Brandon Kempf – Three Games of August

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

Historically August is always a busy gaming month, end of summer coupled with Gen Con is usually a recipe for a ton of new games and people wanting to play them. In the year 2020, the year of the Pandemic, things didn’t really work out that way. While I did learn nine new games this past month, it was still a month mostly dominated by lighter weight familiar games. Old favorites, Majesty: For the Realm and Qwirkle just continue to get plays. Online wise I kind of took a break and did not feel the need to play nearly as many as I had been, There were still some interesting plays though, and here we go. 

Marvel Champions

I don’t know that I’ll ever review Marvel Champions but we had three plays of it in August. I played the opening Rhino scenario all three times. First two times were with the basic Spider Man and Captain Marvel decks as I was playing with new players each time. The third play the decks were switched up a bit, I ran with a leadership Captain Marvel deck and we could definitely tell the difference in difficulty. I enjoyed the plays, but I ultimately don’t know if I really enjoy the game though. 

I’ve been a sucker for these Fantasy Flight LCGs for a long time. I played quite a bit of the LotR LCG, I dabbled in the AGoT LCG and tried to jump right in with the Arkham LCG. What happens though is that I realize that playing them is just entirely too much effort and work. These cycles of new cards coming, and just the sheer energy spent on learning (from the always poor FFG rulebooks) and then having to double check rules forums to see if I am interpreting the wording correctly on a lot of cards, usually kills any enjoyment I get out of them. Marvel Champions may prove itself different in the long run. FIrst off, the rule book here, well technically two books — How to Play and Rules — are put together better than I have experienced in the past. That just leads to fewer rules questions.Top it off, I think that the theme is pretty well integrated here. You can almost feel like you are the super hero trying to thwart the villain’s plans, in a very abstract, card playing way of course, but it works for me. Time will tell if I continue to add cards to the base game. We have quite a few more combinations just in the base to explore, but man, Thor, Dr. Strange and Black Widow are just calling me. I like the small tuckbox expansions. Then we see that the Big Box expansion, The Rise of the Red Skull really only adds 250 cards, no dividers and costs the same amount as the base, or at least close, and I get disenchanted again. It is what it is, I was never a person who was a CCG player, so I am still not used to just constant buying of things to improve a single game experience, but maybe it’s time, who knows. Now I gotta get all that Vs Marvel stuff to the table to see how the experiences compare. 


Dale already dropped his review of this one, and I shared some of my thoughts on the game on there if you care to read that as well, so I’m not really sure why I decided to add it here. 

I’m not really sure where, or why, my dissonance with this one clicks so much. I mean it was just a month ago I was writing about how excited I was to play it and it was played almost immediately after arriving. The game just builds really well through the first couple rounds, Spring and Summer, but once that Fall season hits, everyone does the exact same thing, mad rush to get the most butterflies back to home as possible. Sometimes you do well, you have a couple good movement cards and can make the mad dash, other times you keep drawing those three movement cards and just feel like your butterfly is destined to die somewhere in Texas. I’ve seen a couple different strategies attempted, but if I play this one again, I’m going to just try ignoring that end goal and see if we can maximize each and every season goal and see if that’s enough. Become the lost tribe of butterflies that just don’t care if they ever make it home as long as they are multiplying, collecting way stations and ending a season scoring goal points. Something tells me it won’t work at all, but we’ll see. As it is, I’m not all that excited to play it again after all of three plays, which is kind of sad. 

So, most everything else that I played in August, I have either already talked about, or will be talking about in the near future. So let’s look at a game that I ordered back in August, that I am looking forward to playing in September and October. 

Alma Mater

The big Eggertspeile release this fall is Alma Mater a fairly complex Euro where you are the chancellors of competing universities in the 15th century. From the design team Acchittocca, which consists of the brain trust behind such games as Coimbra, Terramara & Egizia among other titles, Alma Mater has all the looks of a fantastic, mentally challenging game. You’ll be adding students to your lecture halls for them to attend lectures from the finest minds in the world, if you are drafting them correctly. This past weekend, I had a wonderful game weekend with a couple friends, and part of what made it stand out was our ability to finally get some of these Mid/Heavy games back on the table. Most of us had been playing much lighter fare with our families, but we got to enjoy a couple hours with Paladins of the West Kingdom, Maglev Metro & Glen More II, so I am hoping this continues in the coming months with Alma Mater and possibly some more. Don’t worry, we still have some wonderful lighter weight gaming in the future and some games I am looking forward to, but for right now, I’m all about getting some hours with the same game and making my brain work a bit harder again. 

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers

Mark Jackson: Marvel Champions has been one of the highlights of the last year of gaming for my boys and I. We own everything that’s been released so far… and we’re enjoying it immensely. The deck-building is much simpler than most FFG Living Card Games… and, as Brandon mentioned, the rules are a lot clearer. Couple that with a teen-friendly superhero theme, good graphic design that makes it pretty easy to read cards across the table, and a functioning system to handicap the game for differing numbers of players… and you’ve got a winner for us. One other note: it’s actually a lot of fun as a solo game. (We’ve played 30 times since I got the base box in November 2019.)

Matt Carlson: I looked at the Lord of the Rings LCG and while I appreciated the effort of getting away from collectable games, I never really got it to the table so I gave it away to a friend.  However, the Marvel theme is ripe for play at my household with a couple of boys.  I brought it out for play with my eldest and we had a good time.  However, coming from someone not really familiar with the LCG stuff from Fantasy Flight, I found the “rulebooks” to be horrid.   I can only imagine how bad previous ones were, if this was a new high bar.  The “quick play” rulebook almost taught you enough to play – skipping only a few crucial things that would be obvious to someone who already knew how to play.  The “actual” rulebook is simply a glossary of terms, with no real connection between them.  We muddled through and asked some folks questions about it later.  Even so, it was a good time, and I look forward to exploring it a bit with my boys.  Now that I know (roughly) how to play, I’m thinking it might be an enjoyable game.  I know my boys are eying some of their favorite Marvel characters already…

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