Here are some brief thoughts on a couple interesting games I’ve played once each so far and enjoyed.
Mystic Vale brings an entirely new slant to deckbuilders: instead of adding cards to the deck, you add overlays to oversized cards to add functionality. Much more than just a gimmick, this is a key improvement to the concept of deckbuilers. The deck distribution of CARDS never changes, so managing deck size or lowering odds of seeing good cards as your deck grows is eliminated. What happens is the cards you’re seeing get (mostly) better and better as they cycle through your deck at the same rate.
But the designers didn’t stop with just that innovation, they built a fully formed game around it with other elements unusual in these types of games. Having a set of award cards (that don’t go into the deck and can only be bought with resources obtained from upgrade cards) that grant special abilities and/or victory points in addition to stand alone victory point tokens (that can be obtained directly) give variability in player strategies. They also implemented a FANTASTIC “press your luck” element to drawing hands than makes hand size variable each turn and allows a player to choose to risk losing a turn to try to get make their hand better. It’s easily as good an innovation as the overlays.
I’ve really tired of deck builders, but between the innovative design and wonderful new elements it brings to the genre Mystic Vale is a great, unique game and I’d already rather play this than any other deckbuilder I’ve tried.
Vast (known as Trove during the Kickstarter) takes a wonderfully unique approach to dungeon crawling and allows up to four players to take totally asymmetric roles of either a knight on an adventure, goblins dwelling in the cave, a dragon guarding his horde, or the cave itself trying to collapse and trap everyone inside. Unused roles are represented by cards that perform set tasks, so any number of players from 2 to 4 can play any combination of roles. As such the replayability should obviously be off the charts, but of course there’s the danger of too much complexity and possible imbalance trying to make four distinct player mechanics work together in so many combinations. Although I’ve only played on game so far, my impression is that Vast did not fall into those traps. There is a learning curve, but the gameplay seems tight, fun, and well balanced. The way the the roles we didn’t used were represented during our game make me believe they are also well developed as player roles.
Cave vs Knight:
Being a sucker for the unusual, I saw only one real choice for my initial role choice and played the Cave. My opponent chose the Knight. My goal was to expand to full size then collapse on her or have her perish within my depths. His was to guide her through smashing a certain number of my precious crystals. So he was essentially playing an exploration game while I was playing a tile layer. It worked wonderfully and even though I played a few things slightly wrong (two to my own detriment, one to my favor) I loved the game and am eager to play again. Interestingly the first thing I want to do is play the Cave again given I now know better how it works rather than try someone new, but I’d like to play every role at different player counts eventually. Mark of a great game when you come out of a single play feeling that way. Excellent production value on top of all that make this look like a must have.
Just a quick look at a couple new to me games. Hope to be back with more in the not too distant future. 🙂