Published on July 12th, 2013 | by Greg0
Summer Tabletop: Batman, Lord of The Rings, And Word Whimsy!
This summer hasn’t been the best for blockbuster movies. Your favorite TV show is probably on hiatus. Even PC and console gaming haven’t had an addictive major AAA title that is likely to consume your July and August. But don’t fear: there are still plenty of ways to enjoy your vacation! And we have a suggestion that should cover most groups, whether friends or family- three new board games from Cryptozoic.
We’ll start off with the game that can accommodate the most players- Word Whimsy. A lightweight social or party game, this one is easier to pick up and learn than the other two, and is best with a group. Meant for two to seven players, and listed as good for ages 15 and up, this isn’t Cards Against Humanity and we see no reason for slightly younger player to be unable to join in the fun. The box is fairly small and components well made, even if the packaging isn’t immediately enticing. And the game itself is quite solid- much like other similar titles, one player is a referee and judge each round, while the other players scramble to create the best answer. But the prompt cards are fun- “Good Name For A Metal Band” or “Favorite Bar”- and the players answers can be flexible in length, with crazy words like “Zombie” “Angry” “Unstoppable” “Bunnies”. It’s clever, and a great choice for anyone who likes Apples to Apples. Available now for around $30.
Perhaps you want a strong theme and a lot more strategy in your games, but still want to be able to fit a group. Well, if you’re a fan of deck-building games like Dominion (and very long titles), then Cryptozoic’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck Building Game is the perfect addition to your library. The cards are great, and every fan of the books will enjoy the various heroes and powers and items, plus the art is drawn for the movies for maximum effect. We’ve been playing the game over the past month, and it’s fairly easy to learn, with each game moving quite differently thanks to the variety of cards. It’s also flexible in length, since the end of the game is based on the number of super-villain “Archenemies” that you must conquer.
Each player chooses a hero, which adds a special card to their initial deck. As with other similar games, you’ll use the equivalent of money to buy new cards that get added to your deck. But the fun twist here is that the available cards are always changing, thanks to a “river” of cards, called the ‘Path’, and most every card counts towards your “Victory Point” total. As each player’s turn comes up, new cards are added, and sometimes a random special event will appear giving that player a bonus (or causing an attack to that player, or everyone). It’s a fun mechanic, handled well. It’s a bit random the first time though, as players have no idea what cards to expect or what they can do, and strategies are a bit hard to form with so much randomization. Also, each enemy vanquished goes into your deck, and is quite powerful, so we found that “runaway” games are fairly common, where losing players have no chance to come back. The LotR: FotR Deck Building Game is definitely enjoyable, and well worth the $30.
Finally, we’ve got an interesting 2-players-only title, Cryptozoic’s Batman: Arkham City Escape. The basic premise is quite strong, as one player takes on the role of Batman and the other plays as the Villains. The board is surprisingly large, and forms a grid that cards move along, from the spots where the Rogues enter the game to the exit point past Batman where they leave and earn the villainous player victory points. As Batman moves about, frantically trying to defeat each enemy, there are allies that can assist each player. Each turn, a player can play several cards, with villains face down for a surprise attack, and Batman trying to defeat them early before they can present a threat at the end of the board. Villains can carry allies away for even more points, and Batman can utilize classic tool like the Batarang and Explosive Gel- but they come with limited uses, and can only be recharged by defeating enemies.
Our first several playthroughs, Batman didn’t stand a chance. It’s a challenging balance, but it appears the rules were stacked against him, and you pretty much have to play with one of the unclear “optional” rules to make it even slightly fair. This was pretty frustrating, but if you face a similar situation, just remember that Batman can “skip his entire turn to draw 3 Combat Cards if he has no cards in hand at the start of his turn”. You’ll still need to choose tools and strategies wisely, but at least stand a chance. We also like a variant that allows you to draw two cards by forgoing your turn, regardless of the number you hold. Aside from the fairly poor rules, which seemed awkwardly structured, the game felt like it fulfilled its promise: allowing one player to cackle as they threw bad guys at Batman, and the other to feel like a superhero who had to make difficult decisions. Available now, for under $40.