What's Eric Playing?: Week of April 15, 2019
More reviews! More deckbuilders, and the first of twelve doujin games I’ll be checking out from Japan over the next few months! As always, click the titles of the games for my full review.
Yeah, overall I think I love Cartographers. It’s a wonderful blend of the like, spatial elements that I like in Tag City with the randomized scoring conditions that I really like from other games (Gartenbau, for instance, recently). What I think sells me on it is the subtle task of drawing the various symbols required to make the map look good. It’s a small touch (as opposed to writing F for Forest or R for River), but it makes the map feel a lot more personal and vibrant, which really sells it for me. Generally, I love it when a game finishes and you feel a sense of accomplishment, and I think everyone does in Cartographers. You may not have fulfilled the most edicts of the Queen, but you still made a rad little map and you’ve got that going for you, which is great. I think rewarding creativity (and encouraging it) is an easy way to make a good game into a great game, and Cartographers has that motivation at its core. If you’re looking for a fantastic flip-and-fill game, Cartographers is it, for sure! I’m really hoping that there’s an expansion sooner rather than later.
Yeah, overall, I’m a big fan of Star Realms: Frontiers! Not that it needed much of my opinion, given that it raised literally a million dollars on Kickstarter, which boggles the mind. But let’s dig into why I like it. First off, they really pushed on the art and it shows; it’s cool, vibrant, and very sci-fi. The Blobs are terrifyingly alien, for instance, which I really appreciate. It’s also super easy to learn, even if I did get stressed by all the possible variants when I first read the rulebook (the same thing happened with Hero Realms, to be fair). My only real complaints are really just standard complaints with deckbuilders, so, that’s generally pretty positive. I may also just opt to avoid the Blob when playing with new players , especially if they’re not used to how aggressive the game can be. If you overwhelm them, well, you got one game of Star Realms: Frontiers, but you likely won’t get any more. Besides, most new players play the Rainbow Strategy, so you can likely try a different thing and still be fine. Either way, if you’re looking for a cool sci-fi deckbuilder, Star Realms: Frontiers is one I’ve really enjoyed! I’d definitely recommend it.
Overall, I think I … love Desktop HEBOCON Battle Kit? Like, for me, the game is elevated pretty high because the theme and the mechanics blend together so well. The time limits, the futility of the battle, the idea that you’re just doing your best but you may still wander into an Endless Abyss. It’s all very relatable. Beyond that, the game looks very cute and that kind-of-disguises the take-that parts of the game and the tile placement blocking and all the ways you can mess with your competitors. It’s the kind-of-perfect filler, once everyone understands how to play. That said, my major worry is that it can be derailed by a player who’s just not into the heboi spirit, you know? If someone’s playing aggressively and strategically and trying their best to place tiles and memorize combinations so that they can execute a plan, they’re not going to really enjoy this game because that’s just … not how it wants you to play. It wants you to immerse yourself in the experience of building a crappy robot, ultimately to fall into a hole like Ryan North. I think going along with the game, there, is the right move, and that’s why I enjoy it so much; it’s a great game for kicking back, laughing with friends, and ultimately building something terrible. Anyways, if that sounds like it’s up your alley, I’d highly recommend checking out Desktop HEBOCON Battle Kit! I’ve been overjoyed with it while I’ve had a chance to play it.
Overall, I had fun cracking Doctor Esker’s Notebook! It took us about an hour and a half to get through it, and we enjoyed most of the puzzles pretty thoroughly. I think one of my group liked it a bit less than the EXIT games we had done, but I liked it slightly more than the lower end of the EXIT series. The primary thing we agreed that we didn’t like was the lack of theme; humorously, we had a third person join us and we convinced them that the theme was Escape from Puzzle Island, somehow. But that’s not really here nor there. Its major advantage is that it has a super awesome clue system, even if the website isn’t the most modern thing in the world. I think we also appreciated the difficulty boost that came with the better hinting system, even if the puzzles felt kind of disjointed due to the lack of a theme tying them together. We also really liked not having to ruin any part of the puzzle forever; that was a real bonus. So, I was a bit more bullish on the game than one of my group; I think the other person in my group was into it about the same amount. Hard to read. Either way, we all agreed that we were interested in playing the next one, and if you’re looking for another fix on escape room board games (and don’t mind some more thematically-light titles), Doctor Esker’s Notebook might be right up your alley!