Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Traveller

An artful eight this week, including David, a temporary visitor hailing from Chelmsford. Giving up his regular Chelmsford gaming group ( CheBoG ? ) for the week to visit family, NoBoG welcomed The Traveller by sitting down to a game of the new and shiny City of Remnants.

City of Remnants is an area control game, with a bit of deck building, a bit of dice rolling combat and a Euro style action list with a smattering of Euro mechanics to go around. Set in some dystopian future, mankind has been brought low by some unspeakable alien race, with the survivors living in city ghettoes, rubbing shoulders with a range of other conquered imported aliens all under the iron rule of the invaders. Life devolves into scrambles for petty power and criminality by rival gangs, and it is one of these gangs that a player finds himself leading.

Your aim is to be the bestest, most notorious gang in the city - building up your criminal empire, fighting off other gangs, and avoiding the patrols of the alien overlords to be crowned kingpin.

There are many elements to this game, and there are a few things that lie in its shadows that might not be entirely obvious at first glance - hinting at some deep replay possibilities. Probably the chief mechanic in importance is that of managing your deck ( and each factions starter deck is unique to them ). Your deck represents your gang, its equipment and capabilities - and in a very real sense is tied to how many figures you can place on the board and therefore how much area you can control and firepower you can bring. For each gang member card you recruit into your deck, another figure becomes available for you to place on the board and vie for control.

The City - Dean nowhere to be seen
 But this isn't a game of luxuriously large decks. Your deck is small. Tight. And it's used in both combat and turn actions. Central to this deck size is the fact that it doesn't automatically refresh. Once it's gone, it's gone. Add to this a single combat action that can devour your entire deck and it quickly becomes apparent that timing can be critical in this game where ordinarily your deck will only refresh every four actions ( turns ).

But there is hope - you can take an action to refresh your deck prematurely. But of course, burning this action to refresh your deck is possibly a waste of a better opportunity - moving your gang members to control areas and attack, producing items to sell, developing premises into lucrative businesses, recruiting new gang members, or buying items from the black market.
A pile of cash, some notoriety and a single gang member free
The game area is relatively small - and the gangers can move relatively quickly. All of these factors add up to a game that can be intense and where your actions have a heavy price. To make matters even worse - every combat you lose, you lose a ganger off the table... and you permanently lose a card from your deck. Combat losses *hurt*.

It's definitely possible in this game to make a series of bad decisions and end up in a place that is difficult to get out of.

In our game the learning process was very evident as we all lurched from one game mechanic to the next with each revelation that oh yeah, that was quite important / useful. Dean and Sam entered into a punishing war that saw Dean struggling to even enter the city, and Sam reduced to a skeleton crew of gang members - a hairs breadth away from being exterminated entirely.
Dean has a sad and threatens to play his DS instead, as Sam takes Dean's
new development and thwarts all his attempts at entering the game.

This left David and myself in a relatively stronger position and vying for more useful control of the city proper. However, despite me taking an early lead and developing useful enterprises, David utilised his gangs special powers very well, and collected bounty on every player in the game to end up triumphant.

A cool game - it does seem open to a bit of Analysis Paralysis as players may sit and ponder what they should be doing - and with a relatively high VP condition, the game can play longer than it says on the tin. The game is also fairly unforgiving - make a mistake and you can get punished for it - and there is little to no mechanic to haul in a powerful player down. However, the small deck size, and the timing of card use pretty much makes this a non event, as a concerted effort against a single player is sure to reap rewards. The game feels like it can swing back and forth, and control of the city is not an easy thing.

Also, I don't know whether it was me, but I got such a strong Mega City One vibe from this game - it could so easily have been set in a 2000AD Judge Dredd setting, replace the alien overlords with judges, but leave everything else just about as it is. Makes me wonder if that was a missed IP opportunity right there.

Whilst the future gang warfare was going on, the second table sat down to another stab at Elder Sign. Ewan, Moritz, Pete and Nicky ventured forth against the unspeakable Lovecraftian denizens, and once more the museum was beset with strange noises and desperate battles. The heroes managed to thwart the Elder Gods once more - perhaps reinforcing reports that this game is a tad too easy for players to conquer.

Flipping roles and taking on the guise of monstrous entities themselves, King of Tokyo was next up for a game or two, Ewans cyber bunny triumphantly destroying all comers to be crowned de facto King of Tokyo for lack of any surviving competitors. A raucous and noisy second helping of monstrous carnage was unleashed, this time Nicky hauling in the 20 points required for a win.

After the noise of Tokyo, the table fell silent and a deep thoughtful quiet settled on the players.

I had no clue what they were playing. I figured they had busted out some four player chess variant from the serious faces and quiet thinking. But no. It turned out to be Hey Thats My Fish - and everyone was brain burning how to lead their penguins to greedy fishy victory.

Cool stuff. I look forward to getting City of Remnants out on the table again, this time with the benefit of knowing whats important and what isn't - and also making sure the turns hussle along. Perhaps Toms iPad game turn timer app would come in useful. . . .

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