Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pulp fiction

I recently had occasion to investigate Spirit of the Century, a role playing game set in an extremely stylized 1930s world that calls to mind larger-than-life characters such as The Shadow or Doc Savage. While ultimately I found the world described in the game to be a little too over the top for my role playing tastes, I did enjoy the two spin-off board games set in the same universe.

Race to Adventure is, as the title implies, a race, with players competing to visit 9 location tiles and return to home base with the stamps to prove it. It get pasts the usual lack of player interaction that is typical of race games in a very novel way.

Each turn, each player selects one item to use, things as mundane as a magnifying glass and as outlandish as a jet pack. Many of the location tiles require use of one of these items in order to gain that tile's stamp, and there is only one of each item available, so strategy revolves around choosing whether to take the item you  know you need, or block the other players by taking the item you know they need.

Additionally, there are only two items that allow movement between: the jet pack and the airplane. As long as someone takes the airplane, every player gets to move once, but if you need to use one of the other items, you're hoping one of the other players will take the airplane so you can still move. conversely, when you take the airplane to use yourself, you're giving  everyone else a free move. It makes for a really interesting dynamic in a game that is otherwise a bit too simple.

The board is made up of tiles, so it's different every time, and an expansion includes suggested tile layouts beyond a basic 3x3 grid. Other expansions add a lost island that sends flying dinosaurs out to cause trouble, and a sinkhole that collapses one of the location tile into a subterranean world with its own unique challenges.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) The base game is a bit on the simple side, but the expansions add just enough extra depth to keep it interesting.

Zeppelin Attack! switches the focus to the villains of the Spirit of the Century world. It's a small scale deck building game that manages to be quite different from most other deck building games. Where most games of this time attempt to keep player's interest by including hundreds upon hundreds of cards, Zeppelin Attack gets by with a mere 112 and accommodates four players.

Players assemble fleets of zeppelins armed with outlandish weapons, in an attempt to outlast the other players. Launching successful attacks via weapon cards gains you victory points and usually some kind of card advantage, and successfully defending against an attack with a matching defense will usually give you some kind of in-game benefit such as extra card draws.

All cards (attacks, defenses, and operations) have to be played from one of your zeppelins in play, so there is some resource management involved beyond just buying more cards for your deck, and like Race to Adventure, Zeppelin Attack adds a lot more direct player interaction than you normally see in games of this type.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) A little to small scale to be really engaging, but a good simple game nonetheless, and the small size of the box means it travels a lot better than most deck building games.

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