Archive for the ‘Computer and Console Games’ Category

Passing the Talisman Around: Licensing the Classics

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

So you may have heard of the collaborations between The Op (formerly USAopoly, best known for its hundreds of versions of Monopoly) and Games Workshop (best known for Warhammer 40K and numerous fantasy or sci-fi board games). One of the first announcements to come from the team-up was on licensed versions of the classic fantasy board game, Talisman. These licenses took the game in new directions, though, to be sure – Talisman: Kingdom Hearts Edition, and Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition. I’ve had the same internal struggle other Talisman fans may have gone through, wondering if these adaptations will “mess up” the game I enjoyed so much. I’ve tried to hold my judgement until learning more from the press releases, and in the process, decided I’m going to check them out. First, the Kingdom Hearts press release

Talisman Kingdom Hearts boxTalisman: Kingdom Hearts Edition reveals Sora, Kairi, Riku, King Mickey, Goofy, and other comrades as figures at the helm of an exciting and different way to play the tabletop classic. Inspired by the original Kingdom Hearts video game franchise, the 2- to 6-player game’s objective compels players to acquire the needed Strength and Magic to seal the Door to Darkness and keep Heartless from consuming the communal worlds.

An artful gameboard with three regions, custom marbleized six-sided dice, tokens, and cards maintain the beloved aspects and exploratory spirit of “The Magical Quest Game” while offering lighthearted Disney nostalgia. Memorable locations such as Never Land and Traverse Town, Munny-themed currency, Gummi Paths and more will comprise a brand new experience by incorporating much-loved characters, worlds, and details from the Kingdom Hearts universe, surprising and delighting fans everywhere.

And from the initial Talisman: Batman press release, I got this description…

Talisman Batman boxTalisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition allows players to take on the role of Gotham City’s notorious evil-doers, sneaking and fighting their way through Arkham Asylum’s two floors and central tower to be the first to subdue Batman and successfully release its dangerous inmates.

The anti-heroic objective in this take on the classic fantasy tabletop game focuses on building the Health, Strength, and Cunning of the Caped Crusader’s enemies. The game suits 2-6 players ages 13 and up, and can be played cooperatively or against other foes before one winner can earn the reputation of King or Queen of the criminal underworld.

Witnesses also report a custom illustrated game board featuring artwork from the best-selling DC comic series “New 52” era, 13 plastic character figures, more than 100 Encounter cards, six-sided dice, and stat boards to monitor each character, easing traditional role-playing game elements into the hands of collectors eager to get in on Batman’s titular Talisman debut.

Do these sound like Talisman? Not exactly. Talisman was one of the first fantasy quest board games to capture the general feel of advancing your character, meeting strange creatures, killing them, and taking their stuff. Calling it a “fantasy quest” game was appropriate, as a full game session might take 1-2 hours, but more likely would take an entire afternoon – much like a D&D session. In fact, just getting through an entire game felt like a quest, and added to the feeling of victory if you were crowned the winner. These newer Talisman games sound suspiciously… new. Fans of any genre know the sense of dread that comes with seeing your favorite property – from games, to movies, to books, to comics, and any other fandom, really – treated in a way that doesn’t feel like it honors the original source. If not Talisman, there’s surely several things you can think of that bring up those feelings right now. There’s excitement about revisiting the property you love, for sure, but also fear of tainting its memory. Fans of The Dark Crystal are in the final stages of this fear as I write this, with the Netflix prequel The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance about to release. (Please be awesome… please be awesome…)

On the other hand, it seems only natural that games (and movies, and books) which inspire other successful imitations should have additional versions, as some portion of the gaming public clearly wants those variations. Monopoly has been adapted to many, many themes, and while I still argue Monopoly is a terrible game (see our review if you need convincing), it continues to be supremely popular and well known. Risk has had several mediocre variations, a few interesting ones (Risk: Godstorm – which may have lent at least one mechanics idea to Blood Rage – and Risk: 2210 AD come to mind), and a genre-defining innovation (Risk: Legacy, firmly establishing the Legacy style of game). Even games like Scrabble and Clue have had a variety of adaptations/mutations to other themes – some of them quite good. For example, give Harry Potter Clue a try: with its shifting secret passages and House Cup point earning, new rules evoke a strong feel of the early movies.

How far should developers take the lineage of a classic game, though? If the hereditary traits of the game’s family tree fade too much, it can become unrecognizable – for example, if Talisman were made into a dice game, would it still feel like Talisman? Maybe not.

That’s the point, though. For some gamers out there, for whatever reason, Talisman didn’t hit the mark. Creating six different colors of the same game won’t bring in new fans. But sometimes, there’s enough interest in a property that game developers can take more than one shot at the target, maybe striking where a different set of gamers can appreciate it. Innovating around the theme of a popular property doesn’t have to dilute the strength of it, but can refine the flavor for different palates. Yes, the brand name is being used to attract old school fans, and the core mechanics might still be supporting the overall structure of gameplay, but change is good and helps keep a game relevant. Evolve or die.

I hope to try Talisman: Kingdom Hearts and Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition soon, keeping in mind the new experiences they were designed to be. And I won’t blame them at all if they let me kill things and take their stuff – I’d consider that a bonus.

OgreCave review: Brothers

Friday, December 29th, 2017

BrothersTo close out the year for us, Lars Roberts offers us a review of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from 505 Games. This adventure game for PC and consoles stands out for its unique controls, which both play off of and add to the game’s story. If you’re in the mood for a heartbreaking faery tale plot with lovely scenics, Lars may have found your next indulgence.

Watch this space for more reviews soon, and watch us on Instagram for what we’re discovering now.

War of Omens digital deck-building CCG entering arena

Friday, December 13th, 2013

There are almost too many crowd-funded game projects to count these days, but one in particular requires your attention: War of Omens by Fifth Column Games. If you read through the game’s KickStarter page, you’ll learn that War of Omens is a fantasy-themed digital card game with deck-building aspects similar to titles like Dominion or Thunderstone. Sound good so far? Here’s a few words about the game from Fifth Column’s Art Director, Colin Adams (who you may have seen on our staff page):

I have spent about a year on it, and we are super excited to finally promote it. It is actually really fun to play – we play it at work all the time (when we should be working). OgreCave speaks to the type of people that like this type of game, which is a deckbuilder kind of like Dominion.

The game provides three levels of AI opponent to face off with, and also allows 1-on-1 play. With 30 days yet to go, War of Omens is almost halfway to its $30,000 goal. If you want to get in on a new, digital constructible card game that has excellent artwork and a passionate development team fine tuning the gameplay, this may be your omen to pledge now.

OgreCave review: Boss Monster!

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Cave dwellers are lurking again, and have played a few things that need reviews. Therefore, let’s get started by meeting Chris and reading his review of Boss Monster! by Brotherwise Games. This dungeon-building card game is done from the viewpoint of 8-point console game boss monsters (hence the name) who must lure heroic victims into their carefully constructed deathtraps. Gaming culture references are everywhere in this game, and the art evokes the feel of old school videogames perfectly. See what Chris had to say about it here, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Giving Cthulhu a G rating

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Cthulhu GloomIn an article in The Guardian today, a reporter reflects on the softening of Lovecraftian merchandise – not its salability, mind you, but rather its hopeless horror being glossed over a bit in favor of a fluffy, cartoony look. This is nothing new: the Great Old Ones have been presented with their hard edges sanded off for many years now, and it certainly wasn’t to teach kids about the Cthulhu mythos – it was to sell. One of the nerdiest properties after Dungeons & Dragons has always been Cthulhu (whether speaking of Chaosium‘s Call of Cthulhu, or just the works of H.P. Lovecraft), and if there’s anything us nerds love, it’s toys and collectibles.

(As an aside, when I ask my 12-year-old daughter what she knows about Cthulhu, she tells me he’s “like an octopus guy, who’s really big, and lives underwater, and eats people, and there’s only one of him.” H.P. Lovecraft? Never heard of him. Yes, I know – I’ve failed to teach her. I know. You’re missing the point.)

Is the “cute-ifying” of all-powerful Cthulhu the makings of controversy, or just clever marketing? These days, there’s cute/plush/Bratz/LEGO/Hot Wheels versions of nearly every popular theme, including zombies, vampires, and demons. An untapped market is hard to resist, especially when the burden of screening and/or explaining the eldritch content is so easily passed to the parents. A Mini Plush Cthulhu (from Toy Vault) was the hot item to send to new gamer parents for a time (Matt Forbeck received four at once a while back), and that (innocent?) trend has broadened considerably since those days. Now Lovecraft fans can select everything from children’s book parodies and dice games to fuzzy Cthulhu slippers and My Little Cthulhu (complete with victims).

Ultimately, selling cute Cthulhu isn’t a bad thing at all. If companies can support Lovecraft fans with products they (or their children) enjoy, more power to them. Just because my daugther grew up around a large plush Cthulhu (which she pronounced “Toolu” until she was 5 or so), it doesn’t automatically mean she’ll be playing through Mansions of Madness anytime soon, if ever. That’s okay. She’s aware of Cthulhu (a startling notion, if you think about it…), and has a vague notion of a larger storyline that she can investigate at her leisure.

If she ever does, though, I’d better teach her more about Lovecraft, or the guys at Chaosium will sic the gugs on me again.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from!

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

While some of the OgreCave crew have been taking a little time off (call ’em mental health days, call ’em school/divorce/new baby recovery days – whatever), causing us to skip this year’s OgreCave Christmas Gift Guide, longtime Cave Dweller Matthew Pook has scraped together a quick list of gift suggestions that would make any Ogre proud. Anyone still searching for beyond-last-minute gift ideas – or wondering what to spend holiday gift certificates on – should head over to read Reviews from R’lyeh: The Christmas List. The rest of the staff here at OgreCave appreciates the assist, Matthew. We’ll have your back next time, for sure.

Of course, if you really need a gift now, you can always resort to an electronic goodie or two. Pathfinder RPG fans might enjoy Hero Labs for the Pathfinder Beginner Box (Lone Wolf Development; Free!); and gamers in general are likely to find something worthwhile in the Super Indie Bundle, offered on Steam for a limited time – 10 games for $19.99 is hard to beat!

Be well, and happy holidays!

Petroglyph Announces Elves & Dwarves Expansion for Graxia

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Petroglyph, the makers of Guardians of Graxia, has announced a new expansion for the PC version of the game. It is called Elves & Dwarves, and it is available from major PC direct download services. The expansion features two new Guardians, Flist the deceitful Elf and Broxin the greedy Dwarf. They bring with them even more powerful units and abilities to engage on six additional skirmish maps, some of which have random tile generation for unique gameplay. The base Guardians of Graxia PC game has a downloadable demo. We have previously reviewed the board game version of Guardians of Graxia and interviewed Chuck Kroegel, the General Manager of Petroglyph, as part of our Gaming News Update podcast series. We have also reviewed the fantasy deck-building card game Heroes of Graxia. Whether you are a card gamer, a board gamer, or a PC gamer, there’s plenty of fantasy gaming coming out of Petroglyph these days.

Arkham Horror and all its expansions for $13! In, um, travel size!

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Well, okay: only if you have an iPhone. (And I bet it’s great on the iPad even in fat-bits mode.) It looks to be essentially possible to play the whole game with this “toolkit” if you wish: all the decks are in there, and while the screenshots don’t specifically show whether it tracks the position of multiple investigators on the map, all the maps are in there. It looks well done and professional, enough to make you wonder how much more it’d really need to be billed as a full-on digital version of the game. Has anyone played with it? Let us know.

Fabled Lands back in print

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

The Fabled Lands series is one of the most ambitious gamebook projects ever attempted: a huge world which can be explored in a totally non-linear fashion, with each book representing a different region full of adventure and hazard. The tragedy of the series is that it never sold well enough for all of the volumes to be completed, and many adventurers have been roaming the world of the first six books aimlessly since the 1990’s, hoping that someday they could reach the distant lands of books 7 through 12. Just when it seemed all hope was lost, the books have been revived both as an iPod/iPad app and as new print editions. If these reissues sell well enough, the series may finally be completed. If you’ve never experienced the books, now is the perfect time to get involved. If you’re a fan from ages back, you can return to your old stomping grounds or share the adventure with your friends and family. Either way, buy some books and help complete a fascinating unfinished piece of gamebook history!

Hooray, Virtual Tabletop exists! We can go back to complaining about it!

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

It even looks like they took my extremely expensive advice – or more likely just rubbed a couple of brain cells together on their own – and made it a 2D product. This is not only better for PR because it doesn’t scream “video game” quite as loud, but actually a slight improvement over real tabletops when it comes to the kind of tactical thinking 4E demands. And based on the tech specs in the FAQ, it looks like it will run inside the web browser, although curiously enough it isn’t made with the same tech as the Character Builder and hence will not integrate with it (for the beta anyway).

Anyway, a pleasant surprise. Commence bitching about the lack of integrated voice and video chat. Because WotC should spend its resources rewriting Skype.

This just in from This Just In From Gen Con, Saturday 11AM 2010

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Continuing the TJI adventure:

This just in from This Just In From Gen Con, Thursday 5PM 2010

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Sorry, I was in the bathroom. Here we go!

Can I just say how great it is to not hear Ryan Macklin again after so long? Nah, I’m just kidding. See you tomorrow!

OgreCave Gaming News Update – Petroglyph Games

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

In our latest Gaming News Update interview, Lee Valentine chats with Chuck Kroegel of Petroglyph Games about the company’s plans to release a card game, a board game, and a PC game in the next few months, all about a single fantasy setting. Kroegel, Petroglyph’s General Manager and one of the company’s designers, goes into the details of their plans to present the world of Graxia to the greater gaming public.

Small World iPad app upgraded for solo play

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I mentioned this in our KublaCon 2010 image gallery (on OgreCave’s Facebook page – you’ve become a fan of us, right?), where our readers saw a shot of the Small World iPad app. Well, this just in: Days of Wonder has upgraded the program to include an AI to play against, enabling solo play for the formerly two-player only app. Those who already purchased the app can upgrade for free, or new players can download the app for $6.99.

Days of Wonder Approaches 20 Million Games Played, Plans Apple iPad Giveaway

Friday, June 18th, 2010

To commemorate the 20 millionth game that will soon play out on the Days of Wonder Online digital board games network, Days of Wonder announced its best Online Giveaway yet. In a nod to its recent release of the best selling Small World for iPad digital board game on the App store, Days of Wonder will be giving away a new Apple iPad Wi-Fi 16 GB, and a copy of Small World for iPad, to the winner of its 20,000,000th game. Additionally, all other participants in that 20,000,000th game will receive a nice consolation prize – an 8GB Apple iPod Touch. All Days of Wonder Online members are eligible to participate in this giveaway by playing any Days of Wonder Online games including: the Ticket to Ride series, Gang of Four, Fist of Dragonstones, or Queen’s Necklace.