Thursday, 16 May 2013

Stop the Aged

Hark, tis me. Back with stories drawn from the depths of the Ribs of Beef.  Gather round…

We played Elder Sign. A game that is not about getting octogenarians across a busy road, but about a hardy group of investigators trying to stave off the terrible and madness inducing return of an Ancient Old One (a god from the HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos). This is by the same designer as the popular sprawling game Arkham Horror, which covers the same theme.

Elder Sign is much like Arkham Horror, but streamlined into a clever dice-roller, which plays in 90 minutes or so. It’s by the same designer and he’s done a good job of capturing the essence of Arkham Horror with much of the same flavour, fun and character driven exploits, but without the skip full of bits or the hours of tedium long play time.

Like Arkham Horror, this a cooperative game, where players complete tasks and beef up their 1930s characters with items, weapons, spells and allies, in order to investigate the supernatural goings on. In Arkham, the players are trying to close portals, in this the collecting of Elder Signs does much the same job. Collect a certain number of Elder Signs quickly enough and the players stop the return of the nasty Ancient One. Too slow and it’ll return and the investigators will have to do battle with the odds stacked heavily against them, probably culminating in the end of the world.

Elder signs look nothing like this.

In our game, five plucky investigators took up the challenge of stopping Hastur from appearing and doing something indescribably terrible.  Stalwart McGlen (Ewan) did the rough and tough stuff, while the sceptical, yet capable Kate (John) refused to believe in monsters with the effect disbelieving them out of existence. Then the was the Professor (myself), who rather than stick to books, tooled himself up with guns and took the fight to cowering curators, dusty tomes and meandering shoggoths – all went down in a hail of bullets. These three were aided by Mandy (Sam), a researcher that modelled herself on a common whore - providing relief in times of need. And that was it. Ah, no. There was also Dean’s inept “Magician”. Seemingly nothing more than a children’s entertainer, this coward spent most of the game locked in the toilet pretending to cast spells and slowly going insane. He eventually found himself in a downward spiral of despair, from which even Mandy couldn't rouse the poor chap. He died alone and unloved in his cubicle. Overall, it was a close run thing, but despite the loss of the magician, we prevailed and stopped the return of Hastur just in the nick of time. Huzzah!

I've never been a fan of the monstrosity that is Arkham Horror, but I’ll gladly play Elder Sign. Call me up when the world is in peril from the untold horrors that lurk beyond…

We also played Infiltration. A push your luck style game set in Fantasy Flight’s Android cyberpunk setting (also the setting for the recent release of Netrunner). In this five plucky fellows (always plucky) try to infiltrate a corporation in order to steal valuable secrets. This isn't cooperative; everyone is playing against the game and scoring their own points. Push further into the building to get more rewards, but at the risk of not getting out by the time the authorities arrive. We were all terrible at this. Too busy with our own schemes, we let an office worker escape and raise the alarm. The authorities showed up and it was game over. Not even John, who had almost made it to the top of the building escaped;  he was nabbed while waiting for the executive lift.

The other table played a new game, Bora Bora, by Stefan Feld. There is much love for Feld at NoBoG.  I can't tell you much about it other than it uses dice to perform actions and seems to be the usual melting pot of mechanisms that all contribute to earning victory points. Anyway, the correct appreciative sounds could be heard from that end of the room so I think we get another thumbs up for Feld. Nicky won this, mercilessly crushing Pete, James and Jimmy.


Mr Bond said...

I am hoping this talk about old people might lure Phil back. Where are you Phil?

Minitrue said...

Very funny as well as enjoyable this week, I think both Infiltration and Elder Signs benefited from the table mindset.

Gorgeous production values on both ( I appreciate a nice bit of art ), fairly light games, cool with the right group.

Mr Bond said...

Both games were certainly enhanced by our light-hearted approach.

James Mapp said...

the tablet version of ES is also a good buy. whilst you dont get as many bad guys the extras are a welcome edition that enhances play in a single player version..


Minitrue said...

I bought ES for the iPad a few days ago. I love the atmosphere and what they have done with the theme on the iPad - it's better than the card game.

But I have to say I hate what they have done to the difficulty balance - I suspect so they can increase the game's longevity.

The tasks are way more difficult than the card game, and personally I got tired pretty quickly of the unimaginative beating about the head of slim chance locations.

I had happened to be crunching numbers whilst I played the card game, so when I crunched the numbers on the iOS version I could quickly see the differences.

For me it's a turn off. It jars me out of the immersion, makes me watch the crappy odds.