly what they attempted with Waterdeep and for whatever reason it didn't work out quite as well.

I still need to get my hands on it and try it though. On paper it has a ton of shit that I adore.

How cutthroat would you say it is?
Posted: 30 Jun 2016 21:49 by hotseatgames #229585
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I could not agree more with your assessment of Tyrants of the Underdark.

Egg- you can screw people over and gang up on them but there is not a terrible amount of fuckery. Certainly not enough to warrant a GF9 logo on the box. I know they didn't design it, but still.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 00:51 by SuperflyTNT #229587
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It sucks. It tries to do D&D Siege of Columbia or something ... Almost like a path control game or something, but it failed. And deck building ugh

Opposing view:
boardgamegeek.com/thread/1597948/review-...ultiple-plays-superb
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 02:06 by Gary Sax #229588
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Your comments about the kid suitability of the 2 page rule 40k product made me laugh out loud.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 08:23 by Mr. White #229591
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I _almost_ bit on that 51st State Master Set pre-order package. I know Lego is a big fan so I hope he's at least enjoying it.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 09:54 by charlest #229594
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Egg Shen wrote:
Damn...really surprised to read the "meh" review on Underdark. It's easily one of the games that I've been most excited about for 2016.

Reading the review it sounds like the did exactly what they attempted with Waterdeep and for whatever reason it didn't work out quite as well.

I still need to get my hands on it and try it though. On paper it has a ton of shit that I adore.

How cutthroat would you say it is?

I like it a bit more than Michael, Pete, and Mark if that gives you any hope. I was still pretty critical in my review of its plain Jane demeanor though and how it doesn't even offer a single new mechanism. Price is absurd for sure.

I think it works well though and is well-oiled, it just needs more character and another layer or system to spice it up. I think we'll get that with an expansion, much like Lords of Waterdeep had corruption and the extra boards added on.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 09:55 by JEM #229595
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That "promotion" element in Tyrants sounds suspiciously like the Entombing in Valley of the Kings (stash a card out of your deck to score it). I saw several groups playing it at the tavern last week, but didn't feel any urge to ask for a game.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 10:01 by charlest #229599
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It is. That mechanic is handled best in Don't Turn Your Back in my opinion - there everyone trashes to the same pile and whoever has the largest total value scores the most points, second second most and so on. It makes it more dramatic as you're trying to figure out who trashed the most and the information is hidden (you trash to it face down).
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 10:37 by Josh Look #229603
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Lost Patrol is really, really fun. It's the first of the newer GW games I've played and it's cause the bug to bite me hard. It's the kind of game that if I still went out to the local game shop to play, I'd accidentally end up play all night. It's quick, less than 10 minutes sometimes, but when it's over you just want to set it back up and see if you can make it a little bit farther.

Horus Heresy came yesterday. I've got some gluing ahead of me.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 11:48 by Michael Barnes #229608
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Do yourself a favor and invest in some Army Painter color primer- Dragon Red and Ultramarine Blue. About $11 a piece from Miniature Market or any other discounter. The basic SMs have no identifying marks so there is no way to distinguish them aside from their activation markers. In about 30 minutes, you can have both sets primed AND basecoated.

The Dreadnaught, the Terminators and the characters can wait, but while you are spraying...

Also be aware that you have options. Which is kind of terrifying. I just went with the default group on the back of the assembly guide with just a couple of tweaks. Make sure you look at the cards that have the wargear options so you don't make an "illegal" squad.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 13:55 by Legomancer #229613
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Mr. White wrote:
I _almost_ bit on that 51st State Master Set pre-order package. I know Lego is a big fan so I hope he's at least enjoying it.

I am and I am.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 14:50 by Egg Shen #229622
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charlest wrote:
Egg Shen wrote:
Damn...really surprised to read the "meh" review on Underdark. It's easily one of the games that I've been most excited about for 2016.

Reading the review it sounds like the did exactly what they attempted with Waterdeep and for whatever reason it didn't work out quite as well.

I still need to get my hands on it and try it though. On paper it has a ton of shit that I adore.

How cutthroat would you say it is?

I like it a bit more than Michael, Pete, and Mark if that gives you any hope. I was still pretty critical in my review of its plain Jane demeanor though and how it doesn't even offer a single new mechanism. Price is absurd for sure.

I think it works well though and is well-oiled, it just needs more character and another layer or system to spice it up. I think we'll get that with an expansion, much like Lords of Waterdeep had corruption and the extra boards added on.

Oh I still have hope that I'm very much going to enjoy it. I'm just more surprised than anything that the game really isn't wowing people.

The "not having any new mechanism thing" doesn't really bother me all that much. It's not like this is the only game to ever be guilty of this. I think the designers were thinking, "All right...all of these things have all been done before, but they've never been used in this way." Maybe not...who knows.

Again, I keep thinking back to Waterdeep and how initially I was kinda, "Huh. That's it?". Then I sort of fell hard for it because it just works so well. Yes, the expansion really enhances it, but the base game was such a solid foundation to build upon.

I guess my thing is that I actually really enjoy deckbuilding...especially when it's used for something other than...you know, just building your deck. Whenever I've thought about this game I've always seen it more as an area majority game that uses deckbuilding. Rather than the other way around.
Posted: 01 Jul 2016 15:11 by Michael Barnes #229625
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Here's the problem with Tyrants. When Waterdeep came out, really quite complex and somewhat overwrought worker placement games were kind of the main thing going. Waterdeep cut all of that down and came out with a pretty easy to play game that was fun, had a cool setting, and didn't take too long. So it was sort of a counter-programming example of the genre.

Tyrants WOULD have been that a couple of years ago by having the board play, the area control elements. But that was a few years ago. Deckbuilding has actually come quite a long way since then, and its core mechanics still feel stuck in that sort of "second gen" deckbuilding model. So it is much less remarkable and it feels dated.

The area control element is as big as the deckbuilding, but you are still playing every card in your hand for two resources, buying cards from a "river" a la Ascension, cycling through them and looking for opportunities to thin your deck out. It feels more like a deckbuilder than a board game.
Posted: 02 Jul 2016 10:36 by SuperflyTNT #229646
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I don't want to derail, but every time I see "Army Painter Primer" I puke in my mouth a bit.

AP primer is gritty/powdery with many pigments I've used and it's vastly inferior to Painter's Touch 2x. And about triple the price.

Using the Army Painter "method" (the method lots of people have used for 20 years) is fine and dandy, but that material ranges from decent to shitty (grey especially) where Krylon and other brands don't have that baggage. Only reason to buy AP stuff is if you cannot find a color you want in any other brand.

I shot 339 models with painters touch this last winter. 6 colors. Not one of them would've been better with AP primer.

IMO, their shades are the only shit worth buying, and even then, Coat d' Arms or Minwax Polyshades is equivalent. Or better.
Posted: 02 Jul 2016 13:01 by Josh Look #229649
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I also use Painter's Touch, have since Citadel went from $10 to $15 (and now it's up to $20). I think it's about $3 or so at Home Depot? I've never looked back, stuff works fine. I clear coat everything once I'm done anyways.

I'm heading out to get some this afternoon, I hear their Flat Blue is a dead ringer for Ultramarines.
Posted: 03 Jul 2016 18:00 by SuperflyTNT #229676
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Yessir, it is indeed. I have like 15 colors of the shit and I maybe spent 45$ on all of it. And, honestly, I think it adheres better and has a smoother finish.
Posted: 04 Jul 2016 14:19 by Michael Barnes #229686
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HOW DO YOU EVEN...THAT PAINT IS NOT MADE FOR HOBBY MINIATURES!

I tried to prime a Chaos Defiler with Painters Touch and now it looks like an Adirondack chair. You have to realize that Citadel, Army Painter, etc. formulate this stuff in conjunction with chemical engineers to make it work differently than all other spray paints. It is just like the $30 Citadel side cutters...you may think the $8 craft store ones are the same but you would be dead wrong. Secret alloys and a specific proprietary angle make them better suited to cut through sprue.

Next thing you guys will be telling me that I can use any 6 sided die to play 40k. Ha!
Posted: 04 Jul 2016 14:22 by SuperflyTNT #229687
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The magic is not holding the nozzle 1" from the model's body.

The only model that works on is a fashion model
Posted: 08 Jul 2016 09:49 by Columbob #229835
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Michael Barnes wrote:
Next thing you guys will be telling me that I can use any 6 sided die to play 40k. Ha!

Believe it or not, but those small GW dice are carefully engineered to offer the precise rolling distance needed for hobbyists to enjoy an exciting and satisfying roll of the dice.
Posted: 08 Jul 2016 10:58 by SuperflyTNT #229840
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The amazing thing about the dice is that they secrete a small amount of very potent neurostimulation compound which causes the roller to exhibit a few mild but noticable symptoms:
1. Compulsive Disorder: Immediate and urgent need to buy more GW product
2. Smug composure until dice roll poorly, at which point the smugness changes to infantile whining in equal meausure
3. The uncontrollable need to yell JUDGE, IS THAT LEGAL?

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