A Society of Scoundrels

Scoundrel Societypic2532368 is a 3-5 player card game that takes about 45 minutes to play. It’s published by the guys over at Action Phase Games and designed by Travis R. Chance and Nick Little.

When Travis contacted me to see if I’d play his little game, I agreed. I usually love me some simultaneous action selection, and the mix of outthinking your opponent made it sound like something I’d really enjoy.

Thematically, we’re all well-known con artists with nothing better to do with our time than steal from each other. I’m not an expert con artist by any means, but I’ve heard some sage advice about what to do if you’re gonna play the game:

  1. Know when to hold ’em.
  2. Know when to fold ’em.
  3. Know when to walk away.
  4. Know when to run.

That might be related to gambling and not conning, but I feel like the two are pretty similar. Anyway. Let’s talk about Scoundrel Society.

Objective

item - historical03Steal the most loot least suspiciously.

You see, loot has various amounts of suspicion attached to them. Some loot is worth zero suspicion because it’s not very sexy. For example, no one wants your childhood toy; however, lots of people would like to get their hands on the Hope Diamond.

In other words, you want to steal the most valuable loot with the least amount of total suspicion. What happens to the person who’s been stealing with reckless abandon? He’s eliminated from the game.

How to Play

Components

The base game comes with all this stuff:

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Setup

At the beginning of the game, the 60 Loot Cards are shuffled together. Constable Cramphorn is shuffled into the bottom 10 cards of the deck.

Create a center row of Loot Cards with a total of one more than the total number of players, i.e., if there are four players, place five Loot Cards in the center row.

A Mark Card, which provides a sort of end-game goal, is randomly chosen and placed in the middle of the table somewhere.

Everybody gets a Scoundrel card and a Copper Coin. The Scoundrel card gives each player unique abilities, and the the Copper Coin serves as starting loot.

Each player will receive the same five cards: Scheme, Store, Sneak, Snatch, and Switch.

Action Cards
Action Cards

The first player is randomly chosen. It seems to me that the person who can least suspiciously steal something from someone else in the room should go first, but this is why I don’t design games.

Gameplay

The game is played until Constable Cramphorn is drawn from the deck. Then, the game ends immediately. So, the game will go for as many rounds as it takes for that to happen and will follow this sequence:

  1. Refill the row. Refill the row to have the requisite one plus the number of players. If it’s full, don’t add to the row.
  2. Choose actions. Secretly choose the action you want to play that round. Note: Action cards have two actions: the gold (top) one and the silver (bottom) one. The gold action is typically more powerful than the silver action, so choose wisely! Oh, and this important as well: you play all actions once before you can replay any one action. You place the cards down in front of you, and played actions hang out in front of you until you’ve played all five actions.
  3. Reveal and resolve actions. If you are the only person to play a specific action that round, you get to do the gold (top) action. If more than one person plays the same action, all of them do the silver (bottom) action. You must do as much of the action as you can. Obviously, you start resolving actions with the first player.
  4. Pass the first player marker. Pass the first player marker to the left. If you played your fifth card this round, pick up all your cards. Pay attention to any actions that might trigger when you recollect your cards.

That’s it. You refill the loot. You choose your action. You hope no one else played the same card; if they did, you curse their name. You steal some loot, either from the middle or your opponents or both. You do it all again until the fuzz shows up and shuts down all the fun.

End Game

When Constable Cramphorn is added to the loot row, the game ends immediately. Players then add all their suspicion from their cards – in their stash and under their control – and any suspicion tokens they have.

If you happen to have the most suspicion, you’re eliminated and should spend some quality time reflecting on whether it was sloth or pride that got you pinched.

The remaining players politely snicker and point as the offending opponent is carted off to the clink and then add the value of the loot they have stashed and under their control. The player with the most valuable collection of treasures wins the game.

Some Important Rules

Doing Actions

When playing Action Cards, you might not be able to complete all the actions listed on the card. In this case, you must do as much of the actions listed on the card as you can. You don’t get to choose in which order you do them – if it says steal then stash, you have to steal then stash or just steal or just stash.

This is an important rule because, if misunderstood, it means you’re sitting there wasting turns because you either can’t steal or stash or whatever the action may be. Not that I missed approximately 12 turns because I let the Loot Limit rule trump the action rule, which brings me to that Loot Limit rule.

Loot Limit

You can only have three pieces of loot at a time in your player area. Some loot don’t count towards your loot limit, i.e., the Copper Coin, but most loot does. If you have met your loot limit, you have three pieces of loot in front of you, you are not allowed to steal anymore loot from anywhere if it would make you exceed your loot limit after you resolving the actions associated with the loot or your action.

Some Final Thoughts

I played with three players. I didn’t find there to be a lot of silver actions being done, that is to say that we were all usually able to choose unique actions. However, this does not mean that there wasn’t a lot of player interaction. In fact, there was quite a bit of interaction whether it be stealing or switching or giving suspicion tokens or force-stashing loot with a high suspicion value. All that happened, and I imagine it only happens more with more players.

I enjoyed playing the game despite my inability to read and understand rules. As I mentioned earlier, I read the Loot Limit rules to mean that you can’t take loot at all if you have three pieces of loot in front of you. Like I said earlier, this lead me to ignore the “do as much of an action as you can” rule and forced me to twiddle my thumbs as my opponents stole and stashed and stole some more. I guess I don’t know how to play the game. As I fade off into sleep, here’s an ace you can keep.


Scoundrel Society is currently on Kickstarter, and you can check it out here. You can back the base game for $19 and the deluxe version for $27. In case you’re wondering, the deluxe version comes with 10 Historic Loot Cards and upgraded wooden tokens.

 

 

Previewing Argonauts

Argonauts, designed by Lefteris Iroglidis (Persian Wars, Autokrator, Byzantio, & Gothic Invasion), Errikos Nikolaou, and Ioannis Stamatis, is a co-operative board game based on the Jason and the Argonauts mythos. Players control squads aboard the Argo and retrace Jason’s legendary quest for the Golden Fleece. Will your crew be able to navigate the seas, prosper in foreign ports, defeat monsters, and return with the Golden Fleece in hand and the Argo intact?

Interested in bringing the myth to life? Join the expedition now sailing on Kickstarter!

Components

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Game Setup

Game Setup
Four-Player Setup

How to Play

At the beginning of each turn, rations are reduced by one.

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The movement of the Argo is compulsory; it will always move forward one space. There are three types of spaces on which players can land: sea, ports, and encounters.

Movement and Movement Spaces
Movement and Movement Spaces

Movement Spaces

Sea Space: When the Argo lands on a sea space, players draw an Argo Event Card and resolve it.

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For example: If the Thunderstorm was drawn, players would roll the d12 and compare the results to chart at the bottom of the card. If the result is 1-4, the Argo takes two hull damage. If it’s 5-8, the Argo loses two crew. If it’s 9-12, the Argo loses two rations.

Port City: When the Argo lands on a port city, players refer to its corresponding card and may perform two of the actions detailed.

Port City Cards
Port City Cards
Merchant Card
Merchant Card

Several different events can happen in each city.

  • Trader: Allows players to draw a Merchant Card, which offers various goods in exchange for gold. Merchant Cards also offer equipment to put into the Argo’s cargo hold.
  • Shipyard: Repair the Argo by exhausting a Sailor and spending one material per needed repair.
  • Temple: Visiting a Temple allows players to spend money to earn Favor of the Gods tokens.
  • Healer: Heal one Argonaut for the cost of 1 gold.
  • Hearing: Players have the option to listen to the lord of a port to gain equipment. If they choose to do this action, they exhaust a Diplomat, roll a d12, and take their reward if earned.
  • Exploration: Players can explore a port by exhausting a Scout and drawing an Exploration Card. The player then resolves the card according to the challenge presented.

Legendary Encounters: When the Argo lands on a legendary encounter, players find the related card and resolve it.

Legendary Encounter Cards

Legendary Encounters can be beat in one of two ways: Might Path (fist) or the Cunning Path (foot). Players would each choose one hero to enter into the combat, either of strength or of wits. The Encounter may also have an immediate effect, a victory condition, or a defeat condition.

Hero Card Breakdown
Hero Card Breakdown

In order to meet or beat the conditions presented on the cards, players may each use one Hero for their skill, class, or special ability.

When using a Hero for his or her skills, the collective sum of their abilities will be compared to the conditions presented on the card.

When using a Hero for his class, the player may gain additional actions in ports.

When using a Hero for his special ability, do whatever the card indicates. The special abilities can be very useful, so while it might be “expensive” to exhaust them only for their ability, it is often worth it. For example, gold might be hard to come by in the game, but Echion’s ability allows him to acquire gScreen Shot 2015-06-08 at 9.17.21 AMoods for practically nothing. Nafplios’
ability reduces damage to the Argo, which could be the difference between a floating Argo and a sinking Argo.

After using a Hero in any capacity, the card is placed under the player’s Exhausted token, locking the Hero until a future turn. If there is already a Hero under the Exhausted token, that Hero is moved to Resting, and the just played Hero replaces it. Likewise, if there is a Hero in Resting, that card goes back to the player’s hand and the Exhausted Hero becomes Resting.

Hero Cards
Hero Cards

Example Legendary Encounter

Let’s say the Argonauts are fighting Talos.

The crew has the option of beating the Encounter via Might, which would require 8 Battle and 4 Stealth, or via Cunning, which would require 6 Mysticism and 4 Stealth. Given the cards in their hands, they decide to attack using their Might abilities. Hercules, Atalanta, Kastor, and Jason are all played. Their combined Battle skill totals 11 (Hercules 4, Atalanta 2, Kastor 3, and Jason 2), and their combined Stealth skill totals 6 (Hercules 1, Atlanta 3, Kastor 1, and Jason 1). As it stands, the crew easily wins the battle.

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However, they don’t have any Favor of the Gods tokens, so they have to roll 1d12 and consult the gods chart on the board.

Someone rolls a d12 and consults the chart on the game board. A 2 was rolled, and Hera watches over their battle. Unfortunately, Hero does not like Hercules, so -1 is lost from each of the skills he used during the battle, bringing his totals down to 3 Battle and 0 Stealth. Hera is a fan of Jason’s, so he gains +1 to his Battle and Stealth, giving him 3 Battle and 2 Stealth. The crew’s totals to 11 Battle and 6 Stealth, which is easily greater than the needed 8 Battle and 4 Stealth needed to beat Talos. There is no Victory condition, so the crew simply rejoices in the fact the Argo didn’t need to lose 3 Argonauts.

End Game

The game ends in one of three ways:

  1. The crew of the Argo returns to Iolkos.
  2. The hull of the Argo receives four damage.
  3. The crew of the Argo reaches zero.

A Note on Difficulty

The draft rules that will appear on the Kickstarter page are set to “difficult”. The designers plan on including two more difficult levels: easy and normal.

  • Easy: Players will begin the game with ample materials and extra Favor of the Gods tokens. Some of the more brutal events, i.e. Thunderstorm, will be removed from the game.
  • Normal: Players will begin their quest with some starting materials and a few Favor of the Gods tokens. All cards will remain in the deck.

A Note on the Art

While the art in this game is incredibly pretty, much of it is not final. So far, the final art for the following Heroes have been completed: Jason, Medea, Atalanta, Castor, Orpheas and Hercules. Likewise, the final art for Scylla and Chrybdis, the Harpies, the Dragon, Symplegades and Talos is all done.

A fun note on the draft art: The prototype files I received had stills from the Jason and the Argonauts film, which I found to be incredibly amusing. While I’d be happy to see the cheesy visuals from the movie, I am more than pleased with the artistic direction the game has taken.

A Note on Stretch Goals

Stretch goals for the campaign will include 14 new cards: 8 Heroes and 6 Events. As stretch goals, they will be included in the pledge. After the Kickstarter ends, they will be available for purchase as a mini-expansion to the base game.

A Note on Mechanics

The point-to-point movement of the game shouldn’t deter gamers. The game is more than just moving one space at a time. The movement of the ship is akin to flipping an event card at the start of a new round; it simply indicates when actions take place. Could this element just as easily been an event deck? Possibly, but it wouldn’t really feel like an expedition now would it?

The real meat of the game is in managing the Argo’s resources whether it be the Heroes or the goods. Knowing when to play a Hero for his ability v. his skill, paying attention to upcoming encounters so that valuable Heroes aren’t exhausted at a pivotal moment, and making sure to take advantage of port visits to ensure the Argo is as fully stocked as possible are all key elements to a successful voyage.

While the game doesn’t officially have a storytelling mechanic, the purposeful integration of Jason and his legendary Argonauts encourages a rich storyline and experience. While I’m not suggesting you have to immerse yourself entirely in the game, I’m suggesting the game might make it hard for you not to pretend you’re aboard the Argo, setting off for fame and glory.

Social Media

Follow the Argonauts campaign on twitter: @alcyoncreative.

Follow Argonauts on Facebook.

Join the conversation on BGG.

Space games for your pocket: Comparing Pocket Imperium and Tiny Epic Galaxies.

I love me some space games. One of my favorites is Battle Beyond Space. Players have three fleets of ships and nine cards. If they’re playing with the special action stuff, they might have an extra card or two. The point of the game: to blow up ships – hopefully your opponents’ but possibly yours too; space is only so big after all. And, all of this happens in nine, short rounds. But, yeah, I like space games. Probably because I get to make things blow up. In space.

Very recently I’ve become a fan of games that I can throw in my bag but still offer depth and choice. It would seem that micro games, which are all the rage (possibly falling out of it though now that I think about it) would be a good fit. So, a micro space game would be perfect for me right now. I can make stuff explode all from the convenience of my purse. What lady doesn’t want need that in their life?

That brings me to two space games that reportedly fit in your pocket: Pocket Imperium by David J. Mortimer and Tiny Epic Galaxies by Scott Almes. I can’t imagine they actually fit in my pocket but perhaps cargo pants or a coat or something similar, but I digress.

Pocket Imperium was recently picked up by LudiCreations and was successfully Kickstarted. Tiny Epic Galaxies was also Kickstarted this year by Gamelyn Games. The Pocket Imperium: Prosperity expansion is currently on Kickstarter, and I was talking about it with some folks I know, and the first question out of their mouth wasn’t “What does Prosperity add to it?”. Nope. It was, “How does it compare to Tiny Epic Galaxies?”

Because I have heretofore been happy in my space gaming adventures, I didn’t really think about it all. However, this question got me to thinking about how they actually compare beyond being games about space that fit in your pocket. I went back and checked out the Pocket Imperium Kickstarter page to see if this was addressed, and low and behold, people were asking about just this thing there as well. Rahdo runs through both of these games, and if you’re a fan of his as I am, you can go check out what he has to say about them. Otherwise, you can suffer through my ramblings below.

Basic Game Information

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A quick look at the basics, and the games don’t appear to be all that different. A note about player counts: When Pocket Imperium was a PnP, it was meant for 2-3 players; Tiny Epic Galaxies was originally 2-4, but during the running of the Kickstarter, it became 1-5. I don’t know what this means for the games, but according to the Geek, Pocket Imperium plays best with 3, and Tiny Epic Galaxies plays best with 4. Take that for what you will.

The next main difference is the mechanics. Pocket Imperium has double-sided modular boards and simultaneous action selection whereas Tiny Epic Galaxies has dice and planet cards. Why is this important? In Tiny Epic Galaxies, players rely on the rolling of dice to program movements. In Pocket Imperium, players simultaneously choose from one of three actions. Obviously the difference in driving mechanics will present very different experiences for people. If you prefer being able to plan on the front end, Pocket Imperium may be more your speed. If you prefer dealing with whatever comes up, Tiny Epic Galaxies might be the right choice.

Components

OK. Here is a big difference in the two games: the amount of stuff that comes with them. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the boxes are roughly the same size.

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If you need a visual, here are the component photos from the two Kickstarter campaigns.

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As you can see, there is quite a bit of difference in what’s included. Not pictured in the Pocket Imperium: Prosperity components are the 12 Prosperity cards. Otherwise, a quick glance at what’s offered should give you an idea of the experience you will have. I’m not sure at what point a game stops being a microgame and starts being a normal game that happens to be small in size. Regardless, I’m going to do a quick overview of the two games. I’ll do my best to keep it linear.

Objective & Endgame Condition

Pocket Imperium

From the rulebook: Score the most points by the end of the game!

From the rulebook: A game with 2 or 3 players ends after 6 rounds, and a game with 4 players ends after 8 rounds. After the game end (that is, after the scoring of the final round), a final scoring takes place – all 7 sectors are scored, with all systems generating points as usual, and Tri-Prime awarding 3 points to the player controlling it.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

From the rulebook: Galactic empires are competing to colonize newly discovered planets. Earn victory points by colonizing planets and increasing your galaxies’ level. Whoever has the most victory points at the end of the game wins!

From the rulebook: Once a player reaches 21 points, the end of the game is triggered. After that occurs, continue play until it gets back to the starting player (who does not take another turn). The player with the most points wins! Ties are broken first by number of planets colonized, then by level of galaxy, if still tied, total number of combined resources is the final tie breaker.

How Your Table Looks

Pocket Imperium

In Pocket Imperium, there is a central galaxy. Players each have 12 ships to place in the galaxy according to their three Command Cards. There’s likely a pile a of VP tokens around somewhere. If you’re playing with the Prosperity expansion, there will also be a Prosperity Chain of 5-7 cards depending on how many players there are. That’s it.

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Central Board and Command Cards.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

In Tiny Epic Galaxies, each player has their player board and all the bits that go on it. There is a row of Planet cards in the middle. There’s a Control Card (not pictured) that goes in the middle of the table; the seven dice are placed near this card.

View of Player Board.
View from a Player Board.

Round Overview

Pocket Imperium

Each round consists of 3 phases, with each phase being completed by all players before proceeding to the next one. The phases are:

1. Plan: Players choose the card they’re going to play.

2. Expand, Explore, Exterminate: Players reveal and execute their command cards.

3a065d7328218c4ef03457aab91ea897_original3. Exploit: Players sustain their ships (or not) and score sectors.

The Prosperity cards give players additional actions and the opportunity to claim Prosperity cards given they meet the conditions listed on the card.

A copy of the full rules is here.

A copy of the Prosperity rules is here.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

Each turn starts by activating dice. Each side of the dice represents a different action players can take:

  1. Move: Move one ship from its current planet to a different planet where it can do one of two things: land on the planet’s surface or orbit the planet and prepare to colonize.
  2. Energy: Gain energy for each ship on an energy planet.
  3. Culture: Gain culture for each ship you have on a culture planet.
  4. Diplomacy: Move one of your ships on a colonization track ending with an ! to the next space.
  5. Economy: Move one of your ships on a colonization track ending with a $ to the next space.
  6. Colony: Activating a colony dice lets players perform any one action from one of their colonized planets.

Play then passes to the next player. On another player’s turn, players may choose to “follow” an action by spending a culture, which then allows them to copy the action of a newly locked dice.

A link to the full rules for the prototype is here.

Really Just Games in Space

As you can see the games share little more than a theme and setting. The obvious difference is in the type and amount of components. The less obvious difference is the gameplay. In Pocket Imperium, players are selecting one of the three command cards each turn and competing in the same galaxy for the entire game. There’s a significant amount of player interaction that happens at both the reveal of the command cards – players may perform less of their chosen action if their neighbors played the same commands – and with the actual execution of the commands – losing control of an area and being shot out of the sky. With the added Prosperity cards, players can increase how much they are able to dominate space assuming they play their cards right. In contrast, players roll dice and decide their movements in Tiny Epic Galaxies. Also, depending on the Planet cards they control, players can mess with their opponents in various ways – moving them back on a track, stealing a ship, etc. Following a player’s locked dice action is sort of like interaction; it makes you pay attention to what the other person is doing at the very least.

To me, Pocket Imperium feels more like I’m actually engaged in the fighting and Tiny Epic Galaxies feels more like I’m controlling things from mission control somewhere. And, because I never pass up a chance to make fun of my brother who is in the Chair Force, I imagine it’s like the difference between being in the Marines and the Air Force. In one, you are directly involved in the mayhem, and in the other, you control it from afar. Talk about a digression. I did warn you.

The good news is you get to choose what you play. If you like both, play both. If not, choose the one that best suits your needs and play that one. I offer only one piece of advice when traveling through space: don’t forget your towel.