It’s Friday! Which means another entry in our weekly series of articles wherein we share what we’ve been playing with you.
This week’s entry is an unusual mixture of the cute, the terrifying, the awe-inspiring and the disgusting. Whilst Maddie has been exploring the dark world of tabletop roleplaying game Symbaroum, Matt’s been delighting in the adorableness of tile-laying board game Calico, Wheels has been checking out the upcoming revised version of Cyclades and I’ve been wading through sewers in Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion.
If there’s anything you’ve been playing on the table-top recently - or something you’re planning to play this weekend - that you’d like to share with us and your fellow readers, be sure to comment below or tweet at us @joindicebreaker on Twitter.
What We’ve Been Playing - July 6th 2023
I played a session zero for Symbaroum on Monday. It’s a dark fantasy RPG about surviving on the edge of a deep dark forest. So far, we’ve explored some of the game’s lore and created characters.
I originally started making one of the Hunter archetypes that is basically like a ranger from Dungeons & Dragons 5E, but I quickly realised they didn’t have any magic and as a die-hard spell caster I couldn’t commit to that. Instead I switched to a Mystic and chose the Theurg, someone who draws power from their religion and belief. I created an arrogant priestess who had a dark bloodline which gave her a monstrous edge.
In Symbaroum there’s always some corruption from the magic and monsters that lurk in the world. In fact every time someone uses magic they’re fighting against becoming corrupted themselves. It’s an interesting system that I’m excited to play, and a world I’m intrigued to learn more about. Plus it’s always fun to be indulgent and actually have a chance to make a silly, edgy character.
ICYMI, I quite like cats. At the moment, there’s four in my house, but that number’s been up to eight or nine at most. (My wife and I foster for the local shelter, only two are “ours”.) The point of this is that if a board game’s got a cute cat on the box, you can bet your adorable whiskers I’ll want to give it a go. Yes, I’m that much of a sucker. It’s cats, what can I say?
Calico has been a bit of a gap on my cat-related board game map for a while now, despite scooping some attention - not to mention accolades - when it released a few years back. This week, I finally managed to give it a go, loading up its recent digital adaptation - Quilts & Cats of Calico - on PC as a breather.
Quilts & Cats is fairly faithful to the board game, as players take it in turns to patch together their quilt from tiles of different patterns and colours, hoping to appease the cats ready to snuggle up on the finished blanket - as long as you form the right combination of shape, pattern and colours, of course.
The gameplay’s as light as the theme, but there’s a good bit to think about as you start to place down your tiles, trying to also take into account the scoring tiles on your board - which reward you for forming sets of matching colours, patterns, or both around them.
In a sweet touch, each of the cat scoring objectives represents a specific preference - Millie likes matching patterns, while Leo and Rumi insist on a straight line of like patches - and are named after real-life kitties who get a bit of biography in the game’s rulebook.
From my fairly brief time with Calico so far, the cats are cute, the game looks great and the puzzley tile-placement at its core seems well struck between the brain-busting spatial efficiency of something like Patchwork (or your Uwe Rosenberg polyomino game of choice) and the breezy simplicity you’d expect from its chill theme. It might not be the next chess but, honestly, there seems very little to dislike here.
Cyclades: Legendary Edition
I sat down with Meehan and Liv on Thursday to crack out a prototype copy of the new edition of my favourite game! Cyclades: Legendary Edition is kickstarting now and it promises to remaster and tweak my most beloved board game. Needless to say, my expectations are high!
It was a little tricky trying to decipher the rules as I’m so familiar with the original, my brain always telling me how something works before I’ve actually read the new ruling. But once we got playing and sinking our teeth into the new edition, I could see that old beloved game still shining underneath. I’m not 100% convinced just yet, but consider me excited for the final product when it hits shelves and I inevitably crack open a copy!
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
My Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion group and I continue to make headway in our campaign of the dungeon-crawler board game as we hit the halfway point. Our most recent session saw us choosing between two potential scenarios, each one taking place in a different sewer within the city of Gloomhaven.
The scenario we chose saw our characters wading through sewage in order to reach the lever we needed to pull in order to open-up the way back to the surface. However, a wall of giant vipers, sludges and vermlings stood in our way. Time was very much of the essence in this particular scenario, as any character becoming exhausted spelt immediate defeat. Whilst we’ve been good at avoiding taking too much damage up to this point, we have had several scenarios wherein at least one of us has become exhausted due to running out of cards.
Whilst the enemies we faced weren’t too much of a threat - neither the giant vipers nor the vermlings had much health, whilst the sludges were slow - the potential that we’d run out of stamina certainly was. Therefore, our strategy focused on clearing a path through the enemies as quickly as we possibly could.
At first, this was very simple considering how weak most of the enemies were, with our group quickly ploughing through those found in the first room. However, things started heating up as we passed through the second room, into the third and back into the central room. Once one of our players pulled the level, the central room saw an influx of more giant vipers and a gush of water pouring through - causing everyone in the room, both character and enemy, to be pushed a square down every single turn. Considering that our goal was to reach the very top of the room, this definitely made things difficult.
Our hurry to reach the lever quickly came to bite us in the ass as the sludges we had originally ignored in the central room soon began to pose a serious threat. Some of the characters in our party are better at moving faster and further than others, with my character and another of our team struggling to make headway against the tide. Eventually, the combination of the water and the sludges - who had the ability to deal damage regardless of distance - became too much and we suffered our first loss in the entire campaign.
It was pretty impressive that we’d managed to make it to about halfway through the campaign before losing a scenario, considering my experiences with standard Gloomhaven: which is definitely more challenging than the beginner-friendly Jaws of the Lion. Even so, it is a natural part of the Gloomhaven process to lose, as it enables players to reconsider their strategies, learn what they can improve and use any experience and/or money obtained to better the chances for the next time round.
As we were able to choose from two different scenarios, we’re considering giving the alternative sewer a go the next time we open the box.