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Villainous Review

One of my favorite games is Villainous. I am a huge Disney fan and I typically play the game every other week. Most of the time, I play as Ursula because she’s one of my dream Broadway roles, but with the release of the latest expansion, I most recently played as Mother Gothel. In Villainous, each player plays as one of many notable Disney villains. You can pick from classics like the Evil Queen, notable newcomers like Doctor Facilier, or hideaway oldies like Ratigan. If you have all of the expansions, all players should be able to find at least 2 villains they enjoy. Each villain has their own end goal and deck of cards, but the game is played relatively the same between all players. There are some unique differences between certain villains (ie Ursula cannot access all of her locations at once and Mother Gothel always has Rapunzel on her board), but they are not designed to make the game harder for those villains. Each player has their own board and cannot place their own figure or use their own set of cards on another player’s board, but they may use an action to draw a card from a player’s Fate deck in an attempt to thwart their efforts. For the most part, players need to draw certain cards from their own deck that allow them to advance in their goals. For some players, they need to defeat certain heros to win, others need to get certain items, and the rest may need to get a certain amount of power (what the game uses as a currency). Gameplay is fairly simple. A player moves to a location on their board and may do the actions listed on their space. These actions may involve gaining power, playing a card, fating another player or defeating a hero. A normal game lasts about 30-45 minutes, depending on the villain each person plays as. 

I enjoy playing Villainous and would probably play anytime anyone asked me to. However, I’ve noticed that sometimes the expansion villains aren’t necessarily balanced against other expansion villains or those from the base pack. In a game with Mother Gothel, Cruella De Vil and Scar, Scar won relatively quickly against the other two. Both Mother Gothel and Cruella are from the same expansion pack, and the two seemed to be relatively at the same spot at the time the game ended. Another game with different villains (of which I cannot remember) had nearly the same problem. This makes me think that the villains in the expansion packs are well balanced against the other villains in that expansion, but perhaps were not tested for balance against the rest of the villains in the game. Technically, you can play a game with just 3 players (the number of how many villains come in each expansion), but you can also play with up to 6 players with the average being 4 or 5. You can still have fun playing as any of the villains regardless of the other villains people are playing as, but it can be a bit annoying to see that somebody wins when you were nowhere near winning, even though you were following the exact steps you needed to take to win. Technically, you can continue to fate players you may feel are moving a lot quicker than you, but aggravating a player tends to get you fated as well. Although the game develops cannot really fix the villains they have already released, I think that they should start making sure the new villains are balanced against villains currently in play. I think too that people have more fun when a game is closer rather than knowing at a certain point that you will win or lose.

Luck, Chance, and Skill. Is there a best “mechanic”?

Although many games incorporate different elements of luck, chance, and skill, there are certain percentages of these “mechanics” that make a game a lot more fun and interesting. Depending on the kind of gamer you are, or even the kind of mood you’re in, you may want to play a game that relies more on luck and less on skill, or a game that is all skill and leaves nothing to chance. I really want to say that I enjoy games that have all varieties of these mechanics, but I’d be lying to myself. 

For me, a game that solely relies on luck is incredibly boring and can become frustrating when you have zero control over what your next move is. In luck heavy games, players cannot plan ahead. This may help act as a “feel good” mechanic for newer game players, as they won’t feel a disadvantage going up against veteran players. However, luck heavy games often shy away strategic players because there’s no strategy available for them to form. Given the recent events of life, I would recommend people to avoid luck heavy games, as it is good to feel like you have some kind of sense of control in our current environment. Many card games involve heavy luck mechanics. Each player is randomly dealt a hand from a deck of cards and has to deal with the consequences of that hand. For a moment, let’s talk about War. Each player is randomly dealt out the whole deck (minus jokers) and cannot even look at their hand. Players flip over their cards and whoever has the highest cards starts raking in the rest of the deck. Eventually, you end up with one player that has all the high cards except a couple, and it becomes a long unending game of the high cards getting passed from player to player until one person finally gets the entire deck. Obviously there aren’t competitive War clubs because it’s a game that’s just meant to pass the time, and that’s what all luck games should be marketed as. In luck heavy games, players don’t really get anything meaningly out of it, besides a player wide feeling of regret for starting the game. 

Chance heavy games greatly increase the level of enjoyment from luck games. Chance is a game mechanic in which certain things can happen in a game based on what has previously happened in the game. Take a deck of cards, for example. When you pull out the Ace of Spades and do not put it back in, you know that there is less likelihood that the next card you pull is an Ace, but there is a higher likelihood you will draw a Heart. Any game that has a draw without a replacement deck also has chance mechanics. Sushi Go is a great example of the chance mechanic. On the very first turn of each round, you do not know what cards are in the other players’ decks. Based on your deck alone, you have to make a decison of what you want to play, and you have to leave the rest of your moves up to what other players choose to play. Although each player individually gets the choose what they want to play, they also have to leave it up to chance to decide which cards are dealt out from the deck and which cards other players choose to play into their own scoreboard. Because a lot of Sushi Go scoring is based off the number of the amount of each card you get, players have to hope that other players aren’t going for the same types of cards as them. Chance heavy games like Sushi Go can also offer players the chance to also form a little bit of strategy, but not too much that new players feel they’re at a disadvantage. In these current times, everyone can find comfort in playing chance heavy games. 

Skill heavy games can be very intimidating to newer players. Skill heavy games require players to have a knowledge of how the game works as a whole and be able to create a multiple turn long plan as to what the player’s next move is. As somebody who has been playing games for a couple of years, I enjoy skill heavy games, but it is at its maximum enjoyment when playing against players at a similar skill level. You will never catch me playing any kind of competitive deck builder. Deck builders, like all games, are easiest to learn when taught by somebody who really knows the game. Unfortunately, in deck builders knowing the cards and how to engine build in that game is a huge advantage. It can take new players multiple games to figure out how to build a successful engine and repetitively losing the same game is really discouraging. One of the most popular deck builders is Dominion. There are a lot of different cards to choose from and a lot of different components to the game. In my very first game, the person teaching me chose cards that he knew worked well together and I did not. Yes, the cards were explained to me and for the most part I understood the basics of how I needed to build, but I was still barely keeping up and I ended up losing horribly to him. In any skill heavy game, this is the norm for many newer board game enthusiasts and they may shy away from these types of games because they don’t want to constantly be the underdog. Because skill heavy games typically take up longer amounts of time, this would be a great hobby to introduce to the family during quarantine. If you are a veteran player, however, I would recommend possibly scaling down your skill level for the first games just to encourage newer players to continue playing.

All in all, yes, all of these different “mechanics” can be enjoyed by different players. I think that as players “age” in their board game career, they tend to start from luck and chance heavy games and soon learn to appreciate more skill heavy games. Regardless of my personal feelings about these mechanics, games are meant to be enjoyed by all players and should be built that way, regardless of luck, chance, or skill levels.

Gaming and The Greater Good: Creating a More Realistic Ladies and Gentlemen

The game I am choosing to modify is Ladies and Gentlemen in order to teach the topic of how socio economic status reflects what choices you are able to make. Ladies and Gentleman is a game about gentlemen controlling the stock market so that they may buy the best clothes for their ladies to wear at the ball. The ladies never know how much money they have, and then gentlemen never know how many stars (how you win the game) the team has. A lot of the gentlemen’s moves are based on speed when selecting items, and ladies must think of how they can create the best combination of clothing and servants.  Each team will be randomly assigned a different status, and up to 2 teams may have the same status. The different options are: poor, middle class, and wealthy. The poor teams will start with $100, but are allowed to have up to 3 designers and are not allowed to have more than 1 servant. Middle class teams will function as in a normal game (starting with $500, can have up to 2 designers), and rich teams will start with $700, but are only allowed to have 1 designer and cannot have any items below 3 stars. For the gentlemen, the poor are only allowed to fill one contract per turn and are not allowed to have the first pick token. The wealthy are allowed to pick up to 4 resources per turn and are not allowed to have the 4th pick token, and are also allowed to use 2 hands (their father offered to help them start their own stocks). The middle class remains the same.  For the ladies, a poor woman will always pick from a shop with multiple people last, and is only allowed to pick 1 item from that shop (if she goes to a shop on her own, she may pick 2) and she does not get 50% off if nobody goes to her shop. The middle class remains the same. The wealthy ladies always have first pick at a shop and always have 50% off at her own shop (her father owns it, and would give anything to his little girl). Other than these rules, the game functions as it normally does. 

I hope that the modification of this game is able to help explain to people how easy/rough it can be when randomly placed into one of 3 socio economic categories. Based on how the game is set up, it is nearly impossible for a poor team to win, especially if there is a corison in play. I want these modifications to show people that although everyone has free will of what they want to use their money for, there are a lot of restrictions when it comes to a person’s economic background that may hold them back to achieving their full potential or a win in the game. I think that if this was how the game was actually set up, nobody would want to play (unless they were wealthy) because it simply wouldn’t be fun, so this modification is best used as a teaching tool rather than an actual expansion of the game. This modification aims to teach those who believe that “poor people are poor because they’re lazy” that there is much more to a person’s life than the effort they put in, and that a lot of how you started really plays into what you can do with your life.

The Actual Game of Life

Funnily enough, in most situations that require a leader aren’t the same situations that one would regard as lighthearted and fun as a game. However, if you break a game down to its core components and mechanics, leadership and games are one and the same. 

Let’s start first with the simplest idea: choosing a character. Although many games don’t have named characters/factions/races/whatever, all games give each player some identifiable aspect. In some games it is a single character, in others you get assigned a color, and in video games you are assigned a player number. In leadership, your followers need to have a way to identify you. Are you known as approachable? Do you use fear tactics? Do you dress in some unique way that can be clearly described as you? In this way, we can also describe leadership as filling out a character sheet for a role playing game, like DnD or Starfinder. Based on your class or leadership platform, you have to figure out how to best allocate your stats and how to build up different skills. Just like bards, leaders need to be charismatic, but how do you know whether charisma is more important than wisdom when you’re standing on the spot in front of hundreds of watching eyes in what may be a life threatening situation? In real life, you don’t have to be stuck maintaining a consistent character different than yourself like you do in an RPG, but is it something that has to be considered at a podium? Unfortunately, in real life leadership, we don’t get a character sheet that clearly lays out our different skills; it’s something we have to figure out for ourselves. Luckily for us, however, we also do not have to make skill check rolls and can save ourselves from potential critical failures. 

Win conditions are also a key part in any game. Technically, there’s no solid way to win at leadership, but there are multiple checklists a person can go through to make sure they are leading effectively. This can include anything from how much food is stocked to how many people smiled at you that day. In games you collect victory points and in leadership you can gain influence by picking up more followers. The key difference in games and leadership in this aspect is that the win conditions of leadership don’t trigger the end of the “game”; you have to continue on or your cause will fail. Leadership win conditions are rather turned into checkpoints. When a player hits a checkpoint, they may save the game and exit, or can choose to follow on to the next checkpoint. As a leader, do you stop once your petition has over a thousand signatures and keep it as a good resume, or do you continue on to college to pursue a degree in political science for a chance to run for senate? Even a preschool teacher must ask himself these questions. He can either simply cover the basics of what his toddler students need to know, or take the time to install a passion for learning inside of them. He then creates followers in his cause of education that may grow up to be leaders of their own. He completes his checkpoint of passing the torch. 

Unfortunately, both games and leadership leave players with setbacks. These setbacks can be caused by other players, a bad hand, or even the environment. Most setbacks are unpredictable and can have dire consequences. Setbacks, especially in games, typically require on your feet thinking. You can choose to get back at the player, redraw your hand or attempt to manipulate the environment for your benefit. Depending on your leadership style and platform, these may not necessarily be viable options. A loving mother shouldn’t hit her child for using Sharpie to color the walls, but she may still feel the need to retaliate through punishment. In a game, these “uh oh” moments are simple, easy and quick to resolve, but it doesn’t work that way in real life. If a parent lashes out and does hit their child, the child doesn’t just lose some gold; they potentially gain lifelong trauma and a lesson that it’s okay to use violence as means of punishment. Your reaction to the setback may act as a catalyst to a whole bunch of other setbacks, which are not so easily resolved in real life.

Strategic players are great at being able to look at the game and see where they will be five turns from now. It’s an amazing skill to have as a leader. If you are able to plan for where you’re headed, it’ll make your path a lot easier.  If you want to become an effective leader, no matter what your platform or essence, you must start by choosing your character. Then, create a win checklist to go through and create a plan for dealing with setbacks. Leadership is a tough game to learn and it’s full of twists and turns, but it’s a damn good one to learn.

Gaming, Raccoons, and Tarot Cards

On February 11th, I went to one of the biweekly meetings of Miami’s Strategy Gaming Club (SGC). Although I have goe to SGC meetings since August, this particular Tuesday meeting was…interesting, to say the least. At a typical SGC meeting, there are over 20 games set out on the table for people to choose from, and there’s even an office room with two closets filled to the brim with all different types of games. With RECON, Miami University’s own small gaming convention, coming up, most of the games brought down to play were “play and wins” being given away at the convention. With games ranging from Adapt (which I only played to hopefully win the dice from) and Root (the cutest area control game you will ever see) I found it nearly impossible to walk into the room and find a person not enjoying any of the offered games.
In a previous paper, I mentioned that normally games function as a stress releivant, so I tend to stray from strategy heavy games. Typically, this leads me towards Azul, Shadowhunters or, a new find, Detective Club. This Yuesday had been particularly light and I was ready to test out something new. The past Sunday, I had ventured to play Too Many Bones (an amazing game even though the tutorial boss is impossible to beat) and had found enough confidence, as well as some new friends, to try another slightly more strategy based game. I know, playing a strategy game at the strategy gaming club is way out there. So, feeling adventurous, four others and I reached for Root.
Root is, in the least descriptive way possible, a freaking amazing game. Depending on who you are as a person, can be as stupid or as serious as you want it to be. Nearly all of the parties you choose to play as function as an area control game. A player has to take soldiers to different parts of the forest in order to craft certain items or do certain tasks in order to gain victory points. You can choose if you’d like to start as a big faction, a merchant faction, a combat based faction, or, hold your horses, quite literally an RPG character. Any of these choices leave the player with cute figurines and a good starting point for gaining victory points. Because I am terrible at strategizing in area control games, I decided to have a bit more fun and chose to play as the Vagabond.
Unlike all other parties, the Vagabond is a single character and single figurine. The Vagabond does not control any areas of the forest, but instead gains points by trading cards for items and forming alliances with the other factions. The Vagabond also has three quests available to them at any time for them to travel around the forest and complete for victory points. If Root was meant to be a story of fuzzy woodland creatures at war, the vagabond would be the main character. Although this comes as a surprise to nobody, I did not win the game. However, I played the Vagabond more mischievous than a devote player would. I went after quests and completed the ones I could, but for the most part I just went around to other players trading cards and taking items. The Vagabond can also attack players with a crossbow without rolling any attack die, and this made a great threatening tool. I could go around to the warring factions and simply say “it’s okay if you don’t craft an item for me, but I will shoot you,” and I soon had a full satchel of items. Yes, I played Root to be a murder hobo.
Root gave me the regular, enjoyable experience I have at SGC. What happened after Root was…still enjoyable, yet strange. Were Words is a game that combines 20 questions and werewolf. It’s fun and it’s a good filler game (it’s also great if you’re feeling too tired to function, but still want to play a game). If you go to SGC, there is a 98% chance that you will find somebody who has played over 30 games of werewords in the SGC membership lifetime. The students know the rules and roles in and out, and have even created their own fun, personal lists of words to choose from. Tuesday was the first time I met Dan. Dan played Were words and did his homework at the same time, which isn’t uncommon of any college student. Dan also had a deck of tarot cards on him. The nine of us playing were words then came to the conclusion that the best way to play were words would be with this deck of tarot cards. Confused? Yes, that was the general feeling at the time, but we were all too excited and brain dead to even care. The rules were simple: look at your tarot card and interpret it as the role you feel best explains it. This also became the way we chose who the mayor was and, twice, we had over three mayors in a single game. This mixture of craziness had riled up all of us and we soon had an even better idea: draw cards and determine who Jesus and Judas were. We then recreated The Last Supper and then immediately dispersed after. I proceeded to go home and study until 3am (as any good college student does).
SGC provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere to any student that wishes to join. It’s easy to make new friends and find new games you enjoy, and you might even find yourself wrapped up in what appears to be some kind of cultist rituals. If you like gaming and a little spark of crazy every now and then, I would strongly encourage you to come down to the student center any given Tuesday or Sunday night.

Reflection: Werewolf

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe may be an interesting play, but it’s also one of many secret roles in the game Ultimate Werewolf. In this game, each player is assigned a hidden role from a select list of cards. These roles may very based on player count and interest in certain aspects of the game (ex. a role called Cupid, who makes two players fall in love and die together, may be added into the game, but is not required for gameplay).

The story of Werewolf is that all players live in what is seemingly a quiet and peaceful village. One morning, all villagers awaken and go to the town square at the same time (as villagers typically do), and discover a body that has been mauled to pieces by werewolves. Immediately, everyone in the village begins pointing fingers and trying to figure out who among them is a werewolf.

Werewolf is a game that consists of 2 teams: The Werewolves and The Village. In order to win, the Werewolves must control a majority of the town (done by killing village members and remaining unsuspicious) and the village must lynch every werewolf, ensuring the safety of the village. Although roles may vary from game to game, every game must have at least 2 werewolves, a seer, and a variety of villagers. Other roles may be added in to make the game more challenging for either team, or for just pure fun. Take Virginia Woolfe, for example: Viriginia herself functions as a normal villager, and doesn’t necessarily directly affect gameplay. However, Virginia is special in that she chooses somebody that is afraid of her; so afraid of her that if Virginia dies (either via werewolf or a town lynch), that person becomes so mortified by the fact that Virginia’s ghoul is now chasing them around and also dies. Although you may think this is a good tactic to use to kill a werewolf by killing Virginia, Virginia must pick her target before the game has started, and has no idea what that person’s role may be. If Virginia dies, there is a possibilty that the Seer may also die.

The most challenging part of this came is, funnily enough, also the most boring part of the game: being a regular Villager. Unlike the rest of the roles, regular Villagers have no special abilities. Unfortunately for villagers, claiming Villager as a Werewolf is the safest bet, and villagers claims are often hung by town. Villagers have two options in this game: they can claim a unique villager role and hope that nobody counterclaims them (which they will) or fight their hardest to convince the town they are who they say they are (which never works). As a villager, you have to be willing to accept that you will die, either via town lynch or werewolf, and you also have to hope that your friends will be up to play another round of Werewolf so you can get a fun role.

Leadership is a key quality for both teams in a game of Werewolf. You have to be able to speak up for yourself and for your known team members or you will get hung. Masons are a good demonstration of this skill. Masons also function as regular villagers, but they know who the other Mason is. When the game begins, if anyone mentions the word Mason or hints at the Masons, they die. In our game, we ended up lynching a Mason because he could not claim his role without dying. His other Mason, who was silenced at the time, should have defended him, but could not.

I think that my friend Alec would like to play this game because he enjoys hidden role games in which he can create chaos. I could see him liking any of the roles this game has to offer (yes, even villager) and really just giving it his all. Overall, I think that this is a great game to start any class with because it gives people a chance to know each other and feel a little more comfortable before diving into the material.