Tag Archives: Adventure

Waste Knights – A Written Review



If Waste Knights is any indication for the future, then Polish-trash is a term you need to familiarize yourself with. If you’re anything like me, then your knowledge of Poland’s board game scene extends just to the edge of Portal Games and no farther.  The rest is a vast dark unknown that occupies my thoughts about as often as Caylus or Hansa Teutonica.  That’s going to change this instant as Polish publisher Badger’s Nest is here to stay.

Waste Knights is a brutal yet colorful post-apocalyptic vision that’s two parts Max Rockatansky one part Fallout by Bethesda software. The two are shaken together and splashed across a tabletop jammed packed with hexes, tokens, and cards.  The production is visually sincere and pleasant as hell on the eyes.  Everything from the small sized item cards to the hex illustrations and the character’s portraits align with this razor edge vision of the world gone sideways, yet it manages to stay relatively bright and energetic.  It’s much more George Miller than Cormac McCarthy.

Snagging imports from small publishers is sometimes akin to playing Russian Roulette – you never know quite how the overall quality will meld and if it will stand up to the big players in the industry. Waste Knights comes across as something which could have been produced by the mighty Fantasy Flight Games.  The cardboard is thick and well loved, the attention to detail is exceptional, and everything just functions superbly.  The only blemishes on this peach come in the form of the occasional translation issue.  You will notice spread throughout the flavor text an uncommon flub or awkward sentence structure but it’s nothing terrible and easy to overlook.  It certainly doesn’t come across as amateur and only highlights the fact this was not written by a native speaker.

Despite the small translation oddities the rulebook flows extremely well. It’s a large and comprehensive guide that belies the relatively simple nature of the gameplay.  The weight is somewhere in the Arkham/Eldritch Horror realm in both component saturation and rules complication.  It’s a game that experienced players will easily be able to dive in to and be off and running within a couple of turns.




The structure of play is really quite straightforward in that you travel across the wasteland, experience encounters, and take advantage of location benefits. You’re generally trying to fulfill tasks (small missions) for the short term while keeping the overarching scenario objective in your peripheral vision.  What makes Waste Knights infectious like a bout of the rad plague, is the small inflections of subsystems comprising each of the major elements.  In this way it reminds me a bit of Christophe Boelinger and I see a couple of nods in the same direction as Earth Reborn – one of the most brilliant Post-Apocalyptic designs in existence.

The first subsystem to take note of is readily apparent when you first get your player-mat, randomly selected from a huge number of options. You’ll immediately take notice of the brilliant color-coded equipment system.  You have inventory slots as weapons take up hands, chest, or pocket positions and have a power relative to a tiered item structure.  Characters are differentiated by several stats used in checks throughout the game, a special ability, and starting equipment printed directly onto the sheet.  You can cover this starting equipment up as you tear a Flamethrower from a dead mutant’s body or fuse a cybernetic implant into your skin.  There’s a constant sense of opening a new toy via gear earned as rewards and gear acquired through a shopping spree.

The equipment fuels the top-notch combat system that most closely resembles FFG’s recent Forbidden Stars. Here players each receive an identical deck full of action cards including options such as Attack, Defend, Advance/Retreat, and Prepare.  You can execute a simple attack to inflict pain with your weaponry or turtle up to keep your fragile life in the balance.  All tests in this game are dice pools against set target numbers, in combat that target number is determined by range.




The range between combatants is abstracted and factors into the attack target number as well as the initiative based on weaponry. At close range you can only use short distance and melee weaponry as you’d expect.  There’s an additional layer of strategy in that you can eliminate your opponent from the fight or you can hang on to the end and win via momentum – much like Forbidden Star’s morale system.  It just works as your decisions are crucial and often difficult.

There’s a very satisfying sense of realism and narrative paired with just the right amount of abstraction due to the combination of range, damage, and momentum. As you play an Advance card to charge at your opponent so you can use your sawed-off, you get a real sense of colorful drama while he’s throwing slugs your way with his assault rifle.  The momentum reinforces the percussive weight of your decisions relative to skirmish tactics in the sense that advancing, inflicting damage, and suppression are all rolled into this elegant and tasty battle in a compact manner.

Likewise, hauling across monster infested country is handled with flair. You travel by spending fuel to move with one of several vehicle options and plot the path you intend to take across the map.  One of the opposing players takes the role of the Wastelander (which rotates with each player) and draws hazard cards that are comprised of mostly wicked events and perilous foes.  They will choose one such card to play during your movement, interrupting the action to force a check or an encounter.

The farther you move on your turn the more cards they draw and options they have. Additionally certain hexes may allow the Wastelander to draw more cards, suggesting you take care in plotting your trip.  This palpable sense of danger infuses the push your luck element of stretching your vehicle to the limit and risking a jaunt through broken ground.




You can run through rubble and damage your car, come across vast clouds of locusts, and be assaulted by human/centipede centaurs out to gut you. This player enforced advocacy for the harsh reality of the environment works superbly as opposed to a simple AI system.  The decisions are more nuanced and more importantly, vindictive.  Instead of having your car trash a tire and force a mechanical check, Steve will hit your steady Gearhead with an Electrical Storm testing his unfortunately low Survival stat.  It keeps you on your toes and braced to be smacked around like a baby seal.

Throughout this wonderful color and satisfying gear manipulation, you’re strategically running from point to point across the board to accomplish diverse tasks such as muling equipment or bagging mutant lizard pelts to decorate a surly fella’s bar. This is relatively standard adventure game stuff, enhanced by strong flavor and that fantastic encounter system.

The greater context is provided via the Mission Book, a full color document offering several interesting scenarios. You can compete to simply have the highest fame, gained throughout the game by overcoming foes and accomplishing tasks, or seek to find the malicious Bloody Mary and bring her back to the big boss to be reckoned with.  The options on hand are strongly diverse and the promise for more in the future is enticing.  The culminating scenario, Cult of the Manifold, has you hopping to infested cities and clearing the bile for the greater good; imaginative and always interesting.

Like the upper echelon of Ameritrash adventure games, Waste Knights is not defined entirely by its mechanisms or lengthy playtime. Long after the game ends you’ll be sharing a beer and reminiscing on Russel Crown (you read that correctly) running drugs for the overseer and being rewarded with a flamethrower that he affixed with a bayonet to take down that massive AI tank roaming the dead lands.  If that doesn’t perk up your interest, then you don’t have a pulse.

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Firefly: Kalidasa Expansion – A Written Review



While I felt the base game of Firefly was a fine offering that didn’t quite get over the hump to wow me, I had a little voice in the back of my skull whispering lustful comments about expansion content. The design was clearly framed with additions in mind and the mechanisms included are ripe for extension.  Kalidasa is perhaps the last in a long line of new Firefly content and it’s no surprise that it comes across as extremely refined and full of purpose.

Variety is key in adventure games because much of the excitement is derived from experiencing the unknown. By adding a huge side board, tons of mission content, new scenarios, and even new mechanisms, Kalidasa seriously ups the variety.  The extended board in and of itself is not a huge boon, more so in how it is employed.  New jobs mixed into contacts from the base game will have you hopping across the outer rim and swapping tales of Beaumonde and Djinn’s Bane.

The new jobs themselves inject a greater deal of chaos and vitality into the base game structure by offering some serious payouts for greater adversity. I’m also a huge fan of the new Bonus Drop off mechanism which allows you to complete an optional third step during a run.  This is effective in that it mixes up your typical risk/reward analysis and has you reacting on the fly just a bit more often.  Keeping you on your toes and unsure of the best approach is the lifeblood of the adventure title.




The concept of the nested dice roll also appears on some of these new jobs, forcing players to make a successful roll and then randomizing an outcome. This tree of branching results is noteworthy because it elevates the tension even amidst success.  It also packs extra weight to the relatively simple typical decision process and will cause you to perhaps reassess the odds and take greater care in following through.

The new AI controlled Operative Corvette is also a flavorful injection of mayhem that can bite you when you least expect it. It moves via the inclusion of new Nav cards mixed into all decks and will seize all non-stashed fugitives and force the discard of one wanted crew.  The hard-knock emphasis on law is pounded home with the new Alliance Alert tokens which can pop up around the Verse and mean bad news for the not-so-law abiding citizens out there.  Moving into an alert sector triggers an opportunity for an Alliance ship to come crashing down on your position to seize your outlaw duds.

Including additional Nav cards for the base game travel decks is fantastic. Travel is much more risky and dangerous, which gives a stronger sense of what we see in the Firefly television series.  It keeps you back on your heels and makes the Mosey action just slightly more enticing.  Wild swings and crazy events are what bolster a strong overriding narrative and it’s great to see this philosophy included here.



The Verse is huge


Kalidasa also offers new setup cards that can be mixed with different stories to alter the starting situation. It provides an interesting change of events to everyone’s footing by mixing up starting jobs or assets.  Again, more variety and unique situations means more opportunity for surprise and excitement.  This isn’t earth shattering but it’s an element I’d want to use in most of my plays to vary it up.

And let’s talk about those new Story cards. “The Well’s Run Dry” seeks to rectify my complaint about the base game regarding the huge influx of money ships experience in stark contrast to what see in the Firefly IP.  Mal and company finally have it hard and have to contend with a limited amount of liquid cash in the Verse.

“The Scavenger’s Verse” is even more noteworthy as being one of the most fantastic inclusions I’ve seen thus far in this game series.  This Story features an objective set that is loosely defined via poem and is intended “For Experienced, Friendly Folk”.  Some may have a problem with such loose structure but this is the type of creative risk taking in design that I eat up.  With the appropriate group I’d be tempted to put all of the rest of the Story cards back in the box and only use this one every single play.

Overall this new expansion is a whole lot of quality. Excitement and chaos is packed into the open spaces in the design and everything feels much more lively and energetic.  Firefly is anything but mundane and this expansion is a large leap in achieving a greater dynamic sense of adventure.

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Shadows of Malice: Seekers of a Hidden Light




Shadows of Malice has been one of the more distinct and interesting games that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this year and the news of an impending expansion propped my ears up like a beast on the hunt. Possessing a unique and sophisticated spirit, this game was a breath of fresh air out of lonely left field and I’ve been gulping it up ever since. Seekers of a Hidden Light extends the joy and bears that signature trademark feel of continuing to trod down the path its peers can’t even find.

I wouldn’t really call this an enormous or tiny expansion as its identity lies somewhere in between. On paper it may sound a bit soft, containing only two new functions but they are both well developed and interlock perfectly with the existing mechanisms providing for a full and dynamic fleshing out of the sense of adventure. One core quality of Shadows of Malice that some point to as a flaw is the repetitive nature of gameplay as you travel across the map from fight to fight with few other mechanisms to engage with. This was never an issue from my perspective as the color and narrative encapsulated in such few overriding mechanics gave my imagination more than enough to engage with. That huge stack of treasure, potions, and abilities were always ready to reveal the next big thing, like stumbling across a greatest hits album of a prolific band and hearing their A-work for the first time. This has always been a game I’d describe as riveting and engaging and Seekers merely extends that, as opposed to redefining it.




The first new system is the primary reason to pick this up and it’s the full blown quest mechanic that features several new decks of cards and a host of compelling ideas. Players may now spend an action at a Mystic to acquire a quest drawn from several potential categories. These classifications encapsulate the degree of difficulty required and the rewards scale justly. The simplest challenges demand you head to a specific terrain type and pass a luck roll, while the most difficult require you defeat a specific type of creature with an exact colored ability in a certain type of terrain. The majority of your questing will lie somewhere in between as you balance challenge with reward in an effort to gain the precious new Lux.

Completing quests earns Lux as well as potions and Soulshards. Lux is transferred to Mystics, called Lumos, which use the raw power of light to forge a new type of potion or rune. The potions provide awe inspiring effects such as allowing you to rotate a tile’s orientation or manipulate the luminous nature of wells. Runes on the other hand attach to equipment and provide a lasting benefit, but come at a greater cost, providing for a difficult decision between hoarding Lux to gain a rune or expending it for a quicker and potentially potent payout.

The quest system is a rather large change to the dynamic of the game in terms of providing a more diverse allowance of options and a large influence on how you must strategically tackle your approach. It doesn’t change the nature or overall feel, maintaining Shadows of Malice’s fantastic identity, but it puts a greater emphasis on your tactical analysis as you now have to put greater thought into how to spend your precious actions. A major concern is whether the quests are actually worth undertaking considering they require a number of actions to complete, but I was genuinely shocked and very pleased with the execution. Completing a quest is certainly not a simple decision as you need to feel out the tempo of the game and assess whether you can afford the spare time. It provides for delicious temptation to split your bands for greater action coverage and will require more discussion in cooperative play. All of this provides for an additional level of dynamic feel that is exceptional and hugely appreciated.

One aspect of the quests that I really enjoy is the fact that you can pick one up and hold off on completing it. There’s no timer or strong force pushing you towards the objective which marches right in line with the open and free-roaming narrative established in the base game. You can feel free to grab a quest while visiting a mystic, head west to obliterate the fell shadow creature stampeding towards a well, and then clear a lair on the way towards your quest. By giving players the agency to establish their own rules of engagement the game maintains that evocative flair and ease of pace that has become its trademark.




The second element of the expansion is less bombastic yet is still eyebrow raising. You can now collect bait from the dead beasts of the realm or by purchasing them from mystics. Bait may be used to help draw wandering monsters and manipulate the type of creature you’re looking to encounter. This is important because it works hand in hand with the quest mechanic by allowing you to mitigate the poor luck of never coming across an arborean or protean that you’re destined to slaughter and gut its appendage. As a small inclusion this is a very nice addition and comes across as an intelligent way to deal with strictures already established by the system.

One of the more subtle qualities of Seekers of a Hidden Light are the increasing hints of a greater backstory on the brink of emerging. Jim Felli has taken a measured approach to dolling out bits of established setting, avoiding a heavy-handed methodology and allowing players to fire at will. This is clever as it leaves a sense of anticipation without drowning out a collective voice and provides for a more relaxed integration that can be experienced over time. We’re sitting here, wondering what comes next which gently stimulates that sense of wonder and leaves you with a smile on your face as you can’t help but crave more.

Seekers of a Hidden Light is a huge win for Devious Weasel and another solid release bucking the trend of kickstarter. Well designed and properly developed, this expansion will find its way into your game and you will soon discover you’ll never want to play without it. With an increase of dramatic tension through narrative wrapped carrots of Lux dangling in the broken sky, it’s only a matter of time before you’re driving a crooked spear through the splintered husk of a bitter horror seeking that twisted claw to gain sweet sweet Lux.

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Lagoon: Land of Druids Review


Lagoon is a game in which 1-4 players (4 play as opposing teams of 2) each lead a circle of druids to shape the fantastical world of Lagoon by harnessing the power of its magical lands to bend destiny. The landscape bristles with three divine energies. Every player action alters the balance of power among those energies, and thus the players collectively determine Lagoon’s destiny. One divine energy shall inherit Lagoon, and the player who best served it wins!

The world is built using hexagonal tiles, and a new tile is drawn from a bag each time a druid explores a site. Site tiles are double-sided, and each side represents a different mystical site offering a unique magical power to the druids. Each site is also enchanted with one of three divine energies: Elemeen, Vowelon and Deonin. Since the two sides of a site tile are always linked to different energies, every site explored presents a choice of which energy to advance over the other two, as well as what magic will be put into the world for use by the druids. Players also strategically deploy their druids to unravel sites aligned with an energy they choose to oppose, removing such sites from the world and tipping the balance of power towards the other two energies.

The energy with the most sites in play at the end of the game becomes Lagoon’s destiny, and the player who most supported that dominant energy is the winner. Support is tracked in two ways. First, whenever exploring a site and expanding an energy’s reach in Lagoon, the exploring player gains a divine seed token matching the explored site’s energy. These seeds can be spent in various ways over the course of the game, but any seeds of the dominant energy remaining in a player’s supply at the end of the game are worth 1 point each. Secondly, whenever a player unravels a site, it is removed from play and placed in front of that player. At the end of the game, unraveled sites not matching the dominant energy are worth 2 points each.

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Skyway Robbery Review


As a giant airship travels to various far-flung locales, rival gangs compete to pull off daring heists. Your job is to recruit various skilled criminals to join your gang as you plan to take down fortified locations and steal the loot guarded within. You may also complete smaller jobs on the airship itself as it travels across the globe. Set in a steampunk world, Skyway Robbery offers high adventure and cunning, card-driven game play.

A player’s turn consists of selecting three action cards and determining their order in secret. Once all players have selected their three actions, the cards are revealed and resolved in turn. Most actions allow players to purchase new cards (hire gang members and buy equipment) from areas on the board or engage in an illegal, but lucrative, activity. Whoever earns the most Reputation points at the end of the game is the winner.

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