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Arcs

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30 May 2022 13:54 #333354 by Gary Sax
Arcs was created by Gary Sax
There's a little rumbling in the kickstarter thread since the project launched, but I thought I'd start a dedicated thread for Arcs by Leder Games. Some TWBGers have been playing the prototype so there is some basis for discussion.

From the streams I've watched, the standalone module feels pretty flat to me, missing everything I like about Wehrle's designs. I think the campaign purchase is pretty vital for anyone who is a game fanatic enough to visit this site. I completely understand the way they've designed it. It opens up lots of campaign possibilities and has an approachable price point that might have groups that aren't into These Games of Ours Online play it---just like Root---but I think it's missing a lot in the base form based on these playthroughs.

It was only when I finally watched the Leder Games stream of experienced gamers playing the campaign version (quick 3 game campaigns in Arcs) that I went and kickstarter it. I added the minis to my kickstarter but I'm not sure they're worth it as the wood is just fine---this game doesn't have a lot of unique pieces or sculpts anyway. I may still pull them off my pledge.

Here's that leder campaign play. Arcs is a very short, bite size session. Probably more concise than Root which hustles along with experienced players very quickly.

www.twitch.tv/videos/1309739489
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31 May 2022 08:07 #333370 by Legomancer
Replied by Legomancer on topic Arcs
One of the Leder guys lives near me and last Wednesday he ran a standalone game with a prototype. I didn't play but I watched. Honestly it seemed kind of dull. As a standalone game it didn't seem to offer anything you can't get with a million other titles. The "trick-taking", which was the thing that piqued my interest, is completely flat. Cards have a suit (action), a numerical value, and pips (number of times you can take the action). Leader leads a suit. You can raise (same suit, higher value) to get all your pips. You can copy (any card face down) to do the leader's action with one pip. Or you can "pivot", play a different suit to do that action instead with one pip. It just didn't seem interesting to me, but again, I did not play it.

My buddy who did play said a lot will hinge on the campaign mode, but as is he'd rather play Root or Oath, both of which he has but never gets to play.
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31 May 2022 10:51 #333376 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
I agree with pretty much everything you've said. My initial thought is that the base game is like they're trying to sell a game system in an RPG without any meaningful setting. When I watched the campaign playthrough it made sense to me finally because it added the actual setting and flavor to the mechanical skeleton.

I feel like Wehrle is pretty inspired by trying to carve as much fat as possible off the core design ideas of Twilight Imperium in this design.
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31 May 2022 10:58 #333377 by sornars
Replied by sornars on topic Arcs
I’m playing again tonight but my first play of the base game was a bit sterile but still an interesting little puzzle. I can see it being developed into an interesting game but I know my preference will be for the wildness of the campaign game. The card play is such a minor part of the game that billing this as trick taking is misleading.
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01 Jun 2022 12:30 #333408 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs


I played the Arcs prototype yesterday on TTS with some people here and friends of the site. I liked the core trick taking action selection loop pretty well, and the bones are good and promising. But the prototype is as dry as an overdone Thanksgiving turkey because of the way objectives swing through the game and many of then are pretty arbitrary.

I'm kickstarting it but I don't plan to play it again until it's almost finished. It needs flavor and I'm confident in Leder's ability to provide that. If I were you, I'd definitely get the campaign add on or not get it at all... this could change, they could make the core game more flavorful. Just based on the playtest.
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01 Jun 2022 14:28 #333415 by dysjunct
Replied by dysjunct on topic Arcs
Based on these middling previews, my interest has cooled from "definitely" to "maybe" to "hype it up to the guy in my group with a good job but no mortgage or kids yet, play his copy."
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01 Jun 2022 14:32 #333416 by hotseatgames
Replied by hotseatgames on topic Arcs

Gary Sax wrote: I'm kickstarting it but I don't plan to play it again until it's almost finished.


How many KS broken dreams start like that?

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01 Jun 2022 15:20 #333418 by Not Sure
Replied by Not Sure on topic Arcs

hotseatgames wrote:

Gary Sax wrote: I'm kickstarting it but I don't plan to play it again until it's almost finished.


How many KS broken dreams start like that?


None (for me) from Cole so far. I think some skepticism is healthy. He's definitely plowing his own furrow of what's important in a game to him. Some people really like that, and some people bounce off it hard.

This isn't super unusual, other than he's become a big name in the community, and so there's a lot more attention on this project than there would otherwise be. Oath in the development stages was a total mess. (some think it still is!). John Company went through tons of revisions to get where it is. He opens the process pretty early, which I think works against him because a lot of eyes are watching the sausage get made now.

There's a good game in there, but it's not ready yet. The campaign mode "big game" has a lot more appeal, but there are a lot of rough edges clearly in that too. Having seen what they can do to firm up a game for release, I'm still in. The thing is funded (I helped), so nobody has to have FOMO panic, it'll get there.

And it won't be the game everyone wants, and it will be divisive. I like that aspect of Wehrle designs, and they hit the right highs for me.

It's sort of a shame that John Company 2E hasn't hit the street yet, as I think that's his best game, but it went through a lot of this shaky "not fun yet" stage in playtesting. It was enough that our core TWBG group all walked away for a while because we wanted to spend time doing other things, not watching the tree grow. The soon-to-be-shipping version is one of my favorite games, though.

I wouldn't write it off, but there's no reason you have to throw money at it now if you're skeptical. It's still just going to be a game, after all.
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01 Jun 2022 17:32 #333422 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Arcs

Not Sure wrote: And it won't be the game everyone wants, and it will be divisive. I like that aspect of Wehrle designs, and they hit the right highs for me.


This. I think one of the best statements Leder/Cole have made is that: "We're making someone's favorite game. Not everyone's." Cole's designs do weird things and I appreciate that. I'm interested in exploring the nooks and crannies of his approach and it has always paid off in the end. Root, Pax Pamir 2nd, Oath; all can be listed among my favorites at the moment and I expect John Company 2nd to be listed among them. I'm not especially enthused by what's appearing in Arcs right now. It's interesting, but not compelling. But it's also slated for delivery in December, 2023, which means there's plenty of time for them to sort it out. Like Not Sure, I backed it because it's Cole and he's among the three or four designers I'm actually willing to engage KS or its rivals for (I also backed Tiny Epic Vikings because it's Scott Almes.) I'm not really concerned about it, at this point.
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01 Jun 2022 18:15 - 01 Jun 2022 19:01 #333426 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
The most compelling part to me is the campaign stream I inlined up above and that they're continuing tomorrow afternoon, if you want to see what the potential promise of the game is beyond the tight short form 4x represented by the base game.

edit: since it seems like I'm damning it with faint praise, I want to mention that I think the combat in this game is really good. One roll, but you choose how hard you want to go and how much risk your ships take depending on the dice you choose.
Last edit: 01 Jun 2022 19:01 by Gary Sax.
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07 Jun 2022 21:13 #333540 by dysjunct
Replied by dysjunct on topic Arcs

dysjunct wrote: Based on these middling previews, my interest has cooled from "definitely" to "maybe" to "hype it up to the guy in my group with a good job but no mortgage or kids yet, play his copy."


D I S A S T E R

That guy in my group is not going to pledge for Arcs. Apparently Wehrle is hit and miss for him. Dang it.
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07 Jun 2022 21:27 #333541 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
haha. Hard choices.

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21 Jan 2024 09:09 - 21 Jan 2024 09:11 #341593 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
I figured I should post some thoughts on the forum.

We've been playing the base arcs game a couple times now that it's rules final and locked.

This game is going to be incredibly divisive and I think there will be a lot of unsatisified customers. This game trucks in the sort of management of extremely bad, occasionally impossible, situations that are mostly not in games anymore. You're playing a trick taker over five hands. Your trick taking determines how many and what type of actions you get with little flexibility besides some on board ways to do things outside your cards. It is brutal. You can get such bad hands and there is no mulligan.

Broadly, it's representative of a design that generates extremely bad times and bad moments. It's mean as fuck. At least as mean as Pax Pamir 2nd, I think probably meaner since it's longer, you are under constant threat of theft, you don't have board clears and you own your colored pieces like a normal doam. You are always limited in the shit you have and the pips on your trick taking cards. You steal shit from other people, offense is the order of the day, and you set the things that will score only if you have the lead in the tricks which can be very costly.

Anyway, I like it but don't love it, but there have been some very bad times in our games with people who can chime in if they want to. It is a game about being put in a corner and making the most of your extremely limited options. That's either going to be ok/sell with you or it won't---it's certainlty the opposite of modern game design. I can't believe anyone is designing a game this bad feeling in 2024.

That said, this is with only the base game with no player asymmetry, so my hope is to play lore and leaders and eventually the campaign. Having differentiated roles may actually help some of things that create friction but ultimately this is a space empires style game with a trick taking action engine. Is trick taking the right action engine for this sort of game? I'm a bit dubious, but people I've played with are... even more dubious. My personal opinion is that I think the on board action is really good, the actions are good, the combat feels good to me, the stealing system is nifty, the special power cards are creative and well designed... but the trick taking just not sure.
Last edit: 21 Jan 2024 09:11 by Gary Sax.

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23 Jan 2024 08:46 - 23 Jan 2024 08:56 #341608 by sornars
Replied by sornars on topic Arcs
I like mean games and I don't mind losing. I am generally happy to lose with a smile on my face - I recently played a game of 1817 which lasted 12 hours and I knew I was in dead last for most of that time. I went ahead and hosted another 10 hour session a few weeks later where the same thing happened and I continue to look forward to my next play. Food Chain Magnate is one of my favourite games, so I'm not afraid of getting a beat down. I say all of that to say that even I find Arcs mean, possibly too much for my tastes.

As a design Gary Sax is right in that most of the stuff happening outside of the trick taking is pretty good 4X stuff. My biggest concern is that the trick taking, in my very limited 2 plays, is very determinative of your options in a given round and drives a lot of the perceived meanness. I see that there's a lot of subtle skill in getting the most out of your cards that may create more options for you but in a five round game I got 5 cards of a single (not so useful) suit + 1 low value card and in another I received 4 cards of a single (completely useless give my board position) suit plus 2 other medium value cards. Given how tight the action economy is in that game it was clear that I would be unable to score points nor better my board position for 2 out of 5 rounds (while getting my teeth kicked in opportunistically by my opponents). I'm totally fine with randomness but telling someone to not compete for 40% of the game due to the vagaries of a card deal feels really bad. The value of doing well in a round escalates so like Pax Pamir there's always the hope you can play your way back into a win from a terrible position but I think Pax Pamir does that opportunistic game with choking action economy better than Arcs.

I think the one thing that would've improved my experience is playing fast. You can get card screwed in a traditional trick taker as well and some of the most memorable times can be found by playing your way out of a terrible hand but generally a game moves quickly so you're left feeling trapped for a few minutes. In Arcs this drags out over the entire playtime. Keeping the game under 2 hours would make it acceptable to me but any longer and I'm kind of eyeing the exits, even if I was winning, because even winning involves feeling really restricted. I think with some experience and players willing to play fast and loose, Arcs can reliably hit this mark.

I know it's foolish to expect an expansion to improve a game you were middling on but I do think some of the campaign objectives may provide alternative avenues for you to pursue if the main scoring criteria are no longer in play for you. I'm looking forward to playing again but would not be surprised if this ends up on my sales pile once it actually arrives.
Last edit: 23 Jan 2024 08:56 by sornars.
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24 Jan 2024 10:19 #341621 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Arcs

sornars wrote: I know it's foolish to expect an expansion to improve a game you were middling on but I do think some of the campaign objectives may provide alternative avenues for you to pursue if the main scoring criteria are no longer in play for you. I'm looking forward to playing again but would not be surprised if this ends up on my sales pile once it actually arrives.


Haven't tried Arcs yet, but I've had Oath games like this, where it was obvious that my hand wasn't going to drive anything and I was boxed out of the territories I needed, etc., but the fact that this session was just one chapter of the overall campaign gave me hope that things could be different next time, especially with the potential changes in status (becoming a Citizen, etc.) The thing that concerns me about Arcs is a codicil to what you stated in that most trick-takers are fast. If your hand sucks, you just play through it and get to the next one in a couple minutes. If your hand sucks in Arcs and you're stuck staring at it for half an hour while everyone else is doing cool stuff, that's bad.
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