The 2015 TaG Award: Game-off number 1
The day of the first game-off for this year’s contest arrived and Miss B selected the games to try, following the usual tradition of taking one of the games selected by her and one of mine. And so, we settled down for an afternoon playing The New Dungeon and The Witches.
Our first game was The New Dungeon, which is a fairly lightweight dungeon crawl game that we first played over three years ago and have enjoyed playing from time to time ever since. The game has been through a number of editions (ours is from the late 1980’s), and is actually still in print as Dungeon!
Anyway, the game involves moving your character around a subterranean complex, investigating rooms, rolling dice to fight monsters, and amassing treasure. When you have amassed enough treasure (the target amount depends on which character you take, as some are far more powerful than others) you return to the start space in order to win. Miss B has decided that she likes playing a wizard, which is a very powerful character, allowing you do get deeper into the dungeon more quickly, while I usually play a paladin, with healing powers; these two characters having the same treasure target, but different styles of play.
On this occasion I managed to make a great start to the game and soon got myself two thirds of the way to my target, while Miss B was struggling to progress. Then everything changed when I got unlucky and failed to kill a monster. Not a problem, I just needed to roll a pair of dice to see if I was wounded. Anything but a double-one and I survive, but take varying degrees of penalty, any of which are only a minor inconvenience given my healing powers. The roll, of course, was snake-eyes! That made me drop all of my treasure and go back to the start. I then spent several turns trudging back to face the same monster, only to fail again and roll another double-one. So Miss B strolled in, lobbed in a fireball, picked up all my lost treasure, and was just a couple of rooms away from a win, which she easily sorted.
That second death was actually just hysterically funny and had us both giggling for some time.
Once we had recovered from that experience, put the game away, and had a cuppa and a snack, we got out The Witches: A Discworld game. This is a game that is much newer to us and we only played for the first time earlier this year. In this one, players are apprentice witches wandering around the environs of Lancre from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, trying to deal with an array of problems that range from simple issues like pregnancies or sick pigs to nasty threats like vampyres or elves. The game is actually about visiting a location and rolling dice to see if you can overcome a challenge, so has that in common with Dungeon, but in this case you can play cards to help yourself in assorted ways, and I think the game evokes its theme pretty well, including making it so that witches periodically end up stopping to take tea together (to everyone’s benefit). As a sad note, I heard recently that Martin Wallace and Treefrog Games have now lost their license to produce Discworld games so this game (along with its sister game, Ankh Morpork) is extremely unlikely to even get reprinted.
This game didn’t have anything like the laughter that we had during our play of Dungeon, but we had a lot of fun working together to ensure that the problems were kept under control (there are a couple of ways for everyone to lose — something that really winds up some gamers, but this is much more of a family game than a real “gamer’s” game) and trying to engineer a situation to invoke the “power of three”, where if you have cards for three different adult witches to help you, you can automatically deal with any problem, however dire. Neither of us managed to do this in this game (B nearly did at one point, but then didn’t need to), but it’s great trying to get it lined up.
So to the verdict…
Actually, this turned out to be a lot trickier than expected as Miss B said that both games were really good and she couldn’t choose between them. It was actually a couple of days of thinking before we finally agreed on a plan to give scores for each of the games on a scale of 1 to 10 in each of a number of different categories. Then we could add the scores up and see if we had an overall winner. For each category we had a short discussion and then Miss B assigned scores.
The categories, as chosen and recorded by Miss B were: “Funnyness” (a comfortable win for Dungeon), “Thinking” (won by The Witches), “Artwork” (again The Witches), “Easyness” (taken by Dungeon), and “Howmuchplayagainwantability” (narrowly edged by The Witches). Once the scores had been totaled and not independently verified, it turned out that The New Dungeon had a creditable score of 39, but The Witches had won by the narrowest of margins, with a score of 40.
I am therefore delighted to announce that The Witches is this year’s first finalist.