The 2015 TaG Award: Game-off number 2
This year’s TaG award has been progressing a little slowly, partly as one of the shortlisted games is one that requires some logistical effort to get to the table and we needed to have the time and space available at the same time that Miss B felt like playing something that would take more than a few minutes. But this weekend, the day arrived when we could play both Catacombs and Lift Off in the same session.
The problematic game here is, of course, Catacombs, as a full game would probably take us something like two hours, plus setting up the copious quantities of components and putting them away again afterwards turns this game into a major (though really fun) undertaking. We have decided to trim the game down to just three rooms (roughly half the normal game) for our normal plays. This makes the game far less challenging for the heroes than it would normally be, but in the case of Catacombs, the aim is definitely more to have fun than it is to win, so if we can have fun in a manageable time then we all win.
As you may remember, Catacombs is a dexterity-based dungeon crawl game. One or more players control a team of adventurers, represented by wooden discs, who fight their way through a series of monster-infested rooms by flicking their discs at other discs representing the monsters. Add a smattering of special abilities and there is space for a load of fun to be had.
For this particular play we opened up one of the expansions that we got from the Kickstarter project, “Chicks in a Catacomb”. I can’t stress just how cool this little expansion is, largely because it goes so strongly against the way fantasy games usually go. In most games where there are individual characters, there is often a single, token female. Runebound 2nd edition is better than most, with three female characters available, but this is out of a total of twelve, and I won’t go into the appearance of the women. The base set of Catacombs has six playable characters, two male, two female, plus one undead and one chicken (yes, really), both of uncertain gender. The Chicks in a Catacomb expansion, despite its less than PC title, adds four new female characters which all have unique awesomeness to them. Miss B very much approves, as do I.
As usual, I was the Overseer, controlling the monsters against Miss B’s all-girl team of adventurers. We had a really good time with this, and I was really proud of the way Miss B dealt with failures at various times. It wasn’t long ago that we might have got very close to tears if things went wrong, but not this time. Though it must be said that it never really looked like the adventurers would fail this time. And eventually the evil sorcerer Vasesak was defeated.
After a load of packing stuff away and a short break, we got Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet out for its first play in some time. It was also a game we got from a Kickstarter project, but it is a lot lighter than Catacombs — though the box is even more dense, thanks to the generous quantities of cardboard inside.
By way of a reminder, Lift Off! is a game about trying to help aliens escape from their home planet, which is going to explode very soon. You collect cards which allow you to access four different lift off points (from a sizable selection, which vary from game to game) and, hopefully get off the planet; each lift off point has different (generally simple) rules dictating how it works, and sometimes you have to cooperate with your opponents to, well, lift off.
The game is very much a family game, with very simple rules and some of the cutest presentation of a boardgame I have seen, from the lovely board graphics to the absolutely adorable “alieneeples” that you have to rescue.
This time we were chugging along, having a nice time (which got a little bit weird when one of the lift off points, the Star Gate, suddenly vanished to be replaced by a teleport pad) when Miss B suddenly, without warning, sent the “Garglore” (a monster that gets in the way of launches) to the satellite station, preventing my guys from escaping and allowing hers some extra time to secure the win. It was a well-timed play that she was apologising for for the rest of the game, despite me telling her that it was a totally cool move and it was not only OK but really neat that she did it.
So, an eight-year-old that makes killer moves but feels remorse for them.
We got through the game pretty quickly and as we were packing up, I asked Miss B which game she thought was the winner. There was no hesitation before she announced that Catacombs had the edge. She clarified that it was pretty close, but not as close as last time, so she didn’t feel that we needed a formal scoring system like we used in the first game-off. She did say, though, that Lift Off! is definitely great and that we should play it more often.
So, we now know this year’s finalists: Catacombs will be meeting The Witches to decide the 2015 TaG award winner.