The Dork Den Blog

For all your comic and board game review needs.

Spooky Board Games for Spooky Season!

Without further ado, let’s dive into five of the season’s spooky specials.

#1: Mysterium—It's hard to get more Halloween-spirited than diving into 
the mystery
of an unsolved murder as a psychic detective on Halloween
itself, and that's where
you land with Mysterium. Years ago, the Count
of Warwick's manservant was found
dead at a party, and the trauma of
the event led the family to leave the region
forever. Now it's your
job to figure out what happened and free the ghost once and
for all.

Like most good spooky-themed games, Mysterium is cooperative. 
It's much
creepier working together in the face of an unseen force
than being able to look
at your opponent across the table. Unlike
most spooky games, the ghost isn't your
enemy here; in fact, the
reason your psychic team is investigating on Halloween is
that it's
the day when the mortal and spirit realms touch, and the ghost can
speak
to you through visions. Work together with up to five other
detectives and the
trouble ghost to suss out the possibilities
and conclude, once and for all, the cast
of the Warwick Manor Murder.

#2: Obscurio—If psychic ability isn't enough, and you're angling for
real magical
power, Obscurio might put the spark into your table.
There's still a mystery afoot,
but it's one you and your friends have
walked into unwittingly—but that's what
happens when you try to steal
magical grimoires from mighty sorcerers, kids.

There's a big similarity to Mysterium here, in that the clues you need
to escape
the Sorcerer's illusions are handed out in image form by the
Grimoire, which is
trying to free itself from the Sorcerer's clutches
just as much as you want to
free it (or, you know, "free" it). One major
departure, however, is the presence
of a traitor who's fallen to the
Sorcerer's power. It's not enough to share
information and make your way out
with the great book; you need to be careful
not to let the turncoat ruin your
group's cohesion and leave you lost in the
illusory maze forever!

#3: Until Daylight—If you're still not tired of zombies, Until Daylight is 
waiting
to leap into your loving arms and gnaw on your face. Even if you are
tired of zombies,
Until Daylight might be the thing to win you back. Ten waves
of monstrous hordes are
coming for your camp when the sun goes down, and if you
want to make it through this
nightmarish apocalypse, you can't afford
to lose anyone on your team before dawn.

Apparently based on the notion that Five Minute Dungeon was too relaxed,
Until
Daylight gives you varying (let's call them random) timers you use
to search for
helpful items before the horde comes. Winning isn't just a
matter of bashing monsters,
either; terrible human raiders come for you as
well, and survivors are mixed into
the whole mess as well. You have to pull
at least one survivor out of the horde and
keep them alive until the end of
the game to win. And if you have more than one?
Meat shield!

If you don't mind getting overrun by zombies a few times until you figure out 
exactly what it takes to beat them, and you like having a Die of Fate to roll,
Until Daylight awaits you with rigor-mortis extended hands.

#4: Villainous—Our only non-cooperative suggestion, Villainous is less about
things
that go bump in the night and more about the greatest nemeses of Disney
lore wanting
to go bump on your head. Captain Hook, Jafar, Maleficent, Prince
John, the Queen of
Hearts, and Ursula are all on deck (advantage: Hook) to battle
not only each other,
but the forces of good that won't leave them alone.

The cleverness of Villainous lies in its different style of gameplay for 
each of the
characters. You can look at their boards and see similar symbols,
but each villain
has their own method of winning, their own set of mechanics,
their own deck of cards,
and their own heroes waiting to foil their plans.
Better yet, part of your task is
to use the enemies of the other villains against
them,
drawing a bunch of
goody-two-shoes out of their personal hero decks to thwart
their neverending schemes.

In the end, sure, you still have to beat a bunch of terrible villains. But if you
ever wanted to hit Peter Pan with a stick while doing it, Villainous might be
your
type of game.

#5: Creepy Classic Co-ops—What, you thought we could keep this list down 
to five
actual games? Impossible! We stashed the perennial favorites together
in order to
shine the spotlight on newer games that deserve your attention,
but we can't let
Halloween pass without a mention.

If these game series are new to you, give them a look. If you're familiar
with them,
remember, there's always something new coming out for you to see.

Werewolf: From Ultimate to One-Week to Werewords, the Werewolf series has
existed
in one form or another for over thirty years. It's co-op… mostly;
the villagers
are definitely cooperating to ferret out the handful of
werewolves that literally
take them apart night after night, and the
werewolves are doing their best to make
sure there's no village left by the
end of the game.

Ultimate is the classic game gone big, with dozens of roles to shake 
up the strategy
game after game. One Night is the quick version; find
the werewolf now before he gets
away! Werewords is a Twenty Questions
version of the game, but the werewolf and her
eternal nemesis, the Seer,
still have to figure each other out by the end. And 2018's

Werewolf Legacy will help you answer the question, what happens
to this village if
we take more than one night of gaming to learn its fate?

Betrayal: One of the first storybook games on the market, Betrayal at House
on the
Hill gives you a haunted house, some creepy surroundings, and the ticking
time bomb
of knowing one of you will be driven against the others by the powers
at work around
you. With dozens of outcomes available, if you ever see the same
story play out
twice, you will have gotten your money out of the game multiple
times over.

More recently, Betrayal at Baldur's Gate was released for those of a D&D-friendly
persuasion, with characters much more in tune with Dungeons & Dragons lore but
keeping the same core gameplay. Like Werewolf, Betrayal also has a Legacy version
now—who's to say how powerful the evil in the house can become when you watch it
evolve over decades?

Cthulhu: Yep, it's Granddaddy Tentacle ready to sweep you into the ocean and 
break
the town of Arkham into pieces for the eighty-seven millionth time. If you
like the
Cthulhu mythos, there's almost no end to the options available. Want to
battle the
Elder Gods in Arkham? Arkham Horror. Prefer traveling the world?
Eldritch Horror.
Dice-based? Elder Sign. Small (four-max) card game? Arkham
Horror, The Card Game.
Sherlock-style mystery solving? Mythos Tales.

This is not an exhaustive list, either, but it's enough to get any fan 
of Lovecraft's
work, or anyone even a little interested, into the
game-based use of his lore.
Your friendly local game store can help you dig
further into the possibilities if
these aren't enough, or if you're a big fan
who already owns all the games on
this list.

That'll do it for our Halloween Spooky Special games run down. Take a trip down
to pick up the game that strikes your fancy today, because sales are…

...wait for it…

...boo-ming!

Fearless #1

Fearless #1

Comics have been in a bit of a summer lull these past few weeks. Big comic events from DC and Marvel are a bit out of season at the moment, focusing in on a series or two each instead of big universe scale events. Indie companies additionally have just felt a little lackluster with their new releases as of late. As such, I’ve been sort of patiently waiting for the next issue in my subscriptions to drop and that’s never amazing from someone always looking to try new stuff. One shots and limited series do have a tendency to fill that void however and seeing Fearless hit the shelves certainly piqued my interest. “The fiercest ladies of the Marvel Universe Unite!”. Ok, sure, I’m in. I have absolutely no idea what kind of story this is going to bring or how serious it’s going to take itself, I’m just hoping for a fun ride and to see some female superheroes kicking ass.

To my own surprise, Fearless #1 doesn’t really have a cohesive story throughout. It’s in a short story format focusing on a few different heroes across the Marvel universe. Despite the “unite” aspect of the comics advertising, there’s very little uniting happening in this mini series’ first issue. The stories themselves are kind of all over the place in terms of tone and story. The first half or so focuses on Captain Marvel, Invisible Woman and Storm respectively. These stories are a bit more serious, focusing on the difficulties of being a female superhero in the spotlight, and with Captain Marvel specifically, her role as a leader among the superhero world as someone who doesn’t really want to be. Storm’s little comic is about her forceful removal of some deforesters trespassing on government protected grounds, which is interesting enough.

The second half kind of devolves into this strange reality show with a bunch of overly beautiful internet influencers and successful photographers. It’s quirky and reminds me of something I would probably enjoy reading from Image or Boom! Studios, though the story completely fails on the superhero part it was supposed to be delivering on. Which is a bit jarring actually. Jarring to the point where I don’t really understand what they were going for in the context of what the comic was supposed to be. And things only get weirder as it leads into a Jessica Jones short that I’m sure fans of the character who are basically begging for good JJ content weren’t very happy to see. I’ll avoid any major details on that part.

It’s pretty rare that I speak negatively of a comic book I review, and I don’t necessarily want to show this comic book in an all bad light. The first half specifically is at least somewhat enjoyable and has an interesting take on what it means to be both a superhero and a woman in the Marvel world. I would have enjoyed if they’d gone all in on this theme and ran with it, but instead the second half really devolves into something totally different, and I really don’t think it’s good. The short story format of the comic doesn’t really help it either, especially in the way it’s advertised. But a short story comic book is very forgivable if its good. This just falls short of that I think, and that’s super disappointing considering the material they’re working with. There’s totally room in the comic book world for this kind of comic to exist. This just isn’t the way it should be done.

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Wingspan

Wingspan

It’s a bird party! And I am super late to it!

Wingspan is a game about birds, birds, and more birds. Birds in the forest, birds on the plains, and birds near the water. Birds that are smol, and birds that eat the birds that are smol. Feed your birds, play your birds, and watch your birds barely survive in the wild, because “take flight” is both too cliche and too positive for what nature does to things living in it.

It’s simple to play. You have a hand of bird cards and a pile of food. Feed the birds and play their cards. Except… do you have the right food? What kind of nests do the birds make? Can some of your birds help other birds with the same nests? Do your birds want to eat other birds? Can your birds find more food for your other birds to eat? Do your birds do something right now and then just sit there like lazy buggers, or do they keep working as long as you pay attention to their habitat? How many eggs can they take care of? Who wants to eat the eggs? Should you—

AAAAHHHHH

The pieces of the game make sense. They’re not hard to learn or use. Making them work together, though, takes some knowledge of what cards you might see, how much food you might need, and so on, and that makes it a trip for first-timers to learn. If everyone’s new, it works out fine. If some people are and some aren’t, the noobs better learn quickly. There is time to suss out a strategy, thankfully, so you aren’t stuck finishing out a game that you’ve started to understand but need a second play to make that understanding work for you. But the learning curve exists.

The actions don’t take much explaining. You can play a bird to any of the areas in which it can live, if you have the food. If you can’t or don’t want to play a bird, you can use an action in a given habitat. Taking an action in the forest gives you food. The plains give you eggs, and the water gives you cards. The more birds you have in the habitat, the more of each of those things you have access to with a single action. Playing towards your specific goal(s)—you start with one and can get more during the game—and the competitive goals for each round (ie. have eggs on the most different birds when the round ends) is important for winning, but if you can find a point combo that doesn’t require those things, it could still be enough. Understanding the game, and not the “meta” strategies or the few things that will actually work amongst knowledgeable players, is how you do well, which is excellent.

Really, it’s so good. It’s hard for a game to make someone (ie. me) go from grouchy and lost to realizing what’s possible to almost winning in a single playthrough, but this one did. It’s very smoothly designed, with a lot of detail about the birds that technically weren’t needed but make the game more engaging for their presence. I usually always want to play something new, but I won’t mind a second go at this one.

4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

Ashe #1

Ashe #1

As League of Legends comes up on its 10 year anniversary and still holds the title of most popular MOBA video game on the market, it’s interesting to look back at its history as someone who’s been following it since the beginning. There have been quality improvements all across the board from gameplay reworks to visual updates, but perhaps the largest overhaul in recent memory is their work on game lore. League lore used to be pretty trash-tier to be completely honest with you. Bios on each of their many playable characters were often pretty lacking in both quality and length. Tropes and badly written stories were abundant. However, we’ve seen quite an overhaul in the past few years as characters have gotten more robust, professionally written backstories and lore moments. Music videos, short stories and comics are only some examples and they’re often high quality deals. League’s collaboration with Marvel on this Ashe comic is no joke. It’s being supported heavily by Riot Games (League developer) and is being touted as a long and full comic mini-series. Good comics have come out of this company in the past but a collaboration with Marvel is something exciting for the comic book world and for League in general. Also who better to give it to than Ashe, one of the original and most beloved characters in the League of Legends lineup.

The lore behind Freljord is fairly set in stone in the League of Legends universe. It’s one of the first factions to have existed within canon and has been the location of origin for quite a few of the game’s playable characters. Ashe is the warmother of the factions largest Horde, but her comic takes place long before and when she was much younger. Her mother Grena is the current warmother within this story and Ashe must deal with her own inevitable future as the leader for her people and her mother’s obsessive nature when it comes to destiny and prophecy. The reality of her situation becomes quickly clear as we’re hinted toward Grena’s past of marching members of her people to their deaths on wild goose chases and thirsts for knowledge. However, there’s little doubting both her mother’s skills in battle as well as her tactical ability on the battlefield, so many follow Grena for those reasons and loyalty alone, and while Ashe loves her mother and admires her strength, Ashe’s kinder heart and stronger grip on reality has driven somewhat of a wedge between the two. This first issue sets up an opening for Ashe to evolve as she’s forced to make difficult a myriad decisions. 

Before anything with the story it’s worth mentioning that the art for this comic is absolutely gorgeous. I’m unfamiliar with the artist’s (Nina Vakueva) work, and it seems like she’s done little in the mainstream comic world, but I think this is going to be a massive boost for her. This comic looks absolutely incredible. The story of Ashe #1 is interesting enough, albeit a little bland, and sets up a bit of a mystery going forward. I can’t confidently say that if you’re not a League of Legends fan you’ll enjoy this comic book at all. However, I think it at least holds up just looking at the art and the beautiful setting alone. The real treat with League lore is how much better it’s gotten over the years. These characters are interesting and worth investing him into when they previously weren’t. I think Ashe #1 is no exception to that change. While I don’t think that this issue was anything to lose your mind over, I left being okay with more, and that’s a win with comics I think.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Corinth

Corinth

Corinth is a roll-and-write game about ancient-world trading with people who look friendlier and much, much cleaner than their probable real-world counterparts. Yay washing!

Corinth’s twist on the roll-and-write style of game is this: Each turn, the active player rolls the dice and puts them on a board of goods. There’s a set method to this; the player does not choose where the dice go. Instead, all dice of the highest number rolled go into the gold section at the top, and all dice of the lowest number rolled go into goats, at the bottom. The rest of the dice are likewise sorted by number rolled and placed in ascending order in each of the four goods districts. Each player, starting with the active one, picks a set and marks off a number of goods equal to the number of dice in that section.

This has a couple of effects that go against gamer (or math) reflexes.

  1. Although goats get the lowest dice and gold the highest, goats are not inherently less valuable, because you can as easily have fewer goats available during the course of the game than gold. It’s just a matter of how many dice end up in those sections each turn.
  2. It takes substantially fewer items to collect all the sets of goods in the higher districts, but it’s easy to underestimate how few shots you’ll get at them. To have any dice available in the highest district, all six numbers must be rolled on the nine dice (though up to three extra dice can be unlocked, which increases the odds a bit). This means that not only will it be fairly unusual to hit the highest district, there will rarely be more than two dice available, and if it’s not your turn it’s quite likely someone else will grab them first.

It creates, not a whole new road of thought, but more of an off-ramp on to a highway that leans a little bit away from strategy as we tend to think of it. You roll dice for the whole game, decide what to do with those dice, and the value of the dice never matter. It’s not complicated—once you understand that aspect, the game becomes much clearer—but it requires something different from the player, and that’s pretty cool.

As for the game itself, it plays in a pretty straightforward fashion. You get your goods, or spend your gold and goats on buildings, or move your steward around to get you bonuses. Each section has its own way to score; you also get bonus points if you’re the first to fill all the goods slots in a district, and the game is otherwise balanced enough that someone who locks up multiple bonuses stands a very good chance of winning. In four-player games, it forces people to decide if they’re all going to race for the easier districts or take a shot at picking up the more difficult ones and hope they finish their bonuses by the end of the game.

It’s a clever little game with good artwork and a requirement to think, if not totally outside the box, then over the open flap. 

3.9 out of 5 stars (3.9 / 5)

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