Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Cops & Robbers

Recently I was wading through the morass of gaming awesomeness that is BoardGameGeek when I came across a thread by a new game designer/publisher asking for a review of their game. They would even send a review copy for free for anyone willing to play it and write about it.

Having written a few review-type-things before, I decided to give it a go and try out a proper, official review. A few PMs later and a copy was winging it's way to my door.

That game is Cops & Robbers, designed by Kieran Billings. It is a simple, fun game about stealing loot and running from the fuzz. The game consists of three different decks of cards, aptly named Cops, Robbers and Loot:

Anything else would be confusing really.
Robber cards consist of sneaky tricks, bonuses to help you escape the cops and penalty cards to screw with the other players when they make their getaway.

Some of the most important types of Robber cards are Getaway cards which represent your getaway car and all the cool modifications you've made to it to better cheese it when the cops appear.

This would totally be my car.
The object of the game, of course, is to get loot. The Loot deck contains all sorts of shiny things to steal, although occasionally you end up with nothing. Too bad it still counts against you if you come up empty handed!

Finally you have the Cop cards, which you must evade to keep your loot. Sometimes your illegal activities draw no attention at all, but each Loot card means more cops, and sometimes you can end up caught no matter how crafty you are.

Games are either played until one player reaches a certain amount of Loot, or for a fixed time period, at the end of which the player with the most Loot wins. All players start with five Robber cards and must draw/discard back to five at the start of each turn.

During a turn a player may lay low and draw two more Robber cards for more heist options, or steal stuff, netting one Robber card and one Loot card to add to the pile of stuff to stash later. During either of these actions, a player may play other cards, including adding to their getaway car.

Alternatively, a player may try to stash the Loot they have stolen so far, triggering a getaway sequence. During a getaway, the player running draws one Cop card for each Loot card stolen and must have bonuses equal to the number of cops or more to escape. This might be simple, except that other players may play penalty cards to worsen your chances. Unless you have some bonus cards or some sneaky tricks, you'll find yourself behind bars quick.

What going to jail might look like.
If you escape, your Loot cards go to your stash and are off limits for the rest of the game. Loot doesn't count for your victory total until it's stashed, so it pays to get it done quick. However, if you are caught, you lose the Loot you haven't stashed yet, your sweet ride (i.e. getaway cards) and you lose a turn while you sweat it out in jail.

I have to say, I did have a lot of fun playing Cops & Robbers. I was a little worried about writing this review because the game is definitely not like my usual fare. However, it was a nice diversion, and I do like the design of the game. There are both "gotcha!" and press-your-luck elements, meaning you are just as likely to be screwed by your opponent as by your own decisions. The rules are simple and straight forward, and the game would be very good for playing with family, other non-hardcore gamers or as a light filler during game nights.

Being a preliminary copy, it has a couple of rough edges I would like to see worked up before its final release. The rules are simple, but the rulebook could be a little clearer in places. The Robber cards lack art right now, but Kieran promises that they will have more of the same great art (which is nearly finished).

In closing, I recommend giving Cops & Robbers a chance. Not only will you be getting a fun game, but you will be helping out a new game designer, which I think we can all agree is great for the hobby as a whole. The game isn't commercially available yet, but the Kickstarter campaign opens up April 20th and will continue until May 18th. Toss a few bucks at it and get a fun game! And in the meantime, check out the Devious Games blog for rules and updates!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tabletop Day 2014 Mini-Report

I never remember when Tabletop Day is. I always miss it or find out it is coming up too late to plan anything fun. It would seem like an day I would be counting down to all year but somehow it always eludes me.

It is like the Saola of dates.
This year was no exception.

However, I did vow that after I got out of work and had dinner, I would devote the rest of my evening until midnight to gaming. Being that I found out short notice and I am filled with unmitigated hermit-ness, this was going to be a solo gaming experience. I'm fairly used to this situation, so I was well prepared.

I started with a game of Song of Blades and Heroes. While not a solo game per se, it is well suited to solo play since you never know when a turn will end. My dungeon adventurers went up against a combined force of dark elves, lizardmen and goblins. The adventurers lost half their numbers but ultimately prevailed. I did learn that lizardmen make excellent heavy hitters, especially with loads of goblins to hold down their target while they do the hitting. However, there is very little that can stop a combat 5 dwarf fighter once it makes contact, especially with a wizard giving magical support from the edge of a wood. My favorite part of the game came when the dark elf priestess and the templar came face to face in a battle of holy wrath.

The priestess retreated shortly thereafter, being combat 1.
After that, I went with The Lord of the Rings LCG. I chose the Flies and Spiders adventure from The Hobbit: On The Doorstep, as I hadn't played it before and it looked like a good challenge for my Leadership/Spirit dwarf deck. As uisual, I went with Easy Mode, because I like having a chance to win once in a while without devoting every second of my life to the game. It is an interesting scenario to play single deck solo, and actually a little easier because you don't have to manage two staging areas in the late game.

That said, I got mercilessly murdered by spiders on my first play through. Even though I began the game with Gandalf, my hand was otherwise pretty bad and I rushed the first couple stages. When I hit the Spider Glade, I found myself with too few allies to deal with the pile of spiders that came at me. Game Two was different, though. I started not only with Gandalf again but an Unexpected Courage on Dain to keep him ready. I slowed down a bit and had plenty of support in the late game.

The field two turns before winning the scenario.
Finally, as the night was drawing to the close, I decided to play something a little less brain-burning to wind down. I chose Castle Panic, which is one of my fave solo time-fillers.

The Goblin King brings a few friends to the board early on.
I won this game fairly easily due to a good series of hands. It was a fun game though and ended just 2 minutes before midnight! I managed to get all my games in before Tabletop Day ended!

So, that was my Tabletop Day celebration. It wasn't much, but it was a good excuse to get a few solid hours of gaming in and make use of the old underground lair for some me time. Maybe next year I can remember when it's coming up and plan some non-hermit activities.

I wouldn't count on it.
Here's hoping your Tabletop Day was more exciting than mine. Happy gaming!