Pathfinder Adventures Update 1.2.6

Pathfinder Adventures launched on PC and Mac last week. In celebration, the game has new partners, added standard P2W cash shop elements, and removed Quest mode. On net: I hope this makes them more money, but I quit playing.

Desktop release: yay! It includes linking accounts: yay! There is some bug about wiping out progress that I need to check before doing that: par for the course with this game. The desktop version is a standard “buy the box” with some DLC, not the F2P (now P2W) from mobile.

Bugs were fixed with this release. Given the length of bug fixes listed, the game presumably remains buggy.

The cash shop is unexceptional. There were always “sell random cards” chests; now it also has “sell specific, powerful cards.” There are now boosts, for everyone who wants to pay to play a game and then pay to circumvent playing the game.

Quest mode was most of my time in-game, so its removal means they took away the game I was playing. (For free, so it’s not like they owed me anything.) It makes sense to eliminate it in that Quest mode broke the F2P model. Quest mode generated so much gold that I never needed to pay to play the game, and I have enough gold to buy the entire next adventure path. Weak business model. Now that is gone, so I do not know if reasonably one could F2P the game. Players “cash in” Quest mode to get a small amount of cash shop rewards; that process is bugged of course, but customer service is quick to respond to e-mails.

Content removed, cash shop expanded, primary way to earn cash shop currency removed. But you can now get it on Steam! The core game remains good, so that could be worthwhile.

: Zubon

Mini Metro

Mini Metro is a minimalist subway simulator. You design the public transportation system for a city that is growing and expanding. You keep going until commuter demand exceeds your ability to keep up.

The gameplay is so absorbing that my first play session was a 7-hour binge. This is a sim game stripped down to its cleanest essentials. The visuals are similarly clean. It looks like a subway map. The mechanics go mostly unexplained but are straightforward. Shapes go to shapes. Link the shapes. If you are familiar with public transportation at all, you will get the idea. A really elegant mechanic is that the screen is slowly but continuously zooming out, expanding the amount of city you are covering. The controls are simple but occasionally clunky if you are trying to do something precise in a hurry, like drag a train to another track with an impending crisis.

Variation in the game comes from having more than a dozen cities and then some randomness within each map. You start at a random point in the map, and I am not clear on whether the zooming out is straight up or pans as it goes. Cities grow randomly, so the placement and pattern of shapes is unknown as you start. Every in-game week, you get another locomotive and your choice of two randomly selected bonuses (train carriage, another line, tunnels, interchange).

Your ability to shift train lines, tunnels, and bridges around quickly is something real life transportation planners would envy. I think they would find the randomness realistic. Not only does growth defy urban planners’ dreams of molding it, you get both districts that perfectly mix functions and entire chunks of the map that are defiantly single-purpose, which is sometimes convenient and other times a nightmare to plan around. Sometimes your plans will be foiled because the upgrade you want is randomly not available. That feels really realistic, where the need for a new line is obvious but politically forbidden for no reason that anyone can explain adequately. Make do with a bigger interchange, skippy.

Fun, compelling, elegant.

: Zubon

The Emperor’s Challenge

Renowned Explorers: International Society recently came out with an expansion: The Emperor’s Challenge. This as an Asian-themed expansion, with four new crew members and a new map. The titular challenge is a new game mode, which changes the goal of the game from “gain the most renown” to “complete a series of random challenges before the timer runs out on each.”

As far as I have played it, the new content seems enjoyable. The new crew members have the sorts of abilities I like, with a mix of abilities so they probably have something you like. If you like the base game, “more of the same” is a good thing. I am apparently still somewhat burned out from having worked on 100%ing the game. (Tip: do not try to get 100% of the treasures in REIS unless you are already very close. You can invest quite a lot of time for a chance of having a treasure appear on a map, and then you have a chance to get that treasure. Many treasures * % to appear * % to acquire equals a lot of time, especially when many of them are mutually exclusive.)

The new game mode is not my cup of tea. It changes a strategic game into a more purely tactical one, and it is frustrating that you can be given challenges that are impossible to complete. Granted, that is part of the game, and you just work on the other challenges until your rival clears the ones that are impossible for your team/map/combat (nothing is ever impossible for the NPCs). It’s like a scavenger hunt mode, but not all the things to find are on the map, and the usual fog of war hides the map, and you still have the normal limits of needing to manage supplies and keep improving your team in the usual ways.

If you enjoyed REIS but thought it could use more randomness, this is your perfect DLC. If you do not like increased randomness in your gaming, this is not for you.

: Zubon

Ellipsis

Ellipsis is a minimalist avoid-em-up, where you much touch four blue circles and escape without touching any non-blue things. If you touch any non-blue things, you die. The real goal is to touch five blue circles per level, carefully enough to collect all the smaller blue circles in them, and escape before the timer has gone down a single green circle. That is how you 100% a level, and you must score perfectly on every level to 100% the game.

There are no words. The gameplay explains itself. The map is very pretty. The difficulty curve is erratic, as levels that are easy to 100% sit next to ones that are difficult even to finish. You do not need to play all the levels, although there are bottlenecks on the map. Ellipsis is good for “bite-sized” gaming, as each level goes very quickly (unless it is one you need to play 20 times to get the timing to 100% it).

Ellipsis is a game that rewards manual dexterity, timing, patience, and persistence. Ladies, get yourself a man who can 100% Ellipsis.

The game also teaches the important life lesson that you might as well kill yourself if you make the slightest mistake. Or at least the quest for the 100% achievement does.

: Zubon

Pathfinder Adventures: Rise of the Runelords

I reloaded Pathfinder Adventures, the mobile version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. All six parts of Rise of the Runelords are now available. The quest mode level cap is still 40.

The gameplay remains good. The later content is not terribly special, with some variety but mostly more of the same. I am told that is how Rise of the Runelords works: the first and most straightforward of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game sets. It responds well to brute force.

The game remains buggy. It seems better but still buggy. My Cleric’s ability to heal a card after fighting undead does not work after all undead. The game can get stuck, requiring you to forfeit and start over. Cards can get stuck in an unbeatable state, requiring you to forfeit and start over. This last was most irritating when it happened in the hardest adventure. The last card literally said that it went on the bottom of the deck after being fought, no matter what, and I needed to completely empty the deck to win. The forums list this as a known bug for at least six months.

When I reinstalled the game, the cloud save had my current story party but no other characters. That flushed a lot of character advancement.

I am still unclear on how this game makes money. There are now more cosmetics to buy, but it is trivial to get enough gold to pay for all the content. My previous play left me with enough gold for all the new content, and now I am back to having enough to buy the first third of the next campaign if they make another. Daily challenges were added, making that even faster. If you buy the game, you really are donating to the developers.

Straightforward, fun, worth the time. Theoretically being ported to Steam but I don’t see the evidence.

: Zubon

Crowdfunding Projects

Kickstarter seems to be the on deck circle for most new tabletop games, and we have not had a thread in a while to discuss projects there. What are you watching? Comments are open.

I am watching several but have yet to commit:

  • Dead Man’s Doubloons is the latest from ThunderGryph Games. It is a game of pirates and treasure, where you keep playing as a ghost ship even if your ship is sunk. The rules are online if you want to read through. Pretty, but does its complexities resolve to elegance?
  • A Touch of Class is a small book of D&D classes from EN5ider. It looks fun, but I don’t have a 5th Edition game going or on the horizon.
  • Gloomhaven is going to a second printing. This is a premium gamer product, a $100 box with a living campaign. This video is a good explanation of why that is awesome and maybe not for you. I don’t have a group together to make a thing like this work, even if I think it looks pretty cool.
  • The City of Kings is a smaller take on a cooperative PvE campaign. Another cool, 5 kilogram box of stuff I cannot imagine getting on the table very often in the near future.

Thoughts on these or other games that yet lie in our future?

: Zubon

Mine of Sight

You know that I love a good variation on Minesweeper. May I introduce you to Mine of Sight? It has nine different rules to use, such as the standard Minesweeper “how many bombs in the surrounding eight tiles” and the “how many bombs can this square see” count that gives the game its name. I am not fond of all of them, but you have lots of options to try. There are 123 levels as of now, with a chance of more levels and rules to come.

: Zubon

Proximate Goals

My wife and I played Agricola and Lords of Waterdeep in quick succession, and I must pass along her observation: Lords of Waterdeep benefits strongly from having short term goals. Both are worker placement games, but scoring is radically different.

Agricola scores everything at the end, and everything is in play. You get a penalty for everything you did not do, a penalty for every space you did not use, and a variable number of points for each of nearly a dozen things. It is a complex balancing game, and it does not pay off until the game is over. Your long term plans could come together perfectly or be scuttled in the last round, sending you scurrying for Plan B or C. In many ways, it is the epitome of eurogames, where it is not over until it is over.

Lords of Waterdeep instead gives most of its points out as you go through the game. You get a few victory points for a few actions. You complete quests, each of which has a set cost and reward. You are not plotting out a goal ten turns from now and working backwards through reverse induction. There is still the big kicker of points at the end when you reveal your lord and get the quest bonus, but there is a feeling of progress along the way and of achieving small goals all the time.

Agricola is a strategic game. Lords of Waterdeep is a tactical game. The basic strategy of Lords of Waterdeep is to complete quests where you get bonuses, where the major sub-strategy question is to go for fewer, bigger quests or more, smaller quests (tip: “more” is usually better, especially at lower player counts). That’s about it. In a five-player game, you have only two actions for half the game, and you work on a much shorter time horizon.

Agricola definitely has appeal to the hardcore strategy player. Lords of Waterdeep tends towards a broader appeal with its playstyle and simpler rules. (And I have a friend promising to show me Caverna soon.) This seems backwards for their themes. Farming games have broader thematic appeal than Dungeons and Dragons, and farming has a seasonal reward cycle while I expect the lords of Waterdeep to be working grand schemes that only pay off after decades.

: Zubon

Ichi

Ichi is an example of a game damaged by its achievements. Ichi is a simple puzzle game, a bouncing ball with bumpers and switches and such. It comes with 60 levels and proudly advertises that it has over 100,000 player-made levels.

To encourage you to make levels as a player, there are achievements for publishing 10 levels and for having 100 people play your levels. To encourage you to play others’ levels, there is an achievement for completing 100 levels, which you cannot do with the game’s built-in levels. There is a combined achievement to gain 1000 points; you can get 3 points on the built-in levels, but the other 820 come from 1 point per player-made level you play and 1 per player who plays your levels.

As a gamer, you can already work out what these incentives produce.

The player-made levels are filled with insta-complete “puzzles.” You start the puzzle, the ball flies into its target a few seconds later, and you do not even need to click. There is a mutually beneficial arrangement for achievement hunters, whereby you want lots of quick points and levels, while the level-designers want lots of quick points and plays. The original goal, generating lots of player-made levels and letting the cream rise to the top, would demand stronger tools than the game has to help that cream rise.

But there are some cute and interesting puzzles, and I got my 49 cents’ worth.

: Zubon

Countless Generations Unfulfilled

This weekend, I was in the mood to play a worker placement game. The question dawned on me with rising horror: how many generations now lie buried and insensate, gone to their biers with a nameless ache because worker placement games had yet to be invented?

Have you ever gone to the kitchen, in the mood for something, but nothing looks quite right? You are hungering for a dish that does not yet exist. The plant that would placate your eager taste buds has yet to evolve. And there you stand, wondering if a little more mayo would do the trick.

When you are bored on a Sunday afternoon in the long, dark teatime of the soul, those hours are stolen by your need to do something that does not yet exist, for a career in a field requiring another century of technological advance.

And there lies your bier, wondering whether you took the time to play a worker placement game.

: Zubon