Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top 5 Horror Board Games

Halloween is my favorite holiday for several reasons. For one, I love Fall. Ever since moving to Portland, it has become one of my favorite seasons. Seeing the leaves change from green to red and eventually fall from their high homes truly is beautiful. Secondly, I love horror. Some may call Halloween a child's holiday, but I love the feeling that October brings. The days are getting shorter, the trees are shrinking away into skeletal forms of there former glory, and the temperature is slowly dropping. All of it congeals into a nearly palpable air of horror. 

In my opinion, being scared is the only time a person truly acts like themselves; when you're afraid, you drop the social training thats been ingrained in our subconscious and you let your true colors show. Some people run, some people cower, and some people get angry, redoubled by the though of certain death. It's no surprise, then, that I love horror fiction, films and media. 

Nothing says Halloween more than scary board games, so here's my list of the top 5 horror board games. This is purely my opinion, and it is solidly based in the things I find scary or stimulating.

5. Betrayal at House on the Hill
Haunted houses: Not only are they synonymous with Halloween, but they're also incredibly perverse in horror stories. Betrayal at House on the Hill, while suffering from a few problems, tackles the haunted house setting better than any game. Exploring the strange rooms of the house will result in the revelation of the haunting. The haunts are clever, challenging, and, most importantly, scary.

4. Arkham Horror

I love H.P. Lovecraft. While I am a late-comer to the Cthulhu mythos, discovering it only within the last few years, I've felt right at home reading the stories. Arkham Horror is not a terrifying game, but I feel the same desperate confusion that Lovecraft's characters feel when confronting the beings of the mythos. 

3. The Walking Dead: The Board Game

What would you do to survive a zombie apocalypse? Would you band together and try to start a new world, or would you try to find an answer to the question that you need answered? The Walking Dead: The Board Game explores the human condition just as the comic did, and it's just as satisfying. 

2. Last Night on Earth
What list would be complete without this game? While, on the surface, this may seem overkill following The Walking Dead, this is a very different game. Last Night on Earth is the game that epitomizes the zombie genre. The confusion, the excitement and the terror of it all is encompassed in this box. While The Walking Dead is all about the human element, Last Night on Earth is all about survival.

1. Panic Station
Paranoia is a huge element of horror. Who can you trust? Where is safe? What was that noise in the alleyway? If you've seen The Thing, then you know how paranoia effects the human brain. Panic Station creates that same sort of paranoia, with characters attempting to take care of an alien hive while one is actually infected.

For more information on all games listed above, check Board Game Geek.

Monday, October 31, 2011

King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo is IELLO's 2011 dice-based family game, designed by Richard Garfield. Does that name sound familiar? Richard Garfield is the creator of Magic: The Gathering, the incredibly popular collectible card game that brought so many people to the gaming hobby. King of Tokyo is a 2-6 player game weighing in at 30-45 minutes a game for monsters aged 8 and up. 

In King of Tokyo the players play familiar monsters on a rampage through Tokyo, dealing damage to each other, the city and its inhabitants as they go. The first player to accrue 20 victory points wins! Each of the six monsters in the game is identical aside from aesthetic differences, all monsters start the game with 10 hit points, 0 victory points and 0 energy. 

The board depicts Tokyo in a state of emergency, with one circled area labeled "Tokyo" and another labeled "Tokyo Bay" which is only used in 5- or 6-player games. These two locations are the most straightforward way to get victory points. When a player enters Tokyo, they gain one victory point. For every turn they start in Tokyo, they gain two additional victory points.

Components of the game: 1 game board, 6 monsters, 6 basic dice,
2 advanced dice, counters, energy cubes, and cards

On a players turn, he or she will roll 6 oversized custom dice, depicting the various actions that they can perform. In a Yahtzee-esque manner, each player is allowed to reroll any or all of the dice two times. After your second reroll, your monster receives or performs the depicted actions. 
The game has four basic actions:
  1. Attack, shown by the four-fingered hand
  2. Heal, shown by the heart
  3. Energize, shown by the lightning bolt
  4. Gain Victory Points, shown by the numbers.
The effectiveness of those actions depends on two things: the number of the action's symbols present, and your location. If I roll 4 Energize dice, I will get 4 energy cubes. If I roll 2 Attack dice, I'll do 2 damage. With one exception: the Gain Victory Points action only works if you roll at least three matching numbers; 3 2-faced dice give me 2 victory points, 3 3-faced dice give me three. For each additional matching die I get 1 more victory point.

Tokyo and Tokyo Bay

Tokyo is a pretty cool place. Its got great food, cool nightlife, and it gives you victory points for being there. It also modifies your results slightly. If you roll Attack dice while in Tokyo, all your damage goes to those outside Tokyo and vice versa. You also cannot use your Heal dice action while in Tokyo. As you can see, Tokyo is also the most dangerous place to be. In order to leave Tokyo, all one has to do is survive an attack. After the attack, that player can swap places with the attacking monster. Success comes to those that can properly balance being in and out of Tokyo while juggling dice rolls.

You may be thinking to yourself "This game seems pretty straight simple. Are you sure Richard Garfield designed this? There's no tapping!" Remember the Energize action? It gives you these satisfying little energy cubes that you use as a currency to purchase cards.

These cards represent mutations, events, and technology that your monster can now exploit. Some of them are permanent, some of them are one time use. But all of them feature amazing artwork. The deck of cards consists of 66 cards, and nearly all of them are unique.

King of Tokyo is a simple game at its heart. It's a roll-and-play game that has heavy interaction, and some might have a problem with that. It has been called a family game, both here and other places, but I think it's more than that. I've played this a dozen or so times, and each game feels more strategic and tense than the last. The artwork in the game is truly beautiful, the components are solid and the dice are so beefy and satisfying, it's hard to say anything bad about the quality of this game. What really sets this game apart from other games in this genre are the cards. When you add the variable powers, gains and losses that the cards present you truly get a unique experience. King of Tokyo is an incredibly rewarding game that people should not pass up.

For more information, check out King of Tokyo on Board Game Geek here.