Saturday, April 12, 2014

Myth vs GD vs SoB part 6: Boards and Books

This is the 6th 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. Last time I talked about their miniatures, so this time I'm going to discuss other physical components in the main boxed sets.

Boards, Tiles, and Counters

Myth has some very nice Realm Tiles, ranging between 4x6 all the way up to 12x12 inches. They’re conveniently sized, durable, easy to read (though it would have been nice if the blue lines could have “popped” just a little more) and quite pretty. Some of the game mechanics are unobtrusively printed along the edge, to reduce rulebook look-up mid-game. That’s nice. You only use a few tiles at a time, so the play area is actually fairly small (just 1 foot square in Slaughterfield mode). When the plot takes you to the end of the table, it’s easy to slide the stuff you still need, and scoop the tiles you’re done with… or if you’re in Free-Questing mode, you can just choose to place the tiles in a way that doubles back so you never reach the edge of the table. Absolutely zero complaints or headaches in play. There are some 1x1, 2x2 and 2x3 terrain markers that get placed on the tiles in some scenarios, but never so many that it becomes a burden or confusing. In the stretch goals are fancy 3D plastic versions of many of those tokens to spice up your table top if you so desire.

The boards in Galaxy Defenders aren’t quite as nice, in my opinion. The boards are 9x15 inch tiles and you use 2 or 3 of them at once, so there’s a much larger minimum table-space needed. On top of the big boards, you place a ton of little terrain-modifying tiles (mostly 2x1). There was a positively annoying amount of them in second scenario in the book. You set up the whole board at the start of the game, so at least you never have to slide it around once you've built this complex layout. The tiles are overly busy, and have thick garish colorful outlines. I really like the area-movement rules, but unfortunately the extra outlines for it collectively contribute to the overwhelming visual clutter. Plus, hex-shaped spaces and areas means that all the buildings on the map have really strange architecture. All of which undermines the point of putting so much immersive detail into the maps in the first place. I think the boards for GD are probably its single weakest game-play feature, even if they are what makes the area-movement system so sweet. The hexagonal-based character sheet and equipment system is intriguing, but a little disorienting during your first play.

Shadows has very uniquely-shaped organic cavern tiles, most of which are just over 6 inches long if memory serves correctly.  I was initially a little apprehensive about how the weird shapes would interacted with movement and line of sight, but having now played the game, I see that they are really quite nice and functional. They pack in the visual detail, but remain quite clear and easy to mentally process. They interlock so you can slide them around easily without messing up the board position. That’s actually very important, because the card-driven random exploration system means you’re going to run right over to the table edge several times per session. I gather that Shadows will come with a lot of different tokens for things like wounds and sanity, but the copy used in this demo were just repurposed parts from A Touch Of Evil and Last Night On Earth, so I don't know much about them. The prototype of the Gunslinger's ammo template was pretty neat though, and I'm looking forward to the full-art version of it in the final game. It was like the cylinder of a revolver.

And The Winner Is: Shadows of Brimstone, surprisingly since some of the parts weren't in final art yet. What sold me was the mine tiles. They're not quite as open-ended as Myth's realm tiles, but they fulfill their designated role exceedingly well.  Most of the game takes place in a mineshaft or cavern, and the tiles do a very good job of reinforcing that concept. Next time I run a D&D game in a similar environment, I'm almost certainly going to break out the Brimstone mine tiles.


As stated elsewhere, Myth’s actual rules are good, but the book is poorly organized and actually missing some vital information. This is Myth’s worst weakness, and it’s probably a fatal flaw for some folks. Learning the game from the rulebook is tiring and difficult, but learning it from someone else who’s already played is quick and easy. I've gone on about it at length in another blog post. About all I can add to that is a complaint that the font size is really tiny on some pages.

GD’s rulebook is really solid. The examples are clear. The index is functional, but would have been easier to read in two-column. You can learn the game pretty quickly from reading the book. It's not quite as pretty as Myth's rulebook, but much more useful and sane. The print is large, and the headers are in color so you can quickly scan for the subsection you're interested in.

I learned how to play Shadows at a demo. It was very simple to pick up from a quick face-to-face explanation, but that can mostly be said about the other two games as well. I have never seen the rules, so I can’t really speak about layout, organization, or clarity.

And The Winner Is: Galaxy Defenders has a much more functional rulebook than Myth, so it wins at least until Brimstone releases or Mercs/Megacon releases an updated PDF.

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