Friday, September 16, 2011

The Road to Canterbury Arrives

To my house does The Road the Canterbury wend. As a lover of all things Chaucer and Middle English, I've been following Alf Seegert's The Road to Canterbury since I heard about it earlier this year. Alf was kind enough to have an advance copy of the game sent along, and it looks terrific. The art is derived from Hieronymous Bosch's famous Table Top of the Seven Deadly Sins and Last Four Things, as well as medieval illuminated manuscripts. Components are very well made and solid, although cards are a little small.

The gameplay, as my daughter remarked, is "EEEEEVIL." We did one full trial playthrough and enjoyed the mechanics, even though we made a rules mistake that we didn't catch till half-way through.

The game has you playing as The Pardoner, the cynical and corrupt churchman from The Canterbury Tales.  The Pardoner peddles forged indulgences and counterfeit relics in order to fleece the pilgrims. In this role, you draw a combination of Sin, Pardon, and Relic cards, which are played to various pilgrims from the tales. Sins are pardoned in sets, earning influence (known in the game as "corruption") as well as coin for the Pardoner. It's a pretty unique mechanic, and we need to run it through a few more test plays to see what we think, but first impressions are positive. As the daughter said at the end of the first test game, "It's still evil, but fun."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Settlers of Catan: The Novel

Yep, it's for real. I remember reading about it when it was published in Germany a few years back. Now it's set for an English-language translation and publication on November 15th. Let's let Amazon explain the rest:
Wind howls through the village. Swords clash. Voices call desperately for help. It's the year 850, and the people of the small coastal village Elasund are feeling bitter. Hostile nations are attacking, taking everything and even murdering women and children and cattle. The village Council consults the runes and determines the clan's future: Candamir and his followers will build ships and head west to find a new home, leaving Osmund and his loyal ones in the north. After much effort, the settlers arrive in legendary Catan. But instead of their dream of island tranquility, fraternal strife threatens the entire community from the beginning... In this vivid depiction inspired by the wildly popular Settlers of Catan role playing game, Rebecca Gable takes readers on a journey that will feel at once familiar and fascinating to Catan’s many fans.

App O' The Mornin': Gesundheit!

Grade: A
Price: $1

I imagine there are quite a few people who won't be able to muscle past the premise of Gesundheit! in order to enjoy the treasures of the gameplay itself. Their loss. Sure, it's a game about a little green pig whose allergies are so horrible that he sneezes giant globs of snot across the landscape. And, yes, said landscape is populated by monsters who find these globular goodies so unbelievable tasty that they'll ignore that temptation to eat fresh green pork, at least for a few seconds. But once you get past all the booger blasting and snot snacking, you'll find a game that's not only fun and clever, but even charming.

Much of this charm comes the visual style of Gesundheit!, which is striking, colorful combination of storybook backgrounds and and child-like drawings. The music, animation, and art are all the work of Matt Hammill, while the game itself is made by Revolutionary Concepts. Thanks to the graphics, none of the mucous mechanics ever come off as all that gross. Believe me, I've seen apps that go for the gross-out just because that's the only arrow they have in their quiver, but Hammill isn't working that side of the street. His sneezing piglet is just a cute little outcast who turns his problems (horrible allergies) into an asset, making him a kind of superhero of snot.

The game is comprised of 40 single-screen levels, with gameplay that combines puzzle solving with some stealth-strategy elements. Each level has a monster (or monsters), and the now-ubiquitous triple-star challenge. The goal is to collect as many of he stars as possible before trapping all the monsters inside monster-eating traps. This is done by luring the monsters into different areas of the maze-like map with your gourmet nose nachos. Simply tap the pig, draw back to choose force and aim, and fire away. If your loogie lands where a monster can see it, he'll ignore you and run straight to his favorite snack, even if it's inside a trap.

Lacking a snack, the monster will run straight for you, and you need to shake him by sneezing, or try to just lose him in a maze. The trick is luring monsters away from the stars without letting them walk over the stars, which they'll crush. And then luring them to the traps. And then not gettin' et.

As triggered obstacles, multiple monsters, superpowered mucous, teleporters, and other challenges are added, things start to get pretty tricky. Not long into the game you develop the ability to create a snot-slingshot (snotshot?) that catapults you from one location to another. It's kind of like Tarzan swinging on horizontal ropes of phlegm

Although there are puzzles I still haven't been able to solve at the 3-star level, basic level-completion is only moderately difficult, making this a good choice for both kids and adults. There's a timed element to the game, and you'll need to think pretty fast on your feet in order to escape certain monsters.

This is a wonderfully weird and appealing little puzzler with some genuine challenges. Don't be put off by the theme. Within a few minutes, you'll forget you're defeating evil by wielding the mighty power of boogers and just lose yourself in the clever puzzles and wonderful graphics.