G&G Reviews: One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Reviewer: Stuart Holden

Developer: Bezier Games

Publisher: Bezier Games

 

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a multiplayer hidden identity board game for 3-10 players.  Each game lasts about ten minutes and consists of two teams: the Village team versus the Werewolf team.  The purpose of the Werewolf team is to be “undiscovered” by the Villagers throughout the entire game play, until everyone is required to reveal their character’s identity at the very end. If the Werewolves are able to do this, they win, but if the villagers can figure out even who just one of the wolf players is and successfully eliminate them, then the Villagers win.  That means that there’s a lot of bluffing in this game; the wolves can’t say out loud who they are, and often times will pretend to be a villager in order to keep their identity safe.

At the start of the game, each player is randomly given a character card from a shuffled deck. That player is allowed to look at their card, but not allowed to show anyone else. Then all players are required to close their eyes, and a designated player reads a turn sequence for specific players to do certain actions while everyone else has their eyes closed. For example, “All Werewolves open their eyes and look for other Werewolves”. This command is required during game play in all versions of it, so that all Werewolves know who their fellow teammates are without the other players knowing. Then other players follow with actions including: being able to look at another player’s character card without them knowing, or swapping two other player’s cards or trading another player’s character for your own, meaning that you could very well end up on another team.

There is a large pool of characters available in the game, more than can be used for a single playthrough; different ones can be picked and inserted as well as removed to make each game different, because every character has it’s own sets of rules/abilities. Not all characters are used at once in a single game; only as many are needed per players playing.

There are two phases during the game: Nighttime and Daytime. Nighttime is when players are required to close their eyes and only open them when it is their turn to use their special ability while everyone else has their eyes closed. After everyone in the required turn sequence does their “secret” action, everyone one opens their eyes and Daytime begins.

During Daytime, everyone opens their eyes and has a few minutes to argue over who was who. The Villagers will try to figure out who the Wolves are, and the Wolves will pretend that they are actually Villagers. When the time limit runs out; everyone will point to an another player in the game that they want to eliminate. The goal of the Villagers at this point is to team up and eliminate at least one Wolf. Majority vote in most circumstances means that that player is eliminated. Then everyone flips over their cards to determine if the eliminated player is indeed on the Wolf’s team. If at least one member on the Wolf’s team is killed, the Villagers win; if not, the Wolves are victorious.

So overall, I think this game does pretty well against the others of its genre, such as Mafia and Avalon. It seems very balanced, compared to Mafia in particular; in that game, one side (the Mafia) has a distinct advantage, while in One Night it’s much closer (though perhaps the Villagers have a slight advantage here).

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a pretty short game that doesn’t involve setting up a lot of game pieces. In fact, I would almost argue that One Night is like a party game, due to the number of players, the short length, the small amount of of physical pieces involved, and the heavy emphasis on social interaction. It’s nice to have games like this alongside longer, more in-depth games, as more people can find something that appeals to them.

 There’s a free app for the game you can use to handle the narration if you want!

There’s a free app for the game you can use to handle the narration if you want!

So overall, I think this is a pretty good game. It’s well designed gameplay-wise, as well as in the minimal physical construction of the game. And it’s moderately priced in most stores too, so that’s a plus.

Thanks for stopping by and praying. Look forward to more articles by Gospel & Gaming on our website.

 

Overall Score: B+

 

Stuart Holden is a volunteer with Gospel & Gaming.

G&G Reviews: Virgin Queen

Reviewer: Jacob Toman

Developer: Ed Beach

Published by: GMT Games

Genre: Strategy War Game

 

Virgin Queen is the sequel to the historical war simulation game “Here I Stand” from GMT Games. Game designer Ed Beach (who is also leading up development on Civilization 6 and developed Here I Stand) has outdone himself with another fantastic game that puts players in the midst of the power struggle of 16th century Europe.

My own favorite board games are games that offer difficult decisions for players to choose from. Virgin Queen challenges players in their decision making at every turn. Even the victory conditions add a layer to the challenge of decision making since there are multiple paths to victory.

Win condition 1: Have the most points after 6 turns.

Win condition 2: End a turn with 25 points or more

Win condition 3: Control enough Keys (particular cities)

Each player takes on the role of a major power seeking it’s glory around the globe. The major powers playable are Ottomans, Spanish, English, French, Holy Roman Empire and Protestants.

The game board is divided into one major primary action map, and several smaller action maps. Portions of the map are dedicated to representations of Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Conflict has overrun almost every city, port, and religious group. While the conflict is often represented by armies crossing borders and laying siege to cities, there is another persistent conflict throughout the length of the game that exists beyond the board: this is the dynamic conflict of personalities between players gathered at the table.

 The art of the game is beautiful and quite well themed!

The art of the game is beautiful and quite well themed!

A typical turn lasts about an hour. Each player has a chance to play a card from their hand either for a special event, or for resources to be spent on various actions. Making a choice between using a card for a special event or resources can mean the difference between winning and losing.

 

There are three major components to gameplay: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, and Balance of Power.

Diplomacy:

The ongoing dynamic of relational diplomacy is the driving force behind the game. As each player makes decisions for their factions, there are rivals, friends, traitors, and informants that emerge. Every strategy game I've played includes dice, armies, and managing resources, but no other strategy war game combines tactical military knowhow with grand political strategy. Virgin Queen rewards those who are masters of deceit, negotiating, and organizing; between turns plays can negotiate for the exchange of lords and ladies in marriage, pursue scientists, renaissance artists, trade cities, troops, fleets, and action cards. Because players have such a wide variety of options for trade, enemies can emerge from negotiations as trusted allies, while trusted allies can leave negotiations as treacherous brutes. It is the human element that makes this game so compelling; no two turns are the same, and no two games repeat history.

 The game even has a separate board for keeping track of all the diplomatic nuances!

The game even has a separate board for keeping track of all the diplomatic nuances!

Military Strategy:

Wielding the combined forces of both land and sea, players engage in deciding who to go to war with, when to strike peace, and when to pirate promising rival ports. Each city, fort, and port are connected via paths; this type of movement mechanic is called “point to point”. Some of the particular nuances of point to point based movement systems are found in the choke points created through the limitations of available moves. The choke points along two rivals borders demand the attention of players who hope to achieve victory on the battlefield. While there is a lack of tactical combat in the battle results themselves (battles are resolved with a few simple tosses of dice), the challenge of military strategy in Virgin Queen comes in when and where to strike.

Certain factions have stronger land armies than their opponents or neighbors along a border. Choosing to go to war can be the clinching plot to a player's victory...or it can fail, and create an enemy that has a long memory of betrayal. Knowing when and where to strike with your military’s strength isn’t just a differentiating factor between play styles; it’s the difference between winning and losing in Virgin Queen. A general proverb of wisdom: when there is a war between 3 armies, never be on the side without the ally.

Balance of Power:

In a game of 6 players with rules that allow for anyone and everyone to band together, or fight to the death, much of the game is balanced around each player keeping another opposing player in check. Some factions are uniquely positioned to prevent certain types of victories and goals from being achieved by other rival factions; an example of this would be If player A leading a faction decides to ally with player B when the rest of the players were expecting players A and B to go to war. This unexpected change in political alignment can mean a massive shift in the direction of gameplay for the duration of the alliance. 3 players could try to negotiate an anti-aggression pact against one player in particular. If the other 3 players don’t make an attempt to prevent or disrupt this type of anti-aggression pact, they will soon see themselves out of contention for victory.

This sort of negotiation is common in games of Virgin Queen. In this example, by a small power group of players narrowing down the contending parties for victory from 6 to 3, they have increased their own chances of winning, while also removing potential threats. It’s for this reason that maintaining the balance of power, and everyone at the table communicating clear expectations to both enemies and friends, is so important. I’ve more than once seen two allies disappointed with each other as they each thought the other was responsible to prevent another player from accomplishing a goal. It’s a bit like in baseball if you’ve ever seen two outfielders run into each other trying to catch a ball. To play good defence in baseball, there has to be clear communication. The same is true to maintain the balance of power in Virgin Queen.

Faction descriptions:

While Virgin Queen is incredibly fun, it isn’t strategy alone that makes it great. The game’s excellence comes from the blending of a fascinating historical theme with compelling interactive mechanics. Each faction offer unique historical leaders, events, and paths to victory.

Ottomans: Suileman I

The Ottoman’s are a powerful force militarily at the start of the campaign. The Ottomans will be your favorite faction if you like bold aggression and the versatility to engage in war over land or sea.

Spanish: Philip II

The Spanish during this period of history are known for the construction of the great invasion fleet of England, the dreaded Armada. Players will enjoy leading the Spanish if they enjoy the multifaceted challenge of Juggling the many wars, alliances, and new world colonies.

English: Elizabeth I

Players take on the role of the Virgin Queen herself as they seek to expand the influence of the English empire across religious, political, and militaristic horizons. The English are for the sneaks, knaves, and rogues of gameplay.

French: Charles IX

The French player begins the campaign on the verge of victory. Centrally located between 4 other players, (Spanish, English, Protestant, and Holy Roman Empire) the French are in a tight spot diplomatically. France is best enjoyed by players who want to push themselves and their negotiations skills to the limits.

Holy Roman Empire: Maximilian II

Standing in the great gap between the ever expanding Ottoman horde and the west of Europe is the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire will be enjoyed by players that like to gauge their foes and wait for a decisive moment before making their game deciding play.

Protestants: Coligny, Henry Navarre, William of Orange, and Maurice of Nassau.

The Protestants are unique in Virgin Queen in that their lands are not their own at the outset of the game, nor are their lands united. Players who will enjoy playing as the Protestants thrive playing the role of spoiling upstart.

 

As a missionary that is pursuing relationships and seeking opportunities to listen to gamers and share Christ, this game provides a great platform for relationships that have already begun. I wouldn’t want to sit down and agree to a game of six, or eight, or twelve hours long with strangers or with people who didn’t want to share a daylong game. This game is analytical, strategic, and coercive, and that takes a special type of group to get together and play with.

I’m thankful that the Lord has allowed me to build relationships with many gamers in St. Louis to play Virgin Queen face-to-face with and around the world to play by email. At the end of one session of Virgin Queen, I had 2 friends who were atheists stay into the long dark hours of the morning talking about God. I strongly believe that conversation would never have happened had we not bonded and shared a day of gaming over Virgin Queen. You may never play a game of Virgin Queen, but would you be willing to pray for Gospel & Gaming as we play? Pray that the games we review, play, and share with others would be opportunities for God to be glorified!

Virgin Queen is not for the light hearted gamer. It’s long, and can at times be intense, but it’s near the top of my strategy games list right next to it’s predecessor Here I Stand. I’m hoping to play several more games of Virgin Queen this year by email, and maybe a few face-to-face. There aren’t many more ways I’d rather spend my board gaming time than with a masterpiece of historical theme, strategy, and diplomacy.

 

OVERALL SCORE: A-

 

 

G&G Reviews: Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Reviewer: Michael Mendis

Developer: DICE

Publisher: Electronic Arts

ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC

 

When the original Mirror’s Edge was released back in 2008, it merged two popular game genres in a way that had never been done before.  Developer DICE (best known for creating the Battlefield first-person shooter games) created a first-person platformer: a game that took place entirely in first-person and focused not on combat (as pretty much every other game that played from the first-person perspective had), but on parkour-style climbing and jumping.  It was a unique experience that quickly gained a cult following of players who spent hours not only completing the game’s main story missions, but replaying the game’s obstacle courses to get the best times possible.  Fast-forward to 2016, and DICE has just wrapped up development on Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, a reboot that takes the mechanics of the original game and places it into a big open world.

In Mirror’s Edge Catalyst you play as Faith Connors, a young woman who lives on the rooftops of the city of Glass, hiding from the authorities as she and her fellow “runners” earn money by secretly and quickly delivering packages for various customers.  As mentioned above, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a reboot of the original; some elements of the game’s story and lore remain the same (Glass is still a near-futuristic city run by a big brother-esque totalitarian group of corporations), while others have been altered (Faith’s sister isn’t a cop like she is in the first game).  Altogether, the story premise is quite strong, and combined with the game’s absolutely stunning art style (which has some of the best use of color that I have ever seen in gaming), this makes Catalyst one of the most intriguing and unique AAA games on the market today.

Unfortunately, the game’s actual story fails to live up to its potential.  The plot is completely forgettable, and the story’s twists are way too predictable, robbing key moments of their dramatic weight.  The characters themselves aren’t much better; most of them (including Faith) are either just as forgettable as the overall story, or else are memorable only for how annoying they are. 

If the game’s story is disappointing, the high quality of the game’s traversal mechanics helps make up for it.  Running around the city of Glass is an absolute treat; the parkour mechanics from the first game could be a bit clunky at times, but in Catalyst they have been refined and are now as silky smooth as they always should have been.  The controls take a little time to get used to, but once you have mastered the basic flow of chaining together Faith’s jumps, slides, and wall runs, you’ll quickly find yourself sailing through the city, seamlessly leaping from rooftop to rooftop and scaling tall structures.  Nailing a smooth run is incredibly satisfying, providing an experience that you just can’t find in many other games.

While traversal has seen a clear improvement from the original game, the combat mechanics unfortunately have not.  Fighting is still rather clunky and repetitive; most enemies can be defeated with a few basic attacks, and while there are several different enemy types (multiple melee classes and a ranged class), they don’t pose much of a threat once you learn their attack patterns.  Faith can perform a few fancy combat moves when attacking from high above or when jumping off of a wall, but these flashier moves aren’t essential and are only likely to make you vulnerable in the process.  On a rare occasion you’ll get to see Faith perform a cool takedown in third-person when finishing off a group of enemies, which is a nice touch, but is, as I said, quite rare; I wish I could have seen it more often in the game.

Perhaps the biggest change from the original game to Catalyst is the open world structure.  While the first game was entirely linear and mission-based, the new game sets you loose to explore Glass.  In addition to the main missions (which contain a mix of traversal and combat), there are side missions and time trials scattered throughout the city, many of which are quite challenging; while a lot of these missions simply ask you to get from point A to point B in a set amount of time, some have special modifiers (such as avoiding being spotted by guards or security cameras) to keep the player on their toes.  The basic races (time trials with no modifiers) also have leaderboards, encouraging players to really master the game’s parkour skills and learn the best routes.  On top of that, all of the story missions can be replayed to your heart’s content, giving speedrunners yet another reason to come back again and again.

Alongside the open world structure is an upgrade system; as you complete missions and challenges, Faith gains experience that allows the player to upgrade her combat skills, traversal moves, and gear.  In a way, it feels like a rather pointless mechanic; most of the important skills you need can be unlocked within the first few hours of gameplay, and aside from an unlockable tool that stuns opponents, none of the other upgrades are all that memorable.  The new grappling hook, heavily advertised in the game’s marketing, can only be used at specific spots in the environment, and its presence acts more as a way to gate players (some parts of the city can only be accessed with the hook, which you only get part way through the game) than as an addition to gameplay.  You can also unlock runner tags: customizable symbols that will appear when you hack certain billboards (and will show up in your friends’ games as well).  For some bizarre reason, though, you cannot change your tag from within the game; you have to log on to a separate website in order to do this.  Why the developers failed to implement this into the main game, saving players extra hassle, is beyond me.

Altogether, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.  It’s not that the game doesn’t have anything good going for it; the clear improvements to the traversal mechanics and the myriad replayable missions and time trials offer plenty of fun moments.  But Catalyst’s missteps, namely the bland writing and poor combat mechanics, bring the whole game down.  And that’s a real shame considering the how unique this game is in a lot of ways, especially among big budget, AAA titles.

 

OVERALL SCORE: C-