Rise to Nobility Review

In this magical land of heroes, villains, and adventurers, a fragile peace has been brokered between the Five Realms. Five years have passed since the evil Lord Dranor escaped from The Cavern Tavern. The Elf Princess Tabita Orestes has taken her rightful place as the High Queen of the Five Realms and has built a new capital: the white-walled city of Caveborn.

-from the Rise to Nobility rule book

Rise to Nobility is a worker placement game from Final Frontier set in the same world as their previous title Cavern Tavern. The game has a standard worker placement feel where players send workers to gather resources, so they can fulfill goals to score points but the way they control the amount of workers players can use every round is fairly clever.

In Rise to Nobility, players take the part of characters vying to become lords and replace Berk the Clerk as the city’s town clerk. You can earn the High Queen’s favour by attracting settlers, training them in the various guilds, and bribing stone council members. The player who scores the most victory points will earn the position and help the High Queen mold the future of Caveborn.

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Setup

There are 3 boards in Rise to Nobility the score board, your personal player board and the main board. On your personal board you will track your reputation, store and build houses for the settlers, store unused worker, and build community building. The main board is where you send your dice to take all the main actions. The score board as you may have guessed tracks players scores.

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There are basic setup steps for every games as well as a set of setup cards that will guide you through configuring the game for your player count. I found the overall setup to be a bit fiddly especially the stone council but nothing that we as board game players haven’t encountered before.

Each player will get a pool of 5 dice, a player board, one house, 8 gold, one settler, and a character card. The Character card will give the player 2 special powers, one that is available immediately and throughout the game, the other is a one time benefit that is unlocked when they reach the lord level on the nobility track.

Gameplay

Like I said in my introduction the way you play Rise to Nobility is nothing new to players familiar with worker placement games. On your turn you take on or both of the following actions in any order:

  1. Use one of your dice to take an action
  2. Complete a settler card

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The clever part comes in when determining how many dice you can use each round. At the beginning of the round players roll their dice and they can use as many of the 5 dice as they want as long as the sum of the dice used is equal to or less than their reputation level. Combined with the fact that the worker spots on the main board require  certain numbers to activate it, there can be some tough choices that require careful planning.

The main game board offers players the following choices:

  1. Cavern Tavern where players get new settler cards
  2. Construction yard where players get houses for the settlers
  3. Guilds where players gather resources and place meeples to leave as apprentices who will earn income
  4. Guild Hall where players can purchase buildings to place in the Guilds or on their player board
  5. The port where players can sell goods
  6. The clerks office where players can gain modifier tokens to adjust their dice or change the available settlers and buildings
  7. The stone council where players can bribe Councillors to earn victory points
  8. The White Castle where players can improve their reputation

Planning really is key in Rise to Nobility. Many of the actions have dependencies. For example to complete a settler card you need the appropriate resources but you also need a house on your player board or to build a workshop in a guild you need to have an apprentice in that guild. The real meat in Rise to Nobility lies in the planning of actions and calculating the dice and reputation required to get it all done as efficiently as possible.

Conclusion

Rise to Nobility is a good game but I think it will get lost in the crowded worker placement market. It’s a game I enjoyed playing and would play again if someone brought to the table but not one I would suggest. I found some bit tacked on, like the stone council action, in what seemed like an effort to add options or complexity. I did really enjoy the way that the reputation level and dice selection worked and think that this is the highlight of the game. In the end Rise to Nobility is a good game with nice art and a clever little twist but I don’t think it offered enough to stand out.

here’s To Die for Games’ video review for more thoughts on the game.

To Die For Games goes Crowd Surfing

If any of you aren’t regular Dice Tower viewers you may have missed the premier episode of Crowd Surfing. This show focuses on Kickstarter news, another exciting aspect of the show is that it features our contributors Mandi, Caryl, Stéphane, and Tracy!

Here’s a breakdown of the games that our crew featured on the show:

Stéphane and Tracy 

Cytosis

A cool looking game about how our cells function by John Coveyou of Genius Games. 

Dicey peaks

A push your luck dice based mountaineering game from Scoot Almes and Calliope Games

Mandi and Caryl

Cross Talk

In this party game players try to get their team guess a keyword while the other team ease drops. 

The 7th Guest

Based on the smash 90s video game this spooky puzzle game has been featured right here

Check out their segments and tune in each week to see what we’re backing over at To Die For Games. 

Rob Landeros

When I was in my late teens I built my first PC. I did many crazy things like put in 16MB of RAM and a 400mb hard drive but the nuttiest thing I did was install a CD-ROM drive. I sold the idea of a CD-ROM to my parents by showing them that the ENTIRE encyclopedia Britannica was stored on a single disc, but my real motivation was The 7th Guest!

Released in April of 1993 The 7th Guest was like nothing I had ever seen. It was so different from all the video games I was used to playing. The game featured video clips of actors and pre-rendered 3D graphics that were truly mind blowing at the time. The gameplay was simple yet completely immersive and fascinating. You play “Ego” and you wander around a haunted mansion solving puzzles and games in order to unlock video footage that advanced the story.

Jump ahead 24 years and game designer Rob Landeros is bringing the world of The 7th Guest to the table top with a board game adaption of this landmark video game. The board game will have players taking on the role of one of 6 house guests working their way through the mansion trying to solve puzzles in order to reach and solve the final puzzle before the others. The game will feature 300 puzzles ranging form riddles to logic puzzles to spatial puzzles and more.

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I wasn’t alone in the To Die For Games crew to be very excited by the announcement of this game and I was quite pleased when Rob agreed to answer a few questions for us about the game and the drive to create it.
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What Boardgames inspired you to go into bringing the 7th Guest to the table top?

Actually, it was Matthew Costello, who wrote the 7th Guest story and helped design the structure of the original game, who prompted me to get off my ass and make the board game version.

But as far as inspiration or models, I kept it in the manner of simple, classic board games. Although I certainly have enjoyed playing some of the more complex and strategic, resource management and development board games, or epic games like Diplomacy, I’ve always mostly been a casual gamer. I find that the average person isn’t surrounded by a coterie of hardcore gamers ready to get together at a moment’s notice or on a regular basis to learn new, complex games that take hours to play. Most folks will suggest to their friends, how about a game of charades, or poker? Or standards like Balderdash, or even Monopoly. Something familiar or friendly and easy to learn. I most certainly and deliberately set out to make a game whose rule book didn’t require more than one page of instructions.

So I think minimalism still has a place in games and gaming. It was Mies van der Rohe, the famous architect, who popularized the aphorism, “less is more”.

Did you approach designing the tabletop version in the same manner as the video game?

Actually the design of the board game was very much dictated by the design of the video game. So in that respect, it was exponentially easier than coming up with something totally different from the original video game or any other board game.

I feel it is my job and duty to protect the 7th Guest brand and IP. And that involves retaining the essence of the back story, the characters, the look and feel, and the gameplay. There are an untold number of people who remember playing and enjoying the game. They all enjoyed it for various reasons, but over the years I have learned that the elements that remain indelible and immutable in people’s minds are the puzzles, the villain Henry Stauf (who is mostly a vocal presence), and not least of all, the environment of the mansion. In fact, you could say the mansion was the main character of the video game.

And I would also point out that the video game was quite minimalist. The puzzles themselves may often have been difficult, but the overall game was easy to learn and play. There was no elaborate manual or complex set of instructions. You weren’t even told how to play the puzzles. It was pure point and click. You were guided by a set of animated cursors that let you know, in a purely binary way, what you could and could not do, and where you could and could not go. (But if you did need help, Stauf would be there to give hints. There were also clues to be found in the Library) So in a sense, the board game could be said to be a bit more complicated than the video game.

So, yes, I approached the design of the game with the goal of staying as faithful to the original as I possibly could. And I think, if nothing else, I achieved that. At least, I have yet to hear differently from the fans who have visited our Kickstarter.

Why did you start designing games and why do you continue designing?

I fell into it, really. I started out as a lowly computer graphics artist, pushing pixels at Cinemaware for games like Rocket Ranger and Defender of the Crown. When CD-ROM technology became a reality, and it was time to make something for that platform, somebody had to come up with an idea that suited it. So my partner and I took it upon ourselves to do so and we sat down and first decided to make a game that took place in a closed environment… one from which you couldn’t escape. Some of our favorite movies, such as Die Hard, Alien, The Shining, would all be examples of that. So we decided on a haunted house. Then it was a question of what you do in a haunted house, and of course, the goal was to survive a night in it, while needing to solve the puzzles and secrets within its rooms in order to escape alive. Or at least, with your soul intact.

But going even a little further back in time, prior to getting into the computer games industry, one of my favorite things was to get my monthly copy of Games Magazine which contained dozens of puzzles of all kinds… crosswords, mazes, logic,  hidden words, chronological sequencing, spatial relations… you name it. I would make it my goal to work my way front-to-back of every issue, solving all the puzzles.  It was epic. Later, I came across a little known game called Fool’s Errand, that consisted of a wide variety of word and logic puzzles that you could solve non-sequentially, but with each solution you would be rewarded with a piece of a map that you would have to put together so that the Fool (you) could make his way to his ultimate goal. So that simple scheme was really the foundation of The 7th Guest, 11th Hour and now, manifest as a board game.

What inspires you to design games?

Fun.

The 7th Guest the video game had such an incredible atmosphere, how well do you think this translated to the tabletop?

It would be nearly impossible to translate the atmosphere into the board game. The best I could do was include faithful renditions of the house and its rooms, and to maintain a mood with the illustrations of the cards and other components. On the Kickstarter page I include a soundtrack of scary music and sounds to try to put our potential backers into the proper mood as they learn about the project. I think it would be best to play the game by lowering the house lights, throw some cobwebs over the overhead lights and put on some scary Halloween music. And if you can get somebody to be the master of ceremonies, they could read the puzzlers in their best Henry Stauf impersonation. 🙂

By the way, we have considered a virtual component in the form of an app to complement and enhance the game. Perhaps even a VR or AR component. That would be cool. But that goal is much farther down the line. First things first.

Is there something you were able to do with the Board Game incarnation of the 7th Guest that you weren’t able to accomplish with the digital game?

Actually yes. We are able to offer three times as many puzzles and brain teasers as were included in the 7th Guest and 11th Hour combined., with the possibility of creating expansion packs for special interests, age groups and demographics. And of course, rather than just a challenge for solo play, in the board game you compete head-to-head against fellow guests, friends and family and so it is much more social. Although I do know – because many people have told me so – that many played the video game collaboratively with a friend or a parent or their child. And the way I have most enjoyed playing the 7th Guest board game is collaboratively with a partner. Because two heads are better than one. I think it was Chang and Eng Bunker who said that. 🙂

I spent many, many hours wandering the digital world created by Rob in The 7th Guest. I have great memories of racking my brain against the infection puzzle with friends and family calling out tips. I look forward to having a similar experience once again on my dining room table and against friends and family.

I you want to help this project come alive head over to Kickstarter and hit that back button. Find the project here: The 7th Guest Kickstarter.

Barbarians: The Invasion preview

Enter the mysterious World of Fenian, a place where barbarian clans rule the wild lands and corrupted civilizations live in their decadent cities. A place filled with powers gifted from ancient gods and treacherous demons.

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Barbarians: The Invasion is a game from Tabula Games and Hyperborea’s designer Pierluca Zizzi coming to kickstarter on april 26th . The game features glorious high fantasy art from Ivan Cavini and some nice looking miniatures. Pierlucca has been working on and perfecting the core mechanics of the game for years before he settled on a Barbarian/Fantasy theme that worked well with the system. The art and Miniatures caught my eye with this project but what really got me interested was the fact that it’s a Euro style worker placement game which is not what I was expecting from the title and art style.

I have not played Barbarians but I have been provided some promotional materials, background information, and a rough copy of the rulebook so I will share my impressions.

The main game board features a large volcano that is made up of 3 concentric rings with spots to place your warriors to take various actions such as gathering resources, constructing buildings, or send your troops into combat. One distinct design choice that Pierluca made was that he didn’t want direct player combat so the combat is conducted on a map separate from the main game board and is done to conquer lands rather than hinder an opponent. The main game board also features a couple of tech trees that players use to discover knowledge and tactics.

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The game will last 7 rounds or end in the round when a player reaches 100 points. Each round has 3 phases:

1. Maintenance

  • restore spent cards.
  • activate buildings to gain the resources indicated.

2. Action

  • In turn order, place a warrior on an action space of the volcano and perform the indicated action.
  • your first warrior goes on central wheel, the 2nd on the middle wheel is a space linked to the first warrior, and finally the third warrior goes on the outer wheel in  a spot linked to the second warrior.

Some of the possible actions are Gaining Resources, Erecting Buildings, Invoking a God, War, Knowledge Tracks etc…

3. End of round

  • Recover warriors from the volcano
  • In turn order, players resolve this rounds Demon or Event card

Event cards offer the players a chance to pay to gain victory points, you can choose to pay or to do nothing. Demon cards offer players a bonus if they sacrifice something like a troop, resource, gold but unlike the events if a player has the requested item they must pay if they do not have the requested item they lose victory points.

There are a lot of things that have me excited to try Barbarians: The Invasion. First and for most I am a sucker for worker placement games and one that offers me that with miniatures and gorgeous art is going to be high on my list. I am also intrigued to see how the volcano wheels will affect my choices of actions. If a few actions I need to accomplish what I want each round aren’t linked how do you mitigate that? I think this mechanic could offer up some interesting choices. This project definitely has potential and I believe that the combination of a popular mechanic, great art, and nice miniatures is a recipe for a successful Kickstarter and one I will be watching out for when it launches in a few weeks.

Colour Chess + Lure Review

Colour Chess + Lure currently on Kickstarter is new twist on a very familiar game. Designed by Tom Norfolk of Dog Eared Games who is the man behind the fun little card game Stak Bots (a fan favourite of my 8 year old twins). The box includes everything needed to play chess, Colour Chess, and Lure. The board is modular and is built by the players before the game begins which presents variability and a little gamesmanship in itself. The colourful squares and simple design are easy to read and not so different as to make a classic unrecognizable.colourchess

Set Up

You snap together the frame of the board and then organize the colour squares into an 8×8 grid. You don’t have to and in fact shouldn’t try to replicate the pattern of a standard chess board. Once the board is complete place the chess pieces in their standard configuration.colourchess_content.png

Game Play

Colour Chess pieces move in the same manner as classic Chess, but final location of the piexes is controlled by the colour selected by the player. The first player selects a colour and then moves a piece in a legal chess move ending the movement on the selected colour, if a player cannot legally move to that colour they cannot choose it. The next player moves a piece to that colour (if they cannot they pass their first movement) and then selects their own colour and makes a move. Another change to the regular rules of chess is that a king must be captured not just put into check mate.

The other game included is Lure. Lure is played using the same board components but different pieces.

  1. The swords – these are your offensive pieces, they take other pieces
  2. The Shields – They protect other pieces when they are adjacent to them. An adjacent piece cannot be taken
  3. The King – If a king is taken you lose, if you move him to your opponents back row you win.

The goal of lure is to score 4 or more points, capture the other king, or to get your king to the back row.

Pieces move by declaring a colour and moving as many of your pieces as you can onto adjacent tiles of the colour or diagonally to a tile of that colour. If you place a shield next to a piece (other than the king) either diagonally or orthogonally that piece is safe and cannot be taken. Each piece you take is worth one point and each piece you get to your opponents back row is worth a point.

Components and Art

Colour Chess + Lure as indicated by the name is a very colourful game. It is a simple and elegant design that isn’t as hard on the eyes as one would imagine a rainbow coloured chess board could be. I found it to be quite vibrant sitting out on the table. I used a Print and play version so I cannot speak to the quality of the final components.

Final Thoughts

I found colour chess to be a neat twist on a classic and it certainly added some interesting mechanics that made game play fresh and new. I preferred (as did my kids) Lure which I found to be a fast paced and exciting tactical abstract game. I think this game would be wonderful in the classroom and could really get some kids to give chess a chance. I recommend checking out the kickstarter and hitting the back button if you like chess or if you want to try some a new abstract game.

Kickstarter Preview: The Grimm Forest

This is a title that has more than one member of the To Die For family very excited. The Grimm Forest is a game by Druid City Games where players must use cards and tricks based on familiar fairy tale characters to play cards and gather resources in order to be the first to finish all 3 levels of their house.

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Players are encouraged to use any of the devious tricks they have read about in the many books of Fables found throughout the land. Some will have their plans wrecked by that villain of old, the Big Bad Wolf, while others will gain bricks, straw, and wood by the cart load.

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The art on this game is quite nice and the components for the players pieces and the houses are great sculpts. Our very own Board gaming Pinup girl, Mandi has had a chance to play a demo of the Grimm Forest and has had nothing but great things to say about it. Check it out March 21 when the project goes live.

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Kickstarter Preview: Dig!

Dig! is a cool little push your luck style game that has a very interesting 8 bit look. Designed by Julien Charbonnier this game looks like it could be a blast to play.

The Hill hides many treasures and all it takes to collect them is to DIG! However, these are not the only things the hill hides… Creatures and traps await, the galleries you will create might either mean wealth or despair.  Delve into the hill and gather ten Gems to win the game! Take some risks, push your luck, hire recruits to dig deeper and win favors of companions (Knight, Wizard, Scout, Hunter…) to protect your galleries from the many creatures (Thieves, Skeletons, Orcs…) and traps the Hill hides.

The artwork really appeals to me and as a man of great height (5’3″) I really appreciate that the shortest player goes first. If retro game art and pushing your luck looking for treasure while fighting of monsters is your cup of tea that check out this game when it goes live March 19th 2017.