PAX is wonderful in that it features all kinds of gaming. Here are my comments in the Department of non-video games:
World of Warcraft Miniatures Game: I swore I would never play the WoW Trading Card Game because I didn’t want to get sucked in like I did in 1997 with Magic: The Money Pit. My resolve faded when my best friend bought one booster pack to see what the art was like and found a Papa Hummel’s Old-Fashioned Pet Biscuits Card to be used in-game. Despite the several boxes of cards I’ve bought, I don’t really dig the game. It’s an improvement over Magic in that anything can be used as a resource, but, just as in Magic, all it takes is a few number crunchers to break the game.
The mini game seemed different. For one thing, it didn’t drag on forever and eighteen days. There was a solid, achievable win condition that could be reached in a reasonable amount of time. For another thing, the “inventory management” was much smoother in this game, where you select just a few powers to be in your “hotbar” and use them strategically, instead of managing thousands of options to get a deck of around 60, inside which is that one special card you hope comes up. Finally, the little pieces look cool. You can either keep them on their little game pedestals or take them out and let them adorn your desk. For a WoW geek like me, this seems like a good idea.
The WoW Mini game is coming from Upper Deck in November, and I think I’ll at least pick up the Starter Pack.
Duel of Ages – Imagine that the gods became bored, picked up a handful of people from throughout history, and tossed them into an arena to fight for their deific amusement. This, then, is Duel of Ages. It is a board game with a dynamically-constructed hex grid and the ability to play as Beowulf with a flamethrower and and ATV. Silly, yes, but a lot of fun and some good strategy, too. Different historical characters have different attacks, defenses, ranges, etc., and with more than a few players the game plays out not so much like a duel but like a tiny war. There is enough dice-rolling to inject some fluidity into the game, but enough stat-based fighting to make sure it doesn’t become random. For me, the best part of this game was taking home it and its first expansion (of eight) after playing in a small tourney with me on one side and Peter on the other. Stacking the odds? Me? Never.
Munchkin Quest – Munchkin Quest, Steve Jackson Games’ latest, is Munchkin with a dynamically built, interlocking board and monsters that followed you around. If you are not familiar with Munchkin the card game, it is a game based on dungeon crawling without all that finicky “character development”. You kick down a door, you fight a monster within, you gain loot, you level. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Munchkin Quest takes the ever-growing insanity that is Munchkin (there are several thousand different Munchkin cards spanning several genres, all of which can be used together) and attempts to tame it into a board game. It mostly works. I appreciated having a die-rolling element in my battles, as opposed to straight level vs. level. The movement through the dungeon gave new like to the idea of exploring rooms and finding what lurks within. My favorite new twist, however is the introduction of a real endgame. In Munchkin Quest, instead of just “I beat a monster, I’m level 10, I win. Woohoo.”, you have to achieve level 10, then get back to the entrance of the dungeon, where you have to fight a level 20 monster to escape.
One thing hasn’t changed, however. It still takes forever to win. One of the more clever mechanics in Munchkin is the ability to throw monkey wrenches at your opponents by growing their enemies, summoning more monsters, or worse. Munchkin Quest gives some disincentive for this by letting monsters roam, meaning that the level 1 Potted Plant you pumped up to level 25 against your buddy might come to feed on you, Seymour. That isn’t true of the exit monster, though. If you lose, it disappears. Thus, the end of Munchkin Quest is just like the end of Munchkin proper – a war of attrition until someone runs out of whammies.
Munchkin Quest comes out in October, shipping sparing. Peter wants to get it, I don’t really need it.