It’s FriD&D! The new Dungeons & Dragons movie is finally hitting cinema screens (see what our own Alex Meehan thought in her Honor Among Thieves review here), marking the first big-screen return for the veteran fantasy RPG in two decades (!!!)
It’s not all about Dungeons & Dragons this week, though. Our weekly featuring rounding up everything we’ve been playing is back to talk about our time with the new Pokémon card game set - also out today! - superhero RPG Masks and the upcoming board game inspired by Breath of the Wild and Shadow of the Colossus, Leviathan Wilds.
Read on to find out what we thought about the board games, RPGs and other tabletop games we’ve been playing this week. As always, some of the games below might be familiar from other coverage on the website and YouTube channel, while others might be things we’re highlighting for the first time.
It’s not just about us, either! We love hearing about the games you’ve been enjoying (or less so), so tell us about your latest FLGS find, Kickstarter pledge, tabletop gem or rediscovery of an old favourite. If you catch the D&D film, we’d love to hear what you think about that, too!
Let us know in the comments what you’ve been playing recently!
What We’ve Been Playing - March 31st 2023
I was extremely impressed by Leviathan Wilds when I first played it last year, so I was excited to revisit its latest incarnation ahead of an upcoming Kickstarter relaunch in May.
Inspired by the careful stamina-management climbing of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and, most keenly, PS2 masterpiece Shadow of the Colossus, Leviathan Wilds sees the players clamber up the side of a hulking creature in order to smash the corrupting crystals that stick out from its gargantuan body. While your intentions are kind, the creature will attempt to throw you off by targeting you with attacks between each turn.
Leviathan Wilds excels at capturing the exhilarating yet tense feel of climbing in Breath of the Wild and Shadow of the Colossus, as players manage their small deck of cards - representing their remaining grip - to gain action points used for basic moves each turn or discard cards for more advanced specific effects. Empty your deck and you’ll start to fall down the gridded board until you’re able to grasp onto a ledge and recover.
The game’s simple yet effective simulation of gravity is one of its many high points, working against players if they’re too bold with stretching their stamina, or in their favour once you settle into the satisfying loop of Leviathan Wilds’ gameplay. Climbing upwards can be slow, costly progress, but using the characters’ ability to glide down in an arc - a direct homage to Breath of the Wild’s glider - or voluntarily let go, strategically falling onto a lower ledge or spending cards to stop your descent and reach a crystal quickly. In short, it feels fantastic and worthy of its influences - a masterful blend of action efficiency and fluid movement at the crosspoint of board game strategy and video game ‘feel’.
Several of the game’s creators at Moon Crab Games previously worked on the Pandemic series, and it shows; like Pandemic, Leviathan Wilds finds its gripping (pun intended) loop in considering how best to use the small, simple set of actions available to you on each turn to reach a location (here, crystals) and progress towards victory (by striking their dice-tracked health down to zero).
The game also looks gorgeous, using a ringbound book - containing 15 different creatures, in both vertical and horizontal layouts - as its central board. Players combine unique deck-halves for each character (they also come with a distinct ability) and class, such as the nimble Free Climber and healing Mender, into a single deck for a customised loadout during each game.
My time with Leviathan Wilds so far has me excited to play more, and take on its more imposing beasties. One to watch, for certain.
Pokémon Trading Card Game: Scarlet & Violet expansion
Today marks the release of the latest expansion for the Pokémon Trading Card Game - Scarlet & Violet. Featuring Pokémon from last year’s Pokémon Scarlet & Violet video games for the first time, the expansion introduces a large collection of new cards and a handful of revitalised gameplay mechanics.
Easily the expansion’s biggest draw are its Paldean Pokémon cards, featuring Pokémon from the region the Scarlet & Violet video games take place in. The set contains a selection of both fan-favourites - such as Lechonk, Sprigatito, Fuecoco, Quaxley, Fidough and Wiglett - and some more obscure picks like Revaroom and Mabosstiff. On top of the new Pokémon, the Scarlet & Violet expansion adds a selection of supporter and item cards to the trading card game, many of which are based on characters found in Pokémon Scarlet & Violet - such as Professors Sada and Turo.
Besides the new Paldean Pokémon, Scarlet & Violet contains some cards based on older Pokémon - like Slowpoke and Chancey - given fresh abilities and looks, alongside the re-introduction of Pokémon ex cards, which provide players with more powerful versions of evolutionary and basic Pokémon. Pokémon ex Tera cards are an entirely new addition to the game, with Arcanine Pokémon ex Tera and Gyarados Pokémon ex Tera giving players a powerful set of cards that cannot be hit by damage whilst placed on the bench.
I was able to play a demo of the newly released Scarlet & Violet expansion earlier this week using a collection of pre-built decks. Whilst I lost all three games, it was enjoyable to witness the new Pokémon at work and see how they functioned in tandem with each other. The running theme of the Pokémon TCG Scarlet & Violet expansion are abilities and energy manipulation, with many of the new cards providing players with a variety of ways to obtain, move and use energy cards.
Usually, energy serves the basic function of enabling Pokémon to use their moves and attacks. In the Scarlet & Violet expansion, energy becomes this versatile resource that can be moved and stored between Pokémon and the discard pile, before being fully utilised to unleash a devastating attack. One example of this is Tatsugiri’s Mise en Place move, which enables players to search for energy in their decks and place it on a Pokémon, being combined with Dondozo’s energy-costly attack that increases damage for every Tatsugiri in the discard pile.
Whilst the Pokémon TCG Scarlet & Violet expansion doesn’t add anything particularly revolutionary to the game, it does feature Paldean Pokémon for the first time and gives players some fun new gameplay strategies to implement into their decks.
Masks: A New Generation
We’re getting close to the end of our short campaign of Masks, the RPG about being teen superheroes, and I’m still really loving the system.
One of my favourite rules I’ve come to find is at the end of a session the GM asks each of us if we felt like we grew closer to the team, grew away from the team or grew into our own image of ourselves. It really helps me reflect on how my character felt about everything long term rather than reacting to stuff in the moment.
A highlight was also getting to use one of my playbook moves last night after struggling to work them into the story previously. We snuck into a storage facility of S.P.I.D.E.R - our version of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D - and uncovered intel on an old villain which was really fun.
My playbook is The Scion where this move came from, but another thing I’ve really enjoyed is the fact you can pick moves from other playbooks when you level up. A lot of the moves on my sheet don’t actually feel relevant to the character I ended up making, but being able to grab one from another means playbooks end up being pretty flexible and allow you to create who you want to be rather than fitting them into the confines of the sheet.
I’m sad to see our Masks campaign come to an end and can definitely see myself playing again in the future!