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The Games Room

The Other Side of the Camera: Orwell

After a long stint of not playing any video games, it seems that I’ve got my mojo back.  I know a lot of people use gaming as a form of escapism, but I find that actually I have to be in the right kind of mood to immerse myself in a new world.  I’m still not quite in the zone yet for elaborate RPGs, but I’ve enjoyed playing short games like the horror Neverending Nightmare, and most recently, Orwell.

In Orwell, the player is a newly recruited member of a surveillance company called Orwell (aptly named, of course), whose job is to keep a watchful eye over the people of the Nation after a recent terrorist attack.

Orwell

Cassandra Watergate is the prime suspect of the attack, and the player must select which snippets of information to upload, drawing from sources such as newspapers, social media and university websites.  What gets uploaded directs the outcome of the game, including who lives and who dies – no pressure!

Orwell

As a fan of dystopian fiction, the idea of playing as Big Brother seemed really innovative to me.  It is actually a very immersive experience, and I became quite dedicated to my role; although I didn’t feel like I trusted Orwell, I wanted to impress my boss and do the best job I could.  It was also interesting to see just how easily I could build a profile for someone based on information put online – job, location, interests.  It is a good reminder to always be cautious of what you put on the Internet – you never know when Big Brother might be watching!

Although I bought Orwell in the Steam sale, it is more than worth its usual £6.99 price tag.  There’s also a free demo, so those who are curious can try before they buy!

Happy gaming,

Emma

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July 13, 2017
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5 Favourite Board Games of 2017 (Part 1)

We’re just over halfway through 2017, but already I have added more than a dozen new board games to my repertoire.  I thought I’d pick out my favourites so far, as I’m so excited by these titles that I can’t possibly wait until the end of the year to share them… so watch this space for a part two at some point!

 1.) Sub Terra

Sub Terra

I played this for the first time yesterday – what an incredible game!  Funded by Kickstarter, I don’t even think it is available to buy anywhere yet, which means I’ll be waiting a bit longer until I can own my own copy.  The aim of the game is to escape being trapped underground, surviving cave-ins, gas leaks, floods and nightmarish horrors before the flashlight breaks… My one playthrough was intense, and the co-operative elements are what made it my favourite board game of the year (so far); figuring out whether to split up or stay together is no easy decision to make.

 2.) Mysterium

Mysterium

This supernatural murder mystery is great fun.  One person must play the ghost, and communicate to the other players the details of their murder through abstract vision cards.  This is a real test of friendships, as the ghost must choose vision cards that he thinks the receiver will be able to decipher – and sometimes you just find yourselves on completely different wavelengths!

 3.) Pagoda

This simple two-player game takes a surprising amount of thought and strategy.  The premise is to take it in turns to place columns, winning points as the levels of the pagoda get higher.  I’ve yet to beat my friend at this, despite at least six rematches, but it has taken away none of the fun.

 4.) Splendor

SplendorSplendor was one of the first games I ever played when I attended my first board game cafe.  It is my favourite card game at the moment, not even beaten by Exploding Kittens or Flux.  Players must collect and spend gems, building their empire until they have enough points to win.  My favourite feature of the game is the heavy gem tokens – they are great quality, and nothing quite beats the satisfaction of stacking them together!

 5.) Kana Gawa

Kana GawaKana Gawa is the most gentle competitive game I have ever played.  Players must build beautiful Japanese landscape paintings, collecting points for things like combinations of trees, animals and people.  The illustrations are beautiful, and it is a real pleasure to play.


Five excellent titles that I recommend to any board gamer!  The rules of any one of them are not so complex that they couldn’t be picked up by a first time board gamer too.  Sub Terra for those who like a frantic 60 minute game filled with monsters, finishing with Kana Gawa for the more relaxed gamer.

Have you ever played any of these games? Any recommendations for what I should play next?

Emma

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July 2, 2017
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Vampire: The Masquerade – Meet Hiroko

Last year I experienced tabletop roleplaying for the first time.  I’d dabbled in it before – a game of Edgewalkers here, a few nights of Pathfinder there – but I’d never really taken it seriously before.  That is, until I was invited to join a game of Vampire: The Masquerade.

Inspired by my recent read of the time, The Trees by Ali Shaw, I created Hiroko, a Gangrel (animalistic shape-shifting vampire) from Japan.  Hiroko was just nine years old when she was murdered by a mysterious stranger in the woods near her home.  Scared and terrified after her transformation, she frenzied (a term for when a vampire’s humanity drops too low and the beast within them takes over) and killed her parents in an attack orchestrated by her twisted Sire.  After years of abuse, traveling with her as a pet and means of entertainment, her Sire abandoned her and she found her way to the moors of England, where she was taken in by an old Gangrel called Morris.  She moved into a beat-up old caravan on his acres of land, where he taught her how to control her bloodlust, and feed off sheep instead of people.

One night Hiroko learns of the terrifying murder of her dear friend Morris, and forms an unlikely alliance with a group of vampires, who are all invested for their own reasons in finding out who has been killing the locals.  As the story unfolds, Hiroko soon learns that someone from her past has returned – her wicked Sire, who lives now in a neighbouring city.  What has led him to the same area as Hiroko, and does it have anything to do with the murders in town…

Sadly, the group was not to be, and we were never able to complete the full storyline, but I loved developing Hiroko! The game involved a lot of acting as we stayed in character through the sessions. Acting isn’t my forte, but usually by the end of the session I was successfully ‘in the zone’, and it was actually quite fun!

Has anyone else ever played Vampire: The Masquerade or similar games? I’d love to hear about the characters you created!

Emma

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June 18, 2017
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Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

So, the cake wasn’t a lie after all.

I’ve known about the existence of the Portal board game for a long time, but yesterday I was finally able to play it.  It had everything one could ever want from the famous Valve video game: test subjects, GLaDOS, a turret, Ratman and Wheatley cards, portal guns and portals, and of course cake.

Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

Set-up took some time – a lot of it was spent being very excited over things like the Companion Cube and the incinerator.

I would say it took us a good half an hour at least to get into the flow of the game.   Even though each turn had only four steps – deploy, move, activate and recycle – additional rules were added quite often with the presence of character cards, or when the Companion Cube or Turret were in play.

The aim of the game is to have the most pieces of cake by the time another player’s test subjects are all incinerated.  This is really difficult to do as the board is constantly changing and moving like a conveyor belt, and like I said above, the rules are often being changed too.  It is also really hard to keep hold of your cake, as it naturally moves towards the incinerator as the pieces of the board are activated and recycled to the back of the test chambers.

One game lasted about an hour in the end, though it easily could have gone on for much, much longer as the friends I were playing with were evenly matched with me in terms of skill and strategy!  And it very much is a game built on strategy – you’ve got to really plan ahead, and there’s very little in the game that is down to luck, so that can’t be used as an excuse.Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

Overall, fans of the original video game will find the board game adaptation very aesthetic, especially with the slices of cake, Turret and Companion Cube models.  Even for those who aren’t familiar with the story, this is still a great strategy game to play with friends – just be careful not to incinerate your friendship.

Emma

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February 26, 2017
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Elegy for a Dead World: Dear Marta

I recently started playing a fantastic game for writers called Elegy for a Dead World.  It plays like a scrolling platform game, but there is no fighting or obstacles to face.  Instead, in each world, players are given the opportunity to write stories about their landscape – the sights, the smells, the sounds – with writing prompts to guide them.

I’ve written a few stories on there now, but I was particularly pleased with my most recent one: Dear Marta.  It is the letter from a girl on a new planet – one with warm weather, beautiful sunsets and starry, starry nights – to her sister back on their home world, Onun.

As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that this isn’t a letter written from the heartache of a short absence.  It has been a long time since the girls have been together.

At the end, it is revealed that the narrator’s sister died a long time ago, back when they were children on Onun.  The girl remembers their childhood fondly, and promises her sister that she will never forget her, but this will be the last letter she will write.


What story would you have written, with this beautiful purple planet as your backdrop?

Happy writing,

Emma

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February 16, 2017
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Splendor Review: Can you build the greatest empire?

Recently I went to a board game cafe for the first time, which ended up being one of the coolest ways I’ve ever spent a Friday night.  After an introductory game of Geistesblitz (or Ghost Blitz, as it is also known), we requested something a little more complex and were recommended Splendor.

The idea of Splendor is to collect and spend gemstones to grow the greatest empire, starting with mines and building up to visits by great nobles.

There really aren’t that many rules, with only a handful of options each turn: buy a card, reserve a card or collect gems.  With the aim of the game being to reach 15 points, players must devise a strategy that builds their empire the fastest, all the while trying to attract the nobles to visit and keeping an eye on the other players’ moves.

Cards are ranked 1, 2 or 3, with the greater number usually being worth more points but requiring parting with larger sums of gems.  Fortunately, the more cards you collect, the easier it is to shop, as every card offers a gem discount.  This means that very quickly players are able to buy cards of a greater value, and most games I played lasted no longer than about half an hour with two players.

I highly, highly recommend this game for everyone, even those relatively new to board games.  It is fun and competitive and like all great board games is a real friendship tester!

You can pick up a copy of Splendor on Amazon by clicking here.

Ever played Splendor before?  Got ant board game recommendations?  Comment below!

Happy gaming!

Emma

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February 1, 2017
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Survive the Neverending Nightmares

Neverending Nightmares

Neverending Nightmares is a psychological horror game set in the nightmarish dream realm of the protagonist.  Through a series of levels, including a spooky mansion and asylum, the player must navigate the maze of corridors and doors to escape the monsters and try to wake from the nightmare.  What is really special about this game is that it is based on the creator’s own battle with mental illness, which makes the blurred lines between dream and reality all the more chilling.

I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror games, but I love them all the same.  We can all relate to that feeling of moving about the house at night – that apprehension of not knowing what is in the darkness around you and relying on your senses to guide you safely.  Neverending Nightmares very much feeds off that fear – gameplay is almost entirely in black and white, with much of it spent creeping through the shadows.

As Thomas, our protagonist, moves through the hellish levels, he constantly meets with scenes of violent deaths, many depicting the young girl who claims to be his sister at the start of the game.  Who is this girl really, and how is her death linked to Thomas?

Controls are very simple – other than basic movement, the only other control is one that lets you interact with certain items like creepy dolls and candles.  Of course, you can also run, which will come in very handy when the monsters begin to appear, though the character has limited stamina, so use this feature sparingly as you never know when you’ll need it.

The monsters were done very well too.  I liked that the three different creatures in the game required different strategies to sneak past, and the lack of combat or a weapon meant that I was constantly on edge, checking the shadows for those eerie shapes.

Neverending Nightmares

My playthrough lasted about an hour in the end – it felt like a comfortable amount of time for the story.  There are three possible endings, and I do know from some research that I got the most miserable of the three – unlucky!

The game certainly wasn’t perfect.  The storyline felt a little disjointed at times.  Although this added to the overall sense of disorientation, I don’t think that’s an excuse for confusing gameplay.  But the stunning visuals and soundtrack completely redeem it for me, and definitely succeeded in giving me a fright more times than I like to admit.

You can buy a copy of Neverending Nightmares on Steam for £10.99 by following this link.  Personally, I’m not convinced it is worth paying full price for, but it certainly is worth purchasing if it is ever on sale again.

Turn off the lights, put on some headphones, and indulge in this atmospheric nightmare.


Have you played Neverending Nightmares before?  What did you think of it?

Emma

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January 29, 2017
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The Art of Fallout 4

Games Room

I considered doing a formal review for The Art of Fallout 4, but found that it’s hard to talk about the book without wanting to talk and talk and talk about the game.

25893788Fallout 4 was an incredible game (see?),  with such an immersive and intense gaming experience.  I was bittersweet when it ended – glad for my life back, but sorry to see that exciting main storyline draw to a close.  I ended up buying the book to cling on to the world outside of gameplay, disguised as a birthday present to my partner.

Anyway, I think the book certainly has more appeal if you have actually played the game, though the art is beautiful in its own right.  I got a real sense of satisfaction when I recognised sketches from my playthrough, and it was interesting to see the early designs for some of the key characters – early Mama Murphy and her development was particularly cool.

The Art of Fallout 4 reminds us that without the artists there would be no game.  The pre-production pages talk about the decision-making process of things like the Vault Suit.

The book strips everything back to the basic foundations, like first sketches of the cities, storyboards and colour studies, and reveals the evolution of the game throughout the subsequent chapters.

Chapter 8, ‘Illustration’, is possibly my favourite chapter, and includes a number of full-page posters, capturing the essence of 1950s America that really defines the game.  There are post-war illustrations too, including the quirky pages of the Wasteland Survival Guide, splattered in mud and blood.

Overall, this really is an awesome keepsake for fans of the game.  My only criticism is that there isn’t more writing talking about the artistic process, but the chosen layout does allow for full-page art – maybe that is the compromise.

 

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository

Emma

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February 25, 2016
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One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Name: One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Players: 3+ (I recommend at least 4 to make it as challenging as possible)

Duration: Short (no more than 10 minutes per game)


Are you a good liar?

Could you lie to your family and friends to save your own skin?

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a quick card game, where every player is given a role at random.  However, hidden among the innocent villager cards are werewolf cards, and as night descends and players perform their designated tasks one at a time (while everyone else has closed eyes), anyone could be a werewolf by morning.  Players must vote on who to lynch in the group, deciding who is telling the truth and who is lying to hide their identity.

Sound familiar? It has a striking resemblance to PC multiplayer game Town of Salem – fans of ToS will love One Night as it retains all of its best features while adding the personal, face-to-face element.

For those of you not familiar with ToS, a major element of the game is deduction. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is the same – you won’t know which roles the other players have started out with, you certainly won’t know what happens when your eyes are closed at night. This means that everyone must play detective, all at once. Cue the shouted accusations, the finger pointing, the screams of “lynch him, lynch him!” Who knows which of the players have teamed up, what their motives are. Lifelong friendships will be tested!

There is also a free downloadable app which calls out each player one at a time and reminds them what to do – this is especially handy when you start mixing in new characters. You can also choose some atmospheric music to accompany the game (we recently played with Disco).

Game highlight: Being a werewolf, opening your eyes and realising one of your best friends has her eyes open too. Ten seconds of suppressed giggles ensue and wild hand gestures to mutually agree who you will both team up against.

In summary: A great game to get out at parties, leaving irreparable damage to friendships. Once you know how well your friends can lie, you’ll never trust them again!

For a walkthrough of the game, check out the video below:

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is available to buy on Amazon.

Have you ever played this game before?  Share your experiences!

Emma

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December 10, 2015
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