The Board Game Diaries #1

It was my first visit to the local monthly games night and had my first plays of Ultimate Werewolf, Captain Sonar and Wizard School, plus Spyfall.

Here’s what I thought of them.

It was my first time going to The Hungry Dragon games night the other week. On arrival I was introduced to the very friendly and helpful Tom and Kat. Apparently they funded their very impressive games selection from a Kickstarter and the £2.50 per person entry charge also goes towards adding new games to the mix.

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One Night Ultimate Werewolf

I came by myself so Tom kindly sat my with a group of others playing One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
A party game for three to ten players, and published by Bezier Games, Ultimate werewolf is one of the most well know party games, partly due to its pencil and paper version having been around for years.

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Us having more fun than it appears as we listen to the app instructions with out eyes closed.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a social deduction hidden role game were a group of villagers must attempt to identify which players are the Werewolves and then vote to have them lynched. Different players will have different snippets of information about who may be whom, some will be telling the truth, others lying through their surprisingly fang like teeth in an attempt to put you off their unusual wet dog scent.

This was my first time playing, but as with every good party game, it didn’t take very long at all to get the hang of things, aided by a useful phone app that gave clear instruction on what to do and when.

Each round lasts just ten minutes and we played multiple times. I found it a lot of fun and there are a number of different roles to have with each having different abilities that alter the dynamic of the rounds.

I enjoyed the game, however I couldn’t help but feel the gameplay was quite predictable and samey. No matter which character cards we used all the players just said who they were, we used this information to deduce who may be lying then picked who we thought was the Werewolf or Minion character, then we were either right or wrong and that was that.
It meant that I felt the outcome of the game wasn’t really something that could be controlled that much, or even matter. Instead the game was all  about the fun of the journey to that point and I can imagine that has a lot to do with the group you play with. I’d definitely consider buying this game as its very easy to teach compared to some of the other party games I have.

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Captain Sonar

I was pretty damn excited to get this game on the table, from when I first saw a video of this game being played at a Games Con I couldn’t wait to play.
Captain Sonar, published by Matagot and designed by Roberto Fraga andYohan Lemonnier, is a real time hidden movement and team work party game where opposing teams must work together to move their submarine around an ocean dotted with islands, while all the time keeping their sub functional, and trying to work out where the opposing sub is and attempt down to send it down to Davey Jones’s locker.

Each team member has a different task: the Captain gives directions by looking at the map, they give orders about using weapons and other functions of the submarine and tries to get their sub close to the enemy without being discovered.

I enjoyed this role, but you have to rely heavily on the rest of your team communicating with you so you know if there are any upcoming problems or what is working and not working, or whether the radio operator has the foggiest idea where the enemy is (hint, they probably don’t!).
If you don’t receive that information (which I didn’t) then you have to keep looking over at the other players sheets to work out what to do, but that’s fine, it’s just a bit slow.

The next player is the Radio operator, they have the tricky but rewarding job of listening in to what the other teams captain is saying, recording the information on an acetate  sheet and using this to try to pin point where the enemy boat is, help the captain sneak you in close and give the thumbs up for a torpedo straight into to the side.

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Here’s our radio operator showing me (Engineer this time) that he’s just drawn a big squiggly circle and has no idea where the enemy is. Luckily (or not) exactly the same thing is happening with the enemy team.

This was my favorite position to play. It’s a tough roll, you have to carefully listen to the directional instructions given by the enemy captain while all the other players are shouting out, record the directions accurately on the acetate then move the acetate around to try to work out where the enemy are.

It’s very easy to  lose track and if you aren’t able to fix it you can quickly end up with useless radio information. This happened a couple of times with us, we had one radio operator ending up with a confusing circle, and another with directions going completely off the map.
However, if you are able to keep track you can accurately pinpoint the location of the enemy. It’s a pretty cool feeling when you are able to keep on track, quietly guide in the captain in, coordinate the first mate and engineer and fire off a torpedo or leave a bomb in the way of the enemy to damage or even sink the oposition submarine.

The other roles are the Chief Mate, who has the job of keeping track of the boat’s various weapons and features such as sonar and silent running, moving the individual features towards readiness with each move the submarine makes.

The Engineer on the other hand has the frustrating job of having to break something each move. It is important for the Engineer and Chief mate to work together and communicate with the rest of the team to make tactical decision to keep things working and get them fixed when needed.

In a six player game one player plays both these roles and again I found this was a fun, and very tactical role. It is essentially down to you to keep the boat going. It’s all fine for the radio operator to find the enemy sub and the captain to get you there but if your torpedoes are our of action or you have to surface for repairs then you are a sitting duck.

When I first heard about this game it sounded a little too pressured for me. My description doesn’t do anything to change that. But it is a genuinely great game. We played three times and all agreed that although none of us would buy it, a public games event like this one was the perfect place for such a game. It’s a great way to get six or eight strangers talking to each other and having fun. Although the opportunity to play is limited I thoroughly recommend you do.pic2453712_md

Spyfall

Spyfall is in my own collection and I’ve not had much of an opportunity to play it so getting it out again was good. It is a social deduction party game for three to eight players from Cryptozoic and Hobby World and designed by Alexandr Ushan.

I like the premise of this game, one player is secretly a spy who needs to work out where they are by asking questions of the other players while not giving away who they are. All the other people know where they are and all have different jobs in that location, for example maybe you are a pilot or passenger on an airliner, or maybe a cook on a ferry or in the army.

They must ask question of the others to try to trick the spy into giving away that they are the spy without giving away where they are, because if they do the Spy can win.

This can be a funny game with people trying to ask subtle question in an attempt to not give away who they are or where they are, or strange questions like asking if they would like to go for a walk outside when they are in a space station or if they like doing heart surgery when they work on a train.

I like this game but I’ve previously played it  with people who cant cope with the pressure of being the spy. No, really, I’m not joking, it’s happened three times! This resulted in them just owning up to being the spy as soon as the cards were dealt and spoiling the came.
Luckily this wasn’t the case tonight. Like many party games, whether the game is good or not mainly comes down to how into it the group is. I was happy to play this game with a group that was up for a laugh. A couple of the people I was with liked it so much they said they would probably buy it themselves.

One issue with the game is that there’s just the one crib sheet showing all the locations which can make things a little difficult, but it’s not a big deal, we just play it that the person who asks the question has the sheet. If you are the spy you just need to hope you don’t get a question you cant handle too early in the process. The more the time goes on the more chance the spy has of winning.

This is a game worth playing but I wouldn’t rush out and buy it (like I did!).

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Wizard School

Another attendee brought this one along and it looked pretty cute. The score on Board Game Geek for Wizard School reflected my interest in this game. One of the lowest ranked games I’ve ever played.

From the outset this game seemed far more complicated that it needed to be for a small box cooperative game, and this is reflected by other reviews and threads I’ve read. The  main issue was, we couldn’t work out how to actually co-operate very well. Things got quite hard very soon and the ability to co-operate seemed limited, but even losing didn’t seem like an exciting prospect to try to avoid.

I think our lack of a grasp of the rules had something to do with it though.

I didn’t really take things in, so maybe I should give it another go rather than jumping to conclusions. In fact I will try it again if I see it but not much of the theme or mechanic of doing tests and beating monsters excited me. It reminded me of a semi-cooperative version of Munchkin with the fun bits removed, and I’m not that fussed with munchkin.

So…give it a try. I’m not going to tell you it’s terrible, that’s for you to find out for yourself, I just had a bad first experience with it.

But all in all I had a great time at the Hungry Dragon and will be back there next time.

Thanks for reading, and keep gaming!

XXX

Follow me on Twitter: @nerd_punx and Instagram: @athroneofgames

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