Tech Opinion

Saturday, 3 September 2016 | MYT 10:00 AM

AI gaming buddies, Arkham horrors and our Star Wars Destiny

A force to be reckoned with: Destiny's characters, settings and themes are drawn from all the Star Wars movies.

A force to be reckoned with: Destiny's characters, settings and themes are drawn from all the Star Wars movies.

Every August, “Ameri-trash” gamers (a rather abject but lovingly embraced term of games that are usually more visual, with a focus on movement of components on a table or board) rejoice over what gets wheeled out during the annual gaming extravaganza in Indianapolis, the United States. GenCon has become synonymous with the latest games of the board, card and miniature sort.

This year’s one was no exception, and the hype ahead of it was considerable, if you’re a devout Ameri-trash geek like me. I was already salivating at the online “leak” of a supposed Arkham Horror Living Card Game (AH LCG in short), plus several other big Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) announcements. 

Only human

If I had to wrap up the common big theme for the latest FFG games announced, it had to be the decidedly AI component that’s being put into them. The Descent Road To Legend app let’s players run a mobile application which functions as the “enemy” player, as you and your friends cooperate and tackle the dungeon. Think of it as the “faceless” DM that all of us wanted, but never quite got. Their boardgame adaptation of X-COM, was the next title to get the app treatment. 

The second edition of Mansions of Madness (MoM) was the next one that got an app – FFG’s July 2016 announcement of it caused quite a stir online. It’s quite a sweet spot I must say: the original MoM was a one-versus-two/three type of boardgame. It would never sit well with my group as no one would willingly volunteer to be the “villain”.

Mansions of Madness second Edition incorporates an app.
 

Apart from the obvious convenience, in the ability to end all arguments on who would end up being the villain, an in-game boardgame app would also have the benefit of hurrying along games that might otherwise run too long. The elimination of the human hand would nullify possible errors and misplays, leaving everyone to focus on their own game. I used to be quite reluctant to try games like these: not anymore, I’m game to give Mansions of Madness Second Edition a go, anytime!

FFG themselves confirmed during a GenCon 2016 presentation that other games in line of getting their own apps, include the much-loved miniatures skirmish game, Imperial Assault. Quite sure the cheers heard then in Indianapolis, happened in other parts of the world as well. 

It’s a shiny and exciting present and future I must say. Games with apps driving them are only going to get better as the technology improves. I look forward to awesome apps that do even more awesome things, for my favourite card games. Bring it!

Horror incoming

Earlier this year, Living Card Game (LCG) and H. P. Lovecraft fans game were abuzz with rumours of another LCG for the Arkham universe, namely Arkham Horror. A supposedly “leaked” screencapture showed a one to four player cooperative card game, in all-new packaging. 

And FFG proved the rumours true when they announced the game just ahead of GenCon 2016. They even ran game demos for those who attended the event.

Wendy Adams is an investigator in the Arkham Horror universe.
 

Playable by even one player, up to four players can cooperate (with two Core sets) to defeat the evil denizens in the Cthulhu universe. The characters would seem familiar to those who have played FFG’s Cthulhu boardgames, such as Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness and Eldritch Horror

I’m really looking forward to this game, simply because it promises solo and multiplayer cooperative modes of play. It will certainly a welcome change from the competitive one on one or free-for-all type of card games. And instead of running a boardgame session that might take several hours, AH LCG should give you a simpler experience that’s much faster.

Some of the artwork may be “recycled” from older FFG Cthulhu games, but they look excellent. I’m no Lovecraft fan, but this is one I shall look ahead to trying, when it’s out by year-end. 

For a sneak preview, Team Covenant sat down for an hour-long demo, and uploaded the entire video to YouTube.

The co-operative card game is not new, as FFG themselves have already applied it for their Lord of the Rings LCG. I suspect they’re making another play to corner the bigger boardgame crowd, who would love a more “friendly” approach to gaming. Will it succeed? Let’s see how it actually fares, when it ghosts in by year-end. 

It is our destiny

And finally, FFG landed a literal sucker punch when it announced Star Wars Destiny, a collectible dice game. In a break away from their usual plethora of “easier to collect” games in the mould of LCGs (which have fixed card assortments that are wallet-friendly), the game is closer to the likes of WizKids’ Dicemasters, more than anything else. 

The approach taken for Destiny is quite different though. Dicemasters is similar to deckbuilders and an older dice game called Quarriors, with each die having its own card. Players add dice and cards, via a drafting mechanic, which is seen in deckbuilders.

Each Star Wars destiny character comes with a matching dice.
 

Destiny on the other hand uses a deck of cards as a base, with characters and enhancements (such as weapons), adding dices to your pool. There are special wild card types of cards that do not add dices, but instead give boosts and pumps when battling, for instance. 

What’s cool for me about Destiny is that the characters, settings and themes are drawn from all the Star Wars movies released to date, including last year’s The Force Awakens. You can pair Kylo Ren and General Grievous against Han Solo and Rey. It’s like that dream duel you’ve always wanted to happen – pick your favourite characters and let’s go!

The game was also a GenCon 2016 showcase, and the first looks for it is very exciting for this Jedi wannabe. The gameplay looks simple, with 30-minute duels very possible. Artwork is typically top notch as well – something that FFG games are highly-regarded for. Check out Team Covenant’s GenCon playthrough here, for a taste of how the game plays. 

The less cool part though is the collectible aspect, which is sure to drive scarcity and pricing up. Expect the “ultra rare” characters and what-not to tear a hole through your bank accounts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

I reckon FFG decided to again, go after a mass market audience with Destiny. Dicemasters was an immense hit when it first landed, though the shortage of stock might have limited its reach outside of the United States.

Will Destiny be another massive hit like Dicemasters? The odds are decent, given how big of a deal the Star Wars franchise is, with the new movies and all. The only question is, how well will FFG handle it? I do remember that every hit game that FFG has created, tend to run scarce in their initial print runs. This “instability” actually has a negative impact, as markets that are lower on the priority list never have enough supply, which causes interest to wane (as well as outrageous Internet sale prices).

It will be interesting to observe how well-handled Star Wars Destiny will be. It’s going to be an exciting year-end, that’s for sure.

Chee Yih Yang enjoys the old-school feel of card games in a world that embraces the virtual.

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