Thursday, April 10, 2014

Myth vs GD vs SoB part 4: Game-Length and Pacing

This is the fourth post in an 8-part series comparing specific elements of three big kickstarted cooperative miniatures games: Myth by Mercs/Megacon, Galaxy Defenders by Project Gremlin / Ares, and Shadows of Brimstone by Flying Frog Productions. I've played all three, and in this post I'll examine how they compare on issues of game-length and pacing.

 Link to first post in series.




Game-Length

If time is an issue, Myth can accommodate you. One of the main game play modes in Myth allows the players to control precisely how long the game will last. Convenient stopping points pop up about every twenty minutes when "free-questing", and you’ll never have to worry about leaving the board set up till next time. The other two game modes (Story quests and Slaughterfield) are much less flexible than this, but Stories are organized into discrete Acts of reasonably predictable game length. 3 hours will give you a very respectable play session, and if you know going in that you’ve got a tighter deadline you can free-quest instead.

GD’s average session length is shorter, but beyond your control. Often the exact number of turns the game will last is dictated by the scenario. Each scenario has a listed duration (usually around an hour). The scenarios I've played took longer than listed, but we were still learning the game and that probably slowed us down.  The short play-times don't count set-up time, which could be an issue.  If you run out of time, it would be a horrendous chore to record the board position to pick it up again later. If time is short and you can’t leave the table set-up until next time, GD could be prove problematic.

I’ve only played Shadows of Brimstone once, so I don’t really know how long it will take on average. Our demo was a very satisfying game experience in a couple hours. You can certainly tweak decks and tokens to speed things up, but it’ll be tricky to do so on the fly and would probably feel more like cheating than comparable decisions do in Myth. On the other hand, stopping points (pauses without monsters in play) occur every five minutes, easy. You could wrap up for the night at any of those pauses. It would complicate campaign play and require some note-taking if you didn't want to just start over at square one next time, but it's doable.

And The Winner Is:  Galaxy Defenders wins for now, though I'd originally called it a tie between GD and Myth. Shadows may well beat them both when it comes out, if the missions and campaign system is no more complicated than what I could see in the demo.

In theory, Myth features the most flexibility to wrap up early without headaches or hassles... except for when poor Lair placement or a multi-wave Quest suddenly bogs the game down. The biggest time-sink/pitfall is in Lair placement and/or failing to prioritize the destruction of a Lair.  If you ignore the Lairs entirely, they will s...l...o...w...l...y wear you down. Once you've learned that lesson it's easy to avoid, but it takes 2 or 3 hours to learn it in the first place.

Ultimately, game length matters most if the game runs out of steam or fails to engross you for its whole length, so perhaps we should talk about pacing...



Pacing

Myth scores highly on the twin-axes of play speed and player interaction, which are usually at cross-purposes to one another in other (especially competitive) game designs. "Turns" are quite short, and you almost never have to wait for anyone. There’s a bit of a learning curve where your first couple Hero Cycles will seem longer since you’ve never read the cards before, but by the end of the first session you’ll be chugging along at top speed. Group attacks and area effects resolve remarkably fast. Heroes can mow down scores of minions with a single die roll (as minions always have a single hit-point). It feels very epic, and requires very little “memory” or tracking of variable NPC stats. The turn structure is a little complicated, but cards stay out as a marker of who's done what this turn, so you can always tell exactly where you are. There’s little risk of losing your place when the pizza guy knocks on your door.

GD is a little slower overall. The custom dice are a big help in that they really reduce the math and make each individual die roll much faster.  Separate attack and defense rolls though does mean an extra step or two to every action, so it roughly evens out. Monsters in GD rarely go down in a single hit, and you’ll find yourself tracking wounds and energy on all the miniatures. It’s not bad, but it does seem a little clunkier (and less epic) than Myth. You face fewer monsters over all, but each one requires multiple attacks.

Shadows seems to be comparable to GD. Each player’s turn is longer than in Myth. Attacking a single minion takes at least two die rolls, and you’ll often have to keep track of wounded monsters. One-hit-kills of the smaller monsters are more likely than in GD, but there’s not much chance of wiping the board in a single roll like can happen in Myth. I expect Shadows will have the most down-time and waiting of the three, and yet it’s still overall a quickly-moving game. I do have a little concern about losing your place in the turn if there’s an interruption or delay, and I suspect the game could benefit from some sort of turn tracker to keep that from being a problem. Luckily, it could be as simple as using a single large off-color d6 to count down initiative as we move through the turn sequence.

And The Winner Is: Myth seems specifically designed to minimize down-time and keep everyone involved at every moment. This makes for an exciting pace and constant action, except when a player needs to slip off for a potty break.

2 comments:

TJ said...

I stumbled on your blog looking for people's impressions of SoB after last weekend. I'm really enjoying this series, as I own GD, and had pre-ordered Myth until I heard a lot of feedback about the rules. I'm really looking forward to SoB, so it's great to get such a detailed comparison of the three games!

Rolfe Bergstrom said...

I'm glad it's proving useful/interesting. Thanks for commenting, it lets me know this is indeed worth the time and effort of writing such lengthy articles.