Monday, November 21, 2016

This may seem familiar

Folding licensed properties into games has been standard practice for about as long as there has been a modern gaming industry, and it generally comes in two types: games created with the licensed property in mind, and games where the property is "painted on" to a pre-existing design. Both types can be wildly inconsistent in terms of quality, from the exceptional (Firefly: the Game) to the surprising (The Lone Ranger Shuffle the Deck Card Game), to the downright appalling (Doctor Who: the Game of Time and Space).

In many cases, a re-skin of a game using a familiar license can make me try a game that I may not have been particularly interested in otherwise, such as with Jarl: the Vikings Tile-Laying Game, a re-skin of The Duke which I only noticed because I'm a fan of the Vikings TV show.

Star Trek Panic falls squarely into this category. I had played Castle Panic once or twice, and while I enjoyed the game play, the cartoon-fantasy theme didn't really interest me so I never bothered picking up a copy of the game. A Star Trek version certainly caught my attention, and the idea of defending the Enterprise from Klingons and Romulans is a lot more interesting to me than defending a castle from orcs and goblins.

To be honest, I don't recall too many details of Castle Panic's game play, so I'm not entirely certain if there have been any major changes or additions for the Star Trek version. I can say that Star Trek Panic is a fun and relatively simple cooperative game. Each player has a hand of cards representing various tactical moves the ship can make, and they must work together to solve a series of missions, each with a specific in-game requirement such as reaching a starbase or evading a giant space amoeba. All the while, pesky Klingon and Romulan ships appear in random spaces on the board and gradually wear down the ship's shields and hull.

The cardboard components are a bit on the cheap side, but are nevertheless well-designed and very effective. The model of the Enterprise at the center of the board trails fire and smoke as it gets progressively more damaged, which does a great job of building tension and is, perhaps ironically, more dramatic than most of the model effects on the  original television show.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) Quite a bit lighter, both in tone and complexity, than most of the other Star Trek games in our collection, which makes for a nice change of pace.

Archer: Once You Go Blackmail brings the world of irreverent super-spy Sterling Archer to Love Letter, a game that certainly hasn't been shy about re-skinning itself. This version adds a "hidden identity" card to the mix, and changes several of the traditional Love Letter card effects so that they interact with the hidden identity card in various ways.

 I'm not sure than any version of Love Letter is really better than any other, but it's great that there are so many to choose from. You should be able to find the Love Letter that's right for you.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) It's still a dirt-simple game, which is part of its charm and makes it ideal for groups of non-gamers, or situations where it might be too loud or distracting to play a more complicated game.

Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China follows the structure of the Marvel Legendary game rather than the more complex scenario-based Encounters series. Players choose a plot and a villain from among those featured in the film, add a few groups of minor villains and henchmen and a selection of the film's well-meaning if barely competent heroes, and try to work together to foil the villain's dastardly plot.
Upper Deck's Legendary series has proven to be a pretty robust game system, with the Aliens and Predator franchises being just as at home in it as the core Marvel property. Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China is no exception; the somewhat ridiculous adventures of Jack Burton and the Pork Chop Express fit right in.

In an effort to reflect the bumbling nature of the Big Trouble heroes, the cards in this version of the game often interact in surprising and not always helpful ways, making the game more random and silly, and quite a bit lighter in tone than the other games in the Legendary series. Originally I was excited about this release because of the possibilities of mixing it up the other Legendary games (Jack Burton vs Predator seemed like a shoo-in), but on playing I find that it holds together so well on its own that I'm reluctant to try add anything to it.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) another great addition to this series that stands so firmly on its own that, if you're familiar with the other Legendary games, you may want to think of this one as a new game that you already know how to play.