Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Zombies!!! Part 2: Gameplay & Verdict

In our previous entry we took a look at the box content for Zombies!!!, a game from Twilight Creations Inc for 2-6 players.  Here we'll take a look at how the game plays and give it an all-important final score.
A game of Zombies always starts in the Town Square, so this and the Helipad must be removed from the Map Tile Deck at the beginning of the game.  Once the deck has been shuffled, the Helipad is randomly inserted back into the bottom half of the deck, and the Town Square is placed into the centre of the table.
With the Town Square placed, the players must each choose the colour of their Shotgun Guy and place him in the centre square.  Each player is then given 3 Bullet Tokens and Life Tokens, and dealt a starting hand of 3 cards from the shuffled Event Deck.  With the Shotgun Guys placed and the hands dealt, it's time to get started with Zombies!!!

The first thing on the agenda in each player's turn is to expand the city map and increase the zombie infestation.  A tile is drawn from the top of the Map Tile deck and added to the map already on the table.  The map tiles must be placed so as to keep the road network running uninterrupted, so a tile can't be placed in position which would leave a road running into a dead end.  If an unplayable tile is drawn then it is discarded, and this phase of the player's turn is skipped.  To discourage players from creating a 'closed' map, any player who places a Map Tile in such a way as to prevent any more from ever being played misses their next turn.
When a new Map Tile is played it needs to be occupied by zombies.  If it's an Unnamed Building then the player places a number of zombie models onto the tile equal to the number of road exits on the tile - the T-junction above, for example, would generate 3 zombies.  These zombies must be places on the road, and no space can contain more than one zombie.
If a Named Building is placed then things go a little differently.  The top-left corner of the tile determines how many zombies, Life Tokens and Bullet Tokens are placed onto the square, and these must be placed inside the building itself.  Any square can contain a combination of zombie, Life Token or Bullet Token, but no square can contain all three.  The Hospital above contains the text "Z-8 L-4 B-0", which means that the tile must have 8 zombies and 4 Life Tokens placed on it, but no Bullet Tokens.
Once this has been done the player draws card off the Even Deck if necessary until they have a hand of 3 cards.
With the map expanded and the Event Cards drawn, it's time to move.  The player rolls a die, and can move a number of squares up to the value rolled.  Every time they come across a zombie they must combat it, and only if victorious can they continue to move.
Combat is very simple.  If a player lands in a square containing a zombie then they roll a die.  On a roll of 4 or more the zombie is killed, and the player adds it to their zombie pile by the side of the board.  If a roll of 3 or less is made then players have two options; discard a Life Token to re-roll the die, or discard a Bullet Token to increase the value of the roll by 1 (so if a 3 was rolled, 1 Bullet Token would need to be discarded to make it up to the required 4).  Whilst the main goal of Zombies!!! is to get to the Helipad and escape, players can also win by being the first to have 25 zombies in their pile.
If the zombies get the better of a player then they are not out of the game, their survival merely suffers a setback.  Their Shotgun Guy is returned to the centre of the board and given 3 new Life Tokens and Bullet Tokens, but half of the zombies in their zombie pile are discarded, and any weapons they've gained from the Event Deck are also discarded.
When the player has finished their movement phase they roll another die to determine how many zombies they will move this turn.  Each zombie can only move one space in a turn, so early on the game there will be very few movement options, but later on in the game this can be helpful for surrounding your opponents with a legion of the undead.
For the first few turns the game will continue on in this fashion.  Place a Map Tile, roll to move the Shotgun Guy, roll for combat, roll for combat, roll for combat, roll to move zombies, end the turn.  It's an incredibly basic system, which means that it's easy to pick up, but unfortunately it also means that it becomes repetitive very quickly.  Players will continue to move around the board racking up their zombie body count, until finally the Map Tile everyone's been waiting for comes out...
Altogether now: "RUN! GET TO THE CHOPPER!"  The Helipad, as you can see, is a Named Building with 'Z-9 L-0 B-0', so each of the 9 squares has a zombie placed inside it.  The first player to reach the centre of the Helipad and kill the zombie in the space wins the game; they've escaped the zombie outbreak and have left their opponents to inevitable death at the hands of the undead.
At first glance it may appear that the revelation of the Helipad tile is like starting a ticking clock and adding a massive element of tension to the game, but sadly the opposite is true.  As soon as this tile comes out every player immediately focuses their every effort upon stopping eachother from reaching that centre space, and the game quickly loses all momentum, grinding to a tedious, dice-rolling halt.  In most games the Helipad will appear within the first 30 minutes, and then the following hour will be spent with the players tripping over one another in an attempt to reach it.
In our other reviews you may have picked up on a passion for the subject, and an overall enthusiasm for relaying our experiences with the various games.  If you're noticing a lack of that enthusiasm in this review, it's because there is so very little to get passionate about with this game.
The mechanic of 'roll a die, roll a die, roll a die...' is very repetitive, and seasoned gamers will find no tactical element to help break things up.  The negative Event Cards can be played instantaneously, whereas the positive ones generally require the player to make their way to a certain building to be able to use them, rendering them useless for a large percentage of the game.  And even if you do manage to use one it gives your character a bonus up until they next die, at which all of your hard work is undone.  This leaves the Event Deck skewed heavily towards giving negative effects to your opponents, rather than to help yourself out, and Zombies!!! quickly descends into a game of back-stabbing and frustration.
Is it all bad though?  Not quite.  It's fairly easy on the pocket, and the simplicity of Zombies!!! makes it a decent introduction to specialist games.  Once new gamers have pushed past Zombies!!! and into the realm of more in-depth games, however, it's unlikely they'll ever look back.
The Good Points
  • It's got zombies in it! Everyone loves zombies!
  • The simple mechanic and easy-to-follow rules make it a good introduction to specialist games.  If you're trying to get a friend into the hobby or are curious yourself, a game like this would be the place to start.
  • The Shotgun Guys look a bit like Chuck Norris.
The Bad Points
  • Very repetitive gameplay.
  • The basic game mechanic leaves little to offer experience gamers.
  • Zombies!!! is very competitive, and there is little room for good nature during a game.
  • Some Event Cards are extremely overpowered (such as Fire Axe, which adds +2 to all combat dice rolls), but all weapons and bonuses require so many hoops to be jumped through to get them that they're not worth the effort.
Recommended Number of Players: 3+
3 players or more would be recommended for Zombies!!!  This is purely because the game is so back-stabbing that at least with extra players it feels less like a personal grudge match.
Average Game Time: 90 minutes
The time taken to reveal the Helipad is usually less than 30 minutes, but rather than signalling the imminent end of the game it really signifies that the game is just beginning.  Games will often go on for an hour afterwards in the long trudge to the winning square.
Replay Value: Low
Whilst Zombies!!! is a good intro to specialist games, once players move on to discover other games with more involved systems they won't be in a hurry to return.  The modular Map Tiles don't really add anything to the game's replay factor, and every playthrough feels very much the same as the last.
The Future: Ongoing, But Samey
One thing that must be said about Zombies!!! is that it has stood the test of time.  The first edition of the game was released back in 2001, and the 12th expansion has just been released this year, so it's unlikely that Twilight Creations are going to call time on their baby just yet.  Each expansion is themed, and past expansions have involved a zoo, a school and a circus, and come with new zombies, Map Tiles and Event Cards.
By searching online it's possible to find unofficial additional rules to give Zombies!!! an RPG element.  Whilst this would give the game some much needed depth, it would be much easier to simply go out and pick up a more involving game in the first place.
Price: £20
Zombies!!! will set you back roughly £20, which is a good price for a specialist game.  The price should be weighed up against the replay value though, and would be quite an expense for a game which you'll only play once or twice.  It is usually easy to track down, however, and seems to be one of the standard games most specialist stores have to offer.
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Zombies!!! Part 1: Box Contents

The game under the microscope for Games & Tea tonight is Zombies!!! from Twilight Creations Inc; a competitive zombie survival game for 2-6 players.  Now zombies are a topic rather close to our hearts here at Games & Tea, so we went into this review with high hopes.  Will it meet our expectations?  Let's find out...
Zombies!!! is presented in a fairly compact Evil Dead-inspired box, meaning it will take up an inoffensive amount of space on your game shelf.  The aim of the game is a simple one: Zombies have taken over the city, leaving the players in an 'every man for himself' struggle to escape in one (living) piece.
Upon opening the box, players will realise that its compact size is mainly due to the lack of a gaming board, in any conventional sense at least.
Instead of a regular gaming board, the board for Zombies!!! is made up from a deck of modular Map Tiles.  There are two types of tiles in this 30 card deck; Named Buildings, and Unnamed Buildings.  A Named Building tile, such as the Hospital on the right in the picture, is marked by text in its upper-left corner.  Unnamed Buildings, such as the one on the right, have no text.  Each turn the players draw a tile off the top of the deck and add it to the map on the table, expanding the city as they flee to safety.
As well as the Map Tiles, Zombies!!! also contains a 50 card Event Deck.  Each player has a hand of 3 cards from the Event Deck, and they can play one between the beginning of their present turn and the beginning of their next turn, giving them the option of playing a card during an opponent's turn which will hamper their progress.  The Event Cards serve various purposes, from increasing your own movement speed or combat prowess, to slowing down your opponents or swarming them with additional zombies.  Most are one-off cards which are discarded after use, but some stay with the players throughout the game and can give them a sizeable advantage.
The box also includes two sets of tokens.  There are Bullet Tokens (the black ones, shaped like bullets) which help you to slay the undead, and Life Tokens ( can figure out which ones they are) which show how much health your character has.
Zombies!!! wouldn't be a particularly good zombie game if it didn't contain any zombies (in fact it would just be called '!!!'), and so the box contains 100 miniatures in two different styles.
And or course the players need their pieces as well, so there are 6 Plastic Shotgun Guys (yes, that's actually what they're called) in various colours, as well as a pair of dice to determine their movement and shooting.
So as far as board games go it's not a particularly complicated lineup.  Let's move on to Part 2 and see how it plays!  I don't know about you, but we're anxious to get our zombie hunting on!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Monty Python Fluxx: The Ever-Changing Monty Python Card Game

This evening Games & Tea are going to take a look at one of the first games we discovered upon taking up the card/board gaming hobby: Monty Python Fluxx from Looney Labs.
Monty Python Fluxx is one of the many variants on Looney Labs' original Fluxx game, and is obviously themed around the Monty Python films and television series.  As this is Games & Tea's first review of any Fluxx set we'll be going through the game in some detail to establish the system at its core.
Fluxx describes itself as an ever-changing card game, and this description hits the nail firmly on the head.  The rules can change from one turn to the next, the win conditions change, and even the cards you've played have no guarantee of still being there next turn.  To an outsider watching a group of experienced Fluxx players it can seem like quite and intimidating game to try to take on.  But the nice thing about Fluxx is that it was originally designed as a family game, and it's incredibly easy to pick up.  It starts with a very simple gameplay mechanic, and every single card - without exception - tells you exactly what you need to do to play it in nice clear text.  Let's take a look at the cards and we'll be able to see how it all works.
Each player in Monty Python Fluxx starts with a hand of 3 cards, and the only card which starts on the table is the Basic Rules card.  To start with each player draws one card off the top of the deck and then plays one out of their hand.  The card types are:

New Rule
It wouldn't be an ever-changing card game without New Rules being thrown into the mix every turn.  A New Rule card goes into the centre of the table where it affects all players, and remains there until it is superseded by another rule of the same type (eg. replacing Draw 4 with Draw 2), or is removed from the game altogether by another card.  There are many different types of New Rule, most of them making changes to the number of cards which are drawn/played each turn, implementing hand limits, giving bonuses to players with empty hands and so forth.  Of course, being Monty Python Fluxx there are also Python-themed rules, such as One, Two, Five! (shown above), or rules which give bonuses for singing Monty Python songs or speaking in an outrageous accent.

The Goals are the win-conditions of the game.  Just like the New Rules, when a Goal is played it goes into the centre of the table and takes effect for all players.  Only one Goal at a time can be in play (unless the rules change!), and the first player to reach the win condition is crowned the victor, even if it happens in another player's turn.  In order to win the game, you'll need Keepers, so let's look at those next.
Keepers are the various items, characters, and dead parrots from the world of Monty Python.  To play a Keeper, you simply place it on the table in front of yourself, and only you receive its benefits.  All of the Keepers in Monty Python Fluxx are Monty Python themed (and, subsequently, so are the Goals).  There is no limit to the number of Keepers you can have on the table (unless, once again, the rules change!), so players will find it in their best interests to get as many out as possible for when the Goal changes.  If the Keepers in front of you match the required Keepers on the Goal card, you've won the game!
In the example above, the Goal is Who Leaps Out?, requiring The Catapult and the Trojan Rabbit to win the game.  Here one lucky player already has both of those Keepers, and is surely now dancing the Fluxx dance of victory.
Action cards allow you to take actions which can give a decisive advantage over other players.  To play an Action you place the card on the table in front of you, do whatever it tells you to do, and then place it into the discard pile.  Actions can give players extra turns, allow them to retrieve cards from the discard pile, allow them to steal other players' Keepers, and various other nefarious perks.  Many of the Actions are generic to Fluxx, but there are a few Monty Python-themed ones such as And Now For Something Completely Different, or My Hovercraft is Full of Eels.
These Python-esque cards do grant Monty Python Fluxx the achievment of feeling like a Monty Python game.  Themed versions of existing games often just feel like the original game but with a new coat of paint.  Star Wars Monopoly may look nice on the shelf, but when you're playing it you don't actually feel like you're trading planets in the heart of the Galactic Empire - you feel like you're playing Monopoly with funny writing on the bank notes.  With Monty Python Fluxx the cards are so bizarre, often finding clever ways to make a well-known quote into a game mechanic, that you can almost feel Eric Idle and co cheering you on.
There is one further type of card, which was not in original Fluxx but was first introduced in Monty Python Fluxx, and has appeared in every variant since then.
Whenever a player draws a Creeper they must immediately put it into play as they would a Keeper, and then draw another card to replace it.  This does not count as one of their plays for the turn.  Creepers prevent players from winning the game, unless the Goal specifically requires that Creeper.  For this reason they have been given the more sinister characters from the Monty Python franchise, including The Spanish Inquisition, The Three-Headed Giant and The Killer Rabbit.
The very nature of Fluxx is one of chance.  There is a small tactical element to the game, but for the better part the winner is decided entirely by chance.  This is a big thumbs-down for a lot of hardcore gamers, and Fluxx has very much become a Marmite game of the specialist gaming community.  Those who do enjoy it tend to do so as a wind-down game at the end of a gaming evening, or as a quick game to play down at the pub.
Now you've seen what Monty Python Fluxx is all about, here's our breakdown and final score.
The Good Points
  • Each card tells the player exactly what they have to do with it, and so it's a very fast game to pick up.
  • It's a nice compact game, and can easily be taken to a park or pub to play with friends.  Nothing is needed except for the cards in the deck.
  • There is a degree of customisation to the game.  For example, if nobody's comfortable singing, just remove the I Want To Sing! card and the game can continue without any problem.
  • With the right number of players it's a very quick game to play, and is good to wrap up a heavy gaming session.
  • It FEELS like a Monty Python game.
The Bad Points
  • As mentioned, there's very little by way of challenge or tactics to Monty Python Fluxx, and this luck-based system will not appeal to all.
  • Monty Python does have a very specific fanbase.  Unlike Zombie Fluxx or Pirate Fluxx, it can be quite tricky to find people willing to sit down for a round of this version.
  • Monty Python fans may be disappointed to know it's heavily skewed in favour of The Holy Grail.  Life of Brian fans will find no references in this set, and there is only one card from The Meaning of Life.  There are a fair number of Flying Circus cards, but The Holy Grail does dominate the list.
Recommended Number of Players: 3
If ever there was a game to be enjoyed with a group of like-minded friends, Monty Python Fluxx is it.  It loses a little of the fun with just 2 players, but with 4 or more (the box advertises 2-6) it can start to drag on as players forget their own Goals and desperately vie to just keep eachother from winning.  If everyone's in a mood for an epic length game of absolute silliness, however, then a large game of Monty Python Fluxx can be a great way to spend an hour.
Average Game Time: 20 minutes
Monty Python Fluxx is difficult to put an average game time on due to its random and unpredictable nature.  We've played games which have been over in a matter of minutes, and some which have gone in in excess of an hour and a half!  20 minutes is a good, solid, average time though.
Replay Value: Medium
Whilst Monty Python Fluxx is a good wind-down game, it is something that players have to be in a specific mood for.  It's certainly one to go back to, just perhaps not on a regular basis.
The Future: n/a
Each version of Fluxx is its own game, and as such the contents of the box are all you'll ever get of Monty Python Fluxx.  However if you've enjoyed the mechanic then there are several other themed Fluxx sets to choose from, including Zombie Fluxx, Oz Fluzz, Martian Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx and Stoner Fluxx.
Price: £12
Monty Python Fluxx will set you back roughly £12, which is a thoroughly decent price for a stand-alone card game.  The various Fluxx sets seem to be standard fare in most specialist game shops, so even if they don't have the set you're after then they should be able to get their hands on it quickly.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more of the same, come and like us on our Facebook page to keep up to date with our reviews, as well as our general day-to-day ramblings!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Puppet Wars Unstitched, Part 2: Gameplay & Verdict

In our previous entry we looked at the box contents of Wyrd Miniatures' board game for 2 or more players, Puppet Wars Unstitched.  Now we're going to look at how the game plays, and then give the run down on Games & Tea's opinion of the experience.

The first thing to decide upon starting a game of Puppet Wars Unstitched is the layout of the board.  At the back of the rulebook you'll find a series of maps for 2-4 players which show you where to lay out the Impassable Terrain tokens and the Workbenches.  More experienced players can create maps of their own, and can even create handicapped maps to give an advantage for newer players, but for those embarking on their first game the wise choice is to stick with a map from the book.
Once the map has been decided upon, each player must choose the Master to lead their puppet army.  There are three masters in the Puppet Wars Unstitched box; Seamus, Lady Justice and Pokey Viktoria.  So whilst the manual does contain maps for 4 players, until Wyrd begin to release additional puppets that fourth player will be required to own their own copy of the game so as to bring their own master.
With the Masters chosen, each player then chooses the puppets for their army.  The rulebook lists the puppet numbers for various sized games, with the smallest (or 'shoebox') size consisting of 8 plus the Master.  With the puppets having different abilities, selection can seem tricky for newcomers, but the rulebook also helpfully lists two well-balanced pre-set armies, so that new players can get off to a swift start.
Each player then selects one of the map's Workbenches as their starting Workbench, and replaces it with a token of their chosen colour.  The Masters start on the board in any space adjacent to their controllers' Workbench, and the rest of the models await in the players' 'toybox', off to the side of the board.
The players shuffle their Puppet Decks and each draw a hand of 4 cards, plus 1 for each Workbench they control.  Whilst the Puppet Wars Unstitched box does contain enough miniatures for a 3 player game, the absence of the third Puppet Deck does mean that a deck of cards must be provided to allow the game to take place.
With the Masters placed and the cards drawn, it's time to begin the war!
Each turn consists of 5 Animation Rounds, and the bottom-right corner of the board allows you to keep track of which round you're on.  This is another shortcoming of Puppet Wars Unstitched, as it doesn't contain a counter or token to move along this track.  We've discovered the handiest thing to use is a Workbench token of an unused colour.
At the start of each Animation Round the players draw one card off the top of their Puppet Deck and add it to their hand.  They then place a card face-down to determine which puppet they're going to activate, either from their toybox or from the puppets already in play.
Each puppet's 'Animation Requirement' is marked in the top-right hand corner of their card.  To activated Pokey Viktoria her controller would need to put down a card with a value of 6 or higher.  The Judge, on the other hand, has a suit in his requirement, so not only does his controller need a 5 or more, but it also needs to be a Ram.  Once each player has placed their card face-down, they are all revealed, and here's where the game starts to get interesting, because the player with the lowest value card gets to go first.  The more powerful puppets have higher Animation Requirements, so players are left to make a tactical decision:  Activate a powerful model, but lose the initiative to your opponent, or bring out one of the low-cost pawns to start gaining ground, but lost the advantage of brute force?
Each time a puppet is activated it can move up to its total movement distance (the value on the far left of the row of numbers), and take a single action.  Actions can consist of attacking, attaching upgrades from fallen comrades, acquiring unoccupied Workbenches, or a variety of character-specific actions which we won't go into here.  Whenever a puppet takes an action it received an Exhausted Counter, and any puppet which is activated whilst in possession of an Exhausted Counted suffers one rip.  Again this leaves players with a tough decision, as the puppets they'll want to activate will often already be exhausted.  The number of rips each puppet can suffer is represented by the buttons on the far right side of the card.  This is another shortfall from Wyrd, as the Puppet Wars Unstitched box contains nothing to keep track of rips suffered on each model.  As a tabletop gamer with a tinful of dice this wasn't much of an issue for me, but a board gamer might struggle to find an appropriate substitute.
Taking an action is where the Puppet Deck comes into true effect.  We'll take a look at combat as an example of an action, as it's showcases the game mechanic quite nicely.  Once again we'll use the two puppets above as an example, so we'll have Pokey Viktoria making an attack against the Judge.
The puppet's defence is the second number in the row, with the thimble in the background.  The Judge has a defence of 8, which means that when Viktoria's controller flips over the top card of their deck, they need an 8 or higher to score a hit.  Now the Judge's controller may value their puppet highly (perhaps it's late in the game with few puppets left, or this one is in a good tactical location), so they can choose to dodge before the attack is made.  To do this they select one card from their hand to replace the defence value.  In this instance we'll say they've dodged with the 11 (Jack) of Tomes.
The third number in the row is the puppet's combat (attack) value.  Pokey Viktoria has a combat of 4, which means that her controller flips over the top 4 cards of their deck to make the attack.  If any one of those cards is the 11 of Tomes or higher, the attack is successful and the Judge suffers a rip.  If none of the cards are high enough, then the controller can use a card from their hand instead.
The true genius of this system means that players will be hoping for a mixed hand at the beginning of each turn; low cards to activate their models before their opponents, but high cards to boost their attacks and dodges.
After 5 Animation Rounds, the turn is over.  Players discard any remaining cards from their hands which they don't wish to keep for the next turn, shuffle the discarded cards back into their Puppet Decks, reset the Animation Round counter to 1, and remove any Exhausted Counters from any puppets.  The game continues in this fashion until a victor is decided.  The two ways to lose Puppet Wars Unstitched are to let your Master die, or to find yourself in control of no Workbenches.
So there's a nice, in-depth look at Wyrd Miniatures' Puppet Wars Unstitched, so let's break it down.
The Good Points
  • The game is very nicely presented.  The box, board and Puppet Decks are all of excellent quality and contain some fantastic artwork.  The miniatures themselves, whilst requiring assembly, have an incredible level of detail, and are a joy to play with.
  • Whilst a complex looking game, Puppet Wars Unstitched is very quick to pick up, and even brand new players often start moving through the turns at a decent pace before the end of their first game.
  • The rulebook contains optional extra rules for experience players, whilst giving beginners guides to new players by way of suggested army lists.
  • The wide selection of maps in the rulebook, together with the option of creating your own, and the variety of puppets to choose for your armies keep the game fresh.
  • The nature of the game itself is very tongue-in cheek, and leads to an overall enjoyable gaming atmosphere whilst playing.
The Bad Points
  • Whilst Puppet Wars Unstitched is technically a board game, it's designed by a tabletop gaming company and feels like it's made for tabletop gamers.  The game simply isn't ready to play straight out of the box, requiring modelling tools to assemble the miniatures, and paints to make them look their best.  The character cards require counters of some kind to be provided to keep track of rips, and whilst advertised for "2 or more players", the box contains only enough Puppet Decks for 2 players, and only enough models for 3.  Put quite simply, it isn't a complete package, which is what most board gamers want.
  • The game mechanics might seem overly complicated to board gamers with no tabletop experience.  Puppet Wars Unstitched could be called Malifaux Light, for all of its similarity to Wyrd's flagship game.
  • The puppets are based on Malifaux characters and the games is set in the Malifaux  universe, so the game's charm may be lost on those without the background knowledge.
Recommended Number of Players: 2-3
Both 2 and 3 player games of Puppet Wars Unstitched work very well, with a balance between bull-headedness and absolute caution being the best way to play.  4 players is workable, but can make the board overly busy and cause the game to slow down to a crawl.
Average Game Time: 30-60 minutes
Once the game gets moving, Puppet Wars Unstitched moves at a relatively brisk pace, and entire turns can pass within a couple of minutes.  Larger scale games with more opponents will inevitably take longer, but casual 2-3 player games in 'shoebox' size will take under an hour.
Replay Value: High
As mentioned, Puppet Wars Unstitched gives the players variety in both the maps they battle on, and the puppets in their armies.  On top of this you have the human element, with each different player favouring their own tactics.
The Future: Bright
Seeing as Puppet Wars Unstitched is a light-hearted parallel of Malifaux, Wyrd are planning to release corresponding puppet miniatures of their other Malifaux characters.  This will mean more expense, more modelling, more painting, and perhaps even new rules to learn, which will delight tabletop gamers, but may further put off hardcore board gamers.
At £45, Puppet Wars Unstitched is certainly not the cheapest board game out there, but nor is it the priciest.  Again the point must be made that it's a sizeable expense for a board game which requires hours of work before the first game.  In many ways it should be viewed more as the purchase of a new gaming system, rather than a regular board game.
As Malifaux is one of the better-known tabletop games doing the rounds at the moment, most specialist gaming stores should stock Puppet Wars Unstitched, and even if they don't then it won't be a problem to order it from an already established supplier.
This split score might cause controversy, but it really must be emphasised that this game is marketed towards two different gamer groups, and it will be a thoroughly different experience for each of them.
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Puppet Wars Unstitched, Part 1: Box Contents

Well we did say we'd have something special to end our long absence, and here it is!  Games & Tea are proud to give you our review of Puppet Wars Unstitched from Wyrd Miniatures.  If ever there was a game in need of a two-part review, this is it!
Puppet Wars Unstitched is effectively a refined re-release of the original Puppet Wars from Wyrd.  Unstitched includes a more streamlined set of rules, and a greater number of puppet models than its predecessor.  The game is for 2 or more players, and follows the plights of puppet gang-leaders as they fight for supremacy over a workshop in the fictional world of Malifaux.
So let's open up the (rather nice) box and see the contents in detail.
As with most board games, the first thing you'll come across upon opening the box is the game board, giving the players a birds-eye view of the workshop in which the battles are fought.  For a specialist board game this board is remarkably simple, consisting only of a grid of hexagonal spaces and an area to keep track of the players' Animation Rounds (to be explained later).  A simple board doesn't necessarily mean a simple game, however, and often signifies that there's a lot to keep track of outside the board area.
Once the board's out of the box we reach the first point which may be a stumbling block for some gamers...
Puppet Wars Unstitched contains 44 puppet miniatures with which to fight your battles, and the back of the box does state that "some cleaning and assembly may be required before play."  There is no way at all that Puppet Wars Unstitched can be played without first assembling these miniatures.  Whilst Wyrd are probably best known for their tabletop miniature game Malifaux (on which this is actually based), Puppet Wars Unstitched is advertised as a board game, and the fact that it isn't playable straight out of the box will probably put off a lot of people.  As a  seasoned tabletop gamer it took me just over 4 hours to construct all of these models (varying from 3 to 9 parts each), and I was fortunate enough to already be in possession of clippers, files and superglue.

The next thing you'll find are two Puppet Decks.  Whilst these do have suits particular to the world of Malifaux (Rams, Tomes, Crows and Masks), they are effectively the same as a deck of regular playing cards.  There are 13 ascending-value cards of each suit, and two jokers; one red and one black.  The artwork on each card is beautifully rendered and the cards are made of plastic, which makes shuffling tricky but prevents wear and tear.  Should misfortune ever befall one of your Puppet Decks however, they can always be replaced with a deck of playing cards or a Malifaux Fate Deck.
The purpose of the Puppet Decks are to take the place of dice.  There is no dice-rolling in Puppet Wars Unstitched, instead players flip cards over from the top of their decks to determine whether or not their actions take effect.
Now we'll take a look at tokens and counters, of which there are three different types in the game:

Exhausted Counters are used to keep track of which puppets have been used each turn.

Workbenches are the strategic points in Puppet Wars Unstitched.  There are grey tokens for neutral (unoccupied) workbenches, and coloured tokens to represent those which have been captured by their respective players.

And there are Impassable Terrain tokens.  The presence of one of these not only prevents movement through the board space, but also blocks line of sight, which is vital in many of the puppets' abilities.  It would have to be described as an oversight by Wyrd that the Impassable Terrain tokens and neutral Workbench tokens are the same colour, and sometimes the Workbenches can be difficult to pick out against the dark background of the board.
Next up, we have the character cards.  The puppets in Puppet Wars Unstitched have different abilities and attributes, and each model has a corresponding card to let the players keep track.  These show you the card value required to use the puppet each turn, the number of rips (wounds) it can take before it's out of the game, as well as its attack/defence powers and movement distance.  It also tells you the models abilities and actions, as well as how many upgrades they can receive (see below).
Whenever a puppet suffers its final rip and 'dies', the model is removed from play and the character card is flipped over to show the upgrade that the puppet leaves behind.  If the puppet had a particularly powerful ability then its resultant upgrade will often allow you to bestow that ability onto another puppet.  This keeps the game very well balances as it allows the players to strengthen their remaining troops even whilst their army is being reduced in number.
Now we've established the box contents it's time to move on to gameplay and final verdict!  Stay tuned for the imminent Part 2!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Stay tuned...

Well this has been an unforgivable lapse, hasn't it?  It's been a busy few weeks with non-game related activities here at Games & Tea, but we'll be back with a review at the beginning of next week!  And seeing as it's a return after a long absence, we're coming back with a review of something pretty darn special!  No clues though, you're just going to have to come and see for yourselves!