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A Mysterious Box

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19 Aug 2023 23:37 #340284 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic A Mysterious Box
After weeks of painting the minis and a few days of reading the rules, I finally hosted our crack team of players to play some prologue chapters and then start the campaign. Due to the volume of components and the size of the rulebook (40+ pages), we struggled through setup and the first prologue, which was the introduction of the bestial Gangrel character, featuing her conversion from human to vampire. It also served as a basic tutorial to combat. Each prologue is a solo adventure, so the rest of us just watched and scrambled to find relevant tokens or cards during the encounter.

Though the prologues are considered optional, they are highly recommended for new players. We initially were just going to play the chapters for our chosen characters. The second prologue was for our crazy Malkavian, and that was a tutorial about how to deal with clues in the game. Instead of just collecting clue tokens like in Arkham Horror, here you need to go to specific spots on the map tile to engage with evidence. You make a mental+search roll, and depending on the number of successes, you are sent to one of a few possible pages in the chapter book. There, you choose from a few alternate theories, then proceed to one more page to learn how many clue tokens you collect based on the accuracy of your theory.

The third prologue was for the aristocratic Ventrue, who was not one of our initial choices to play. But by this point, we realized that the prologues were more effective than the rules at showing us how to play. The Ventrue encounter was a high stakes conversation, seeking to soothe the tempers of two other vampires and find a compromise for their disagreement.

The fourth prologue was for the violent and anarchist Brujah character, who was actually one of the NPCs in the previous prologue. Predictably, his prologue was a primer on advanced combat rules. At the end, we learned that the remaining prologues were more optional than the first four, so we just played one more featuring the mystical Tremere character. Her encounter blended investigation and dialogue elements.

Though solo adventures, all of us gained XP from each prologue, so we spent some XP to improve our characters before starting the main campaign. Next came several pages of text as a more complete introduction to the setting. Instead of straight exposition, there was a certain amount of story involved, setting us up for the campaign. Then we played the first two chapters of the campaign as a group, encountering more dialogue, investigation, and combat, as well as some stealth.

So how is the game so far? As a either a board game or an rpg, it falls short. There is a strong choose-your-adventure aspect to the game, which curtails much of the potential creativity in role-playing. As a board game, it functions well enough, but there is already four pages of errate in a very small font. Where the game really shines is the high production value of the components (delivering good atmosphere) and the engaging story.

We wrapped up this session over 5 hours ago, but I can't stop thinking about the game right now. Aside from the learning curve and errata, this is an immersive experience. More to the point, this game is essentially a cardboard implementation of a video game. Not just any video game, but the legendary Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines PC game from Troika, circa 2004. It's not the same story, but it is a different story and city in the same World of Darkness setting. Like a video game, Vampire: Chapters has dialogue trees, stealth rules, a fairly speedy combat system, and finite encounter areas.

Based on our first six hours of play, I give this game a limited endorsement. If you like vampies, especially vampires in the World of Darkness, this is a fine game that offers a distinctive experience.. However, it is a very expensive Kickstarter game, so it may or may not be worth the cost and hassle of obtaining it. Counting shipping, this game cost my ex more than $400. I can't honestly say that this game is better than most $100 games, aside from the lavish components.
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20 Aug 2023 05:21 - 20 Aug 2023 05:25 #340286 by southernman
Replied by southernman on topic A Mysterious Box
I'm going to be interested in seeing your opinion deeper into it and/or at the end. I have been looking at it recently but the many reviews slamming the poor writing (the story is very good though by the sound of it) and many errors in the adventure 'scripts' that stop sceneraios dead in the water has put me off picking up one from the small flood starting to arrive in the secondary market. Plus your comment of falling short of being neither a boardgame or rpg is probably the main issue keeping me away, that came through with other reviews as well with simple, repetitive combat and numerous skill checks being the only driver for some scenarios sounds like it wouldn't hold my attention or interest for long.
And, yes, the tiny fonts used in it and in the copious errata has been well mentioned as well - it won't happen but the game seems to require a reprint to fix all the issues.
Last edit: 20 Aug 2023 05:25 by southernman.
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20 Aug 2023 09:26 #340287 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic A Mysterious Box
I checked in with the other players at the end of the session yesterday. Everybody enjoyed the game and is looking forward to playing again, but the soonest we can play again is September 16th. I asked the other guys what they liked least about the game. Two said the errata, and one said the tiny font size.

Nobody had anything good or bad to say about the miniatures, except that they preferred them to the standees. Maybe I should have spent less time painting and more time studying the rules. I'm normally fine with nice-looking standees, but the art on these is all dark colors, and the light above my game table shines down on the top edge of the standees, leaving the fronts and backs looking shadowy.

From a game standpoint, I think the one thing this game does that I haven't seen before is the investigation of clues. I described it in my previous post, and I think that it's unique in combining standard skill checks with asking the player to pick a theory based on partial evidence. A clever player can potentially get more out of investigation than an average player with the same stats, simply through better analysis or hunches.
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22 Aug 2023 10:16 #340293 by jason10mm
Replied by jason10mm on topic A Mysterious Box
If I dropped $400 on a vampire game I would INSIST that all players arrive dressed as their characters and any references to the real world whilst playing results in serious punishment and/or fines.
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22 Aug 2023 11:30 #340294 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic A Mysterious Box

jason10mm wrote: If I dropped $400 on a vampire game I would INSIST that all players arrive dressed as their characters and any references to the real world whilst playing results in serious punishment and/or fines.


Your comment reminded me of this fun satire:

thehardtimes.net/culture/punk-choose-you...n-9-to-5-office-job/
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16 Sep 2023 23:15 #340567 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic A Mysterious Box
We met today to continue this campaign. We backed up and played the three remaining prologue chapters because we realized we were missing some of the backstory, plus we were greedy for more XP. Then we resumed the regular campaign with chapter 3, and made it through chapter 6. We got chased by a scary monster. We tracked down some more clues. We got stuck in a timeloop at the airport, because we failed that chapter a few times before we finally got it right. Then we got in a combat with a very deadly opponent, and defeated it.

Most importantly, we had fun. The combat system is actually pretty decent, though it can be frustrating to sometimes not be able to use a weapon just because you didn't get draw a combat card for using a weapon. The story is still engaging, and that remains one of the best parts of the game. There is a nice mixture of challenges, including sneaking, fighting, talking, and interpreting clues.
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17 Sep 2023 09:14 #340569 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic A Mysterious Box
On the other hand, this game went old-school FFG with the vast quantity of components, especially mini-cards and cardboard tokens. Setup isn't too bad, but finding the right card or token in play can slow the game down, and cleaning up at the end of a session is a bit of a hassle. The large game box has specific places to store about 90% of the components, and then you are still left with several baggies of cardboard tokens that don't have a convenient storage location in the box. I just leave them laying on top.

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17 Sep 2023 16:13 #340573 by Sagrilarus
Replied by Sagrilarus on topic A Mysterious Box
Well shit, do I need to pick this game up used?

Or did missing the Kickstarter mean I'll never ever be able to own it?

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17 Sep 2023 22:30 #340579 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic A Mysterious Box
I think the Kickstarter had the usual retailer option, so I wasn't completely surprised when I saw a copy of the massive base game at the local game shop. It was priced at $195.00. At that price, you are getting 8 characters with minis, close to 200 standees, a lot of dice, a thick stack of double-sided cardboard tiles, lots of cards, mini cards, and tokens, plus the full campaign, which is good for over 80 hours of play if you have 4 players. You wouldn't get the 4 expansion characters or the box of minis for the significant NPCs. $195 is steep but probably a fair price if you are up for a hybrid rpg/board game experience with a decent story.

If a retailer is selling the expansions for the suggested $40 each, I would say they appear to be overpriced, with each one offering one additional character and mini, two more scenarios, one more map tile, and some standees.

The game only has the one campaign, so replay value is somewhat limited, though making different choices in play could lead to branching paths through the story. I predict that if you wait six months or a year, you can pick up a lightly used copy for a more favorable price, like maybe $120 or $150 for the base game.
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19 Sep 2023 14:43 #340582 by southernman
Replied by southernman on topic A Mysterious Box
Ha ha - I love that people are discussing buying big, component heavy kickstarters on this site now ... evolution or revolution :lol:
I'm waiting for Mr Barnes to drop in and nuke the thread ... or even the site so the ideas can't be reborn.

I don't feel as lonely now with my shelves bending under the weight of content from Tainted Grail, Nemesis, Etherfields, Bloodborne, Machina Arcana, Sword & Sorcery, Aeon Trespass, Oathsworn, Darkest Dungeon, Assassin's Creed (OK, just the retail edition) ..... :whistle:
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