Game Review: Haiiii-Ya!

Haiii-Ya!by Chris Tompkins

 

There is something unabashedly entertaining about cheesy martial arts combat, and Haiiii-Ya! (published by A-I Games) manages to capture this feeling exceptionally well. Haiiii-Ya! is a hybrid of a miniatures game and a role-playing game, and can be played effectively in both formats. Either way, the result is a fast and funny game that prides itself on its own ridiculousness.

The game is most similar to a role-playing game, as players make characters and control them throughout each session. However, Haiiii-Ya! is as much about style as it is about substance, so some seemingly unimportant things can have a significant impact on your character. Your character has such traditional role-playing components as statistics, movement, and powers, but the fun comes from the non-traditional aspects. Each character must choose a “side”—Good Guy, Bad Guy, or Ronin. Each “side” has certain advantages and disadvantages. For example, a Bad Guy can summon nameless thugs at any time, but always becomes overconfident at the end of the fight and has bad luck. In addition, your character has a Signature Quote and a Signature Move. Your Signature Quote can be used to stun opponents, but can’t have more words than your Brains attribute. Similarly, your Signature Move gains a bonus to attack that’s equal to the number of words in its name, which the player must shout out when he uses it.

Though the game does have solid combat mechanics, its best feature is its sense of humor. It is designed around having quick, ridiculous battles with outrageous powers, and it embraces this fact. You will laugh when you play this game and you will enjoy it. Pick up a copy today.

 

Game Review: Kill Doctor Lucky

Doctor_Luckyby Chris Tompkins

 

(click) …and remember, that for a meager $300.00 donation you get this fantastic PBS keychain. We now return you to PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! Welcome to the J. Robert Lucky mansion, a rambling country estate seven miles north of nowhere. It is a stormy midsummer’s evening, ten seconds after midnight, and someone has just shut off the lights. You have hated Dr. Lucky for as long as you can remember and you’ve been secretly awaiting the perfect chance to do the old man in. Maybe he destroyed your dry cleaning business, maybe you think he’s the leader of the vampires, perhaps he’s the only person standing between you and the family fortune, or maybe his cat just keeps peeing in your shrubs. Whatever the reason, it’s good enough to push you over the edge and now you can’t wait to take the old bastard down. And, even though you don’t know it, everyone else in the house wants to kill him too.

Yes, boys and girls, unlike Clue, where the game starts after all of the fun is over, Cheapass Games proudly brings to the gaming masses, Origins’ Best Abstract Board Game of 1997, Kill Doctor Lucky. The name of the company is very appropriate, as the game only comes with the bare essentials, what you can’t provide yourself. That includes the map tiles (made of cardboard thinner than a cereal box); movement, failure, and weapon cards (you thought the map tiles were thin!); and the rules. The game is diceless and the pawns you have to bring to the table yourself. Having to use your own pawns makes the game different with each set of pawns you use. Got some D&D miniatures? Now the name of the game is Kill Evil LichLord Lucky. Use your Star Wars action figures and play a rousing game of Kill Doctor Jar Jar. We used hobbit pawns and Dr. Lucky was the Malevolent All-Seeing Eye and the game was Kill Doctor Tolkien.

The game itself is a breeze to play. Gameplay begins with everyone’s pawn starting out in the same room, each player having six cards in their hand. After each turn, Dr. Lucky moves to the next highest numbered room on the map. On the player’s turn you have one of two choices—Search or Do Stuff. Searching consists of moving one space, if you wish, and drawing a card from the deck. Doing Stuff consists of moving one space, or not; using a card to move Dr. Lucky or yourself; or attempting to murder Dr. Lucky. The game works on a very simple line-of-sight system where you can see anything going on in the rooms with a door to the front, behind, left, or right of you, but not diagonally. No one can attempt to kill Dr. Lucky in a room someone else can see into.

If you do (and it isn’t easy even with a mere three people) find yourself in a room with the good doctor, and no one can see you, you may attempt to murder the poor bastard. Murdering him is done simply by saying, “I’m attempting to murder Dr. Lucky,” and playing a weapon card. Weapon cards have a basic murder value, good for any room, and a specialty room murder value (i.e. the garden spade is worth two points in any room, but catch Dr. Lucky in the Rose Garden and it’s worth five points!). If you don’t have a weapon card, you can attempt to poke him in the eye, give him noogies, or use the dim-mak death touch, but these hand-to-hand attacks only have a murder value of one point each. After you make your murder attempt, the other players get the chance to play “failure” cards to stop your murder. Failure cards have a point value on them also. If the failure points are equal to or greater than the murder value, the old man lives to see another turn.

One other thing, if the old man moves into a room you are in, it automatically becomes your turn. This adds a great bit of strategy to the game. When we were playtesting it, I found that I could finagle anywhere from 3-5 turns if I had the movement cards—although, even with this extra advantage, I still couldn’t win the game.

I highly recommend Kill Doctor Lucky to all ages and genders. With a pricetag of only $7.50, you can’t afford not to try it (have you seen the price of Clue lately?). Cheapass Games also publishes an extensive variety of card, board, and computer games with cool sounding titles like Unexploded Cow and The Great Brain Robbery. There’s also an interesting looking prequel called Save Doctor Lucky that involves rescuing the doc from almost certain death on the Titanic. For more fun and frolic, check out the other offerings at www.cheapass.com and tell ’em Dr. Lucky sent you.

 

Game Review: Munchkin

Munchkinby Chris Tompkins

 

If you are like me (and unless you have a third nipple and a prehensile tail, you aren’t) you understand that collectible card games are an over-marketed, indomitable money-sink for the rich and the stupid. Yet, there is the allure of a quick, fun, multi-player card game over soda and pizza. What is the common gamer-on-a-budget to do? In this issue I will review two non-collectible card games from the genius that is Steve Jackson Games.

First up is a cute little number called Munchkin. The game boasts to capture the essence of the dungeon experience, without all of that tedious role-playing. The boast is well deserved, as it is easy to play with a smattering of rules that are meant to be open-ended and easily misinterpreted.

The fun begins with the players starting out as no-class, level one humans. The first player to become a level ten character wins. After dealing two dungeon cards and two treasure cards to each player (starting equipment), play proceeds with MunchinDuckCardthe first player “kicking in the door.” He flips the top card of the dungeon deck; if it is a monster, like the dreaded Mall Rat or the Ghoulfriends, the player must then fight it. If the player holds cards for any magic items, like the Horny Helmet or the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment, his combat level increases. Winners are determined by comparing the player’s combat levels to the monster’s—highest value wins. If the player wins the fight, he gets treasure; if he loses, he “dies” and reverts to first level. At any time he can ask other players for help. Why would others want to help? Usually, bribing them with a share of the treasure works. As you can tell, there is a great deal of table talk, negotiation, and smack talking.

The genius and humor of the game come out in the cards, illustrated by John Kovalic (creator of the online comic, Dork Tower). RPGers will understand a good deal of the jokes and non-RPGers will like the game for the social aspects and fast play time. Each game lasts from twenty minutes to an hour and is for 2-6 players. Like most Steve Jackson games, the more people, the better!

 

Game Review: Chez Geek

chezgeekby Chris Tompkins

 

Chez Geek is a nifty little non-collectible card game about life with roommates. Chances are, if you’ve never rented an apartment or house with several of your closest friends, you’ve thought about it. The more rational of us understand that friends are best in small doses. Others get that house or apartment and learn quickly what the rational already knew. Remember that you can’t throw them out, they live there!

The rules are printed on one large sheet of paper, front and back. They’re easier than poker, but not as easy as blackjack. There are nine job cards and a healthy stack of other cards. Each player gets one job card, dealt face-up, and five other cards, dealt face-down. Your job card tells you your Income, how much Free Time you have, and how much Slack you need to win the game. Play proceeds as follows: you draw up to six cards, roll any dice you need to roll, call people, do stuff, and discard back down to five cards. The instant you get enough Slack to win, you win.

The cards (once again illustrated by John Kovalic) are divided into four types. There are Activity cards (everything from Mutant Olympics to Gaming Nookie); Thing cards (Booze, Cigarettes, Weed, Pricey Electronics, etc.); Person cards; and Whenever cards, which are events or dirty tricks that you can play on your roommates. You only need one die to play, a single six-sided. You’ll also need a heap of counters to represent Slack. Pennies, dice, or poker chips work well.

After drawing up to six cards, we come to the dice-rolling phase. Most commonly, you’ll be rolling for your income if you have an unsteady job like Temp or Waitstaff. You might also roll to see if your car breaks down, or if a parasitic visitor leaves. All the rolls in this phase break down to the 50/50 rule. 1-3: Bad Stuff happens (the loser in your room doesn’t leave, you have the lower income value for that turn), 4-6: Good Stuff happens (loser leaves, higher income value).

Next comes the “Calling People” phase. You can call as many people as you like in a turn, provided you have their cards in your hand. There are two types of people: those that provide Slack and those that don’t. The people who don’t provide Slack will always come over. Usually you play them on your roommates and they eat their Food, drink their Booze, smoke their Weed, disrupt their RPGs, or hog their computers. There are a few cards that allow you to get rid of annoying visitors (including Justifiable Homicide).

After you’re done attempting to get people to hang out in your room, we come to the “Free Time” phase. It is here that the amount of free time your job affords comes into play. You can play Activity cards like Sleep, getting Nookie (a crowd favorite), or playing RPGs. You can also go shopping and buy Things like a Playstation, a bong, cigarettes, beer, even Harold the Hoopty Car!

ChezGeekSamplesThere’s a strategy element to the game that still manages to be comical. On the surface, the high-paying jobs have it all compared to the folks like the Drummer and the Slacker. In one shopping trip, a Corporate Drone can, provided he has the right cards in his hand, buy five or more points of Slack. The better your job, the more Slack you need to win, but it still seems like the Corporate Drone or Tech Support guys have the game in the bag; you can, however, drag them down to your level. The Corporate Drone, for instance, has only one point of Free Time. If he announces he’s going shopping, you can cancel his action by playing a TV card, “Dude! Check out this episode of Hitler Science Theater Y2K!” He still gets a point of Slack for watching TV, but he was going to get more than that by shopping. You can send parasitic visitors to your opponent’s room to consume their Things. Of course, they can get back at you by making your cat do it’s business in your bed, or playing Moron With A Chainsaw or Car Alarm to disrupt your precious Sleep. Before the game has ended, you might even murder their live-in significant other, or have a burglar break in and steal their stuff.

The game really captures the feel of college or post-college living and it only sets you back twenty bucks. A little more if you buy the two 55-card expansion sets, Chez Geek 2: Slack Attack and Chez Geek 3: Block Party, which add more jobs, people, and activities.

If you now bask in the glow of the awesome brilliance that is Steve Jackson Games then I heartily suggest you check out his true glory at www.sjgames.com and see what you’ve been missing.

 

Game Review: Evernight

by Chris Tompkins

 

For all those folks still ducking the online-gaming phenomenon, VR1 Entertainment’s Evernight may be your entry drug. Evernight combines plenty of interesting human interactions with the leisurely chess-like pleasures of a solid turn-based fantasy-strategy game.

Evernight simply uses your internet browser as an interface. The game consists of maps, statistics tables, and email communications—all presented in a series of dynamically-generated web pages (interspersed with some high-quality graphic images).

You set your own pace for the game; taking as much (or as little) time as you need to manage your empire, study the maps, ponder the importance of emails, and to execute each phase of your strategy. When you are finished, click on “Done” and go about your business. Later on (usually in the wee hours of the morning), the system analyzes the maps and statistics, and the game advances by another “tick.”

Typically, each game begins with a land-grab rush, in which players deploy their non-magical units (called “Lessers”) to grab up as many provinces as they can reach. Different types of terrain confer varying amounts of treasure for every turn that you occupy them. Powerful supernatural entities (“Forms”) and lots of wacky spells are available in exchange for “Fury” points that you earn with your victories. You can also invest in fortresses and temples.

If Evernight was just another expand-and-upgrade contest, it would be pretty thin gruel; but after a few ticks the multi-player interaction kicks in. When you are fighting over a huge map with fifty or more competing players the possibilities heat up fast for deal-making, resource-swapping, alliances, double- and triple-crosses, and some really fine misdirection and duplicity.

Beginners can play a free game to see how they like it; registered users pay only five dollars a month, and can play up to eight games simultaneously (about as many as anyone could handle). I urge you to give it a try at http://evernight.vr1.com. After only three days of play, you’ll be hooked, even (or especially) if you’ve been skeptical about online games before now.

 

Evernight

A sample map from VR1 Entertainment’s Evernight.

 

Game Review: When Good Villagers Go Bad

villagers

Honey, company’s coming. Better put the tar on to boil!

by Chris Tompkins

 

Anyone who has ever played one of the classic-style role-playing games has been through the standard prototypical small village. You know the scenario… Adventurers casually stroll into a small idyllic village and do as they wish, while the villagers sit back and do little more than offer the occasionally useful rumor. In the miniatures microgame, When Good Villagers Go Bad (Inner City Games Designs), the happy-go-lucky villagers are not gonna take it any longer!

At the beginning of the game, players choose sides to play either the villagers or the adventurers. The goal of the game for the villagers is to convince the adventurers that their attitudes and actions are not appreciated in this town—the townspeople have the ever-popular tar-and-feathers option to fall back on if the adventurers happen to be particularly stubborn. On the flip-side, the goal of the adventurers is to teach the villagers a lesson in hospitality by cruelly murdering them, looting their homes, and burning the peaceful little village to the ground. The adventurers are—of course—much stronger, but the villagers have them outnumbered by six to one, so the game isn’t weighted to any one side.

As the adventurers proceed with their looting, burning, and killing they must constantly be aware of line-of-sight for all of the villagers. Every time that a villager witnesses a crime against anyone or anything in the village there is a chance that the town will collectively become increasingly angrier. The worse the crime, the greater the chance. And as the villagers get more and more irate, their stats increase until the adventurers find themselves facing an angry mob.

The game is played using Victory Points to determine the winner. Villagers earn points by removing Courage Points from the adventurers; scoring the big points by running the adventurers out of town. Adventurers earn their Victory Points simply by killing, burning, and looting their way through town. The game ends when the last adventurer has been run out of town or when the village is burned to the ground.

If this strikes your funny bone in a particularly sick and twisted way then go to www.fuzzyheroes.com. For other good beer-and-pretzel laugh-riots, check out My First LARP, (your name here) of the Jungle, and Who’s Your Daddy? the game of paternity battles.