Title: Sherlock Sam Series (They have 10 volumes now, and counting)
Author: A.J. Low, Drewscape (Artist)
Publisher: Epigram Books
“…and I would have gotten away with it if not for you kaypoh kids!”
So far, I’ve only gotten through Books 1 to 9, but that line always reminds me of the detective enemy’s signature – kinda like how the monsters in the Scooby-Doo series almost always had to be unmasked by the crew of the Mystery Shack.
The first thing which struck me about the Sherlock Sam series was how frequently food was mentioned. Singaporeans love our food, but I really liked how local delicacies come in subtly, just enough to give your stomach a rumble, before returning to the story. And if you feel there isn’t enough mention of food, Drewscape’s artistic rendition of what Sherlock is craving will give you the tummy rumble you’re looking for.
Moving on, Sherlock Sam is easy to go through, with a good balance of red herrings and clues before reaching the culprit. Book 2’s Fort Canning mystery had me guessing for a while, especially with all the real mysteries surrounding that area. And as freaked out as I still am about that place, I can’t help but laugh a little when I get reminded of Watson, Sherlock, and Mr. Tan screaming and running down a tree-lined pathway.
His motley crew, including the babbling robot Watson, artistic Wendy, knowledgeable Nazhar, excited Jimmy, and the chameleon-ish Eliza, have a chemistry many of us can relate to, especially when we played adventure games during recess (THIS was why I wanted to quit the prefectorial board. LOLOL.).
So there you go! I’d say I never regretted picking up the series, especially since one of the great things about books is to pass them down. My 10-year-old cousin (who loathes anything that’s not on a computer or TV), went through the first two books in no time, and asked for more. And while I catch up with the next few volumes, I’m looking forward to more adventures with Sherlock and the gang!
To find out more about the Sherlock Sam series, click here.
Title: Eldritch Horror
Designer: Corey Konieczka
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Here’s one thing you should know about Fantasy Flight Games – they have a good load of game components.
The full game all set up.
Within Eldritch Horror itself, there were:
STORY OF THE GAME
According to Lovecraft Lore, the world is in danger of being swallowed by monsters from the Cthulhu Mythos. You, together with other agents around the world, have to gather enough information and stop the madness from ensuing.
Since this is a cooperative game, we would win or lose together. I played a 3-player game with Jenevee and Jezel (my cousins) against the threat of Azathoth. I chose Trish Scarborough, the spy who could gain clue tokens if she starts a turn without one. Jezel chose Lily Chen, the martial artist who could spend Health or Sanity tokens to heal the other. And Jenevee chose Diana Stanley, who could discard all monsters on a space with a cultist or move the cultist to another space. We were quite a dynamic team.
I wanted to own a copy of Eldritch Horror for a while and soon after the Tiger got his Big Geeky Box version of Smash Up!, I bought my own copy.
So I thought this would be a good time to talk about my last experience in playing Eldritch Horror.
Unlike Elder Sign and Arkham Horror, the Mythos Phase is not as straightforward. Each Elder Being had a different stack of Mythos cards, which may involve beneficial, neutral, or awful events (mostly awful). And while this game is for 1 to 8 players, the scaling mechanic is much better now, so you can enjoy a level playing field whether you’re playing a solo game or a game with eight people.
What I really liked was how each game was going to be different, because the defeat requirements for each Ancient One is different. With the added mechanic of the expedition and the condition cards (which slow you down), the game calls for more on-the-spot strategizing, especially with more brutal mythos on the way. Thankfully for us, we stopped the summoning this round.
Note: Also, Eldritch Horror has one of the best artwork I’ve seen on a board game – Pulp Fiction era awesomeness.
Eldritch Horror was designed by Corey Konieczka and published by Fantasy Flight Games. For more information, click here.
Title: Dungeons & Dragons
Designer(s): Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Dungeons & Dragons has always been known as a pioneer in role-playing games, before the video game industry took the concept and added the visual settings, effects, and other graphic elements we are so used to today. However, there is always that extra element of surprise when you play D&D with just pencils and paper, and this experience was something we were looking for.
Coincidentally, Weiman, a friend of ours, introduced us to a couple of her other friends who used to play D&D quite some time ago. Looking to get back into D&D again, they agreed to help us ease into the game.
The thing about D&D is the amount of prep you have to go through before the game starts. Apart from getting your Dungeon Master and finding your team mates, you need to read through your rules and create your characters and setting accordingly. This includes your character name, race, class, back stories, setting, and what not. You don’t need many tools as a participant, just these:
STORY OF THE GAME
For our setting, our wonderful Dungeon Master a.k.a. Game Master a.k.a. Cedric, created a setting of a Post-Apocalyptic Singapore, at the risk of being overrun by evil care bears. So our band of characters has been called to fight this evil.
Gluteus, Son of Maximus
Alessandria “Contacts” Kuasimi
Like many first timers into D&D, we started late because of prep and not knowing how to react to Cedric’s role playing antics. But as we went along, these were the main things we managed to take away from our first game:
Those aside, it was fun being able to explore role-playing games with that extra dimension of immediate and unpredictable interaction. While you may miss your attack in a video game, rolling a “1” in any of our attack rolls may warrant something which will render you paralysed with stomach-clutching laughter.
Just note that this is a trial scenario, so we may or may not continue with these characters. If I could, I would class my character as a Ranger. Or a Fighter Mystic. Heh.
So far, we have slayed:
Our trial session ended quite well, and the beauty of D&D is that with all the information you gather with your own character sheets, you games can stretch for as long as you want.
At the same time, side plots and actions can be twisted into the game – something you can’t have in many video games – so everything is just down to your creativity.
However, we may be looking to have more sessions so please drop a comment if you would like to get episodic commentaries for future D&D hijinks!
Dungeons & Dragons was created by Wizards of the Coast and continues to expand. To find out how you can get started, click here.
Designer(s): Oleksandr Nevskiy, Oleg Sidorenko
When Mysterium was released, I was intrigued. When they announced a US-version of Mysterium – the version translated to English – I was excited. And when Dave said he bought the game and wanted to test play it, we all said yes.
Mysterium may not take a lot of time to play, depending on how your “ghost” fare, but the game trades your Eldritch-Horror-Play-Time for real estate. The visuals of Mysterium rivals Dixit, and for a game with its fundamentals on pictures instead of words, setup is key.
Within each box, you have:
This game requires at least two players, and plays like a partial co-operative with individual points.
Firstly, choose one player to be the “ghost”, while the rest of the players will play the mediums.
The “ghost” gets a screen and sets up accordingly. There’s going to be quite a bit of distribution going on, differing with the number of players as mediums, so I’m not going to go into details here. For a point of reference, here’s what you need to have before you start:
(Note: This game takes up a bit of real estate and will require quite a bit of assembly. This post is only my experience with the game, so please consult your instruction manual before you play your game.)
STORY OF THE GAME
A murder most foul has happened in between reality and the parallel universe. Stumped by the limited amount of clues, the police initiated a hush operation, engaging specialists from around the world to reach out to the best witness in this crime – the victim.
Players: Myself, Max “The Tiger” Loh, Ben “Charsiew Space” Chee, Dave Chua
Each of us take the role of mediums from around the world, making contact with the victim’s ghost to the best of our abilities.
This time, we reached out to two ghosts – Dave during the first round, and Ben during the second.
Each of us takes the role of mediums from around the world, making contact with the victim’s ghost to the best of our abilities. The ‘ghost’ distributes image cards to point the medium to the right culprit, location, and weapon.
(In essence, it’s playing Cluedo with Dixit, and with a time limit)
The longer a medium takes to guess the correct culprit, location, and weapon, the fewer points they earn, which later translates to the amount of cards they’ll be able to seeing before casting their final decision on the real true murderer.
The beauty of this game (apart from its art), is the fact that the “true” answer, like reality, is dependent on the cards the mediums and the ‘ghost’ is dealt with. So ‘ghosts’ can’t exactly sabotage mediums and decide their murderers beforehand.
Dave’s cards were easy to interpret – thanks to a combination of skill and luck. Ben’s cards were trickier, taking us on a bit of a ride because of the cards he was dealt with. Regardless, all of us won both rounds.
Mysterium is a game of beautiful art, thrilling curiosity, and fun that won’t drive you to boredom while waiting for your turn.
Our copy of Mysterium was a translated copy from its original designers, Oleksandr Nevisky and Oleg Sidorenko. Originally published by Libellud, you can find out more about this game here.
Title: Dead of Winter
Designer: Jon Gilmour, Isaac Vega
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
My first encounter with zombies in a board game was with Betrayal at House on the Hill. While it was a change from the House of the Dead arcade game series, it was just a couple of scenarios in a haunt book of 50.
When Dead of Winter was featured on Tabletop, it reminded me of a cross between the context of the House of the Dead and the mechanics from Betrayal at House on the Hill. And believe me, I was incredibly happy when I finally got a copy of the game for myself.
It’s one of those box games with loads of counters because there are so many characters to choose from. However, setting up was quite straight forward after playing a round or two:
STORY OF THE GAME
We’re a band of survivors in the middle of a snow-struck, zombie-infested town. Forming the last safe haven known as the Colony, we are sent to complete our game-given mission, feed the rest of the survivors, and fight off as many zombies before we all meet our fate in the dead of winter.
Players: Myself, Max a.k.a. the Tiger, Dave Chua, Ben a.k.a. CharsiewSpace
Dave decided that we should start with a short scenario first, and we got the scenario, “We Need More Samples”, where with each zombie we kill, we’d have to roll to see if we could get blood samples to find a cure. I started with Sparky the super-awesome Stunt Dog goldie, and Janet Taylor, the Nurse.
Our second scene was, “Raiding Party”, where we had to finish drawing from two location item decks before our time ran out. I started with Olivia the Doctor, and Edward White the Chemist (We lovingly dubbed him Walter White because he could turn meds into weapons). I seem to have an affinity with the characters in bioscience and healthcare during play.
When playing Dead of Winter, there are a few things to take note of apart from your main objective and individual objective. Those are:
I am a fan of board games which let you tell your own story or give you a good amount of opportunities for role-playing. As we concentrated on our individual and group objectives, the urgency of zombies, hunger, and morale threw us further into our characters. Anxiety was rife, but we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
Perhaps we were influenced by watching Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop before playing this game, this game was us suspecting everyone else of betrayal from start to finish. It was pretty hilarious, to be honest. Every dice roll had us go, “What a traitor-y dice roll.” (Thanks, Grant Imahara!) before we backtrack to what we’re meant to do at that point because we were laughing so much earlier.
So far, we’ve only gone through with 2 short scenarios. Looking through the longer scenarios and the objectives for exiled players only got us more excited to play this game again. Do note that this game might take a while, but in Eldritch-Horror-honesty, you won’t feel the length.
The first game we played had all of us losing because none of us fulfilled our individual missions and we went to 0 Morale even before we could cash in the blood samples we gathered. The second game we played had us fulfill the main game objective, but with none of us fulfilling our individual missions. Needless to say, the betrayer lost as well.
Dead of Winter is published by Plaid Hat Games. To find out more about this game, click here.
Author: Wena Poon
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
First off, please let me start by saying that I’ll be migrating a few of my posts from my previous blog (WordPress) gradually. While this is an older post, I enjoy this science fiction piece by author Wena Poon until this day. So here goes.
“Note to self: never get slapped twice by a polar bear. Especially a Nagy polar bear. You may not survive the second time.”
When Imogen gets transported to Nagy, she meets talking animals (Gromer, the wise overseer Polar Bear and Tristram, the common sergeant in many battles, to name a few) and learns of the parallel wars each universe is going through. Not to miss what could be the most interesting experience of her life, she ropes in Kai as they join the side of the animal allies against the Penumbra, human-like zombies bent on expanding industrialisation on Nagy.
Imogen Park, the protagonist of this series, is introduced as a rebellious, independent girl in the beginning of the book, Imogen is quick-witted and highly-adaptable – getting used to Nagy within days and being able to switch jobs without much complaint for the sake of survival. However, what many may miss out is how Imogen is quite the sentimental.
Despite seeming to give up her dream as a writer in New York City, she continues to muse with her best friend, Kai Montserrat. At the same time, she insisted on bringing Kai to Nagy, placing their friendship above all else. Their dynamic already embedded into her being, Imogen recognises the importance of Kai’s presence in her life, risking missions in Nagy to ensure that this best friend of hers remains alive.
The title of the novel itself, Biophilia, speaks of the love of flora and fauna. On Earth, Imogen often voices her displeasure at how humans are attacking each other due to their own carelessness in the past. Conversely, she feels free on Nagy, which is much bigger than Earth itself, and where animals ruled with nature – the talking animals show her and each other more respect for their capabilities, despite their differences.
Earth is in constant war over resources. Nagy is in constant war over land and sea. Earth’s enemies are its own people. Nagy’s enemies are the Penumbra – often placed with descriptions parallel to that of humans. However, it could also be due to Imogen’s crave for freedom – she was able to do most things without restriction, as compared to all the laws she had to face when she was back on Earth.
Biophilia was told in the first-person perspective of Imogen, which, like many other first-person novel, immerses the reader into the world which has been built by the author. At the same time, the flashbacks between Imogen’s life on Earth before her landing in Nagy may be slightly disorientating at first, but it also reflects the complexity of the human mind, together with how easily distracted we are in this age of countless needs.
It’s timeless, funny, and keeps you turning pages. And what warms my heart is the fact that Biophilia was Wena’s debut into internet recognition – which launched her to the rest of her other novels.
The Biophilia series is written by Wena Poon. You can find out more about the series and her works here.
Title: Love Letter - Adventure Time
Designer: Seiji Kanai
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment in collaboration with Cryptozoic Entertainment
Love Letter was one of the first card games I played after my return to the analog gaming world. And like Munchkin, Love Letter has expanded to so many expansions and versions. This particular version caught my eye, and I’ve been excited about it since it was announced during GenCon earlier this year.
It started when Dave got the version with the velvet Jake bag. Then the Tiger got it.
So we decided to play with Lyn and see what she said.
Adventure Time Love Letter’s set up is exactly the same as regular Love Letter.
Because Love Letter is such a short game, the winner of each round gets a jewel. Like the rules of Love Letter, the first play to either 3-7 jewels (depending on the number of people playing (2-4)) wins. In Adventure Time Love Letter, however, has a special win condition should you choose to play it.
Special Win Condition: If you’re holding a Hero card – value 5, with a picture of either Finn or Jake, and you use it to have someone discard the other Hero card, you win.
For other cards, here’s what they do:
STORY OF THE GAME
Like in regular Love Letter, you’re trying to find out who has written a love letter to the Princess (Bubblegum, this time). But in an attempt to find out who, you’ll have to speak to a group of people around her, like the Guard, Companion, or even the Duchess. Now in the Land of Ooo, your mission is to find out which of our beloved characters from the Adventure Time series is the culprit. Without Jake and Finn’s help.
Players: Myself, Max a.k.a. The Tiger, Lyn a.k.a. Kentangjambu
We were really fortunate Basilico (where we played our first game with this set) let us play our game as long as we didn’t disturb the other patrons or took more food from the buffet. It was just as well because we were feeling the effects of the food. Regardless, Lyn picked up the game quickly, thanks to the guide card which showed all the cards (and the amount of each card) present in the deck.
Each round went fast, with only 16 cards to go. However, we learnt a few things from this session.
It is incredibly easy (in the middle of the ‘last-few-card’ excitement) to forget that a player is under the protection of the “Companion” or “Handmaid” card.
We decided it’ll be more fun to make a new house rule. Thanks to an inside joke, every first player to play the Guard card in Lyn’s presence has to guess for a “Royal Subject / Priest” card regardless. Because it’s card number TU.
Beginner’s luck seems to play a huge part in this game. Lyn slaughtered the both of us, pretty much. LOLOL.
Regardless, Adventure Time Love Letter is an enjoyable, quick game for gamers who want to play something, but don’t have to time or the space for a big box or semi-long game. Love Letter the card game was created by Japanese Game Designer Seiji Kanai. Adventure Time Love Letter was jointly published by Cryptozoic Entertainment (the same ones behind Skullzfyre!) and Alderac Entertainment Group (they handle the rest of the Love Letter franchise). To find out more about them, click here.
Title: Within the Wires
Writers: Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson
Producers: Night Vale Presents
There are some podcasts that are meant to keep you on the edge of your seat. This one, strangely, lets you sink into your seat while keeping your brain occupied – waiting for the next instruction to embrace your subconscious.
Produced by Welcome to Night Vale producer Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson, Within the Wires is a 10-episode podcast series resembling those therapy tape serials you use you train your subconscious. And it’s one of my new favourite podcasts to listen to.
Strangely, I found out about it while listening to Alice Isn’t Dead, another production from Night Vale Presents. Curious, I listened to the teaser podcast and was immediately hooked.
The podcast presents like a series of therapy / treatment tapes not unlike those tapes people listened to while they were going to sleep to help them quit smoking. Speaking to us, a supposed patient in a mental facility, each podcast disguises its story plot amid relaxation exercises narrated over a background soundtrack of waves on the beach.
Each episode is also broken into two digestible sections. Woven in the relaxation exercises for different parts of the body, the true plot was incredibly satisfying to find as each episode progressed. The second-person narration established at the start of the podcast brings us in, fully-intending to immerse us in the world both Cranor and Matthewson created.
So if you’re looking for a fictional podcast to immerse into, perhaps try some of these tapes?
To listen to Within the Wires, click here (I usually use Libsyn but Night Vale Presents’s main website has more options). To find out more about Within the Wires or find out more about Night Vale Presents’s other podcasts, click here.
Title: Betrayal at House on the Hill
Designer(s): Rob Daviau, Bruce Glassco, Bill McQuillan, Mike Selinker, Teeuwynn Woodruff
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Betrayal at House on the Hill was the game which got me back to board-gaming after a close-to-decade-long hiatus. Before that, the limits of my board game knowledge was kept within the confines of Scrabble, Monopoly, and Cluedo (I still love Cluedo though). However, when I saw the replayability and strong story behind this game, I was hooked.
Betrayal’s setup is pretty straightforward – you choose your character, set up the entrance and pathway to the upper floor, the upper floor tile, and the basement tile. After that, you pick your character, place your minis at the entrance, shuffle the floor tiles, and you’re ready to escape the house.
Within each box, you have:
The game is for 3 to 6 players, with each player choosing any characters they liked. Usually, we’d randomise our characters to diversify game play.
STORY OF THE GAME
On a clichéd, dark and stormy night, a rag-tag group of people find themselves seeking shelter in the only place they happen to believe exist – a run-down house that looks to be the stuff of nightmares. With little choice (and probably egging from someone who knows no consequence), they step in. The doors shut, lightning strikes, and the worst idea of their lives begins to unravel.
Players: Myself, Max a.k.a. The Tiger, Lyn, Lina, Raven Silvers
Each of us took the role of people who have entered this mad house (probably with Sarah’s poking) – a couple of kids, a couple of young adults, a medium / soap-loving aunt, and a professor / priest. Depending on which you’d prefer, each archetype had a different character on either side of the character card.
This was one of the first few haunts we played with Lina’s new set.
For this particular game, it took us about six omens before the haunt started, with our Haunt being United We Stand – a haunt about the traitor and his/her ability to absorb the bodies of their friends. (Or a nicer / less messy way of cannibalism. LOL.)
So I was traitor, and everyone else were supposed survivors – let the games begin.
The first thing the group did was to head straight to the basement, with the exception of Raven, who stayed in the garden.
At the end of the game, the survivors won, though Lyn decided that her characters were going to stay away from the basement for a while.
A game which converted some of my friends into board gamers as well, Betrayal at House on the Hill has immense replayability with 50 different haunts, with each house having a different layout because you shuffle the tiles with every game. It promises fun without fear, and tons of laughter (the right kind).
Betrayal at House on the Hill is published by Avalon Hill and has an expansion called, ‘Widow’s Walk’. You can find out more about this game here.
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.