Friday, September 19, 2014

Table-top Game Reviews: Steam Park and Assassin's Creed Arena

Recently I spent a day to just play table-top games with my friends. Most of the games were new for us, only one of them had always been our favorite. We played Steam Park twice, Heroclix once, Assassin's Creed: Arena twice, and COMBO once. I owe some friends to review Steam Park and Assassin's Creed: Arena. So, I'll just make short reviews here.

Steam Park 
Steam Park has at least two elements that make me fall in love at the moment I learn about it. I used to play Sim Theme Park (a PlayStation video game) with my sister. Steam Park just look like a boardgame version of Sim Theme Park, doesn't it? And then it has a steampunk theme. The rides are so cute, I can't stand looking at them on screen. I MUST HAVE THEM.

So I grabbed Steam Park at the moment a friend offered it in a boardgame group.

Steam Park is basically a worker-placement game with dice rolling and card drafting mechanics. Players start with a small terrain, arrange rides and stands on them, invite visitors, get some money (from visitors and bonus cards), expanse the terrain if they need more space, and clean up dirts (from visitors and construction). The winner is the one with most money when the game ends on 6th turn.

The dice are unique for Steam Park. They determine what the players can do for a round. If you're not lucky in your first roll, you can roll your dice again but you'll miss out a chance to wipe some dirts for free. However, the dice rolling mechanic does not entail too much luck influence. If you have (up to 4) casino stands, you can change your dice after the roll.

The first play was fun. It was good that one of my friends had played Steam Park before, so we didn't have to learn the rule (just checked some numbers). After the second play, I felt like, "Uh, it's enough of Steam Park for today." The setup was easy and the game was fun, but I think it lacks of competitive nature. The dice rolling does give some fun competition, but there's no way you distract other players after that.

However, my friend and I agreed that Steam Park has a VERY GOOD BALANCE. Even though my friend had three casinos since his first turn, I only lose with a small margin. I might actually won the game if I had made better decisions before the last turn.

All in all, Steam Park is a light boardgame that hardcore players can play between heavy boardgames. It is also a fun gateway boardgame for anyone new with table-top games.

A Heroclix session in between

Assassin's Creed: Arena
I'm a fan of Assassin's Creed (an IP of Ubisoft). When the boardgame came out, I WANT IT, despite some complaints about it. I agree that the board need some art improvement (the empty white boxes look boring). I agree that the cardboard player figures are disappointing (so I bought some Assassin's Creed Heroclixes to replace them). Still I'm a boardgamer and I love Assassin's Creed, so I can't not have an Assassin's Creed boardgame.

In Assassin's Creed: Arena, each player are assigned with assassinations. Unfortunately, the guards are literally everywhere and a target can't be assassinated if a guard is around him. Of course you can kill the guards, but if you do too many killings until you run out of action cards in your hand, other players can kill you. Sometimes you just have to kill a target or a player to prevent the player from winning the game.

Compared to Steam Park, Arena is definitely more competitive, and thus it is more challenging. Many times I had to check how many victory points that the other players have, so I know whether I have to steal their treasures, kill them, or kill the targets that they're about to assassinate. There's also a way to prevent other players from assassinating a target (and get some VP from doing that): send a guard to protect the target. The event cards sometimes allow players to move a guard. It is not that convenient, though. You should roll a dice to determine how far the guard should move. Still, it's fun to try bothering other players.

The combination of the board, the action cards, and the event cards makes a good balance for the gameplay. In the second play, I realized that the game is a bit more complicated than it seems. And when we're done for the second time, I wanted to play again just to assassinate my friends, LOL.
The downside of this boardgame is the theme. It succeeds in bringing the assassination theme. But it could be any assassin. I don't feel anything Assassin's Creed beyond the names of stuff. I wish there were Assassin's Creed stories in the game. Even my friend felt the game was bland because he found no story in it.

In short, Assassin's Cred: Arena is fun for competitive players but it lacks of story.

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