RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples October 2016 28 October 2016

Back to the boardgame café again, on my birthday. There may have been beer beforehand. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

We started with Forbidden Island, one I haven't played for quite a while; and I still couldn't remember just how clue cards for artefacts that had already been recovered were meant to work. (The rules are of no help, of course.) We pulled out a reasonably clean victory, mostly by hoarding Helicopter Lifts. It was very noticeable, in retrospect, just how many of the card-moving mechanics turned up again later in Pandemic.

Particularly since we went on to another Matt Leacock-based game (though modified by someone else), Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu. As the title implies, it's basically very much the same idea as Pandemic: instead of the world, you have Arkham, Innsmouth, Kingsport and Dunwich; instead of planes, you have buses; instead of disease cubes, you have cultists and shoggoths; instead of contagion, you have summoning.

(You can leave Innsmouth by bus at any time. Oh dear.)

Yes, all right, there's also a sanity die (and when you hit zero, you flip your card and have fewer actions, but also a nifty new power). But it all feels terribly familiar, down to the "every action counts" gameplay, and the frustrating way in which the card transfer rules require you to bunch up, but keeping the disease/cultists under control forces you to spread out.

Yeah, we lost. Not really surprising.

I couldn't resist referring to the cultists, with miniatures about half the size of the player characters and wearing hoods, as Jawas.

Speaking as someone who has bought and then sold Pandemic, I have no ambition to own this. If I wanted to play Pandemic I'd have kept my copy. If I wanted to play a Cthulhu-type game, well, there's some integration of the theme, but the fact that you can walk into a nest of cultists, beat them up, and not for a moment risk taking any harm from them, doesn't help matters at all.

More Cthulhu-related gameplay in Lost in R'lyeh, where you're trying not to be the last person to escape from the sunken city… or at least not to be the last player to get rid of all your cards. This is a near-perfect example of what I call thematic disconnection: there's quite a pleasant card game here where you play cards onto a stack and, depending on how many of the same sort you play at once, take, or force someone else to take, the entire stack. (Which gives them more cards thus putting them further from victory, but also gives them more options for what to play.) Mechanically it's very like the folk game Palace.

That's fine, but there's also this Cthulhu-related artwork and card titling which has no relationship to the gameplay. And that annoys me. I don't mind playing an abstract game, and I don't mind playing a deeply thematic game, but I don't like abstract games that paint themselves as thematic. It feels like false advertising. When it's a theme that's as overdone as Cthulhu, I object more.

That said the game's not bad, if aggressively random; but I don't expect it to find a place on my shelf any time soon.

The traditional closer, a couple of rounds of Timeline: Historical Events, where we actually got some questions wrong.

[Buy Forbidden Island at Amazon] [Buy Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu at Amazon] [Buy Lost in R'lyeh at Amazon] [Buy Timeline: Historical Events at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

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