FTW Staff Picks - Escape: The Curse of the Temple March 21 2017
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Designer: Kristian Amundsen Østby
Genre: Real-Time Cooperative
Player Size: 1 to 5 Players
Game Length: 10 minutes
For fans of: Castle Panic, Space Alert
From one escape to another, we're looking at this fast-paced, cooperative dice game from Queen Games. Unlike last week's Survive: Escape from Atlantis!, this game hopes to unite gamers through its desperation. Escape: The Curse of the Temple is played entirely in real-time, which means its listed game length is not only suggested, it's enforced. In just 10 minutes, players will chaotically roll dice in hopes to unlock the exit.
The game comes with a soundtrack CD which accompanies adventurer's on their exasperating quest. Aside from adding to the immersion, there are actually musical cues to signal the beginning and ending of each of the 3 rounds. If you're playing in a louder environment, like a board game cafe, the game also includes a sand timer which replaces the soundtrack.
If you've ever played Pandemic or Ghost Stories, you know that cooperative games can often feel hopeless, and while Escape isn't on the same level of difficulty, it adds a much needed light-heartedness to the experience. Unlike conventional cooperative games, the challenge doesn't come from the game itself. Instead the path to victory is almost entirely dependant on coordination. Not one person can carry the team to the end. Effective communication is required.
The vanilla game itself is good for quick, good laughs. But the included treasures and curses expansion really adds some challenge and hilarity to the mix. Like another Queen Games staple, Alhambra, there's a ton of offerings for expansion to Escape. It's not commonly tread ground, but real-time gaming has delivered some really great experiences lately. Whether its Space Alert or more recently, Captain Sonar, there's more than enough evidence that there's a market for games that challenge players in ways beyond placing wooden meeples and collecting victory points.
The Art of Translating the Rules March 16 2017
Everyone has their own way of learning. There's no blueprint to discovering the most effective way to teach your group new games. But with a few guidelines you should be able to condense the time it takes to get everyone on the same page. Just like recommendations, game selection and knowing the limits of your group is always a very important part of it. Not everyone has the patience to sit down and play a game where they have to remember a lexicon of keywords and hold onto a reference sheet as large as the game board.
Before even getting your group together, it's imperative for more complex games that someone reads the rules and thoroughly understands them ahead of time. Having to read the rules as you play, or read and then slowly translate piece by piece to your group will likely double the indicated play length on the box. Preparation is a big part of learning.
It's a lot of responsibility to be the teacher, because if you discover you've been doing things incorrectly it can fall on your shoulders. But with many games that I've had to teach or learn, the group is generally understanding that the first playthrough of most games can be written off as a learning exercise. We like to call it the "asterisk" game.
Where to Start?
Whether your game takes 120 minutes or 12 minutes, there's always one ideal place to start when teaching every game: the goal. Every game has a goal. And while not every game's goal is achieved in the same way, it's always best to start by defining the goal and working backwards. This way, every mechanic you teach from this point forward, will feel connected to the goal. The most common question people ask when learning a game is: "Why?" So start every session by answering that question, before it's even asked.
One Thing at a Time
If the game you are learning has extensive board setup, finish setting everything up properly before explaining anything. At the café, I make sure to have groups follow the setup page in the rules before I get into it. Not everyone can retain information being taught to them, while actively doing something else. It's important to have the undivided attention of the group so that key details aren't misheard or forgotten. There's nothing worse than playing a game of Avalon and having a loyal servant of Arthur throw in a Failure card on a Quest.
Additionally, be sure to incorporate mini-breaks in your "teach-flow", to allow for people's brains to process the information. Break elements of the game into logical sections, instead of jumping from mechanic to mechanic. For example, in a game like Seasons, spend one section describing how to properly read the cards such as the cost, the points awarded, when to apply its effects, etc. There's often a lot of information densely packed into a card - so it's important to make sure everyone can understand the language of the game.
Rules, not Strategy
Always limit any strategy talk when teaching a game. Part of the fun in learning new games is discovering the nuances. Feel free to give examples of how certain mechanics work, but don't give anything away unless it's a specific question being asked. Discovering combos and developing a playstyle is something that each individual should experience on their own.
And above all else, be sure to exercise the utmost in patience. Nothing ruins a game session quite like the frustration of people not getting it. But it's normal for people, especially those who aren't frequent gamers, to be a little slower at processing instructions. As you get more comfortable teaching, you'll discover your own methods of guiding effectively. It's OK to get things wrong. At the end of the day, it's a game and the most important part is having a good time.
Most Anticipated Games - March Edition March 02 2017
Each month at For The Win Board Game Cafe, we're going to be taking a look at a few future releases that we're really excited about. From new games, to expansions, to Kickstarters we'll be covering it all monthly.
The Hunt for the Ring
One of the more unique mechanics in board games is hidden movement. Gabrielle Mari has delivered solid games in the genre with Mister X and Letters from Whitechapel. So it's safe to say The Hunt for the Ring is in good, experienced hands. The Lord of the Rings theme fits hidden movement like a glove. One player plays as Frodo attempting to travel from the Shire to Rivendell, hoping to evade the other four players representing the forces of Nazgül.
The game takes place over two separate chapters, played on two separate game boards. In the first chapter, Frodo and his team of hobbits move from the Shire to Bree, slowly accumulating corruption points. Afterwards, Frodo records his exit point and continues the game on the second board, sans hobbit friends. It's an inspired choice for a Lord of the Rings title, and hopefully shines some light on other successful hidden movement games.
The Hunt for the Ring is coming summer 2017.
Nothing screams "quick cash-in" like putting the Disney logo on anything. And yet, it's hard not to be excited about more Codenames. Given it's premise it's safe to assume this is only the beginning of what will likely be dozens of new Codenames games/expansions.
There are 2 Disney-themed Codenames games on the horizon for 2017. The first is a Marvel focused game with cards based off of the Marvel universe (characters and locations). The second one is listed as Codenames Disney Family Edition, which will focus on both Disney and Pixar films. The best thing about these games is the cards will come double-sided with words on one side and pictures on the other. Meaning you'll essentially get both Codenames and Codenames Pictures merged into one.
Both Disney Codenames games are scheduled for Q4 2017.
DC Deck-Building Game: Confrontations
If you read our FTW Staff Picks, you already know that I've always been enamoured with Cryptozoic's DC-themed deck-builder. So I'm tentatively excited about their next game focused solely on the 2-Player side of things. Confrontations modelled after DC Deck-Building Game: Rivals Joker vs Batman. Instead of just 2 decks, here you'll get 8 different unique hero/villain decks. All of the cards are compatible with the standard game.
DC Deck-Building Game: Confrontations arrives in Q4 2017
I must admit, this is one of those games that suckered me in with its aesthetic and theme. But once I dug deep into reading playtester's impressions on the game, I began to glow with excitement. In Unfair, players are attempting to build their own successful theme park, while sabotaging the park's of others. Any game that let's me screw over my friends is a big plus. I'm disappointed I missed the Kickstarter for this one, because I have a feeling this one will be a hit.
As cool as Steam Park is, it doesn't quite fill that same Roller Coaster Tycoon vibe for me. Unfair definitely looks more like a multiplayer-version of the popular computer game. With tons of blueprints and different themes for each set of attractions, it looks like a game with a lot of diversity. It also leaves itself open for more additional theme packs for additional rides.
Unfair is scheduled for Q2 2017
Empires of the Void II
It feels like clockwork. Another Most Anticipated Games, another Ryan Laukat title to anticipate. It's hard not to get excited when Laukat is at the helm. The word auteur gets thrown around a lot in the film industry. And if there were ever a designer that could fill that illustrious title it would definitely be Ryan Laukat. When you play a game of his you know definitively that it's his game. Being able to maintain a strong style, through unrelated and very different games, is a testament to Ryan's creative vision.
Empires of the Void II is a sequel to Ryan's first ever published game. He's spent the last few years creating games of the fantasy variety, so it's a bit of a departure to see him tackle the great dark void. Empires builds on the strong narrative aspect of Ryan's games. It's yet another Euro-style game, but early impressions suggest a sandbox of options to create numerous paths to victory.
Click here to visit the Kickstarter page. Empires of the Void II is tentatively expected in December 2017.