Review – Panic Station from White Goblin Games

Review – Panic Station from White Goblin Games

Designer and Artist – David Ausloos

4-6 players ages 10+

Over the last few years we have seen quite a few cooperative style games and I am certainly a fan. I really like the sense of tension and spirit of teamwork that comes with cooperative games. Kind of an “us against the world” thing. As with anything, you certainly can get too much of a good thing and we are certainly in danger of too much of the “same old” in cooperative games. So we probably need some new takes and ideas to freshen things up and you could certainly do worse than with Panic Station from White Goblin Games which starts as a team effort, only to turn this on its head as the team suddenly finds itself threatened by a lurking danger within. And the danger is a killer in the guise of a parasitic infestation.

The quality of the components is typically good as White Goblin Games puts good effort in to produce games that are visually pleasing and sturdy. Panic Station comes in a nicely produced tin box which comes with good quality cards, wooden discs which are used as the characters and the “bugs”, and stickers to put on the discs. The artwork is very nicely done and very evocative of a dark, eerie, and frightening environment in the station where the danger lies. Well done. Those who have moaned about the darkness just don’t get it.

The players are members of the Extermination Corps and they are each represented by a Trooper and a companion Android. They have been sent to the station which has been infested by alien bugs and their job is to go in and use a flame thrower to burn out the Hive. Trouble is, they don’t have a map to plan where they need to go so they have to discover each room of the station in their search for the Hive.  On top of that, the alien bugs are popping up and they aren’t the friendly type. All pretty straightforward right? Well, the twist is, one of the players is actually the Host for the infestation and is quite keen on sharing the love. Hoo boy, talk about paranoia!  So they worry and accusations begin as some of the once friendly and united team turn on their colleagues and the humans race to find and destroy the Hive before its too late!

Now I will say up front that I was really looking forward to playing Panic Station as the theme and paranoia sounded like a lot of fun. I will also say that there have been a number of questions about the rules on Boardgamegeek and there have been mixed comments and experiences. The rules, which I read a few times before playing, aren’t the clearest but I didn’t find them too much of a problem. But even as we played, we had to clear up a couple of things, but not many. I think that perhaps the rules need to be clearer. The good news is that they are being revised even now and the designer has taken a lot of comments on board. The update should be ready soon. Those who claimed that the rules are broken are clearly off track as our experience was a very good one.

I would say that you need to play the game with the right group. This is not a game for analytical types for instance. In fact, Panic Station is probably best suited for those with RPG-type game leanings and those who like dungeon bashes as its helpful to get into the theme and it is also, as someone said on Boardgamegeek, more of a open game system, than an absolutely defined game. I’m not so sure about that. I wonder aloud whether the play testers and designer were a little too close to the game to objectively spot the gaps. What I do know is that Panic Station is a great game for those who prefer the social experience and rate theme and experience highly. Like me!

Gameplay

Turn structure

Each turn has 2 phases – the Parasite phase and the Team phase

The Parasite phase – simple – Check to see whether parasites move and attack characters in the same room.

Team phase – Each player uses their Action Points to do the following –

1- Explore – players lay down Exploration (Room) cards and search rooms

Icons identify different types of rooms –

Run – players gain an extra movement

Parasite Alert – triggered by entering certain rooms – Here come the Bugs which get placed according to a die roll!

Storage – You can find useful items – weapons, defensive items, etc.

Team search – Players can search rooms together

2- Move

3- Fire Gun – Your Android (only) can fire a gun assuming they have found Ammo cards. Troopers need to survive by cunning until they get the chance to toast the Hive with their flamethrower.

4 – Search Location – find useful items, trigger Parasite Alerts

5- Activate computer terminals to –

Perform a Heat scan to identify infected team members – using the Heat Check cards, players will learn the number of infected players, but not necessarily who they are! Nice mechanic here which gives you some information but not enough.

Open all security doors if you can access a computer terminal

Reveal Location – Hidden locations can be discovered

6- Heal in Sick Bay – players can heal wounds

7- Use Item – you will want/need to use items to help you survive

Trading – an interesting rule is that a player MUST trade an item with another player when in the same room – a good way to infect others… or gain something useful… who knows?

Yes, there are some vague areas in the rules that need more clarity, but we didn’t have much trouble with it and we worked through the few areas that caused us a bit of confusion without much difficulty. It worked pretty well and made sense. It was easy enough to play and moved along each turn at a good pace with very little down time.

The way you can play the game outside of the core rule structure is pretty open subject to the following from the rules –

Players are free to play their roles as they see fit. They must carefully watch for suspicious behavior that might indicate that a player is infected. Infected players must be subtle, gaining the trust of others and making an infection attempt at the right time.

Players are free to accuse others during the game, even if these accusations are ill-founded or outright ploys to draw attention away from the infected player, but the infected players and the Host must never actually reveal themselves, even if accused correctly.

I think that this is the crux of the game, the spirit of the game. Some may balk at it but for me, the mechanics work but its the atmosphere, the theme, the openness to bring it all to life that makes Panic Station a very cool game.

 

NOTE – Here are the v 2.0 rules- http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/72271/panic-station-rules-v2-0

Did it work for me?

As a gaming experience, I would say Panic Station is terrific fun. Yes, we had to work through to clarify some of the rules which definitely could have been more clear. So, yes, the rules need tightening up and I look forward to the revised version. There is also potential for the team to “game” things by not searching too many rooms and hope to survive with minimum defensive items to get to the Hive but that is really against the spirit of the game and playing by the spirit of the game is important to enjoy it. Having said that, I’m hoping the rules revision will make “gaming” things more obviously counterproductive. Also, I would certainly recommend including the suggested rule change of including the Host card in the initial distribution of cards so that you are guaranteed a Host is in play early enough but also not allowing the Host to start spreading the infestation until at least 2 rounds have passed. Simple.

I definitely had the right crowd playing with me and we had a great time laughing, accusing, threatening, all in a great social spirit and we had a LOT of fun. The system worked well for the most part, played fast despite a few rules niggles, which common sense agreement soon sorted out, the threats from the bugs and from other players was tense and as the remaining humans realized they didn’t know who to trust, it was all quite both tense and hilarious. Lots of shouting and laughs. The tension level is brilliant and really adds to the game as you worry whether this card swap will be the one that does you in. Again, not a game for everyone, but well suited for those who enjoy the social side and won’t take it all too seriously.

As a game design, I think it will evolve a bit and tighten up which it needs to. The earliest version of the rules, from what I have read were not broken, in my view, but surely needed clarification. The version 1.3 that I have worked pretty well. I suspect that this will be a “marmite” game with many who love it and some who just don’t like it at all. Those who claim it’s broken, certainly in the current version, make me think that they may be more fond of Euro/analysis games and maybe just aren’t comfortable with a bit of ambiguity and that’s fine. They just shouldn’t waste their time with more social games looking for something that isn’t there.

Overall, I rate Panic Station as a very good game. I do wonder if it was a bit rushed and hence the rules weren’t tight and clear enough or whether the play testing let the designer down a little.  Regardless though, the updated rules are coming which I am very pleased about but as it stands, this is still a very good game and I really like the theme, tension, mechanics, art, etc. It all worked very well for me.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10

Family friendly?

Could work with older children. Not so sure that younger 10 year olds will really get it.

For more information go to – http://www.whitegoblingames.com/

Press Release from Victory Point Games – Single player games at a single low price!

Press Release from Victory Point Games –

Single player games at a single low price!

http://victorypointgames.com/details.php?prodId=184

VPG is well known for their solitaire games, and so from the gaming tables to you, we’re rolling out the Best in Solitaire Gaming Pack! Designers Chris Taylor (Astra Titanus, Legions of Darkness, Legions of Darkness expansion #1), and Joseph Miranda (Zulus on the Ramparts!, Zulus on the Ramparts! expansion kit) bring you some of the best of our solitaire gaming line, 5 games at one low price!

Click here for all the details and to order Best in Solitaire Gaming Pack.

– Victory Point Games

Review – Stalag 17 from GenX Games

Review – Stalag 17 from GenX Games

Designer – Oscar Arevalo

Art – Sergi Marcet

Are you a fan of the The Great Escape? Well I am. I tend to watch it every time its on and in fact, with Christmas coming, I would expect to see it on UK TV as per usual. I’ve always loved that film. The greatest WW2 epic story about a prisoner camp escape with Steve McQueen as the Yank Hot-shot pilot Hilts, James Garner as the Scrounger, Richard Attenborough, etc. Love it.

Yeah and I was a fan of Hogan’s Heroes too. Sgt. Schulz, Colonel Klink. Brilliant stuff.

Remember a game called, Escape from Colditz? Loved that game.

Well, GenX Games have essentially distilled Escape from Colditz down to its bare essentials in a new card game released at Essen 2011 called Stalag 17,  card game for 2-5 players ages 10+.

The first thing I noticed is that the box if far too big for the components. After all you get a deck of 90 cards, 6 dice and 55 cardboard tokens. The art on the box is good but this all could, and should have been put into a box half the size.

The deck comes with 90 cards which depict – clothes, food, documents, tools, maps, double-object cards, Runaway (Escape) routes, barracks, and information. There are 45 Surveillance and 15 Prisoner tokens. Lastly there are 5 illustrated Object dice and 1 Runaway (Escape)  die.

The card quality is a little thin but they are very easy to shuffle and the artwork is very good and thematic. The information and icons are very clear and easy to understand. The dice are are clear in terms of the object images but they look a little smudged although I’m not certain that they are just meant to look this way. Anyway, there is no effect upon game play.

The cards have a spotlight icon with a number. This is the Surveillance value. Some cards show a “played card” icon with the Surveillance value if the card is played down rather than kept in your hand.

Runaway (Escape) route cards show a broken wire fence image. Barracks cards have a star icon.

 

 

Gameplay

Stalag 17 is very easy to play and is very much a light filler. The rules come in English and Spanish although the English translation needed a bit of work for me to fully understand. Also, the rules aren’t as clear as they could have been but they weren’t too hard to figure out.

The object of the game is to be the first player to escape 3 prisoners.

Each player starts by choosing 3 prisoner tokens from one of the prisoner nationalities.Then you shuffle the cards and place the deck face down.

There are then 3 phases in every escape attempt turn:

Jailbreak Plan Phase – Easy as rolling dice – The numeric d6 is rolled along with the correct amount of object dice according to the number of players and how many total prisoners have escaped. A matrix is provided to decide this. The dice rolled shows what object are required for the particular escape as well as the minimum number of escape route value whuch must be played for the escape to be successful.

Preparation and Jailbreak Phase – The players take turns where they have to take one of a number of choices, with the ultimate aim of collecting enough cards to play at least the minimum requirements to meet the requirements of the current escape plan dice. Note – with more prisoners escaping, more dice will be added to the next escape plan roll meaning their are more requirements to escape.

The choices are –

Draw 2 cards – of course you need cards in your hand to play

Play a card face down towards the fulfillment of your escape attempt

Discard any 1 card face up into the discard pile

Discard 3 of a kind

Discard 5 different cards

Draw 1 card each from the top of the discard and draw piles

Attempt to escape – If you are the first to have played all of the requisite cards to escape face down in front of you, you can claim your escape.

Rollcall Phase – The player who claimed the escape reveals their cards to confirm that they have met the requirements. They place one of their prisoner tokens aside as a completed escape. They also add the Surveillance value of the cards in their hand and takes this amount in Surveillance tokens. These tokens are added to their next escape attempt route roll which means with each escape, the stakes are higher and more difficult to achieve.

Also, the players who didn’t manage to escape a prisoner add up the Surveillance points and subtract 3 points for each non-escaped prisoner and take the total Surveillance tokens for the next roll. So, there is a lesser difficulty of escaping your first prisoner at least but it gets tougher UNLESS you have been smart in your discards. The key tactics of the game is in the balance in placing down your escape plan cards and discarding high Surveillance value cards. Not easy as of course the luck of the draw has an influence here.

Did it work for me?

I think that Stalag 17 is a good, solid card game. It is a light filler, plays very quickly and moves along very well. There is no player interaction which would have been nice but that would have interrupted the flow. Your focus is on the balance between how quickly you can get the right cards down and also minimize Surveillance values in your hand through discards. A nice mix. The planning dice mechanism is slick and easy. Loads of replay value here as no 2 games will play the same. Ok, there is a significant luck factor and limited tactics but this is a light, fast-playing card game so it is perfectly acceptable. Anyone complaining about the luck factor just shouldn’t bother playing card games as they clearly don’t understand them. Overall, a good game which could have used more efficient packaging and a slightly better English rules translation.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10

Family friendly?

Yes, why not. The 10+ age level appears right.

 

For more information go to – http://www.genxgames.es/

 

Press Release from Columbia Games – Shenandoah Preview, upcoming release schedule, new Columbia Games Youtube channel

Press Release from Columbia Games

 

Shenandoah Preview

Previews of the rules, map and OB’s of this upcoming game are now available

Click  here.

 

Upcoming release schedule

The GamePlan is both our release schedule and your opportunity to preorder deluxe or limited editions of new releases.

There are 5 releases scheduled in 2011 and 2012 that can now be preordered.

Shenandoah Valley Campaign
2011-11-15
K.I.S.S. 2012-02-15
Ancient Kings 2012-04-15
Last Spike 2012-06-15
Borodino 2012-09-07

Visit: http://www.columbiagames.com and click on GAMEPLAN

 

New Columbia Games Youtube channel

We have created a YOUTUBE channel featuring dozens of video reviews of Columbia Games.

Click to watch

 

Slapshot


The 2011/12 NHL Hockey Season is underway. Get Excited! Play Slapshot.

Conventions everywhere have begun hosting Slapshot tournaments… If you want to play at your local convention, contact us…

Click here to order Slapshot.

VPG Press Release – High & Tight released!

VPG Press Release – High & Tight released!

Let’s Play Ball!

http://victorypointgames.com/details.php?prodId=182

It is said that every baseball team will win one-third of its games and lose one-third of its games. Now, step onto the field and find out what it takes to win “that other one-third”!

A favorite pastime has finally found its way into the ballpark of VPG’s Sports Series. High & Tight, from designer Hermann Luttmann, is a simple, two-player game of baseball strategy for two players, utilizing teams to the fullest and going head to head in the field, anywhere from spring training to the intensity of the World Series.

Focus on how to best form your team line-up, and battle inning by inning in an effort to emerge victorious! Think you have what it takes to efficiently manage your players, maximizing their specific talents as well as utilize Strategy cards to subtly increase the odds of scoring and preventing runs? Manage your team’s assets, take advantage of the opportunities, and knock it out of the ballpark on the “field of dreams.” Step up to the plate with High & Tight … And let’s play ball!

Click here for all the details and to order High & Tight.

– Victory Point Games

There and Back again. My third one-day trip to Spiel at Essen…

There and Back again. My third one-day trip to Spiel at Essen…

Well again I was fortunate enough to go over to Essen for the DADDY of all board game conventions that is SPIEL for the third year running. Yes, I went for the day as I am close enough, just. I went with my brilliant friend Alan and this year we decided that we would fly from our local London, Gatwick airport rather than drive as we did the last 2 years.

Of course, there was a certain advantage in flying – it took about an hour from Gatwick to Dusseldorf and another 20 minutes by cab to Messe Essen. This compares well with the 6-7 hour drive each way. As a result we were able to spend a very full day this year which was very nice indeed. Another difference for us was that we went to the first day on the Thursday rather than on Saturday as in previous trips. Although the crowds were there, it was so much more comfortable with plenty of room to move around with our suitcase trolleys.

The only downside to flying, other than I don’t like flying, was that we had a luggage space and weight limit which meant that I had to be very selective in terms of the games I picked up. So I decided to choose games that might be harder to get a hold of from smaller publishers. Also, I wanted to avoid just running for the latest hotness just because of the buzz, but look for games that seemed really interesting and fun. Make no mistake, there were far to many to choose from and many more games that I wanted to get and hopefully will get myself to do reviews for all of you.

So here’s my haul…

I started out by going to the White Goblin Games stand to collect their new releases which are – Dragon’s Gold, Revolver, Panic Sation, Rattus Affricanus, Lost Temple, Singapore.  I was very interested in these as some of the most interesting of the fair. I would say that for me, White Goblin Games have really scored this year with a really nice, creative and diverse selection of games. At least on the face of it. Of course the playing will be the proof and I will get reviews posted for you. Along side of these, I picked up Sake & Samurai from Albe Pavo Stalag 17 from GenX, Rallyman Dirt from Rallyman, Venture Forth from Minion Games, Let’s Take a Hike from Stratamax, and The Resistance from Indie Boards & Cards. That pretty much filled my case. A bonus was that almost all of these came with special Essen promos cards and bits which is certainly a benefit of going on the first day. The wooden chest promo you see there was from Patrick Ruedisueli  designer of x610z: Living Card and Board Game which unfortunately wasn’t ready for Essen but should be out next month from Quantuum B.V.

The games that I wanted but didn’t have a chance to get yet but hope to include:

Eclipse, Kingdom of Solomon, Manhattan Project, Mage Knight Board game, Dungeon Fighter, Mare Balticum, Pergamemnon, X610z: Living Card and Board Game, Kairn, Space Maze, Flashpoint: Fire Rescue, and Core Worlds. Should be enough eh?

Any disappointments? Well 011 was a big one for me as I was very excited about it as it sounded so cool with its steampunk theme, even though I’m not fond of deduction games. Why? It has player elimination which I think kinda sucks. Oh well.

Bart from White Goblin Games is so typical of the enthusiasm and energy that pervades Spiel. It was so fun to be with thousands of board game enthusiasts and Bart and the other Game company owners I met were all friendly, enthusiastic, happy to answer questions and just fun to be around. I visited with a number of game companies in the limited time that I had and spoke to great people including James from Minion Games, Seth from Mayday Games, Travis from Indie Boards and Cards, and Martin Wallace from Treefrog.

The White Goblin Games stand had a good supply of new releases but Panic Station sold outwith 30 minutes of the opening of the fair. Lucky moi snagged my copy!

There were demos a plenty all over the fair. I sat in on a couple and really enjoyed the demo game of Space Maze from Wacky Works. I hope to get a copy later. Of most interest for next year is Star Wars X-Wing from Fantasy Flight Games!

There were plenty of gaming media guys there and I had great fun meeting up with Michael Fox of the Little Metal Dog show, Paco Jean of G*M*S Magazine and Richard Bliss from Game Whisperer where we had a long discussion about Michael and my game, Ace of Spies, which we hoped to promote at the fair to hopefully find a publisher. Richard is an expert on Kickstarter and gave us lots to think about.

The guys from the Spiel finally made it to Essen! My friend Alan in the back right looks like he is thinking, “nice” jackets… This photo cries out for a caption. Any suggestions?

Yep the big boys were out as expected with the curious and obvious exception of Rio Grande games. What the hey? Poor form I’d say.

Of course, the BGG crew was out in force doing the demo thing. It was a pleasure to meet Scott “Aldie” Alden in the flesh as we had recently interviewed him on the GMS Magazine podcast – here – http://www.gmsmagazine.com/page/podcasts

I thought the 2nd hand stalls were pretty disappointing really. Oh well, just means I had to buy new stuff…

Review – Potion-Making Practice from RightGames

Review – Potion-Making Practice from RightGames

Designer – Sergey Machin

Now for the 4th in a series of card based games from Rightgames, Potion-Making Practice, which is probably the most fun. A game for 2-6 players, ages 8+ (not so sure about this…), the players are attending a lesson in potion making at the Sorcery College and the student who collects the most victory points by collecting elements and creating alchemical formulas (the more complex the formula, the better) will win.

The cards are very nice and clearly illustrated and of good quality. You also get a scoring card and plastic scoring pegs. Each card has 2 parts showing an element and a formula section. You can play any card as an element or a formula, but not both.

  

Gameplay

Elements are played into a central “Desk of Elements” by all players making a communal place to pull them from in order to play Formulas. Formulas are worth a variety of victory point values that are earned when they are created. The Element(s) required to play the Formulas are indicated on the card. Some are more rare and difficult to create so, of course, worth more. The complexity starts at Simple elixirs on to various combinations required for complex elixirs, Great elixirs, powders, Talisman, a creature (yep you can create creatures), The Supreme Talisman and the Supreme Elixir.

The player turn is very simple. Draw a card and play a card.  Doesn’t get any easier. Any card except spell cards can be played as a formula or an element from your hand.

The Spell cards are essentially there to spice things up and have different effects.

– Eureka spells allow you to take a card with a formula on it from the Desk of Elements.

– Decomposition spells allow you to destroy formulas you composed earlier in the game so you can treat it as a newly composed formula and also drop components needed for a new formula. You can also use it to gain a new formula.

– Transformation spells allow you to change one formula into another.

When the deck ends, the game is over and play continues until the players use all the cards in their hand.

There isn’t really any player interaction. This is essentially a game of collecting the right combos to create more and more complex Elixirs, etc. The decision making revolves around when to go for certain combos and the luck of the draw will dictate how much control you have over these decisions. So its a light game but you do need to think about which choices you go for. Having said that, the more players you have, the less choices you will have as well as the deck will get used up and you need to go for the best choices available while you have the chance. The Spell cards are nice as they give you so “extra” options although there aren’t many of them in the deck.

The process is relatively smooth I have to say that i think that I just don’t see how the age can be 8+ for this game. I would have thought at least 10 + would be right as there are a lot of different combos and although all very visual and recognizable, I think 10+ would cope better.

Did it work for me?

This is probably my favorite of the 4 games I received from RightGames. The artwork, as with the others is very good, the process is very simple yet you do need to make choices and perhaps more risk is there if you hold out for rarer combos. I really enjoyed playing it and again, I can recommend it as a very nice filler for game groups. Easy to learn, fast playing. It all works well.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10

Family friendly?

Yes, I would recommend it as a nice family game for 10+ .

For more information go to – www.russianboardgames.com