Barnes on Games- Defenders of the Last Stand in Review, Mansions of Madness 2, Scythe, Dreadball

Barnes on Games- Defenders of the Last Stand in Review, Mansions of Madness 2, Scythe, Dreadball Hot

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Michael BarnesMichael Barnes   August 11, 2016  
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In this post-apocalyptic wasteland, the scarce resource is GOOD TASTE.

So this was a pretty easy review, pretty much rewrite the Defenders of the Realm review and modify it to make it specific to Last Stand. It really is pretty much the same game underneath the post-apoc veneer with lots of nomenclature changes and a couple of very Richard Launiusian tweaks to sell the setting.

It's not a bad game- neither was Realm. It's just so hilariously incompetent in its production quality and visual style that it actually hinders it. I just recently re-acquired Defenders of the Realm and played it for a bit before I flipped it again...mainly because I was looking at the game and thinking "damn, this is ugly." Last Stand is worse. And it's another that I'm flipping, even though I would otherwise keep it around for awhile because it is pretty fun.

Some will disagree about the visual style. Oddly enough, there was a review of the Suicide Squad soundtrack I read where it mentioned how it had no influences or references outside of other nerd media. And that is exactly the problem with a lot of graphic design and illustration in games. And it's why Scythe for example stands as one of the best looking, most aesthetically appealing games in recent memory.

And that game is pretty great too, despite detractors such as the notorious Pete Ruth. It's such a brilliantly designed and executed set of mechanics AND it has an original, unique setting that has enough faith in the player's imagination to bring it to life instead of idiotic flavor text all over the place. All that on top of actual THEMES, too! I don't know if there has ever been a game that has been such a victim of misdirected expectations...there's a lot of weird resentment coming from folks that are disappointed that it is not Battletech: The Board Game or that the goal is not the total extermination of other players. But it's pretty clear that these were not design goals, and that it is not based on the same dated and worn out 4x gameplay models that are increasingly creaky and less appealing year after year, at least outside of the top titles in the genre. So consider me a Scythe supporter- I liked Euphoria quite a bit, but Stegmaier and company really stepped everything up on this one.

In other hot game news, I have Mansions of Madness 2 in hand and I played through about half of the first story with two players (using the millionaire and the butler). Hard to say this early, of course, but I'm kind of wondering if it may actually take the app thing a little too far. I'm not really sure that I felt like I was playing much, just rolling dice in reaction to prompts. I guess that's really what an RPG is, but since it's NOT an RPG, walking into a room where you have three options, pressing one, and then rolling dice based on what the app gives you is oddly underwhelming. It was different with Descent, because that's more of a tactical combat game.

That said, there were some interesting things like how I had a journal that required me to read it over multiple actions- that's something that couldn't really be done without the app assist. And it really did feel like the game was generating a story, which was pretty neat. I did a code-breaking puzzle, and that was cool. But the biggest surprise is that it took me about ten minutes from opening the box to turn one. The setup was super simple and the rules I practically didn't even need to look at.

I'm going to give it a go in earnest tonight...interested to see if some of the same events happen or not, if the same thing happens every game with the kitchen, for example, that may limit the value of playing these scenarios more than once.

While all eyes were on the Dreadball 2 Kickstarter, I snuck in on eBay and got a deluxe starter for $35. I've got my human team the Midcentury Meteors, painted up in a turquoise/chartreuse/silver scheme and I'm starting on the "Orx". The figures are pretty fun to paint, they're simpler than GW stuff but with lots of options for detailing.

As for the game, I just poked around solo with it and it seems like it's really good. It is definitely kind of an evolution of Blood Bowl, and a lot of it will be familiar to anyone who has played Blood Bowl. It's not so much streamlined and refined as it is accelerated. Things like not resetting the pitch after a score make it a much more fluid game with unique situations developing from turn to turn. I just played with basic teams, no special abilities, but it felt good and the dice system works pretty well. I like things like how your throwing successes turn into additional dice for the catcher, how doubling a target number of successes sometimes results in special effects and of course- the greatest game mechanic of all time- exploding sixes.

The big penalty is that it isn't Blood Bowl. It doesn't have the unique character and charm of that game. I like the Mantic figures and to some degree I like how more freeform it is in contrast to GW, where I don't want to paint my own Marine chapter or whatever because I like the history and the storylines that they've established. But the Dreadball races and all feel either completely generic or completely ripped off from GW. I wish they had gone in a different direction with, for example, the Veer-Myn. I mean come on. They're space-Skaven. Why not do a race of jaguar people or fish men instead? I think it's funny they have the long lost space dwarves/squats (Forge Fathers), but there again I wish they had done their own thing.

The other iffy thing is that it is really built for league play, which isn't really happening. But I like it enough that I think one-off games with set team budgets will be plenty of fun.

 

 

Posted: 11 Aug 2016 21:15 by drewcula #231857
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RE: DreadBall.
Well it's about damn time Michael. I've only been singing DB's praises for 3.5 years.
To your criticism - DB is very much a spiritual successor to BB. And it's no bloody surprise - all of the big wigs at Mantic use to work for GW. DB Season 1 is an EMBARRASSING rip off of GW factions. Originality begins to shine in Season 2, and now with 25 teams available; DB has a lot of fun sci-fi / non-GW tropes to play. League play is f***ing awesome, tournaments are pretty cool, one off games are just okay (for me). Have fun.
Posted: 11 Aug 2016 21:46 by SuperflyTNT #231859
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Nefarious LOL.

I'm not a detractor at all. You simply aren't hearing me, through your veil of "It's so
Damned Pretty I Lost My Perspective!"

It's a well designed, tight game. It's gorgeous. It's smart.

It's also dull, repetitive, a bit gamey, is absolutely not a 4x, and is barely a hybrid. It's a straight up spreadsheet game, with an eye toward efficiency and racing to get X points (stars).

That doesn't make it a bad game. I've never remotely said it was a bad game. I just was bored senseless the first time. Then the second time I was slightly less bored but took some time to analyze it, and found that it really is a very simple Euro worker placement game in the guise of a 4x DOAM.

About this 4x "old way of thinking", nah, fuck that. The buck stops there. You can't arbitrarily re-imagine a lexicon to fit your narrative. Gasoline has a specific definition. If you say gasoline, people know precisely what you mean. 4X has a distinct meaning as well. You can't just say "put Kerosene in my transport" and expect me to put 93 octane gasoline in because you've decided to change the meaning of kerosene to mean gasoline. Sorry, language doesn't work when you start making shit up. Unless you're a rapper.

It's not a 4x. He even said so in that interview someone posted. Call it what it is. It's not a re-envisioning of 4x, it's a sorta-DOAM Euro efficiency game. Nothing wrong with that. Let it be what it is. Don't bullshit people with flowery language and become the shitheel apologist you and I both despise.

Let it be what it is.

Some will like it. Some won't. Who fucking cares?
Posted: 11 Aug 2016 21:54 by SuperflyTNT #231860
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On STAND: I adore it. It's a sort of reskin of Realm but it's definitely more of an actual reimagining. The adventure is there. It feels integral in a way that Realm never had. The setting is absolutely better developed. The board is far better looking and slightly less practical thanks to the absurdly large biker dudes.

I like the fonts, too. Much easier to read and I feel them to be aesthetically fitting and pleasing. But I'm not a font snob.

What I agree with wholeheartedly is the ridiculously bad casting of the mini's. I don't have the same Chinastank odor that you do but I know your pain. My old copy of Vlood Feud in NY was so bad I literally tossed it in the garbage. Almost called EPA! What a shame too.

Before you shitcan it, maybe toss some primer on and see if that helps the definition. I'm convinced that it will help, and the bright baby-room colors don't help matters because they're so shiny. Still think that someone, somewhere should be beaten with a cane for such a travesty.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 07:35 by Mr. White #231871
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I'm going to tag in here and help DB out.

I was a skeptic at first, in fact I shrugged it off when an out-of-state buddy brought it down a few years back. Clearly, I'm now sold.

Granted it isn't BB, but there's a lot of fresh air there because of it and everything about DB is leaner. A DB pitch takes up half the space, teams cost a fraction of the price, you only need to paint half as many models, game time....cut in half. All in all, you get all the hobby and gaming aspects of BB, but in a more condensed package. Also, DB encourages more dynamic play. _Any_ failure in BB results in a turnover. So, you have a lot of almost pre-programmed decisions on your turn as you perform, in order, the obvious low to high risk actions. Not so in DB, only failure on a play with the ball results in the end of your rush, so a coach will find themselves pushing their players more or going for more dubious slams and throws. Combined with the 'showboat' rule I really, really enjoy this aspect of the game.

I'm not sure why league play isn't going to happen. One can _easily_ run a six game season over two nights. Don't know how long you guys play, but three DB games a night is doable. 3 games (with between game league building) usually takes me about 4 hours.

Thing is all these sort of games (BB, DB, Mordheim, Necromunda) are pretty good as one-off games but when set up in a league/campaign are easily the best gaming experiences I've ever had. Dipping your toes into a DB league seems mandatory.

Anyway, regarding the races. Near as I can tell Mantic started off as a company that provided WFB/40K players with much cheaper model options as well as bringing to the hobby those long lost races that GW left behind. Abyssal Dwarves (Chaos Dwarves), Veer-myn (Hrud), and Forge Fathers (Squats). When all these legit developers came on board (such as Alessio Cavatore and Jake Thorton) all of a sudden Mantic has games. Recall, my DB post from last summer. I purposely passed on the races from the Season 1 book because I didn't just want 'Blood Bowl in Space'. Drewcula is correct, the latter season books have all the unique space races....which includes fish people.



I'd love to see your painted teams.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 08:14 by JEM #231873
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Happy to play Dreadball with you any time, Michael. ;) On the subject of Scythe my main problem (having not yet played it, though there are two copies floating around our group) is aesthetic. Plastic mech and hero figures sharing a board with recycled viticulture meeples really bugs me.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 08:29 by charlest #231876
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My problem with arguing about whether Scythe is a 4X or not is that it's a big waste of time. Everyone refers to TI3 as a 4X, but it's strictly not either.

When I hear the term 4X I think of a type of game and not specific details. If I'm describing Scythe to someone I think 4X is fine as long as you qualify it with explaining its Euro elements and how punitive combat can be at times.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 08:36 by drewcula #231877
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IMG_2847.jpg


Two of the Season Six teams squaring off. Crystal Rock creatures that power-up when close to one another and my current fav; ghosts that turn incorporeal to evade tight spots.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 08:43 by Mr. White #231879
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I actually do really well with with the Ada Lorna. Is that a general consensus...that they're a good team...or is it a good fit for my play style?

I don't play them in league because I fear may run away with it. I've since passed the team to my son.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 08:46 by drewcula #231880
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Advancing an earlier statement I made about Mantic.
I've always found Mantic's similarity to GW's product line "uncanny."
Yes, every game is different. And many of them are damn good. A lower price point doesn't hurt, and while the models are nice - they're rarely the exceptional quality of GW.

But boy, do they seem to be cut from the same cloth:

Warhammer > Kings of War [Mantic actively (and successfully) recruits pissed off WH gamers to adopt KoW, even allowing GW models on the battlefield]
WH 40K > Warpath
Necromunda > Dead Zone (sort of)
Blood Bowl > DreadBall
Dungeon Bowl > DreadBall Extreme
Heroquest (GW/MB joint) > Dungeon Saga

With Dungeon Saga's commercial success, there may be traction to the rumor that Mantic will make their own Space Crusade in the Warpath universe.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 08:50 by drewcula #231881
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Mr. White wrote:
I actually do really with with the Ada Lorna. Is that a general consensus...that they're a good team...or is it a good fit for my play style?

I don't play them in league because I fear may run away with it. I've since passed the team to my son.

I have the ear of the Rules Committee member charged with Ada Lorana edits. We're on the same page.
They're good, but not great.
Mid tier team, a solid B.

For me, they match my play style and my thematic preference for the supernatural.

That said, I BARELY lost the Gencon tournament with these guys. Tied for first place with the Sharks (Sphyr), I had the same record and the same fan checks. 1st place had three more 3 point strikes. #secondplacesucks
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 09:05 by Mr. White #231882
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I do best with Dark Elves in BB, and to me the Ada Lorna seem to have a similar play style. With their phasing, you can have an open player every rush for nice, short passes.

I _almost_ took them to Shawn's tourney a few months back. And I really should have. Being my first DB tourney, I was expecting to get schooled so took the Zee so I'd have the mindset of simply hanging out and having fun. I actually won some games with the monkeys and feel I could have done really well, if not rolled that field of players with the Ada Lorna. Of course, talk is cheap, but next time...
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 09:26 by drewcula #231884
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Barnes initial play reports of MoM 2nd edition is harshing my Friday mellow.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 09:42 by JEM #231886
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Mantic comparisons to GW are always going to be there because Mantic was made by, and is full of, ex-GW staff who wanted to do things differently.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 09:42 by Shellhead #231887
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I've been following the discussion here about Scythe with interest. I admire the art and overall visual design of the game. The setting is a novel combination of familiar elements. It sounds like the game was meticulously designed and thoroughly play-tested. Unfortunately, Scythe sounds like a very Euro game to me, despite the combat element. And that's just a dealbreaker for me. As a very experienced accountant, I really and truly do not take any enjoyment in crunching numbers anymore. If I'm not receiving at least a middle class wage for working with numbers, I am wasting my valuable free time on fake work. That doesn't mean that Scythe is a bad game or I am a bad player, it just means that if Scythe hits the table, I will watch for a bit and then wander off to find more something interesting to do.
Posted: 12 Aug 2016 11:35 by Jarvis #231895
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drewcula wrote:
Barnes initial play reports of MoM 2nd edition is harshing my Friday mellow.

I thought it was fun personally and I'm happy I got it. Plus I'll take solo plays with a small grain of salt. Not saying he's wrong with it, but I feel like solo plays are always a different experience than with friends.
Posted: 24 Aug 2016 17:41 by quozl #232747
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Dude, play a real RPG.
Posted: 25 Aug 2016 07:50 by Jarvis #232765
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I never really got into them. I've tried a handful of times but it never really clicked for me.
Posted: 25 Aug 2016 09:33 by SuperflyTNT #232771
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RPGs require a lot of effort and time. Lots of people don't want to have to have a GM and all that bullshit.

This AGM stuff is awesome.
Posted: 25 Aug 2016 15:13 by quozl #232814
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Sorry for the confusion. The dude in my previous post was directed to Barnes.
Posted: 26 Aug 2016 00:58 by Ancient_of_MuMu #232832
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quozl wrote:
Dude, play a real RPG.
This comes up often but the RPG aficionados don't get the difference between having a character and pretending to be a character is huge for many people, plus there is the whole GM thing which many find off putting.
Posted: 26 Aug 2016 16:24 by quozl #232880
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Oh, I get it. But this is just ignorance:

"I'm not really sure that I felt like I was playing much, just rolling dice in reaction to prompts. I guess that's really what an RPG is..."
Posted: 26 Aug 2016 16:31 by SuperflyTNT #232883
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Speaking of Defenders of the Last Stand:
superflycircus.com/2016/08/defenders-of-...ames-just-got-pwned/

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