The 2015 TaG Award: The Grand Final
We’ve been struggling to find time to finish off the awards process this year. This is partly because (as I have mentioned before) one of the finalists, Catacombs, is a big game in just about every sense of the word. It takes more setting up than most, and can take longer to play than most of the games we have in our current repertoire. But at last we found an afternoon and got on with it. And here we have our report of this year’s grand final between the behemoth of cardboard and wood, Catacombs, and the feel-good Pratchett game, The Witches.
First up was Catacombs, which we played in our currently-standard form of running through two preparatory rooms, followed by the healer and merchant rooms combined and then the catacomb lord’s lair for the big boss fight. We decided to up the ante in this game by using the next boss in difficulty: Shargila the Gorgon. I had fun with centaur archers running around and taking pot shots at the adventurers, while Miss B hurled fireballs around while her wolf companion run amok. I am pretty sure we still get quite a few rules wrong (the rulebook is probably the weakest part of the game, which is a real shame), but this being something akin to a roleplaying game rather than a real competition between us, we tend to just go with what seems fun.
When we got to the final battle, I was very impressed with how philosophical Miss B was when I started using Shargila’s mega-power of petrification: a one-hit kill weapon, but using it can leave her wide open to counter-attack. I managed to petrify two of the four adventurers before the last two managed to incinerate the gorgon with a volley of giant fireballs.
I wasn’t able to get a thoughtful critique of the play experience from Miss B as she was too busy with her victory dance.
We cleared up, grabbed fresh drinks, and then set up our second game, The Witches.
The game officially has a phase of drafting the different characters, but Miss B always wants to play Tiffany Aching (natch!) and I’m happy to let her have that when it is just the two of us playing. I randomly took Annagramma Hawkin with her boosted magic capability at the game start.
Having played the game a few times now, The Witches flows really quickly, with the simple structure of turns going nicely, and there being some fun decisions to make most of the time: off over here to deal with those elves, then jump on the broomstick to visit another witch for a cup of tea. An, yes, having a cup of tea can be a critical part of the game, and one which I exploited rather more this time than I have in the past.
Miss B also had fun this game, but I think moved on to dealing with the harder problems a little too soon and had a couple of turns of having less useful cards in hand, leading to a couple of frustrating turns. To be fair, the game is such that no card is useless, but it can be infuriating to battle some elves and be forced to run away due to some poor dice rolls, only to draw a frying pan card (a mighty weapon, greatly feared by elves) right afterwards.
We hadn’t even started putting the game away before Miss B announced, “Catacombs wins!”
She went on to say that it was just because of the fun from these plays and that it’s not anything wrong with The Witches, which is also great.
I asked if we should take a photograph to commemorate the result. “I know what to do!” she said and ran out of the room. A couple of minutes later she reappeared, stuck a smiling face and a medal onto the Catacombs box, grabbed the camera and started taking pictures.
And so, I give you the winner of this year’s TaG award: Catacombs. Well deserved by a great fun game.