Gloomhaven: The Spellweaver

I’ve talked about the basics of Gloomhaven, but I want to go a little more into my class and how to play the Spellweaver, or at least how I go about it.

As the name would suggest this character is a magic slinger – usually found behind the tank, sending out ranged and area-of-effect attacks while avoiding getting squished.

The real USP of the character is that they are the only class (so far anyway…) that can recover their cards once they’ve been Lost.

As these are the cards with the most fun effects and the most XP, this has made the Spellweaver very fun to play.

How to play the Spellweaver in Gloomhaven

If you are thinking of taking the character in your own game, here is my advice garnered from 20 or so games with her.

  • Manipulate the elements: Add elements to cards. Get a mana potion. Get your team mates to get one too – you don’t need to create an element to use it.
element system in gloomhaven

Certain effects create elements that cards then use up – they are vital to making the Spellweaver effective.

  • Think ahead: This class works best if you think several turns ahead to set yourself up with the right elements and buffs. Think about what the board might look like in a few rounds, and plan around it.
  • Pay attention to your team mates movements: The Spellweaver is VERY squishy. Make sure you know where your teammates plan on going so they get attacked, while you hide behind them.

The Spellweaver in her usual position – cowering behind the Brute.

  • Get something with pierce: The Spellweaver is mostly about low damage, but lots of it. This means that Shields – which discount the first few points of an attack – can be a massive pain in the arse. So I got a Piercing Bow that bypasses shields. It’s one use per game but it counts on ALL enemies targeted by an attack action. Time it right and you can take out three or four shielded nasties at once.
  • Invisibility is your friend: Grab the cloak of invisibility. That way you can jump right into the action, unleash hell, and then disappear to leave the enemy wondering why their liver is now char-grilled on the floor.
  • Running away is also your friend: The Spellweaver doesn’t have a lot of movement, so a pair of boots that help you run far and run fast is a must.
  • Use your Lost cards: The character can get them back so don’t be afraid of running down the clock by using them early. If you can make an epic attack on turn one, do it. It’ll make life easier. That said…
  • Don’t always use Lost cards: If you use two Lost cards every turn, the game isn’t going to last very long. I have a good mixture of reusable cards to play while setting up for a big attack.
  • Try to use Lost cards twice: Especially in your first few games. The faster you level, the faster you get to the fun high-level cards.
spellweaver solo mission

Each character has a solo mission. I attempted The Spellweavers one and died many, many times… she is not a character that does well on her own.

At first, the Spellweaver can play a bit boring as you have to stay out the way, only plinking off the odd hit point.

But now, I’m level 7. There’s nothing like the feeling that comes from setting up the perfect attack and taking out half a dozen enemies in a wave of burning/freezing/brilliant death.

I AM THE SPELLWEAVER! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!

Review: Blindscape

I recently played Blindscape, a free mobile ‘game’, though it is far more accurately described on its title page as ‘an interactive audio story’.

The quirk of this game is that the screen is completely blank.

Instead, a blind narrator tells you his story as he tries to escape the confines of his apartment.

You have to tap randomly about on the black screen to find and open doors then navigate around by sound (you’ll need earphones).

It was a really interesting way to use the format without feeling gimmicky as it helped you to get into the mind set of someone who couldn’t see, and forcing you to wear headphones shut out the world allowing you to be fully immersed in the narrative.

My only real complaint was that it was only 10 minutes long and left me wanting to know more about this world.

That said, I think the format might have dragged if it had lasted much longer, and the reason I decided to play it in the first place was because of its brevity.

I’m really interested in seeing how new media can be used to tell stories in a much more interactive way – Blindscape really showed that sometimes the best way to do that is to tear away all the bells and whistles and let the story do the talking.

When will we get a decent choose your own adventure videogame?

I spend a lot of time playing video games.

I also spend a lot of time reading and writing stories.

When I decide what game I want to play, it’s not which one has the best graphics, the most innovative gameplay or offers the biggest test of my skill that grabs my attention.

It’s which one can tell me the best story.

Because of that I’ve been really interested in looking at how games can help us tell stories, as the format uniquely puts the player directly in the driving seat of the character, making all of the decisions.

For years, we’ve been promised games where you can truly chose your own adventure, where you can play in fantastically realised worlds that is changed by your actions.

In my opinion, most games to date have failed at this.

Yes, you can make changes but they are usually superficial, or confined to the final few per cent of the game – do you get the happy ending, or the sad?; are you paragon or renegade?; do you get the werewolf powers or the vampire powers?

Going down one path might unlock a certain set of scenes or dialogue choices compared to another, but you essentially travel the same path and end up in the same place.

I can understand why: making a game is expensive and you don’t want to waste time recording dialogue and creating environments if half your audience is going to miss them.

To get around this script writers create ‘story vines’, where small branches come off the main trunk of the story but they always come back to that main drive to the end.

All of my favourite video games have a strong storytelling element, though none have managed a true ‘choose your own adventure’.

Some writers have tried to give a sense of true choice by going for open world games.

Supposedly, these allow you to tell the story you want to tell, but they still suffer from the same issue in that, yes, you can do the quests in any order, but once you start one you’re pretty much set to run on the rails of the game.

I also find that in most open world games, your actions can’t have too much of an effect on the world at large, because you risk breaking the narrative for quests later on (I found that Skyrim was a particularly bad offender in this regard).

It leaves this particular player feeling a little cheated – if my quests don’t change anything, what am I even doing them for?

The closest I have seen to a game with a true story tree, where your decisions branch off leading you towards a completely different path, are visual novels.

But while these games are rich in narrative, they are usually little more than glorified text adventure games with no voice acting and simple anime style graphics.

However, it does show that it’s possible to create a real choose your own adventure, but now if we could just join that together with decent graphics, we’d be laughing.

People have tried, most notably in the Telltale Games series, but all the ones I’ve tried have only ended up annoying me as no matter what you chose the outcome is usually the same.

(Which really irritates me. There’s more than one occasion where your Big Decision has zero effect on the game.)

One game that looks like it might succeed in marrying up high quality graphics etc and true choice story telling is Detroit: Become Human, which is due out this year, so here’s to hoping.

Then again, maybe I’m asking too much from my games because, as an old friend once told me:

“Playing games for the plot is like watching porn for the plot – there is one, but that’s not really the point, is it?”

This post was inspired by listening to Writing Excuses Season 12, Episode 21: Narrative Bumper Pool.

Gloomhaven: The Basics

The box weighs 9.8kg. I make the others lift it.

I’m one of the lucky people who have managed to get their hands on a copy of one of the hottest boardgames of the moment: Gloomhaven.

As I’m around dozen games in I thought it was probably time I started talking about it here.

But before I get into my thoughts: What even is Gloomhaven?

Gloomhaven is essentially a miniatures wargame with legacy elements that comes in a literally massive box.

Every game you set up a scenario using a set of hex boards, then move around miniatures representing your characters as you explore and eliminate enemies.

From the end of our last session

Every round you play two cards, doing to top action of one (usually an attack) and the bottom action of the other (usually a movement).

Overtime, these cards become Lost which controls how long the game goes on for as well as forcing you to make a lot of complex strategic decisions.

You chose which cards you are going to play each round in secret, though you can talk about what sort of thing you are going to do.

(Some wise soul has made it a rule that you are not allowed to discuss specifics at this stage, which stops the game from completely seizing up with analysis paralysis.)

What cards you have depends on what character you are.

The unused cards and miniatures are currently still sealed away…

You start the game with six characters to choose from, but there are 17 in total and the rulebook assures me that over the course of the game the other 11 will become available.

Most missions you go on are part of an overarching story.

As you complete them new locations are revealed and you have to make choices about where you want to go and who you want to support.

Your characters gain XP over over time, which lets them level up to gain access to new cards (though how many you take on missions is always fixed), and you all have a private quest that you need to complete in order to let your character retire.

Each of these characters has a class and a race.

With the exception of humans all of the races and classes are unique to Gloomhaven, which is a nice touch, though some of them might look quite familiar to the veteran role player.

The initial six you have are the Brute, the Cragheart (both tanks), the Spellweaver (elemental magic), the Mindthief (status magic), the Scoundrel (rogue) and the Tinkerer (who I haven’t played a game with, so I’m not really sure what they’re like).

So, that’s the game in a nutshell.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the last 13 games, and I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of it so I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next!

Why do board game boxes suck?

Why do so many games have such shockingly bad box designs?

You can’t get away with having an ugly looking game anymore (unless you’re trying to look purposely cheap) but a box design that results in a bunch of game pieces in your lap every time you open it? That’s just dandy.

Even when a box has a plastic insert meant to keep all the pieces in check, these often fail the second that it’s turned on its side, which is a rather large failure in my opinion, seeing as most people store their games this way. I certainly do.

I have yet to open the Splendor game box without being assaulted by a rain of plastic discs!

Our copy of Steam Planet is, for some reason, over a meter long. Why?!

They appear to have remedied this in a recent reissue, but who ever thought that would be a good idea in the first place?

It doesn’t have to be this way, you know.

There are good games out there.

I played Century: Spice Road the other day, and the box for that is brilliant – it has a plastic insert that actually, shock horror, holds all the pieces in place.

I was always impressed by how well Dominion, a game with twenty seven million cards all stored in one box, manages to keep everything where it’s supposed to be even after I’ve put it sideways on a shelf.

Is it really that hard to make a box that does its job and keep everything in its place?

Speaking as someone who has never had to design anything in their life, I think I can say with the utmost authority that it isn’t.

BoardGameGeek and statistics

About a year ago, in an effort to guilt trip myself into reading more, I started logging and reviewing my books on Goodreads.

It really worked! And this was in no small part due to the fact I now had stats on books I was reading (I love me some stats).

Now, one of my friends, V, does the same thing for all of her board game plays on the BoardGameGeek app, and I realised I could do the same for my board games, which lead to one of my board gaming resolutions to be ‘logging my games on BoardGameGeek’.

BoardGameGeek WebpageOne of the things I really like so far is that it gives you an h-index of your games.
For those that don’t know, an h-index shows states that you have played h number of games h number of times.

Since logging, I have played one game three times and two games twice, giving me an h-index of 2.

Once I’ve played three games three times, it will go up to 3 and so on.

The h-index started life as a measure of how ‘good’ academics were based on their number of papers vs number of times they’ve been cited.

In academia, the h-index has been widely criticised as basically just being a gauge of how long a researcher has been publishing papers, rather than a real estimate of quality and it got me wondering how beneficial a boarding gaming h-index would be.

I am slightly worried that I will start playing my favourite games over and over to up my h-index, rather than trying out new things, hence the reason I added the resolution to play at least one new game a month.

My hope is that I will make me start playing those games I quite like, but don’t play as much as my core games, in an effort to get into the double digits.

board game collectionThe app also lets you log who you play with, giving you the corresponding h-index.
While I was again worried that this would end up with me playing with my core group of gamers, it does help solve an issue I have when playing with new people: getting people’s names.

I go to a weekly board gaming group which always has someone new, but I am terrible at asking for, and then remembering, names – there are people I have played games with half a dozen times, but I have no idea what their names are.

The app not only gives a reason to ask for a name, but the act of physically writing it helps me remember.

I’m going to keep logging, and try seeing if it does change my gaming habits as much as Goodreads changed my reading habits. I’ll report back here with my findings.

Boardgame resolutions – 2018

  • Write on this blog more about my games and keep on Instagramming them.
  • Log my games on BoardGameGeek
  • Get a game h-index of at least 10 (play 10 game, 10 times – got two legacy games on the go which should help with this one)
  • Get a player h-index of 10 (I have a large group of people I regularly game with so this should be relatively easy)
  • Play at least one new game every month (already completed this one for Jan!)
  • Play at least six games that take the best part of a day (I usually get a few of these in, but six might require a bit of effort on my part)
  • Keep gaming and keep having fun!

New games!

This weekend I had a bunch of people around who brought with them a whoooooole bunch of new games, several of which go up to six players! So here’s a short run-down of what I played, and what I thought of them.

Betrayal of Balder’s Gate:  Betrayal at House on the Hill, but with a D&D theme. There are a couple of rule changes — you can attack mid move, the haunt can’t come out before the third omen — that all help to keep the game moving. Being based on a role play game, the story telling elements were all on point and the inn jokes (I’m so punny) made me smile. Unfortunately, both times we played there was no individual betrayer, which kind of took out half the fun.

Subterra: Forbidden Island extreme. With monsters. My friend had the SuperDuperDelux edition which is very pretty, but I did find it rather hard to see the tiles as they were so dark (which might be half the point. You are supposed to be in a dark cave). We died the first time, then played with the Investigation expansion the second time which seemed much easier. It was fun, but it didn’t seem very different from similar games, so I kind of felt I’d played the game before.

Ticket to Ride, Old WestFinally! A proper six player Ticket map! This is the flip-side of the new France expansion. The new rules require you to put down Towns and you have to build out from those — so everything has to be connected. No more suddenly going on the other side of the board to grow your ever expanding train empire. Also, if you build a route to another person’s town they get the points, not you. Interesting take on the game and the rules really change things up. I just wish I’d realised how important putting down more Towns was. I did not do well…

First MartiansYou are astronauts on a Martian colony. You have to keep it running, complete missions and survive events which are thrown at you by an app. It’s a great mix of good mechanics and strong storytelling. Unfortunately, it has the WORST rule book I have read in a long time, and we were constantly FAQing everything. I was also a bit annoyed that you HAVE to have an app for the events when a deck of cards could also do the job for those without a smartphone (yes, those people do exist). Having got to grips with it however, I would love to keep playing especially as it has a campaign mode and I love me some of that!

Every game is better with a traitor mechanic

I have a friend who maintains that every game — EVERY game — would be improved with the addition of a traitor mechanic if only we could work out how to implement it.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Pandemic: You win if the others lose. Hands are played closed and no one is allowed to say what cards they have explicitly. Convincing your ‘team’ you can’t help and persuading them to make bad choices is how you win.

Flash Point Fire Rescue: You set the fire. You win if the others loose BUT all deaths, including yours, are permanent. If you are in the building when it collapses, you lose. If you get caught in a fire, you lose. The main team only need to find five civilians to win.

Ticket to Ride: There’s a chance that one of the initial tickets is a traitor card. Instead of getting points in the usual way, you get the points of all the tickets your opponents failed to complete.

7 Wonders: Less of a traitor mechanic, more of a being-an-arse mechanic (most of them are from this point to be honest). Your wonder is all about making other people lose points and there are extra black city cards in the deck to help you.

Terraforming Mars: You get your own special deck with all the attack cards in. You win if after a set number of generations (depending on the number of players) Mars has not been terraformed.

Settlers of Catan: You are the robber. You ALWAYS control where the robber moves and automatically roll a seven on your turn. Instead of building settlements and cities, you steal other people’s. It takes eight points to win.

If you can think of any games to traitor-ise, drop me a note in the comments below.

How to win at competitive boardgames

Be polite.

Play quietly.

Don’t openly discuss your plans.

Build up your base.

Let the other players get into a feud.

Ensure no resource track is being left behind.

Act as though you are not really paying attention.

Watch everything.

Subtly remind opponents of all the slights they have made against each other.

Remember to keep track of everyone’s points.

Watch as your foes enter into a war of mutual annihilation.

Capitalise on their weakness.

Crush them.

Surge to victory.

Rejoice.

Bathe in their tears.