One of the causes of my recent doldrums has been an acute lack of gaming. The combination of work keeping me tied to my desk later and later and the ever accommodating Orlando rush hour traffic has led to most of my weeknight game nights going up in smoke. There have been a few oases here and there, but for the most part, my gaming has been in a serious slump. So last night, even after wrapping up work fifteen minutes later than I wanted to, I made the trek out to my game store determined to get something under my belt. It was a pretty sparse turnout — just me and two friends — but they’re good friends and that’s better than any game. Although games did get played.
First were a few quick games of Lost in R’lyeh. It’s essentially Uno with a Lovecraftian twist; instead of boring old numbers, you’ve got all kinds of nightmare creatures and deranged humans, each with a number from 1 to 10 on their card. You have to play a number equal to or higher than the last one played, or, alternatively, you can play numberless action cards that do all kinds of fun things. And if you play multiples of the same number, they can trigger special effects as well. Like Uno, you’re trying to clear out your hand of cards, but there’s an added hurdle: you have a row of cards called your escape cards that you have to get rid of, and you can only play one at a time. During which time your opponents can try to make you draw more cards with their actions. The last twist is the neatest: it’s not who gets rid of their cards first, but who’s the last one left in the game. Yes, in the finest Elder God tradition of madness and misery, the game has a loser, not a winner. It’s a light, filler kind of game that seems a little lacking when played with just two players, but hums along just fine at higher player counts. Or maybe mumbles madly to itself rather than humming.
The main course of the evening was Tyrants of the Underdark, Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons spin on the deck-building genre. Pretty much since Dominion kicked off the deck-builder craze, designers have been trying to put different spins on it, and Tyrants is probably one of the better iterations. Each player represents one of the houses of the Underdark, the home of D&D‘s dark elves known as Drow. Imagine Legolas with a really bad sunburn and a nastier disposition and you get the idea. You’re all trying to gain control over your underground kingdom by dispatching troops to various locations, and this is done via the deck you’re building. You’ve got symbols for influence that let you recruit minions (add cards to your deck) and symbols for power that let you deploy your troops and assassinate your enemies. Those troops are how you control the various regions of the Underdark, and that’s where most of your victory points come from; each region has a point value for the player who has majority, with bonus points if you have total control. Your deck also offers victory points for the cards in it, and you can “promote” cards from your deck to your house’s Inner Circle, where they’re worth more points. Throw in some minion cards that have powerful effects like wiping out multiple enemy troops, placing spies that can prevent an opponent from gaining total control of a region, and giving you higher amounts of influence and power, and you’ve got a ton of options on how you want to build your deck. And in turn how you spread your forces out across the Underdark. Plus the game comes with four Minion decks, with each game having you shuffle two of those decks together to create the pool of available cards. So there’s a ton of variety and replayability (and an expansion coming that adds two more decks to choose from). It all adds up to an incredibly deep game where you can win just as much by shuffling cards off to your Inner Circle as you can by seizing control of regions. Right now, Tyrants is neck and neck with Clank! as my favorite deck-builder (although the two are very different in style and execution).
So the dry spell was finally broken, and it felt good. I’m going to try to make more of an effort to get out there each week, even if I end up leaving work late. Some gaming is better than no gaming at all.