Saturday, 19 October 2013

Board Gaming Update - Dungeon Petz, Runewars and Fleet

This is kind of a catch up post, as there's several new games I've played recently to talk about - new games to me anyway.

Dungeon Petz (ranked 110 on is a 2011 game by renowned board game designer Vlaada Chvatil (of games like Galaxy Trucker, Space Alert & Through the Ages). It is a sort of sequel or companion to his earlier game 'Dungeon Lords'. Both Dungeon Lords and Dungeon Petz effectively reverse the dungeon crawler genre. Rather than be a hero exploring dungeons, killing monsters, collecting treasure etc, you are the bad guy responsible for setting up a Dungeon so that would be adventurers and heroes can venture in. In Dungeon Lords you are the Dungeon master, in Dungeon Petz you are a pet shop owner, except your pets aren't cute fluffy rabbits and hamsters, but various types of monsters! You have to hatch baby monsters, feed them, clean out their cage, entertain them and so on. Think The Sims Pets, but a board game and not quite so cute... Dungeon Petz is a smaller game than Dungeon Lords, with more of a comic element, but it is very fun. I've only played one game so far, and there was quite a bit of a learning curve, with a lot of bits and pieces and rules to learn. After a round or two you start to get the hang of it, and by the middle of the game you've really got a handle on what is going on. I'm looking forward to playing again when I get the chance. Rating it an 8 on BoardGameGeek at the moment, but has the potential to go higher than that after multiple plays.

Runewars (ranked 51 on BGG) is a big game in every sense of the word as it is a long game - 4 to 5 hours - is quite a complex game with lots of bits and pieces, and comes in an absolutely huge box. It is fantasy adventure board game. You start off by taking it in turns to lay out the large terrain hexes that make up the game board. You then start off with your own territory, and set out to expand, conquer new territories and pick up runes. The object of the game is to be the first player to control six territories containing Dragon Runes.

The game takes place over a number of years and in each year there are four seasons - spring, summer, autumn and winter. You have a number of action cards, and get to pick one in each season. You can't usually play the same action card more than once per year. There's also secondary events that happen in each season - some are fixed and take place each season, but others are more random, and you don't know what you are going to get. If after 7 years no one has got to 7 Dragon Runes, the player with the most runes wins the game.

What I really like about this game is that despite being a big, complex game with quite a few rules and lots of components, at heart you simply get to choose one action each season, so four actions in total in a year. This means that there isn't much downtime. You quickly get the hang of the game too. The first couple of years the emphasis is more on exploring until you meet other players in the middle of the game board. When they do come about the battles resolve quite quickly and simply which is really good, though the outcome isn't always quite what you'd expect - the way the battle mechanic works, even if you've got lots of really powerful troops you can end up fleeing from some relatively small imps! You also get hero adventurers that get to move and possibly resolve a quest once per year - early on these are quite an important part of the game, but towards the end they get a bit redundant which is a shame (you run out of quest cards to complete about half way through). Overall though this is a great epic fantasy game, and one that I'm really eager to play again. I'm rating this a 9 on Board Game Geek, though only with the right group of people.

Fleet (492 on BGG) is a small-ish card game which I believe started out life as a Kickstarter Game. In it, you acquire fishing licences for different types of fish, which allow you to buy different kinds of fishing boats and go fishing to get fish. You get victory points for your fishing licences, boats and the amount of fish you manage to harvest. There's also some extra fishing licences that allow you to get bonus points.

As with many other card games, the currency in the game is the cards, although it is not always one card for one coin, different cards are worth either 1, 2 or 3 coins. The coin values are in inverse proportions to the victory points you get for them. At the start of the game you've got to make sure you get enough money to be able to buy the licences and boats you need to get going, and each boat needs a captain which costs money too.

Overall this is a nice little card game that probably take about an hour to play with four people. Admittedly part of what I liked about it was that we played two games and I won both, but there was a lot else to like as well. The theme wasn't just pasted on, it did actually feel like I was managing fleets of fishing boats which was a big success. At heart it is an economic game as it managing your money so you've got enough to buy the good cards later on in the game, but there's a lot of uncertainty too as you never know when the good cards are going to come up in the game. Some of the iconography and rules attached to the different licences got a bit confusing in places, and if you play a lot of games you might get a bit bored of it, but these are the only downsides I could think of. A good, fun card game, giving it a 7 on BoardGameGeek.