What's Eric Playing?: Week of December 24, 2018
Four more reviews coming up this week! We’ve got dice games, cooperative games, game collections, and some press-your-luck prospecting to check out! More information on each game is at the relevant link.
Overall, I’m a big fan of Impact. I mean, at its core, it’s a fundamentally very silly dice-chucking game that can be played basically anywhere, anytime. I imagine a few of the changes made to the initial version of Strike (its predecessor, which I have played but do not own) were made to increase portability, since now it’s a smaller, more compact box, but also add some new stuff (like the bouncier bottom, which is amusing). It’s telling that when I first got it I got a bit poo-pooed for having it by a number of Strike purists, which was kind of frustrating. Or, at least, it frustrated me enough that I had to ask one if he genuinely had a problem with Impact or if he was just upset that something he had that was Rare and Valuable was more widely available to the general population. He didn’t have a solid answer. There’s definitely a hint of that in the disdain I feel from some people for Impact, and that’s frustrating (and gatekeeping, mind you). That said, while I’m not like, over the moon for Impact’s new modes (Avatar mode being just straight up wild), I do enjoy the variety from time to time (and I can just play Strike with the set even if I don’t want to play with the elements). For me, this is the kind of game I can bring home for the holidays and play with friends and family, or the kind of game I can keep with me for a quick round while we wait for drinks, and that’s awesome. If you’re looking for a game like that, I’d highly recommend giving Impact: Battle of the Elements a whirl!
Overall, Automata NOIR is a lot of fun! I’m generally a pretty big fan of deduction games (although, as I found out, I’m not very good at them, oh well). The art’s neat, the theme is solid, and all-around it’s a fairly simple concept that relies on players to add complexity by shifting the board and messing with each others’ plans and predictions. The games gradually ramp up in complexity, which I appreciate, but there’s room for everyone to get their deduction on. Honestly, I think I’m most interested in seeing what a follow-up or expansion to this game will look like; it’s got some interesting parts to it mechanically (especially in that the games are similar enough around some core movements but distinct enough that I’d definitely enjoy playing any of them separately), so I’m hoping it continues to evolve. Either way, if you’re looking to take a neat deduction concept out for a spin or you just like a noir-themed game about bustin’ up some robots, Automata: NOIR is definitely worth checking out! I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit.
Overall, I think Fantasy Defense is pretty solid! I think what’d I’d like to see in an update / additional expansion would be some ways to moderate the difficulty of the solo mode, as it’s a bit too hard for me as it currently stands, but it’s short enough that I don’t mind too much. Plus, I’ll get it eventually. It’s got a nice presentation, solid art, and it’s a definitely fun tower defense game. I particularly like the collaborative elements of the two-player game, and I think that’s about where I’d like the difficulty level to be targeted for the solo mode. It’s not bad that it’s too hard for me, currently, but it will eventually hit a point where I feel less inclined to play because I keep getting crushed. Until then, I hear rumors of a campaign mode in the expansion, so I’m going to check that one out and report back on it next week. Until then, if you’re looking for a heck of a solo challenge or you like the idea of a nice two-player cooperative tower defense game, I’d recommend taking Fantasy Defense for a spin! It’s solid.
Overall, End of the Trail is fine. I love the art, truly, and I think the game is a nice blend of theme and mechanics (in fact, I think it’s pretty smartly designed around the theme, and that makes me excited for other games coming out of Elf Creek), but I think the mix of mechanics is a bit aggressive — it feels like it could have been streamlined a bit (sort of like how the “bidding” “trick-taking” whatever in Honshu got streamlined to drafting for Hokkaido [thanks for the reminder, Bebo]). There’s two separate types of auctions, essentially — one to bid for cards, one to bid for turn order, and that’s just the auction components. It makes the game feel a bit bloated, and even though I think there are a lot of smart design choices, this bloat (and the use of a number of mechanics I’m not particularly passionate about) end up not selling me on the game, as much. That said, there’s a lot to like, here, so it’s possible that your experience with the game will be more positive than mine was, especially as it’s beginning to seem more and more like I’m the only person in town who doesn’t really like auction games. If you’re looking for a game with a solid blend of theme and mechanics, or you want to live vicariously through the game’s excellent art, or you want a quick press-your-luck game experience, End of the Trail might be for you!