Sunday, August 30, 2009

Middle Earth Quest and other Dark Tower Adventures

Chris and I played FFG's new Middle Earth Quest today. Chris played the forces of goodness and light, taking the helm to control not-Eomer and not-Faramir-if-Faramir-were-a-woman. I was thus forced, totally out of character, to play the Dark Lord Sauron. Making a long story short... after a tense, close fought battle, darkness won via a final fight between the Rohan character vs. Ring Wraiths by a nose. The fight came down to Chris needing to guess the correct combat card to play against my hidden combat card, but guessing badly. Alas, now the Lord of the Rings trilogy never happened, the End. All-in-all, the game is no War of the Ring, but I think it does a wonderful job at modeling the subject matter and feels like you're really in that critical time leading up to the Fellowship of the Ring.

Keeping with the Dark Tower theme, we then played the old Milton Bradley Dark Tower game. I had only actually ever played the on-line flash version, so playing Chris' fully functional and in excellent condition copy was a true treat. Chris had some really bad luck early on with plagues, getting lost in the wilderness, and being heavily beset by brigands (aka Orcs) and dragons, while I zipped around snagging keys in rapid succession. My first journey into the Dark Tower ended in utter defeat, so by the time I mustered for a second assault, Chris was hot on my heels. Luckily I was able to pull victory off just in the nick of time. Hooray!

Lastly, we stuck to the electronic board game theme by playing a quick game of Chris' Clue FX. The game is essentially Clue, only with out the roll/move mechanic, and suspects running around in the bushes, hiding and needing to be found in order to shake clues out of them. Overall, I think its a good, light family game, the sort of which I'm now much more interested in. Chris secured a solid, Holmesian victory!

Thanks for the wonderful day of gaming, Chris!



At 7:49 PM, August 30, 2009, Blogger scott said...

So how long did the various games take; is Middle Earth Quest long?

At 9:07 PM, August 30, 2009, Blogger seanp said...

I wish I still had my Dark Tower -- I loved that game. It really isn't even that great of a game, but was so high-tech at the time!! Sounds like a great day of gaming...

At 9:16 PM, August 30, 2009, Blogger Ben said...

About 3 hours for MEQ. This was the first game for the both of us, so perhaps faster next time.

At 11:47 PM, August 30, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dark Tower has a lot of nostalgic value for me. It was by far my favorite non-video-game game growing up. What made it worse was that I didn't own it--my friend next door did--and I wanted to play it all the time, and he rarely did, so there wasn't much I could do about it. Playing it now confirms that, as Sean mentioned, it's not a particularly good game. It's all luck pretty much, and I think we're all to the point where few of us really want to spend any significant time playing something that's almost all luck. Back when I was a kid, I didn't mind at all. The lights and sounds made it irresistable. Still, it's good for a trip down memory lane.

As a note, the guy who did the art for the game (my favorite part of the game) was Bob Pepper. There's a great page with all of the art and game concepts here, along with an interview with the artist, as well as a link to an online Flash version which is done amazingly well. Bob Pepper also did the art for Dragonmaster, which was essentially Hearts with fantasy art. But the art was just fantastic. I've still got that game around here somewhere, too...

Ben and I were talking about other electronic games we had when we were kids, which is what led me to bring out Clue FX. This is a pretty well done version of Clue with a lot of sounds and hidden movement and the use of electronic sensors in the board. It's a change of pace from regular Clue. Again, it's nothing I'd pull out with our group, but its fun for family gatherings and the like.

At 11:47 PM, August 30, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Middle Earth Quest is a mixed bag. Yes, a lot of it was struggling through the turns, as many things happen on each turn, not all of which are intuitive (the heroes draw cards on Sauron's turn, for example). However, the designers made a conscious effort to make the turn order easy to follow (there are turn order summaries in the rulebook as well as on the board, which I appreciated). Ben is right--the turns should go faster next time. That being said, I was left with the overwhelming feeling that not much happens in this game. There is a game timer along the top of the board (a story track for each side) that moves along really quickly. I think our game lasted about nine turns. In that time, I never encountered a monster other than Sauron's minions, I never won a battle, and each character increased only one stat (the only one that mattered was a chance card draw on the last turn of the game). When we had the end battle, my characters felt like the same exact, unimproved characters that I had started the game with, and I had not made any kind of progress against Sauron. I did cause Ben to get rid of one Sauron plot card, but it actually hurt me (by costing me valuable resources to get rid of the card) and didn't gain me anythimg, and potentially could have helped Ben. That just didn't feel right--the heroes should get some kind of reward for thwarting Sauron's plots, but there is none, and doing so actually opens up the board for Sauron to play more plots.

In the end, I took one of my essentially unimproved heroes and fought Sauron and had a great chance to win--it was just a bad guess of which battle card to put down. Again, that doesn't feel right--there should be substantial character progression as the game goes along. Otherwise, why not just play the final battle as the very first turn and save everyone a couple of hours? And the final battle ought to penalize the heroes more for not making that progression, and reward them more for making progression. It just felt like the game didn't do either one.

I liked a few things: the production quality is great, as is typical for FFG. Everything is beautiful, and the board is huge. And I like the combat--it's (like I had heard) similar to Hannibal in that combat cards have different tactics that affect current and future cards. But overall, the game we played didn't have the feeling of progression that I would have liked. It didn't feel like either Sauron or the heroes got stronger during the game. I'll definitely give it another go at some point, though, and see if that changes.

At 9:40 AM, August 31, 2009, Blogger Ben said...

A couple more thoughts on MEQ:

- Sauron definitely gets more powerful later in the game with the nastier minions appearing and the filled Shadow Pool allowing casting of the most evil Shadow Cards.

- The strategy section in the rulebook recommends the heroes focus on killing plots, at the expense of everything else... even if it will result in getting killed. With a full four game (Sauron plus three heroes), I could see two staying on plot duty, perhaps working as a team, while the third runs quests down.

- I agree the they did a great job with the diceless combat mechanic: quick, exciting, and without the curse of evil dice.

At 11:20 AM, August 31, 2009, Blogger Michael said...

Hmm, our experience on Friday was sort of different. Steve and I took on Jon and from the way our game went, it felt like the battle royale end game was an unlikely event. Steve and I had our goal completed by around the 4th turn and from then on were just running around trying to ensure we would have dominance in the endgame to get the auto win.

We managed to do so and it turned out that Jon's goal would also have been trivially easy to complete for him. So no matter what happened, there would be no end game battle.

I agree, the lack of character progression is nettlesome (I think Steve got 2 extra cards in his deck from training and I got 1). Our stats actually decreased by the end game thanks to corruption.

I'll play it once again but I'm very concerned. Plus, where was Shadowfax?

At 12:58 PM, August 31, 2009, Blogger Ben said...

I just need to find around $150-$200 laying around so I can pick up a copy of Dark Tower. Its a silly game, but I don't mind the silliness on occasion.

We ended up in the battle royale when I had pushed a single color (red, military conquest) almost exclusively the entire game, staying dominant. Unfortunately my secret mission was to get black into Age III. I never drew plots that pushed black more than one per turn, so my strategy was to pump the ring wraiths by rushing the end game. I suppose it helped, as Chris probably would have spanked them if they had a few less health.

At 9:51 PM, September 03, 2009, Blogger Tiffany said...

You know they are auctioning a copy of Dark Tower for geekgold right? Well its more of a lottery. It is worth a chance, maybe. And its just geekgold. But yeah.


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