The Tabletop Critique-Eldritch Horror

Let’s get this out of the way, because I’m going to be talking about it a whole lot this post. My all-time favorite board game is Arkham Horror. Well, the 2005 version of Arkham Horror if you want to be that specific. Pedant. A deep, challenging, and thematic game loosely based on the Call of Cthulhu RPG which in turn is spawned by the Cthulhu Mythos/Yog-Sothothery created by H.P. Lovecraft and a whole host of others. I love that game. I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into it over the years, picked up every expansion set, and… well I haven’t quite gone down the fanfiction hole for it yet, but I’ve been tempted. It’s good, that’s what I’m saying.

Well, after the publishers released the 8th expansion for it, they seem to have decided, probably wisely, that it’d be counter productive to make the game any larger, so instead, Fantasy Flight Games had started making whole new games based on that originator. The Arkham Horror Files, a line carrying such games as Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness, and our little friend of today, Eldritch Horror. Children of the original Arkham Horror, all seeking to carry on the themes, atmosphere, and some of the aspects of gameplay that made the original so successful.

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Suffice to say, when this game came to my home at Christmastime, I was pretty excited. A little unsure, however. I’d been playing the Elder Sign game and enjoying that as well, but that was designed by the same creator as the original Arkham Horror. Eldritch Horror was not. So how does it hold up? That’s what we’ll be talking about in today’s Tabletop Critique.

One of the best things about Arkham Horror is how deep and complicated it is. One of the worst things about Arkham Horror is how deep and complicated it is. It’s a game with literally thousands of little chits and cards, and at any given moment there are about a dozen little factors you have to keep in mind for any given move. Elder Sign cut both the depth and complexity way down while still keeping the feel and atmosphere of the original. All good, when that’s what you’re in for, but when I jumped into Eldritch Horror, I was really looking for some middle ground. Something approaching the mental gymnastics Arkham Horror called for but that didn’t require you and all your friends to set aside your entire afternoon if you were going to give it a go.

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The Tabletop Critique-Magic the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers

Despite my best intentions, Christmas happened again this year. Sorry about that. A man can only do his best, and although my best is considerable, it takes some time to efficiently bring Christmas to a close. Until then, I suppose we all have no choice but to suffer through it.

In the meantime, that means presents, from people. To me. They try their best. This year, me and mine seem to have gotten a lot of tabletop games. It’s been rather a year for that. A lesser man may simply play them, and leave it there, but I’m much more than that. Instead, I shall use this opportunity to enlighten the world! And you’re welcome.

Right. So with all my traditional self-absorbed pompousness out of the way, I got a lot of new tabletop games this holiday season. I’m going to review them. Sound good? Good.

The first game on the Tabletop Critique chopping block is this little number here.

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Magic: The Gathering holds a special place in my heart. I was super big into it as a cub. Well, as super big into it as you can get without actually owning any cards. See, I had those types of parents who thought that anything their children enjoyed was a tool of the devil, so, I had to rely on borrowing stuff from friends. Still, there was a time in my life where my thoughts were constantly on Magic. Beyond just the game itself, the stories, the world-building, and the lore had a really strong impact on me, kickstarting my imagination at a formative stage in my life in a way that little else did. It may be a little odd, but Magic was where I first started playing with storytelling, using the cards as setpieces to craft my own tales to tell myself, which built into one of those good old lifelong passions.

Eventually, I did start picking up the card game itself, then lapsed out of it, and now generally only play on special occasions. I still do have a lot of fond memories for the flavor and the world, however.

Which I suppose is where Arena of the Planeswalkers comes in. It’s a competitive miniature-based tabletop game. I know absolutely nothing about Heroclix, so I feel completely comfortable assuming this game is exactly the same but with a different flavor and a major twist to the mechanics somewhere. Each player controls one planeswalker figure and a collection of critters associated with them, then uses this squad to attempt to conquer all the other players who are doing the same.

In keeping with the source material, you’ve got five colors to work with, each with their own planeswalker, creatures, and spells. Each comes with their own strategic focuses, strengths, and weaknesses, giving you the tools you need to craft your tactics in taking the other teams down. Combat takes place on a game board that can be set up a couple of different ways, with a few obstacles and terrain features to present risks and opportunities. Each creature and planeswalker has different stats and traits, each spell card affects the battle in different ways, you get the picture.

Arena of the Planeswalkers isn’t very flavorful, but mechanically, it does carry the Magic the Gathering feel about as well as you could expect when turning the card game into a board game. The mechanics of it are quite simplified, but the functions carry over into the new format quite well. Summoning creatures plays much the same role as in the card games, and well placed spells will twist the flow of the game in exactly the same way as they can in the card game. In terms of mechanical feel, the game has built it’s similarities with the CCG with unequivocal success. Continue reading