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Infiltration Review

infilatration box

Gaming is littered with quirky little titles that play bait and switch with gamers, masquerading as a style of game they don’t actually provide. It’s not a problem, as long as the game is fun. Indeed it adds to the novelty and charm of the title for the open minded. Dungeonquest, for example, looks like a role-play mimic but is in fact a push-your-luck title and a wonderfully brutal one at that.

Infiltration is equally deceptive. At first glance you would expect this to be a fairly straightforward cyberpunk adventure, where the players take the place of criminals attempting to loot a research facility for information before the police arrive based on a partly-random timer. Collect the most data, and get out before time is up, and you win.

And in a sense, that’s what it is. The game is furnished with quality thematic art and the requisite background quotes and flavour text to add a fake air of authenticity. It also offers plenty of opportunity for the players to interact with people and things in the research facility and to do what criminals in botched heists do best: royally screw one another over for a profit.

However, played with these expectations the game is bound to disappoint to some extent. While the card decks that are dealt from to create a new set of rooms for the facility on each play through are richly varied, thematic and interesting, the same can’t be said of most of the other components of the game.

Players, for instance, have no special abilities. They can take only four actions – move forward or backward through the room cards, interact with the room’s function or loot some of its data. To supplement this they also start with four items which are mostly one-shot variations on the basic actions. But the items deck is pretty small. As a thematic exploration, it works moderately well. As a heist game it lacks the variety and tension required to support repeat plays and has a weak strategic framework against which to make interesting decisions.

infilatration CARDS

It is, therefore, a damn good job that Infiltration isn’t really either of those things. Sure it’d be nice to see some greater variety in actions and items, but it’s not necessary. Those elements are present but rather than make the game, they just add pleasing extra dimensions to Infiltration’s primary purpose. Which is to be a bluffing game.

The first clue is the way that so much of the game starts face down. Rooms cards can’t be seen until explored or examined via technology. The data files they contain are face-down chips of varying value, and it’s the value you score at game end, not the number of counters themselves. Players hands, and stacks of data files, are hidden from one another. Each turn they select an action individually, play it face down, and only resolve the effects once everyone has chosen.

All this hidden information is absolutely crucial to making the game fun. Many of the card effects add to the sleight and confusion, such as the “Blackmail” item which permits a player to cash in some of his hoarded data files to escape the facility with sublime ease. But its clearest in the action that allow players to steal data in the first place. There’s two variants for this (use “Extract”, trust me) but both mean that players get the most if they’re the first to resolve that action, and less if someone else got there first.

That one point of critical uncertainty alone injects massive tension and psychological manipulation into the game. Everyone has to grab as much data as possible in order to win, so if there’s some left where you are, stealing it has to be a prime consideration. But the same rule applies to everyone. So unless you’re first in turn sequence this round, dare you risk it? Action selection is suddenly transformed into a sweat-soaked frenzy of second guessing and double bluff as you try and work out what everyone else is holding and planning.

That’s just when it comes to downloading data. There is, of course, plenty more. Items can allow you to make sudden jumps back and forth through the facility. Others allow you to break tech-locks or murder employees in certain rooms, releasing more data. There are room effects and non-player characters which will hurt or hinder players encountering them. But you only have one action per turn. It’s all about dare, wondering whether you can waste a valuable action to set a trap for another player, or whether you may become an unwitting victim of your own schemes. It’s all down to those cards held and selected by your opponents in utmost secrecy.

infilatration in play

But of course making your decisions in an information vacuum means there’s little mechanical strategy. That’s the source of the common whine about it being excessively light and lacking replay value. The important decisions are all about bluffing and reading your opponents intentions correctly. The replay value is in interacting psychologically with the other players, not with the game itself. It’s a kind of strategy, but not the strategy some gamers might be looking for. Especially not from the same designer as the mechanically stripped down and low-interaction favourite Dominion.

So Infiltration turns out to be a bluffing game in disguise. In this category it stacks up against an impressive number of popular semi-abstract games like Poker which arguably do the whole psychological angle rather more impressively. What makes Infiltration special are the other strings to its bow. The simplistic maneuver and hand management aspects. The beguiling cyberpunk theme sitting on top the the mechanics like a graphical overlay on a pool of data. The direct and often rather nasty player interaction. The push you luck aspect of balancing the data grab with the need to escape alive. None alone may be done particularly impressively, but as props to the core bluff, they function brilliantly.

It’s that blending of relatively common elements into an unusual combination that makes Infiltration. It’s a fast playing and easily learned game that offers you a gripping hour of cyberpunk plot twists, tension and backstabbing and doesn’t let up until the final score tallies are made at the end. Single unexpected plays and events can totally change the course of the game and you have to be able to take that in your stride, while recognising that the skill comes in doing your best to anticipate and ensure things aren’t quite so unexpected. Manage that, and you’re in for a treat.

Thrower’s Tally: Board & iOS Games of 2012

It’s the time of year for lists. Lists of things from the year that’s about to end. Most especially of things that you’ve found to be of surpassing excellence. I am no dissenter, no maverick, not strong enough to resist the pull of seasonal traditions. So here is mine.

Thanks to my slot at Gamezebo I feel, for the first time ever, qualified to make not one list but two. Both in the same article, o lucky reader! First there will be my favourite iOS games of the year, and then my favoured board games. With so much to write there is no longer time for seasonal waffle and chit-chat. On with the picks.

5. Blood of the Zombies

The Fighting Fantasy franchise was something I remember fondly from my childhood 25 years ago, so it’s astonishing that author Ian Livingstone and studio Tin Man Games have managed to ensure it remains relevant and thrilling today. It turns out that Blood of the Zombies makes a superb candidate for the app treatment, having a stripped down combat system and more inherent challenge and replay value than the bulk of the series. And Tin Man didn’t disappoint with their implementation. It’s all spelled out in detail in my Gamezbo review plus more. I’ve enjoyed previous iOS gamebooks but this is the first that was truly special, and made me excited about more Fighting Fantasy and Sorcery adaptations coming next year.

4. Punch Quest

Endless runner games are, in my opinion, a showcase for everything that’s wrong with mobile gaming. Shallow and repetitive, they offer little but the pavlovian rewards obtained from completing arbitrary goals and leaderboard positions. It is therefore a bit of a shock that Punch Quest turned out to be so brilliant. What makes it so is simply depth: there is tremendous variability and enormous skill in this. With a cavalcade of different enemies, items, terrain, bosses and branching paths and the ability to buy and recombine power ups to suit your play style, I’ll quite possibly be running this one endlessly.

3. Summoner Wars

Playdek rarely disappoint in terms of their apps, but I still think this game redefined the bar for board adaptations to mobile. The underlying game is a superb candidate for the treatment in any case being short and having perfectly encapsulated player turns to reduce to-ing and fro-ing. But the app built over it is flawless, looking good, playing smoothly, offering all the functionality you could possibly want. We might have had to wait post-release to actually get a copy but boy, was it ever worth it.

2. Battle of the Bulge

I’ve really said everything I can about this in my Gamezebo review, so go read that. I will add that what makes it better than Summoner Wars is just that Shenandoah Studios didn’t adapt a board game to iOS: they took board game mechanics and created something amazing that actually worked better on a tablet than it would in real life. Can you imagine fiddling with all those ever-changing VP combinations and goals in a real-life game? No, and that’s just the thin end of the wedge in terms of how this app does all the heavy lifting, leaving the gamers totally absorbed in the experience.

The awesome battle academy from Slithering software - a massive, meaty game on a mobile device

1. Battle Academy.

I reviewed this one too, on F:AT. There was never going to be another choice for number one slot: I’ve played this game regularly, as in several times a week, since it was released in late spring. No other game on any platform has managed that feat. It might be expensive, but it’s so, so worth it.

What’s the overarching theme here? Strategy. The strategy genre might be (XCOM excepted) pretty much a dead duck on other platforms but its undergoing a massive renaissance on mobile. That’s not surprising: touch screen interfaces are actually pretty clumsy for most twitch games but they’re perfectly suited to strategy. I suspect there’s going to be some more stellar work in this area in 2013 from the studios behind my top three picks, plus Games Workshop finally entering the mobile market with Space Hulk and Warhammer Quest. Going to be an exciting year.

So, on to the board game picks.

5. Lords of Waterdeep

I’ll probably get some stick for this, but I don’t care. It’s not the cleverest, most innovative game on the block but it made a sterling demonstration of how building on previous designs in a genre, looking at what words and what doesn’t then skimming the cream off the top and recombining it into a single game can create a brilliant thing. Balancing accessibility and fun with some solid strategy, and bringing dreadfully needed interaction into the staid, dull worker placement mechanic, it’s easily the best European-style game I played this year. More details in my review.

4. Android: Netrunner

This earned its slot on the strength of its emergent theme. When you’ve got games like City of Horror that can stick some zombie pictures on top of a generic negotiation mechanic and calling it a theme, Netrunner offers a primal lesson in communicating a sense of place and being through mechanics alone. Playing this you’re no longer a gamer, but for 60 minutes are transfigured into a global corporation or sly hacker. The other stuff, the clever intermarriage of strategy and bluff, the customisation and deckbuilding, is just gravy as discussed in my full review.

Star Wars X-wing miniatures game in action

3. X-Wing

And from one game with wonderful emergent theme to another. It’s much more of an ephemeral thing here, but it’s odd how this game simply *feels* just as it should. Pitch perfect in terms of weight, production, theme and ship handling. Opponents have remarked how they suddenly find themselves humming the Star Wars theme or imagining green and red laser bursts as they play. Personally, every time those little plastic ships come out I’m a child again, even if only for a moment. The game might be a money pit, but how do you put a value on that? If you like, you can put a value on my review instead.

2. Merchant of Venus

I’m still kind of reeling from the fact that thirty years ago someone managed to design an interesting pick up and deliver game and yet virtually everything that followed in its wake was dull as arse. Thus, old as it was, this game came as something of a revelation and a breath of fresh air. That’s why I’ve enjoyed it so much. That and the wonderful manner in which it offers a variable setup that ensures both rich narrative and keeps repeat strategies at bay. Every game re-engages both your logical centers and your imagination anew. Amazingly, here is my review.

Wiz-War Eighth Edition by Fantasy Flight Games game in progress with wizard figures

1. Wiz-War

Remember this, from back close to the turn of last year? I do. It’s so easy to forget early release games when compiling these yearly lists but this has stayed with me, popping out again and again with different groups and in different places, the only game I’ve probably collected a physical dime of plays this year. And every time it’s been ridiculous fun. Hilarious, enthralling, varied, entertaining. Every single time. It’s ticks all the boxes I could want for a short, light game, even offering just enough strategy in the card and position combinations s to keep your brain engaged. An absolute joy: itching to see an expansion. You will be unsurprised by now if I link to my full review of the base game.

The overview on the board game front is a little more troubling. Three out of the top five are reprints. They’re nicely modernised with streamlined rules and high production values, but they’re still reprints. So while it’s great that Fantasy Flight are getting their act together as regards their updating of classic games, and its great to see old material back in the limelight, it’s a bit alarming that so many of the best games I’ve played this year have been reprints rather than fresh designs.

I’ve never been one much for the hype machine. But what I’d like to see in 2013 is some more quality new designs. A deep, interactive deck-builder would be a nice start, something that really makes good on the achingly unfulfilled promise of that genre. In terms of actual titles, the only ones I’ve got earmarked at the moment are story-telling game Story Realms which looks fresh and interesting, Bowen Simmons’ long awaited Guns of Gettysburg, the world war 2 tactical block game Courage from Columbia and the multi-player card driven game Cuba Libre from the designer of Labyrinth. Seeing as it’s felt like a relatively lean year for wargames this year, that’s a nice slice of history for the near future.

Merchant of Venus Review

Merchant of Venus box shot

In this glorious age of reprints, there are very few remaining classic titles from the eighties that haven’t seen a rebirth in some form or other. Of those left stranded in the past most of any consequence were by designer Richard Hamblen. Known for his intricate and fiendishly detailed designs, one game in his oeuvre was relatively simple and short and cherished fondly for those exact reasons. And now Fantasy Flight Games has brought it to join the ranks of the resurrected.

Thanks to an amicably resolved licensing dispute between Fantasy Flight and another publisher, Stronghold, Merchant of Venus actually offers two games in one box. One is the original version, re-skinned with lovely new components and some minor rules tweaks and the other has been worked over by Fantasy Flight’s design team. The differences are not minor. While they share the same theme and inspiration the bulk of the components used are distinct even down to providing a double sided board.

In both versions players take the role of intergalactic traders seeking to explore the newly-opened galactic cluster 5632 and look for opportunities to turn a profit. Although the routes for movement around the board are fixed, each game sees a new random distribution of cultures across the planets, each of which buys and sells different types of goods and technology. The setup not only gives the game a fun exploration element, but also means that optimal trade routes will vary between games preventing tried and tested strategies from becoming stale.

The other significant common element between the versions is that movement around the board is dice-based and strewn with hazards. Roll-and-move has been abused sufficiently in other designs to make some gamers immediately suspicious of it, but the version here is full of added choices and subtle nuance and works extremely well, adding variety and uncertainty while leaving players largely in charge of their own destiny. The encounters on your way largely take the form of cash penalties in the classic version, or skill-based dice checks in the new version but both feature some other random variety mixed in.

The original is one of the few feted older games that I had never played, and I what I discovered about it surprised me. It’s a pick-up and deliver game, a well-worn genre that has stubbornly resisted most attempts at injecting theme and excitement into the mix in spite of the obvious possibilities for doing so that it offers. But Merchant of Venus is not only richly varied and exciting but strikes a wonderful balance between advance planning and terrifying entropy. Much like the economics it strives to emulate. And that path down between the two extremes is an electrifying ride.

Merchant of Venus in play

The two rule sets use wildly different mechanisms to achieve a similar end result of market variability. So not only does the random setup mean that profitable trade routes will be unique to each game but during play the value of any one shipment will fluctuate up and down. The game can quite suddenly turn from pick up and deliver to what’s basically a nail-biting race, as players compete to be the first to fulfil demand which then, governed by the iron laws of economics, vanishes into the vacuum as quickly as it came leaving the winner gloating over his credits and the loser with a cargo hold full of junk.

Sadly that’s about the only point of player interaction in the game. The newer version features events that allow players to hit one another with “infamy” points which detract from their end score, and a variant is provided to maximise opportunities to do this but it doesn’t add a whole lot. Mostly you’ll be navigating the vast reaches of outer space alone, which seems appropriate in a thematic way but prevents the spice of player interaction from being injected to enliven the occasionally plodding pace of play.

But those dull moments are the exception. The meat of both games is a tapestry of agonising risk versus reward decisions cloaked cunningly in a narrative of high adventure amongst the stars. And mostly it works like a charm, bewildering would-be profiteers with an array of ways to make and spend money. Buying and selling goods is the bulk of it, but you’re constantly challenged to evaluate whether ship upgrades, passenger charters or buying spaceports for a cut of the profits could be valid ways to recoup your investments while the same mechanics add seamlessly to the unfolding tale.

Merchant of Venus setup

The story and theme are where the considerable changes Fantasy Flight made to the original game engine really show through. Fans of the original have recounted the differences in excruciating detail elsewhere but they boil down to the addition of a great deal of variety. No longer are you constrained to be just a trader. Now you can mine asteroids, fight pirates and complete missions for fame and profit. This does create a lot more choice and flexibility for the player, but mechanically this is offset by a hugely increased reliance on random dice and cards. What’s left is not unlike a translation into board games of the long lineage of space trading video games stemming from Elite.

But there’s a cost, which is considerable extra play time, rules and administrative overhead. And there are aspects of the Fantasy Flight game that reek of insufficient playtesting. The much wider range of new alien technologies you can plug into your ship doesn’t seem to have consistent cost benefit ratios. Amongst these are the Fuzzy Dice which give a considerable score boost based entirely on a dice roll right at the end of the game, a mechanic so obviously atrocious it makes you wonder if it was dwelt on at all. There’s a challenge-based solo variant which is fun but some of the challenges are so random as to be pointless.

Both versions offer considerable charm. I think I prefer the classic rules but it’s a close thing, and those of you who are not time-poor parents may well find the considerable richness added by Fantasy Flight is worth the extra effort and the occasional badly-balanced session. I’m certainly pleased to have both in the box. And I’m even more pleased to have had the opportunity to play this excellent game which, old as it is, doesn’t feel out of place amongst modern hybrids of demanding strategy and exciting randomness. Lack of interaction is unfortunate, but it’s often the first casualty when thinking and thrills are squashed into the same box. And it’s a price I’m happy to pay for another bite at this delicious Venusian cherry.

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game box shot

It is Christmas day, 1980, and I am six years old. I go running through the house, rich with the smells of festive cooking, past beaming adults, trailing behind me a full stocking, to sit on my Gran’s bed and open my presents. Tearing feverishly at the brightly coloured paper, I hope against hope that my hearts desire is nestled inside. And it is: Luke, Han and Leia come tumbling out onto the duvet in all their plastic glory and I am filled with the glee that only a child on Christmas morning can know.

In years since I have lost interest in Star Wars. Long before the prequels, without fanfare or particular reason I simply started to find Tolkien and Star Trek more interesting. As an adult, I left behind my childish things. Even the nostalgia worn thin: when I sat and watched A New Hope with my daughter recently, I consumed it like any other fun family action film. But when I opened a box and found the detailed, hand painted X-Wing miniatures inside for one moment, one brief flicker in time, I was back on that bed again, surrounded by the garish confetti of Christmas paper, trying to still my beating heart.

For some of you, that will be a siren call. If it is, you should stop reading, now, and go to buy this game. Those that remain will probably want to know a bit about the mechanics. It uses a points based system to allow each side to select a variety of starfighters and upgrades for them, and pilots picked from a roster of children’s dreams to fly them. Biggs Darklighter and Luke Skywalker in the base game. Wedge Antilles and Darth Vader amongst the expansions.

Each craft has a unique maneuver dial allowing the player to secretly pick a movement path, and once everyone has chosen these are revealed and the ships moved. Each fighter gets to pick an action from a roster individual to the type and then those in range and firing arc can attack. You roll attack dice and defence dice based on the ships stat line then compare hit results against evade results to see how much damage is inflicted. There’s a deck of damage cards, and critical hits provide unique disabling effects. Accumulate too much damage and a ship is destroyed. Last man standing wins.

Star Wars X-wing miniatures game in action

It’s a simple, streamlined game and makes for a smooth, fast play experience that feels the way it should, filled with tension as you try and predict where enemy ships might go and excitement as the dice spill over the table. The individual movement, action choice and statistics for each craft are spot on from the nimble but fragile TIE fighter to the bloated gun platform that is the Y-Wing, wallowing in the vacuum. Planning your own movement and trying to anticipate the enemy provides a tactical base into which action choices insert a solid extra peg. Dice and cards make a heavy contribution toward success. There seems a good balance of these two elements in determining a winner, the game rewarding both skill and luck.

But for gamers used to all the decision making happening as the game plays out, X-Wing may provide a surprise. Like most points-based squad building games there’s a significant amount of strategic pleasures to be gained from looking at ship, pilot and upgrade combinations and building the most effective force you can with your points allowance. But again, like most points-based squad building games that means there are so many possible combinations that they can’t all be balanced, and there’s a risk of one-sided games and petty squabbling over one faction being “better” than another. Ignore it. There’s strategy here, but what the game is really about is playing the Star Wars theme in the background, and pushing primal buttons in the collective geek brain.

The base game comes with one X-Wing and two TIE fighters, each with four pilots and a small collection of upgrades. It’s not enough. With only three craft there’s no synergy, no outflanking, little interest in squad building. To try and wring maximum value from just three ships the game provides scenarios to build on the basic dogfight. One heavily favours the rebels, another the imperials, but they do offer variety and they do work with custom-picked forces and they illustrate how much mileage there is for fans to do their own thing with the game. The box also has some tactics-free quick play rules which are of no interest to hobbyists but are simple enough to parents play the game with young children, and three ships will suffice for that.

Y-Wing miniature expansion

Ideally though, you need more. Doubling-down on base game sets is the best value option but also the least interesting. Far better to pick from the expansion miniatures. The Y-Wing is my personal favourite as it feels qualitatively different to everything else available right now, with its ship-disabling turret weapon and ability to suck up punishment. Two expansions, one for each faction, is enough. More is better if you can afford it. Just be aware that it’s the sort of expandable game that can rapidly become a money pit. There are more and bigger ships coming in the near future, including the Millenium Falcon. You know you’ll want one. Budget for it in advance.

You’ll want one because when the ships are on the table and the dice are flying alongside them, you can’t help but get sucked into the slipstream. The painted figures look fantastic as they close to combat range, jockeying for position. The endless variety gained from open movement, squad combinations and different scenarios ensures a vast mine of narrative potential, each game, each thrilling ride inscribing its own little legends on the collective consciousness of your group.  The only barrier keeping you anchored in tedious reality is the lack of a star field background to play on. Make one.

X-Wing seems to be the realisation of something that I thought would never exist, but have often wished for: a miniatures game tailored for the board game hobbyist. You get all the value of customised army building and the joys of open, distance-based maneuver and combat on a tabletop, unconstrained by the confines of the board. You have none of the grind of assembling or painting figures, and clever design tweaks ensure measurement dispute over things like positioning and firing arcs are minimal. But if you’re prone to arguing about rules trivia, you’re playing it wrong. It’s a game about tension, excitement and reliving your childhood dreams. It’s an expensive game about priceless things. Play it.

Descent 2nd Edition Conversion Kit Review

Descent 2nd Edition Conversion Kit Box

The original Descent, Fantasy Flight Games’ behemoth tactical dungeon crawler, divided opinion like a sword divides a mewling goblin. Some people loved its combination of old school role playing with board game strategy, others loathed its over-bloated expansion range, confusing rules and gargantuan play time. So when a vastly streamlined second edition came out earlier this year most gamers were delighted. Except for first edition owners who suddenly had their valuable games rendered worthless and were understandably annoyed. To soothe their fevered brows, there is now a conversion kit so they can get some use out of their old investments.

There seems to be wide confusion over what this expansion actually does. It is categorically not the sort of conversion kit that will allow you to use your first edition Descent game to play the second edition rules. The differences between the two editions are too comprehensive for that. No, to use this you need a copy of second edition, and the purpose of this kit is to simply to allow the use of heroes and monsters from the old edition in the new one. No other components, no scenarios or tokens or board sections, just heroes and monsters. And that means it should be of interest to anyone who owns a copy of the second edition, regardless of whether they have older material lying around.

The contents of the box is a deck of monster cards and a set of hero cards matching the beasties and characters from first edition Descent and its many expansions. So the easiest way to use them is of course to just pull out those old figures. But you don’t need to use the genuine Descent figures to enjoy the expansion. If you’ve got Beastmen or Golem figures in your miniature collection, you can use them as Beastmen or Golems in the conversion kit just as well as the original pieces. And if you don’t, you can always proxy them with cardboard printouts. Indeed I imagine that very few gamers own all of the vast range of stand-alone hero expansions available for the original, so a little proxying is probably in order for anyone who buys the kit.

Adding older heroes to your new games is easy. Second edition introduces the concept of archetypes such as Wizard which can then choose equipment and skills from a range of classes, Runemaster and Necromancer in that specific example. So the forty eight new cards just have all the necessary attributes and abilities and an archetype so you can pick your favourite original hero and start using them right away.

Monsters are marginally more fiddly. Most scenarios in the newer game have one or more “open groups” of monsters which allow the overlord player to pick a monster type that matches one of the theme icons associated with the scenario. And this is where the conversion kit offers best value because with the base game alone that choice often comes down to one or two monsters, which is no real choice at all. The conversion kit adds twenty five new monsters and thereby increases the choice to the point at which it becomes part of the overlord strategy. You can look at the scenario goals and the powers of the heroes arranged against you and make a meaningful pick of whatever horror you deem best suited to rend them limb from limb. And with all the new hero abilities and new creatures contained in the kit, that’s a considerable array of possible options.

Descent 2nd edition conversion kit hero cardsBut here also unfortunately lies the downside. There are already a lot of hero and monster and situational combinations in the base game, so many that exhaustive play testing must have been impossible. The result is that there are times when a particular situation is vastly imbalanced in favour of one side or the other. Given the rapid play time and campaign based leanings of the base game, occasional one-sided games aren’t a major problem. But introducing a whole slew of new combinations in the game increases the chances of them occurring. There are already some complaints that certain monsters in this kit are over or under powered. In my own games I found the Beastman ability to attack twice in a turn devastating to inexperienced heroes. I’m sure many more problematic combinations will come to light as more and more people play the new material in the kit.

But of course as it comes to light, players will be forewarned and can balance their games accordingly. And as I said although it makes a minor issue worse, the problem remains a small one in the greater scheme of things. Chance are that if you’re playing enough of a game like Descent to warrant a copy of this kit then you’re likely not the sort of gamer that’s going to be bothered by occasionally unbalanced games.

Then there’s the price. The retail of this product does seem pretty extortionate for the two decks of cards that you get in the box. Of course it must have required substantial testing and design, so comparing the physical contents to the price isn’t entirely fair, but still. So you have to ask the question of whether what’s in the box is worth the amount it’s going to cost you. And that basically rests on how much you think you’re likely to play Descent.

If you like the base game enough to want to play it a lot, to want to play multiple campaigns, you’ll want a copy of this. Ignore whether you’ve got the figures or not as you can proxy or attempt to obtain the parts after the fact. The extensive range of new options it provides are just too tempting to ignore. On the other hand if you’re not going to play a lot of Descent then, regardless of how much 1st edition stuff you own, this isn’t worth your while. That, basically is how the value equation pans out. Now we just have to see how many gamers find the collector in them gets the better of the sensible consumer.