Catching up on Games (2/20/23)

Scarlet Heroes

This one’s a solitaire RPG. I’ve played this a little off the PDF, and I was really tempted to buy a physical copy. But after getting some 3-ring folders for playtesting gamebooks, I decided to print it out instead and put it into one of those. It came out great.

For a new campaign, I decided to move the setting to Rokugan, the Legend of the Five Rings world. It’s a big setting with a lot of lore, and it fits perfectly into the design of Scarlet Heroes. Also, the SH setting is a bit… problematic, relying almost entirely on racial stereotypes, but randomly including European fantasy tropes (elves, dwarves; all the classes use traditional fantasy names like Cleric and Thief). But the system is neat.

I did a big write-up on BGG, and when I get back to it and play more, I’ll add it to the website for those who want to check it out. I think my only complaint so far about the system is that it’s maybe too stripped down. It’s an OSR-style d20 game, but with most of the meat gutted out. I’m fine with some streamlining, but the combat is much more dice-chucky than it needed to be. And they even released a couple of classes for the game that have more abilities, so it’s weird that the base-game classes are super basic.

Age of Steam

My group has circled around this one for a long time, even after my friend’s copy came in from the recent KS. But it still wasn’t getting to the table. It finally did.

It’s a remarkably dry game, but with really tight economics and a unique arch to the game. How the board develops, where players start to get in each others’ way, and how the cubes get distributed onto cities really move the game in different directions. And you notice it in how players choose actions during the game. Some actions are chosen a lot early, then others are chosen more later on. And this can really impact how the turn order auction goes.

And there are definitely points where you can fall behind or make a big comeback. My friend was falling way behind for much of the game but managed to get in several big deliveries in the last couple of rounds while my brother and I ran out of good deliveries to make. I still managed to win, but not by a wide margin.

DinoGenics + Controlled Chaos

When it was my turn to pick the next game, I just felt like getting this back out. I rated the base game only a 7, but the expansion definitely brings it up to an 8. I really enjoy the set collection of DNA cards and how you develop your park. The new buildings and specialist cards help add more variety and strategy to the game, and the wild DNA and DNA tokens help smooth the randomness. It’s a shame this never went to retail because I think it could have done really well.

Marvel United: X-Men

I was never interested in the original Marvel United game. I’m not that into the Marvel universe and the game looked extremely light and not very thematic. But my brother had looked into it a lot and was interested in the X-Men stuff (which I was a little more interested in since I did read X-Men comics back in the day).

While the game is still extremely light (and locations also don’t really have much theme to them), the X-Men set improves some of the issues from the original Marvel set. Characters have more cards unique to them with special powers on them, and the villain variety is improved. My brother bought one of the team expansions, the one with Mr. Sinister, which was our first game.

While Mr. Sinister was really boring, our second game, a 3-player game against Sabertooth, was way more interesting. And even including time to teach our friend the game, it was only about 30 minutes. For a game that fast, I’m okay if it’s on the light side.


This was our first 3-player game, and we just played the base game this time. Still really solid. While there are a lot of differences between this and A Feast for Odin, it’s hard to say if there are enough differences. But I enjoy both.

Great Western Trail 2nd Edition

I was really lukewarm on this when we first played (first edition), but my friend ended up getting 2nd edition and wanted to try it again. It was better this time around. Though the luck of the draw still feels a little stronger than I’d like for a heavy Euro, and apparently, the builder strategy isn’t very good in the base game (which is what I did in our game of 2nd edition, though I could have definitely executed it a little better). So, while I like it more, I’m still not sure by how much. Maybe the expansion will change my mind.

Dune: Imperium

Similarly to GWT above, when my brother and I first played Dune: Imperium, we were surprised that we were both a bit lukewarm on it. We both expected to like it, but something just wasn’t clicking. Part of it may have been the bot which goes to random locations. Unlike a player, you can’t tell where the bot will go.

In our 3-player game, you can always make a good guess as to where your opponents might be headed, and you can definitely tell where they can’t go if they’re low on resources. So our 3-player game was much more enjoyable for me. I like the tightness of the game, and I like that you really need to be particular about what cards you buy for your deck. Unlike most deck builders, even bigger hybrid games, you really don’t want to just throw stuff in thinking it will make your deck better. You need to make your deck consistent by specializing and not overstuffing it with the wrong cards. And culling effects are really strong for getting your deck thinned.

My brother doesn’t really like it, and unsurprisingly, our friend was just as lukewarm as we were after one game. We’ll see if another game of it changes his mind. I’ll probably try it out solo soon.

Asgard’s Chosen

I had my eyes on this since it came out back in 2013, but it just never made it high on my wishlist. However, now years after it’s OOP, I found an in-shrink copy on eBay for $12, so I figured now was a good a time as any. I was also looking for a crunchier solo game with a cool theme.

The rules are pretty bad, and the overall graphic design and layout of the rulebook are terrible. The blue background makes it hard to read. The production, in general, is rough. The cards are the only pieces that look nice, but they’re super thin card stock. And it is a bit of a clunky experience (no thanks to the rulebook). But after borrowing some pieces from other games (Fire & Axe and Reaper Bones miniatures), it looked a little better. Overall, it was fun. There might be some weird exploits with the solo mode (which others have echoed), but it’s neat and it feels different. It’s definitely too combat-y for my brother, but this might come out for a 2-player game day.

Beyond the Sun

This was our first in-person game but our third overall (2 were BGA). And while I did enjoy it more than I expected when we first played, it’s feeling very samey after 3 games. It was already starting to feel that way after our second game. But we haven’t messed with the advanced stuff yet, so maybe the asymmetric player powers will liven things up some.

Dead Reckoning

I was pretty interested in this until I looked into the KS. Something about the game wasn’t pulling me in. Parts looked thematic, but other parts were very Euro. And the combat looked weird. My friend couldn’t help himself and backed it anyway, though he had some reservations too.

When it finally got to the table, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit (perhaps in part due to Beyond the Sun the day before being a little disappointing). While some aspects are very Euro where you pick up barrels of unknown materials and spend them at sea to buy advancements that upgrade your cards (a completely abstract process), the mechanics are really interesting. I like that on turn one, not only can you go exploring, and buy an advancement, but you also get to level up a card every round. There’s so much customization with your deck, and the abilities are pretty easy to understand. And during your turn, especially late in the game, you have a lot of freedom to how you want to go about using your abilities.

Only our friend ended up doing any combat and got really lucky. His first fight was his 1 canon vs 4 merchant canons. He still won and took 0 damage! I focused more on the area control part and upgrading cards with advancements. We didn’t do too much conquering of each others’ territories, but there was a lot of fighting over one of the islands toward the end.

My brother definitely didn’t enjoy it since the two main things to do in the game are area control and fighting. And without expansions thrown in, maybe there’s not enough to last many plays? We’ll see. Our friend already has some expansions for it, so we can mix things up if we need.

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