Brandon Kempf: Three Games – Three Games I Don’t Like

I have a lot of games. A lot of games that are on my shelves, or on my table being played, that I have told myself that I want to review at some point. For one reason or another, this doesn’t always happen. My goal here on The Opinionated Gamers is that I want to get about one review out per week, but I’d like to write about more games. So I’m taking a page out of Patrick Brennan’s playbook, and we’re going to start writing about games in threes, in snapshot form. This should be a good way for readers to get to know me and my gaming tastes a bit better, and also another way for me to talk about games that I maybe don’t really want to dedicate two thousand words to. Welcome to Three Games.

Lords of Waterdeep

A Dungeons & Dragons themed worker placement should be a hit with most folks, myself included. I like fantasy, I like worker placement, what’s not to like? For me, Lords of Waterdeep is what not to like. In the game you are Lords, of Waterdeep vying for control of the city by sending your agents out on various quests to earn you rewards. There are locations all throughout Waterdeep that will allow you to recruit more agents and when you have the correct combination of fighters, wizards, rogues and priests, aka orange, purple, black and white cubes, you complete quests to gain rewards of more money, more influence and more agents. As the game progresses, more locations will open up as players build more locations in the city. For eight rounds you do this and the winner is the player, or rather, the Lord with the most points.

First off, when a game gets more praise for its insert than its game play (yes, that’s hyperbole), that should have been a warning sign for me. Lords of Waterdeep does indeed have a nice insert, just don’t try to store the game upright. Other than that insert what you have here is as dull and soulless a game as any other generic “trading in the Med” Euro, this just has that more nerdy fantasy theme. The game itself lasts too long, as it progresses, players have more and more actions that they can do, and then in the middle of the game they gain another worker to allow even more, plus someone each round will always have another extra worker via placement. It creates a game that just drags on and offers little in return for that investment. It even includes some take that in the form of Intrigue cards, which I actually wouldn’t mind in most games, but these ultimately just tend to slow everything down, even more. All this and I haven’t even mentioned how some Lords are clearly more powerful than others and have an easier time in the game. Add in the expansion Scoundrels of Skullport and you just have a slog. Last time we played with six players, yes, the expansion allows for even more players, and it was just an unbearably long, unbalanced game that I decided I never wanted to experience again, so I sold it off. Lords of Waterdeep started with promise for me, and I have played it nine times thanks to others in the game group enjoying it, and each time my like of the game dwindled to the point where it is now. Never again will I play Lords of Waterdeep.

T.I.M.E. Stories

T.I.M.E. Stories is a time travelling game where the players are agents from the future trying to change the course of history, or some such nonsense. It’s an exploration game, or at least that’s what it touts, but it never felt like exploration to me. Exploration needs a purpose other than, “well I guess we have to go here”, to be engaging for me in games, I have to want to go there. The catch with T.I.M.E. Stories is that you won’t finish the game correctly the first time, or probably the second or third time either, you will fail and have to go back and do it again. While in theory this sounds interesting, it’s not. When you go back, you have to rehash everything that you have done the previous times, hopefully doing it more efficiently and not messing up along the way because you know the answers, you know where to look and what to do when you get to certain places. Then when you reach the point where you ended previously, things are new again and you figure out a bit more of the puzzle and you do this as many times as necessary to finish the “module”. There is a story here, an overarching theme I suppose, but after playing the base game and The Marcy Case, I am not sure that I want to ever see the end. Seven plays of a game with overly simplistic dice rolling for resolution of conflict. It really just feels like a really bland point and click game to me. Top it all off with the fact that the rule books are atrocious and you have the makings of a very forgettable game. I can’t say that I will never play T.I.M.E. Stories again, my wife, brother in law and his wife all love the game and I have passed on the other two expansion modules to them that I had already picked up, and maybe some day they will push to play it, and I will probably do so. When I do though, I will feel like I have been there before, and maybe I should have learned from my previous mistakes.

Keyforge

Collectible/Competitive Card Games used to be all the rage, or at least Magic The Gathering was. Times change and gamers don’t want to search out and basically pay to win those types of games. At least most gamers I know don’t want to do that, there are those CCG fanatics of course. Enter RIchard Garfield, he of Magic the Gathering fame and he teams with Fantasy Flight Games, they of the Living Card Game, to change the playing field, or at least try. What they have come up with is Keyforge, a Unique Deck Game. Every deck is self-contained, and every deck is unique, from the name, to the cards in the box. It has been a smashing success sales wise. I’ve not seen a lot of local support for any kind of competitive market, but that may just be here. What’s more is that they made this game pretty much a gateway styled CCG. Easy to jump into and easy to play. So why don’t I like it?

Keyforge takes away the individuality and the fun of the CCG model, it takes away the ability for the player to individualize their decks themselves and find things that work. As it is, each deck you buy is self-contained, you open it and you are playing. No sifting through cards, nothing. What you get is what you play. No card has a cost to play, you are only limited in what you can play on a turn, only one house per turn. It just turns it all into a dull, keyword-riddled bore. I believe I have read somewhere, maybe even on this site, about folks who actually do draft in Keyforge and maybe I should follow up and see how they go about doing that, but I don’t know that I have that kind of desire or energy to revitalize interest here. To make matters worse, in typical FFG fashion you aren’t given an actual rule book, but a “Quick Start Guide” and directed to a full rule book online. I don’t mind being directed to a website for more information, but to be directed there for an actual rulebook? No thank you. I was excited about this, I spent $130 on the base box and boosters in hopes to entice friends to play. Never happened, after a play or two, I was ready to give up, but I kept pushing and trying, but now I am on the precipice of giving it all away, even the unopened decks that we never bothered to play with. I’m tapped out.

There we go, three relatively “popular” games that I don’t particularly enjoy for various reasons. Just another way for readers to get to know me, and my tastes a bit more. Honestly, this has been a bit cathartic. Maybe a “banish” article now and then is good for the soul. I realize that I am in the minority on probably all three of these, there is no accounting for taste after all (my own is the taste in question), but these are games that I could do without personally for various reasons. They all seemingly have something I should enjoy, ie it’s a thematic Euro, it tells a story or it cuts out an unnecessary evil in gaming, but something in all of these just didn’t allow my enjoyment to overpower my distaste.

Until the next time!

Thoughts from The Opinionated Gamers

Mark Jackson: I think I enjoy KeyForge & Lords of Waterdeep slightly more than you do… but it’s telling that I don’t own either of them.

Matt Carlson: I enjoy Lords of Waterdeep, and particularly liked the half of the expansion that added in corruption.  Players can gain corruption to get some advantages, but the more players that gain corruption the more damaging corruption becomes.  I don’t use the other half of the expansion as it just adds complexity without any returns. A 6 player game sounds crazy, and I’d prefer a game with 3 or 4.  The game can sometimes be “swing-y” due to luck of the quest cards combined with some of the “take-that” styles of intrigue. I agree the game box is a horrid affair.   I suppose it’s telling I can’t remember last time I played it, but I’m not quite yet in that spot where I’m willing to get rid of it yet. Time Stories – I’ve played it a few times, not enough to solve the first one but still enough to fell rather “meh” about it.  As for KeyForge, I’m intrigued by the game but not yet enough to be willing to pony up the cash to buy it and try it out.

Dale Y:  Lords of Waterdeep always seemed like a decent introductory worker placement game.  But, it took far too long to play a game, and my copy found its way to the sale pile.  T.I.M.E Stories is a weird beast that I have a love/hate relationship with. I have actually played all 9 modules in this first series – and there are parts I love and parts I don’t care for.  I honestly have grown quite weary of the iteration – in our group, in many modules, we get to the point where we know what we need to do, it’s just a matter of getting the right rolls, etc. At that point, we just do the things, avoiding the dice and the time track, just to see how it ends.  I tend to look at them as interactive fiction, and in that regard, I get a decent story for the 2 hours invested in it. But not as good of a story as I would have gotten with even 30 minutes with my Kindle. And I can safely say without spoiling that the meta-story is a disaster. That is the disappointment of the whole thing.  I don’t enjoy that at all – though I have enjoyed the individual modules well enough (I mean, I have played them all so that says something, no?)

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6 Responses to Brandon Kempf: Three Games – Three Games I Don’t Like

  1. paschott says:

    We use LoW as an intro worker placement game. The easy “work toward this” for your Lord gives some guidance on what you might want to do. The expansion adds some small variations. We did learn “don’t play long game” and “don’t play with 5-6”, though. Those both slow the game down quite a bit. But it’s a pretty easy game to explain and play for people who are casual gamers.

    Can’t speak for either of the others. TIME Stories is just a bit too grim overall for us so can’t play with the family. Haven’t had a chance to play Keyforge and don’t want to invest in that without some idea of how it plays. Considering I don’t get out to game nights often, that doesn’t seem like a good fit for me.

    • Mr. D says:

      Worker placement is something I’ve been wanting to play more of, but I haven’t played LoW or that many others, to be honest. Do you have any recommendations for games with more staying power? I’ve heard good things about Fresco and Puerto Rico. Stone Age as well, though the theme of Stone Age is kind of unappealing to me.

      • In the coming weeks, look for a little something on Worker Placement on this very website.

        Honestly, I think Agricola is a fantastic entry into Worker Placement, especially using the Family Version. It’s also a game that can grow with you as you start searching for something a bit more. Fresco isn’t bad either, but I have not especially enjoyed Stone Age when I have played it. Seems a bit too “scripted” to me, every round you kind of know what the first two most optimal moves are.

        • Mr. D says:

          Thanks for the thoughtful response – I will have to give Agricola another look. In the past my concern was that the standard game is too heavy for my group and I’s tastes, but Family Version just a little too light. Since I haven’t played either, though, that’s a tough call to make. Looking forward to learning more soon!

  2. Johnny Five says:

    I love KeyForge. Play all the time on The Crucible. If your decks are looking for a home, send them my way. They will get used. Thanks for the write up. Read your content a lot. Bought a couple games because of you guys.

  3. @mangozoid says:

    Thanks again for great content. I must confess I’ve always been a bit loathe to talk about games I don’t like, favouring spending that time constructively talking about the ones I do enjoy, but I can see where the idea that this sort of thing is cathartic might come from… I’ve a slew of KS games that I backed and received last year (and a few for this year), and most of those from last year have already been sold on, so there is certainly a temptation to explore this a bit further through my own blogposts and the like. Right now it just feels like there’s a lot going on (April is awful for getting on with stuff), but it’s definitely something I’ll probably look again at later this year…

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