SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

Image and Form Games has been producing PC and Console games for about a decade now, with their SteamWorld series being loosely related but also standalone. What you can come to expect from a SteamWorld game is that there will be robots of various sizes and shapes doing a variety of things. If we go back to the first game released, SteamWorld Dig, we’ll get a western-themed Metroidvania that was fun to play but ultimately fell a little short for me. I enjoy that style of game, but it was packed in with a Humble Bundle and I didn’t give it the time it deserved, I also got bored along the way. Fast forward a couple of years to SteamWorld Heist, and I was on board. Rather than being an action platformer like its predecessor, we got a turn-based strategy game. Instead of western feeling, it was sci-fi in space. It was a lot of fun and I played it through its end on PS4. Later, SteamWorld Dig 2 would release, but I already knew I probably wasn’t going to be into it, being a direct sequel to the original. Finally, we come to the latest game in the series, SteamWorld Quest. It was released last year, but I only got around to getting a copy during the holiday sales. It’s still the same SteamWorld we know and love, with plenty of robots and a hand-drawn art style. However, we go back in time to the middle-ages in this romp.

As the story goes, some bad things happened and yadda yadda. If you’ve ever played a video game you can extrapolate from that. You’ll take control of Armilly, a fighter robot that wants nothing more than to be part of “The Guild.” Along your path to trying to get involved with the guild, you’ll meet various characters and some will of course join your party. The story is told via the cutscenes above along with in-game dialogue. Hopefully you’re good with subtitles, because you don’t speak whatever tongue of robot that is actually audible during these cutscenes. Part of the time you’ll be wandering around various landscapes until you happen upon enemy robots, at which time you’ll enter the battle screen, which is where the majority of actual gameplay is.

What makes combat unique in SteamWorld Quest, is that it uses a combination of card game deckbuilding along with turn-based RPG mechanics. Each character on your squad comes equipped with a deck of cards. There are three types of cards, those that do something supportive, those that are basic attacks, and unique skills that cost special action points. The former two types of cards will also provide you with said action points, while the latter consumes them. Each turn, you can play three cards from your hand before passing. The enemies will play one or more cards each turn as well, and then the actions will take place. Cards from all of your characters decks are shuffled together so you’ll have to pick and choose what is right for each situation. So for example, if you have a card in hand that requires two action points, and two other cards that will produce those action points, you can play the two cards first netting two action points, and then spend those points with the third card. When you get further along you can also create chains by playing three cards from the same character, and a bonus action will occur. In the case of Armilly, you’ll get another strike that also heals you.

As you gain experience you’ll level up, providing more base stats like health and attack power. You’ll come across new comrades to join your party, and assume more will pop up over time, as some dialogue has implied that it could happen but I haven’t looked this up due to spoilers. I have only made it a few chapters in but I have enjoyed what I’ve seen and it’s a nice combination of genres that I find engrossing. Overall I’d say the game is worth it’s normal asking price but even better on sale. That’s just me though, you might not have qualms at paying full price for games. I would recommend picking it up if you’re a fan of the SteamWorld series, are into unique RPGs, or just want something new to try out.

Thoughts on The Exploding Kittens Expansions

If you aren’t familiar with The Oatmeal, you should correct that. His webcomics have been great and going strong for nearly a decade. I’ve followed him on social media for years, and I’ve always enjoyed his wit, sense of humor and intelligent discussion throughout. I remember hearing about a Kickstarter for some game that he was creating a few years back, but didn’t look into it further until more recently.

My girlfriend and I spent some time last year playing various board and card games with our son and it has become a fairly regular event in our house. After playing the games Oregon Trail, Boss Monster, and the Super Mario Card Game (as mentioned in the previously linked article) we looked into other family oriented games we could play with him that would also keep us adults engaged. Exploding Kittens was on my radar, and at some point he brought it up too. So we picked up a copy of the base game for him around Christmas time last year and played on a few occassions. It’s fun, and funny to boot. The game is played with cards, and is essentially Russian Roulette but with exploding cats instead of bullets. All of the cards feature art and jokes from The Oatmeal, along with having some ridiculous designs. The base game includes a deck and instructions, and it’s pretty easy to jump into. You’ll get a hand of cards and some special ones that allow you to defuse exploding kittens. Each turn you can pass and then draw a card, or play as many cards from your hand as you want. It seems holding onto some cards is a better idea than immediately dumping your hand, but in some cases you’ll need pairs of cards to have any moves. You’ll do things like peek at the top few cards of the library or shuffle it, attack other players (forcing them to take extra turns), or steal cards from them. It has just enough variety to not get boring too quickly but it is fairly simple and limited. We had some fun with it but it was clear that we were going to move on sooner than later until we discovered that there were expansion packs for the game!

Our son’s birthday just passed a couple of weeks ago, and we picked up the two existing expansions for the game for him. Imploding Kittens added a handful of new cards that shuffle right into the deck, and this means some new mechanics were introduced into the game. As a bonus, there is a pack-in “Cone of Shame” that is a hilarious addition. You know when you take your pet to the vet and they have something done and they have to wear those cones around their neck so they can’t lick their wounds? Well, this is the human version of that, and I laughed my ass off when my girlfriend had to wear it. Basically, if you forget the turn direction (they did add a reverse card, and just like in Uno, it can confuse people) you get to wear the cone of shame. The big addition was the imploding kitten itself, which is resistant to defuse cards, but it doesn’t kill the first player to draw it — instead they get to put it face up into the library as they see fit.

Streaking Kittens is the secondary expansion, and its big addition is the “Streaking Kitten” which allows you to hold an exploding kitten in your hand as long as you also keep the other card, but if it gets stolen you’ll still go boom! There are some additional cards that I can’t recall off the top of my head but it adds a bunch more variety and makes the game feel more complete. If you’re into card games and like explosions, I’d recommend these! I’m pretty sure you can get them all for under $40, so it’s a good value for up to 5 players.

Video Games as Card Games

Over the holidays I spent much of my time unplugged. There were visits with family, celebrations of the season, and of course games of Magic to be played. There were a couple of card games that I thought would be interesting that we picked up mainly to play with my girlfriend and her son, another of which I picked up quite some time ago with the same idea in mind. Two of the games were wrapped as Christmas gifts for him, but I secretly wanted to play them just as bad!

My girlfriend and I decided to try a couple of these games out on New Year’s Eve, mainly to learn how to play them and so that she could gauge what his level of interest might be. He’s about to turn 10 years old so there are some games that might be a bit above his level of understanding or beyond his attention span. The main theme of the games that we picked out were that they embraced video game themes or were straight up conversions of old video games into card game form.

We started the evening with The Oregon Trail.

This one was right up my alley. I remembered playing the shit out this back on Apple computers in the “Computer Lab” in elementary school. She remembers playing it too, so despite having differing memories of the game, we were both intrigued to see how this would turn out. The game consists of cards, a die and an erasable board w/ pen. You’ll write out the names of your party, and there’s even tombstones of the otherside for when they die, and they WILL die. What set this game apart from the others is that it is actually a co-op experience, all the members of your party are working together to survive the Oregon Trail, just like in the video game. You’ll draw some trail cards and supply cards, and the game starts. You’ll have to match up trail cards that butt up against the starting city, and if you don’t have a trail card that will match up, you have to draw from the pile and skip your turn. Some trail cards are blank and simply serve to extend the trail, while others force you to roll a die to ford a river or draw a calamity card which typically means bad things are about to happen. Once you get 5 trail cards extended from the starting city, you’ll stack them and start on a new stack of 5. You have to do this a total of 10 times to reach Oregon. The calamity cards bring on diseases, kill off your oxen or poison your water, most of which can be cured or resolved using the supply cards. You’ll also occasionally draw a Fort or Town card and can then restock on your supplies, but typically you’re running out of them or losing them left and right, and sometimes you’ll pull a snake bite card and have an instant death. It was fun but without multiple players you’re probably not making it to Oregon. We managed to be on our 6th stack of 5 before dying, and that was the furthest we made it.

The other game we tried out, is called Boss Monster.

This one reminds me of Munchkin, another game I had played in the past (and finally got my own copy of over Christmas!). It’s also something like Dungeon Keeper, but uses old school 8-bit flavored art. Even the cover of the box reminds me of old Nintendo boxes, and the nostalgia factor is probably why I picked this one out in the first place. Basically you start off by randomly picking a boss monster which represents you. Then you’ll draw some room cards and some spell cards. The room cards represent your dungeon, and there are a number of phases for each round. First, you’ll build. Everyone picks a room and places it face down next to their boss monster. Everyone then reveals their room at the same time, and heroes spawn in town (which is just the center of the table). The heroes are baited to players dungeons based on symbols on the card. Whoever has the most of that symbol represented on their room cards (that are in play) will bait the hero into their dungeon. Each hero has a set amount of life and each room does a certain amount of damage to the hero as they pass through it. If they die on the way to the boss monster, you collect their soul. If they make it to the boss monster, you take a wound. Various effects can change what happens, and these effects are printed on the room cards (i.e. if a hero dies in this room, heal a wound). You can also cast spells to affect the game, though they can only be played during certain phases. You’re trying to win the game by collecting 10 hero’s souls, and avoid taking 5 wounds. Later after the standard heroes are all played through, epic heroes start spawning, and they are worth two souls each but definitely harder to take down. Overall I think it was a fun experience but my lady-love wasn’t as fond of it.

There was another game called the Super Mario Power Up Card Game that we bought as well, and it seems interesting but required a minimum of 3 players so we haven’t checked it out just yet. Overall I think this was a nice diversion from typical gaming and I’d recommend trying these titles out if you’re looking for a similar diversion!