PunchBoard Media: The Big List of Games (Storytelling Games)
Near and Far designed by Ryan Laukat
Nominated by What’s Eric Playing
Eric Yurko (What’s Eric Playing?): After playing Islebound and Above and Below I really craved a game that synthesized all the different components into something. Near and Far is that game. Far more than the sum of its parts, it presents four different games (and even more with the cooperative expansion) for players to enjoy. The first game is a great intro for fans of Above and Below, Arcade Mode is a great way to learn the game, mechanically, Campaign Mode is an expansive adventure across multiple lands in search of the Last Ruin, and Character Mode is an almost-meditation on a specific character’s personal quest. All are done in service of painting a brilliant picture of a vibrant world, and Near and Far’s success in doing so has easily vaulted it into my favorite games of all time.
Joe Sallen (The Good, The Board, and The Ugly and The Long View): A synthesis of two seemingly disparate genres has come to life in Near and Far. Clean, intriguing, and brief stories beg my imagination to fill in the space between the lines. A distinct campaign builds the world while each character shares their own side of the story in a dedicated mode. Under the hood of this system hums a smooth efficiency puzzle that races its way to a denouement that leaves me begging for more.
Links to PBM Reviews of Near and Far:
Arkham Horror: The Card Game designed by Nate French and Matthew Newman
Nominated by Geek-Craft
Ken Grazier (Geek-Craft): I love Arkham Horror as a whole. I love the stories, the game play, the cooperative even though we are screwed nature of the game. But Arkham LCG is nothing short of amazing for me. The stories are on par with novels I’ve read, the twists and turns that the player has agency in, and the replayability with different characters and choices make this an awesome game. If you want to play it on an easier difficulty and have the focus be the story, you can do that. If you want to go down swinging like you would against a real monstrosity, you can do that. The game works with 1-4 players and the game scales well. There are a large number of fan made scenarios for the game as well, and the community is very supportive. It’s a game that I am always happy to talk about and teach. When I get to play the new story pack monthly, it’s like Christmas. If you are curious about this game in the least, pick up the core or find someone who has it and give it a shot. It’s a lot going on, too chaotic for some, and the monthly purchases can be frustrating, but the end effect is amazingly well done. One of my favorite games ever.
Paul Grogan (Gaming Rules!): I haven’t done a review as such, but I am planning a series on playthrough videos later this year. I absolutely love the game, and after borrowing a friend’s copy for the last year have just spent loadzofmonies and bought the entire collection and 2000 sleeves. It has in it some elements which are big “no-no”’s for me in games, but the positive points make up for it. i.e. You make decisions on how many cards to spend, whether to commit cards to skill tests, possibly helping others, and THEN you draw a token out of the bag to see if it works or not. This is the same as “roll and resolve,” which is a big problem for me in the games I normally play. However, this isn’t a normal Euro game, it’s something different, and sure -- there is luck and things can go well or not due to factors outside your control (the order in which the encounter cards comes out can be a big factor too). But… the way the narrative is done, the branching storylines, the rest of the game mechanics, it is by far, the best narrative driven game I have.
Chris Renshaw (The Dirtbags of Holding): I love this game, and it is totally in my top 10 games of all time. My gaming tastes can be quite random at times, but 2 things I love are 1) customizable card games and 2) games that tell stories. AH:TCG has both of these elements. The experience that really sold me on a top tier game was the “Labyrinths of Lunacy” event that they held at Gen Con. I wasn’t able to go to that event, but someone at a nearby store brought it home and I got to play through it. It turns the game into a Saw-style escape thriller, and I was blown away at what they were able to do with the system. You can now buy that set as a stand alone scenario, and I highly recommend it.
Scott Bowen (Open Seat Gaming): Story games are some of my favorites. Games with a narrative, especially co-op ones, are just so enjoyable for me because it adds another layer on top of the gameplay itself. Arkham Horror LCG is the first Arkham Horror game I’ve gotten and played (not the first Lovecraftian mythos game, but the first in FFG’s Arkham Horror series/universe) and I fell hardcore in love with it. I’ve collected almost the entirety of the first 3 cycles, all the novellas, the Investigators of Arkham Horror huge book that’s chock full of story and lore, and all the stand-alone scenarios. I haven’t played most of it yet (as I like to take my time and enjoy the story) but the game mechanics are solid and the theme is definitely one that appeals to me, and together they make a really enjoyable experience. The deck-building aspect makes it interesting and fun to try different combinations of cards in your deck(s) (I play solo with either 1 investigator or 2) as well as different combinations of investigators. One of the coolest parts about the game is that there isn’t necessarily a “best” resolution for each scenario, and being defeated doesn’t always mean the campaign ends. Oftentimes your investigators pick themselves up, get some better equipment (cards), and carry on to continue the fight against the darkness.
Links to PBM Reviews of Arkham Horror: The Card Game:
Dead of Winter designed by Jonathan Gilmour and Isaac Vega
Nominated by Cloak and Meeple
Brian Everett (Cloak and Meeple): Dead of Winter is one my my personal top 10 games. It was my first exposure to the betrayer mechanism. Just the sense of doubt that can be cast in a big group. Why didn't you contribute? Who put that junk in the pile? Why did you not kill a zombie before you left the gas station? And then there's the crossroad cards. I enjoy that they don't come up every turn, but I do wish, sometimes, that they would get triggered a little more often. They throw something into the game that is unexpected, give you a moral dilemma, or a sly way for the betrayer to get closer to their goal by manipulating the group into a bad decision. The companion app is nice for some flavor and more mystery with the crossroad card. But the lack of updates (no expansion content) makes it only good for the base box. The variety of characters is fun and diverse (esp with expansions). This is one game I will always pull off the shelf on a cold winter day, put on The Walking Dead soundtrack, and try to survive.
Chris Renshaw (The Dirtbags of Holding): For awhile, this game was probably my favorite game ever. Having read/watched a lot of The Walking Dead, this is everything you could possibly want in a zombie game -- varying character stories popping up, potentially people working against the interests in the group, and of course there’s dice. I love dice. The only downsides of the game are the cardboard standees. Not really a fan of them, but if you have one Zombicide game you’ve got plenty of zombie minis you could use as a substitute. I haven’t played the game recently, but that was due to me playing it so much that I got burnt out for awhile, and newer stuff has kept me from pulling it back off of the shelf. It will never leave the collection though.
Scott Bowen (Open Seat Gaming): Zombies are everywhere and in everything. TV shows, board games, video games. It’s quite a popular theme, and for me personally a quite overdone theme. As such, I usually stay away from zombie-themed games. Dead of Winter, however, is a zombie game that I actually really like to play, because it’s not necessarily just about the zombies. Sure they’re the enemies you have to fight back against, but there’s so much more to DoW. You have crises to solve, supplies to collect, survivors to feed, trash to take out, and many other things. These are what draw me into the game. You’re working together (except maybe 1 of you that might be a traitor, but you can also play it pure co-op which is how I prefer) to accomplish a task (that game’s “objective”) while dealing with things that happen along the way (such as crises or the crossroads cards) and it can lead to some really close wins/losses that leave you either really satisfied or raring to go again.
Links to PBM Reviews of Dead of Winter:
T.I.M.E. Stories designed by Peggy Chassenet and Manuel Rozoy
Nominated by Draft Mechanic
Danielle Bock (Draft Mechanic): It’s hard to think of T.I.M.E. Stories as one thing at this point. If you have kept up with all the expansions it has been eight full stories (with one more to come in the white box arc) plus a mini story (Santo Tomas) and a meta story. That’s quite a bit of content and I will be the first to admit there have been hits and misses, but the thing that stands out to me the most is the feeling I got when we finished Asylum, the story that comes in the base box. Our whole group was practically vibrating with excitement, so much so that we knew we had to record what became the Spoiler Episode series right then because we had to talk about this unique thing in a way we couldn’t with folks who had not experienced it. The next morning I called my dad, with whom I puzzled over Myst when I was a kid, and spent an hour telling him about this amazing experience. Having watched 2.5 groups play through to current I can safely say that each group will find something different that is their favorite, whether it is struggling for an hour to talk through a specific puzzle or barging through, taking the most bizarre options you encounter. T.I.M.E. Stories is event gaming for sure, each story best devoured in one enormous bite, and the combat system leaves much to be desired but if you can make room for it it takes its players (i mean “agents”) on enthralling journeys in a way that was different from anything before it.
Chris Renshaw (The Dirtbags of Holding): I was really excited to play all the T.I.M.E Stories scenarios when they first came out, buying up the first 4-5 expansions. However, while the game doesn’t technically have to be played with the same group, it is kind of implied that you should. For me, getting together the same four people to go through the different scenarios was always super hard. Although, we when did get the game to the table, we enjoyed the game thoroughly. In fact, we broke out Asylum again recently as we decided to finally play through everything. Since it had been like three years since we originally played the scenario, we were able to enjoy the game again without metagaming the scenario *too* much.
Ken Grazier (Geek-Craft.com): I really enjoy the semi-legacy set up of T.I.M.E. Stories. I liken it to seeing Fight Club -- once you know the twist at the end, you can’t watch the movie again and have it be the same as your first viewing. That’s not a bad thing, just the nature of the beast. I really enjoy the overarching story, and the game play can be a lot of fun. Some of the translation issues have been frustrating, but the community around this game is very supportive. There are lots of FAQs and a great number of threads on BGG for questions with generally few spoilers. I will be going back after we finish the “season” and reading everything we missed to see the full potential story, but it’s a game that my group really enjoys. The time travel aspect allows many stories to be told and I’m super excited to see what the next season does for the game, changing the focus to character stories. I’m hopeful for what else the series can do.
Links to PBM Reviews of T.I.M.E. Stories: