Thursday, September 26, 2013

Print and Play Adventures

To be honest, I've never heard much about print and play games. So when a Game Design class tells its students to go and print out free boardgames, I was bewildered. "Free board games? To print out?" I've never heard of such thing! I guess I've lived under a boulder rather than a rock.

I ventured through the interweb for about an hour or so. And, after much searching (and bickering with uncooperative web browser), I always came back to a game that really made an impression on me. It's a game called Hexit Strategy, by Cliché Studios. It's playing cards looked really appealing, and there was just something about it that tickled me into thinking it'd be a good choice.

During that same day, I gathered around with two other classmates of mine. We each brought the print-and-play games of our choice. Once we had all our paper pieces cut out and our dice apps ready, it was time to play some board games!

The first game we played was a quick one called Bad Grandmas. If the tittle itself isn't amusing enough, then the card illustrations might win you over.

A big thanks to my friend Elisabeth Smith for sharing her photos with me!
A grandma like this might be hard to de-feet.

The game was pretty simple, 2 player game. You'd shuffle the deck and each player would take about 7 face-down cards. Two face-up cards would be placed in the middle of the table. These would serve as the rule modifiers, which would determine the conditions for winning. After that, each player would look at the cards they had in their hands. Both players would do a 1-2-3 countdown and place one card on the table. Whichever card fit the winning requirements more would win a certain amount of points for the round (the greater the difference between the two cards, the more points the winner gained). We had some good fun playing it, but it quickly became somewhat repetitive. Since the rounds last such short turns, you can already gain a grasp of the possible events that can take place in one game. So we continued off into another game.

The next game we played was one called 12 rounds. Well, more like the next game we tried to play. At first we were pretty excited to try this game out. It seemed like an RPG in a nutshell, where you'd choose a character with a certain amount of stat points, traversed a small world to gain items, and fought against enemy cards that would spawn on the board.

The land that could have been explored...

I bet it would have been a pretty interesting game. But after almost an hour of going over the rules and trying to understand what the "gods of this board game" wanted from us, we gave up on trying to play it /ragequit. The same happened with another game we tried playing, called "Vampire Dance." It was a bit too complicated and unclear for me to appreciate. An hour to try and understand a game? That's pretty absurd for my taste. If a game's going to take more than 15 minutes to grasp, it's gonna take a lot from me to try to keep my interest alive.

The last game we tried out was Hexit Strategy. After two unsuccessful attempts to play a game, we were bracing ourselves for more complicated rules and explanations. Surprisingly, the game was pretty quick to grasp. It even came with a small card that had the rules simplified for each player. Really great for times when you're not sure if you're following the rules. The game looked like a dynamic form of chess, where you had to build a path towards your opponent's base with hexagon-shaped cards, or hexits. Each hexit has different movement points needed in order to enter it, along with different attack and defense values that will affect the pieces stationed in that spot. In order to perform actions, you must sacrifice cards. The more cards you sacrifice, the more ships you can spawn/movement points you can get. 

The funnest thing about it was this game was element of strategic surprise. When building the path towards your opponent, the path cards must be placed upside down. Well, that sounds fine, but there's a catch. There are two deadly hexits that could be placed on the field: Supernova (which eliminates all hexits surrounding the card, and sends player ships back to their base), and Black Hole (which traps the incoming player's pieces in the card, and sends them back to their base one by one). As I played with my friend, I was racking my brain around what kind of hexit she placed on the field. Was it a normal card? Was it a trap? Is it safe to unveil? Will she fall in my trap? (Funny story: The first time we started playing, my friend had four ships advance towards one of my face-down cards. It was a Supernova. Much rage and laughter flooded the room). I think that was one of the elements that kept the game interesting. That, along with seeing your opponent make bold risks such as sacrificing 10 cards to make bold decisions on the battlefield, and constantly think over how you'd use your turn; I think those were fantastic ways on keeping players immersed and actively thinking about the game.

Simple yet complicated, engaging, and exciting. These are the succesful elements that I've been able to draw out from this game. I hope I'll be able to recreate the same enjoyable experience some time.

Now, if you excuse me, I must ask my friend for a rematch. Things are going to get hectically hexit.