During this semester one of my favorite video games I’ve played is Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. Wrath of the Righteous released last year and is the second RPG from Owlcat Games based on a Pathfinder adventure path campaign. I found the story and character of Wrath of the Righteous more interesting, so I played it before Kingmaker. In the story the protagonist develops otherworldly powers and becomes the leader of the crusade to fight back against an army of demons.
The amount of content in the game is massive. I have 150 hours in the game according to Steam and I’m at most 75% through my first playthrough. My time is bloated though from the fact I only play on turn-based mode in combat instead of real-time. The main replayability of the game comes from its mythic path system. Early in the game you pick which of 6 different sources your powers are from. I picked Azata which are like good-aligned fey. There are some special paths you can unlock later in the game, but they have much less unique content from what I’ve heard. My favorite aspect of the game so far is the characters and story. Several of the party members are unique and interesting. Even a few of the NPCs not in my party are very intriguing. The representation in game is very good, especially LGBT representation. The story is a war of epic proportions facing off against powerful demon lords. Picking Azata allows me to roleplay as a hero that doesn’t stick to closely to the rules. The worst Azata content is a bit too silly and weird, but having a pet dragon who participates in scenes like my other party members is more than worth it.
The problems with the game come down to its difficulty and lack of information about its systems. I have been playing on normal, the third of seven difficulties, and have found many fights in the game unfairly hard. Also, as someone very familiar with 5e D&D rules but not Pathfinder learning to rules of the system only by playing this game is extremely difficult. If you don’t have a ton of spare time to plan builds you should let the game decide what to learn on level up. A lot of mechanics such as status conditions are only explained by pop-up windows that show up when you are under its effect. The crusade mode has entirely different mechanics and you could screw yourself and waste a lot of time if you lose battles. Too much of this mode isn’t explained in enough detail and your game difficulty doesn’t affect crusade mode at all. The developers did add an auto crusade mode if you prefer to not play it at all at least.
Leadership is a huge aspect of the story once you take charge of the crusade. A significant amount of time must be devoted to building up your forces to fight demon armies in battle. Crusade management also has meetings with your advisors to make decrees. Each of the advisors suggest a different solution to the current problem and you decide which path to take. There are no right or wrong decisions, each choice has its own benefit. Even outside of the crusade you are managing an adventuring party. All the different party members have different classes and abilities to fulfill different roles. Having group members with the right skill sets is important for success both in game and in real life leadership teams.
On the board game quiz, I scored high in conflict and extremely high in social manipulation. If I’m playing a competitive game, I prefer to be able to directly interfere with the other players. Social manipulation games are a ton of fun and there are plenty to pick from. Most of these games have an ‘evil’ team that is outnumbered but has more knowledge than the other team. The fun of this side is tricking the other players into trusting you. The other side usually has less info and must find out who in the group is against them. The game typically helps you deduce who not to trust in the game.
For the next category I had a high strategy score and a decent score in discovery. I usually spend a lot of time planning out my turn in games, if not several turns ahead. It’s always satisfying when a plan finally pays off. For discovery I tend to have a habitat of letting others recommend what games to play. While I do have a list of favorites that I like to reply I’m always interested in learning something new. Also if I know in advance I’ll be playing a new game I try to study the rules in advance to know what to do.
One of my highest scores was immersion, compared to a low aesthetic grade. My interest in a game is heavily determined by how thematic it is. I do like games that are more mechanic focused like Azul but tend to only try them out at the recommendation of others. When a game has a well-built world, I sometimes spend time reading the lore specifically like with Sentinels of the Multiverse. For aesthetics this is largely something I ignore. While nice components in a game are a cool plus I care more about the game being affordable.
Finally, I had a very low social fun score and a considerable score in cooperation. When I’m playing games, I tend to take them seriously and strategize heavily, as indicated by my previous score. I’m not the biggest fan of ‘party games’ which are likely the most popular for this category. A lot of my favorite board games are co-op games against the game. However, the ones I like are heavy on strategy in order to win. The players usually all have different abilities emphasizing the need to work together.
This week, I returned to the cooperative genre of board games with the game Mental Blocks. A group of 2 to 9 players (we played with 6) each has a card that only they can see showing either a sideview of colored blocks or a black-and-white view of a corner of a structure, then they must use foam blocks to build a structure that satisfies all the images that the players have. The rounds are limited by time, which was 9 minutes for 6 players, but after a couple failed rounds, our group simply tried to succeed AT ALL. Once we figured out a good strategy, we managed to start solving puzzles in under a minute. Luckily, the game includes ways to change the difficulty of the puzzles. In addition to a set of “Challenging” puzzles, there are restriction and glitch cards that give players additional rules, such as being unable to speak or touch foam blocks of a certain size, shape, or color. By the time class concluded, we had found a difficulty that worked well for us (around a 50% win rate).
The hardest part, by far, was trying to build what was on your card while not ruining what somebody else had built or needed to build. In one instance, another player and I both had blue blocks on our cards but another had zero blue, so we were trying to build this structure in a way that showed blue but also hid it from a single side. Another time, I swore a shape looked one way on my card but everybody else knew it couldn’t physically be shaped like I said. In our efforts to complete our objective right, we had to slow down and build the shape together or we would build something that couldn’t be correct and refuse to let others touch it.
Thinking about that in terms of leadership, one could say the exact same thing about projects where everybody has different interpretations of the same goal. 5 different people could be united under the same cause, but because they are 5 minds who each have their own vision of how that goal will be achieved, they are also 5 people competing to realize their individual dream. A great leader is somebody who includes everybody’s perspectives, crafting a plan that unites everybody’s ideas rather then letting them be until they inevitably butt heads.
I believe my brother would very much like playing Mental Blocks. He and I have fantastic communication and love playing games together that challenge that. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Overcooked, and so on. Since the game does work with a minimum of 2 players, I’d like to see how he and I fair against the game’s challenges and glitches. Mental Blocks is a very simply premise, but it turns out to be a really cognitively challenging game that I highly recommend.
On Tuesday, February 15th, I attended a gaming event here on campus, specifically one of the Strategy Gaming Club’s (SGC) meetings. SGC is a student organization that provides a time and place for students to play all sorts of tabletop games, as well providing a wide selection of these games at each Sunday and Tuesday meeting. Additionally, SGC also has a group of members that have been hosting sessions of the Warhammer series of games, as well as miniatures for players to use with the games on Wednesdays. Recently though, these Wednesday meetings have been taking place alongside the Tuesday meetings, allowing those who usually could not come to the Wednesday meetings to play various Warhammer games during the Tuesday meetings instead.
SGC Tuesday meetings allow the attendants to play whatever tabletop games they want to, assuming that the organization owns those games and have brought the games with them to this meeting. Due to the fact these games could require any amount of space, the organization itself does not perform any setup of the room themselves beyond bringing the tabletop games, instead allowing the members to break up the large rectangle of tables themselves in order to create the space that they need for their chosen tabletop games. As a result, the only part of the room left in its initial state is often the far end of the tables, which are where the games not being played are located. However, this more hands-on setup is typically not a problem, as all of the attendees will often move the tables back into their initial place once they are done playing games, and the table is no longer in use.
Of course, you will need to get a group of players together for most of these tabletop games, but the other attendees of these meetings are usually more than willing to arrange groups to play larger games or join you for a game you would like to play. In many cases you might be able to play multiple different tabletop games in one meeting, but at this particular meeting I was only able to fit one game in, though I enjoyed it quite a lot. I was only able to play this game due to the fact that SGC was able to move some of its Warhammer content over to the Tuesday meetings.
Warhammer and it’s various games are something that I’ve been interested in for quite some time now, but I have never been able to experience them myself due to the large cost of building an army of miniatures and lacking any time to attend SGC’s Wednesday meetings. As such, now that Warhammer is being hosted during the Tuesday meetings, I jumped at the chance to finally play these games myself. During this meeting specifically, I played Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress, a Campaign Dungeon-Crawler game set in the Warhammer 40k universe, along with three other players.
In Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress (Blackstone), you play as a group of explorers searching for relics and riches within the depths of an ancient space-faring fortress. These expeditions into the fortress take place in two distinct phases, the exploration phase and the facility phase. In the exploration phase, the players draw a card from the exploration deck, which determines what they will find in this area of the fortress. In our session, we only drew Combat cards from this deck, but other areas of the fortress will feature other challenges. Combat encounters in particular are quite complex, as they require the players to balance not only their own actions, but also their position in initiative, the group pool of Destiny Dice for additional actions and the potential actions that their enemies may take based on the roll of a twenty-sided die. After each exploration phase, the players have the option to exit the Fortress and enter the facility phase, where they can use their character’s ships to perform various actions and purchase items using the loot they have gathered, though each player can only visit one ship. From this point the players can either save their characters by placing their character cards and loot in their special card sleeve and stop for the time being or reenter the Fortress.
As Blackstone is a Campaign game, my group is still quite far from finishing it, but I had quite a lot of fun with the combat encounters that we were able to play through. However, I do not think that the fun I felt was purely attributed to the game, but to the people I was playing with as well. For one thing, one of the players in this group is actually someone that I have known since my first semester here at Miami, and that I would consider a good friend. And the two other players, even if we only recently met, were still more than willing to discuss the things they enjoy and just generally have a good time while at the meeting. This general feeling of openness and acceptance is not just something that applies to this particular meeting, as it is something that I have found in every meeting of SGC that I have attended.
I believe that it is because of this open and accepting feeling that I enjoy my time with SGC so much, both this meeting and any other. No matter what group of people I choose to play with, or what game we are playing, I enjoy my time while I am there. The community their organization has built is just so accepting and so committed to having fun that it seems to be hard not to have fun while playing tabletop games with them. Not only that, but if the game you are playing happens to be a game that you are unfamiliar with, and someone else is very familiar with, the more experienced players will typically jump at the opportunity to share something that they love with someone new. This exact scenario is what happened during the above meeting, as while I am still relatively new to the people that play Warhammer at SGC’s meetings, they were very excited to help teach me the games that they enjoy so much.
As I have expressed throughout this reflection, I have always been able to enjoy my time spent at SGC, and the meeting on February 15th was simply an example of just why that is. The community that the Strategy Gaming Club’s officers have been able to build over their time is just simply such a welcoming and open one. As a result the entire organization just has a friendly and accepting atmosphere that makes it clear that having fun and meeting new people should be the number one priority, and that the tabletop games available are simply a way to meet those people and build those friendships. Even after all of this time, there are still new people in the organization to meet, and new games to play, and so the environment that SGC provides will always be appreciated.
I love cooperative games. Even within the genre “cooperative”, there is so much variety in games. There may be players working in a team against other players as in Codenames or all of the players working together against the game itself as in Pandemic. However, as is the case for this Game of the Week, there is no enemy or clear adversary. In Mysterium, the challenge lies in communication — or lack thereof. One player acts as the Ghost, trying to get a team of Psychics to correctly deduce combinations of suspects, locations, and weapons to solve their murder. The challenge? The Ghost can make no sounds, give no facial expressions nor gestures, and must only communicate to the Psychics using a limited supply of cards beautifully illustrated with abstract images. It is up to the Psychics to figure out what messages the Ghost is trying to convey with these cards to solve the crime.
During class, I played the role of the Ghost, and I can say with confidence that having such limited communication with your teammates makes it really difficult to win Mysterium. That is also illustrated by the fact that there was a 0% win rate in class among the 3 groups. The Psychics are dependent on the Ghost giving them clues about the sets of suspects-locations-weapons, but the art on those clue cards are so colorful and detailed! Having to match the 7 clues in my hand to the 5 cards that the 5 Psychics had to guess while also paying attention to the other 6 cards I had the steer the Psychics away from… Creating a connection between the clues and the cards was hard enough. Knowing the Psychics had to figure out what my thought processes were for each clue made me squirm in my seat and hide behind my screen for fear of giving away too much information with my reactions. I think the hardest part of the game for me was biting my tongue while listening to the Psychics discuss what their answers should be. I wanted desperately to praise the players who understood my line of thinking, warn the players who got attached to the wrong details, and hint to one side of the table to look at the clues I’d given out to the other side.
When thinking about this game in terms of leadership, my mind keeps coming back to all of the things I couldn’t do as the Ghost. I couldn’t encourage my players for doing a good job. I couldn’t explain my thinking with misinterpreted clues. I remember watching in horror as one of my players guessed literally every other suspect than the one I wanted him to pick because I couldn’t say, “Let’s forget that last clue I gave you because I definitely gave you the wrong idea with it.” Playing a game with no communication really goes to show how important communication is for succeeding. Being able to clear up confusion verbally would have made the game trivial, yes, but applying this game to the real world, open discussion and being able to clear up previous mistakes is so very, very important.
I think Mysterium is a fantastic game. I recommend, however, to play it with family or a group of close friends first. Anybody who loves a game of Charades, loves beautiful art and aesthetics, and doesn’t mind waiting patiently for the Ghost to set-up or disperse clues would love this game. I suggest to play with a group of people you know very well first as an “easy mode” introduction to the game. You’ll know the thought processes of family and friends, and can get a handle on the rules of the game. Then, give it a try with strangers or acquaintances for an added challenge.