Demonslayer: The Siege of Mt. Kunlun (to give its full title) is rather uniquely a deckbuilder that was published in China a few years ago, and is just now making the jump to the United States, thanks to the folks at EOS SAMA.
Demonslayer is clearly a deckbuilder from an earlier generation. It owes the most to two early games in the genre, Dominion (2008) and Ascension (2010). Much as in Ascension, you have two types of currency: money (“clarity”) and attack. You also have two types of cards available for “purchase”: a set tableau of action cards, plus three special attack cards for each player (all either “spells” or “immortals”), and a random tableau of monsters (“heart-eaters”) — which comes out in waves of nine monsters, each of which includes eight acolytes and one tougher boss (“overlord”). As you might guess, money buys action cards, while attack kills monsters.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Monster Mansion, the first of a pair of Kickstarter previews I was planning on writing. This week, I’m discussing the other one, DragonFlame, a card game by Matt Loomis that’s now being Kickstarted by Minion Games.
You Cut, I Choose
DragonFlame (2015) is a game that I find hard to classify. Since you’re spending your time playing and collecting cards, it’s most obviously it’s a card management game and a set-collection games. However, those two priorities come together through what’s essentially a you-cut-I-choose mechanic. Each turn each player gets a hand of three treasure cards. Everyone plays those cards into lots that are defined by castles. Then, players pick lots one at a time, in their current order.
To date I haven’t paid any attention to Kickstarters in this blog under the theory that it’s better to talk about games when they’re done and published. However, two current Kickstarters caught my eye, so I decided to give them some attention in this and an upcoming column. In each case, the Kickstarting publisher sent me a prototype and I gave it a play, so that I could write about it here.
Monster Mansion ( Kickstarter link ) caught my eye because it’s a new co-op game. Though I’ve only touched upon the category of games here, I’ve actually written a book on the topic with Christopher Allen that we hope to get to print next year. So, it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.
Enter Monster Mansion. It’s a game where you’ve been dropped down into the basement of a monster-filled mansion and are trying to get out. All you have to do is make it through three dungeon rooms, get to the stairs, rush through three mansion rooms, then make it out the exit.
Another season has gone by, and though I didn’t play anything new that was great in Summer 2014, I played a whole bunch of new games that were very good, and that I’d happily play again, so here’s my look at The Season of Very Good.
The Very Good
Damage Report (2014).Following in the footsteps of Space Alert (2008) and Escape: The Curse of the Temple (2012), Damage Report is a real-time cooperative game. It’s a game of logistical resource movement, where the real-time play is all about getting the right stuff to the right places in time, while a 3-minute timer of doom relentlessly adds to your problems.
As a real-time game, Damage Report does a great job of keeping you frenzied: you try and keep abreast of the larger picture while constantly being dragged down by the need to take your own moves and monitor your own timer. As a cooperative game, Damage Report does a good job of giving you opportunities for working together: you try and get the appropriate supplies to your friends (or on the flipside, reveal what supplies they could bring you) — and the challenges put in your way are tough. The phrase “logistical cooperation” doesn’t sound that exciting, but the game turns out to be joyously frantic and adrenaline-fueled. The cooperative play works, but the designer really got the real-time play right. Continue reading →
Eight years ago I wrote an article called “IP, Morality & The Gaming Industry” where I bemoaned the fact that Intellectual Property don’t adequately protect game creation. Games like Aquarius, Barbarossa, and Commands & Colors got ripped off to varying degrees, and the designers didn’t have a lot of legal fallback. That’s because copyright only protects the concrete representation of a game and patents, which could protect mechanics, are too expensive.
Today, that understanding of intellectual property law seems to be changing, so I wanted to post a short news piece talking about two new US court decisions.
Spry Fox vs Lolapps (2012) got quite a bit of attention a few years ago. It’s about an app, not a board game, but it’s now being used as the basis of more recent decisions, so it’s worth looking at. The suit centered on a rather innovative gaming app called Triple Town. Like many puzzle games of recent years, the object is to move identical objects together in a small grid, but here they form something else. Then another game called Yeti Town came around and Spry Fox, the Triple Town publisher, said it was a rip-off. Continue reading →
Star Realms (2013) is a science-fiction themed deckbuilding game that rather uniquely is built for just two players — which is certainly a different way to create a small deckbuilder, as opposed to the variable play models used by Pergamemnon (2011) and Zeppelin Attack! (2014). However, you can play Star Realms with more players by buying additional decks of cards.
Looking at the deckbuilding tree of design, Star Realms is most clearly a descendent of Ascension(2010) — which is unsurprising because they have a designer in common. Both games allow for the purchase of cards from a random selection of just a few that are available at any time. They’re also both heavily suited and they both feature cards that are left on the table: constructs in Ascension and bases in Star Realms.
El Grande (1995), by Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich, is one of the foundational games of the eurogame genre. I still try to play it at least once a year, but I’ve never written an in-depth discussion of it, so I wanted to take the event of this year’s play to talk about it a little bit.
The Majority Control
At heart, El Grande is a majority-control game — or really, the majority-control game that defined much of what followed in eurogames. You place cubes into regions on the board and you try to have just enough to beat your opponents. It’s a simple recipe of efficiency mixed with risk-reward.