rAge Unplugged: What I Played – Geek Node

Tabletop Game News: rAge Unplugged: What I Played

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I’ll be honest. The only reason I go to rAge is for the boardgames, and the chance to play them with friends also attending. Taking the opportunity to introduce new people to the hobby, and teach them a variety of games on hand, is a particularly enjoyable experience as well. So I approached rAge with this singular goal in mind, and I had an absolutely fantastic time!

I first arrived to rAge late Friday afternoon and didn’t have much time to delve into a variety of games, only getting a chance to launch into X-Wing: The Miniatures Game. While two years old, the new core set released several days ago, and with it new ships, new upgrades, and a new damage deck. I was eager to give them a try, while spending what remained of rAge Friday introducing others to the game while I was at it. pic2582929_mdThat Friday evening however I met up with some friends and tried out two games on offer at the Unplugged stand. The first game we got around to playing was Codenames. Players split into a Red team and a Blue team, with each team nominating a captain, or Spymaster. In the middle, we have cards randomly drawn and placed in a 5 x 5 grid, each with their own words printed on them. Each of these words are potential codenames of Blue or Red operatives, and the goal of the game is for Spymasters to direct their team to identify all of their agents before the opposing team can do the same. Spymasters are all knowing, as both are given a small cheat sheet to know exactly which words on the table belong to which operatives, and must provide clues via word association to their team to direct them to choose those the words.

For example, as a Blue Spymaster, I saw that the words Whale and Boat were both blue operatives. As such, I gave my team the clue “Moby Two”. “Moby”, in reference to the Moby Dick novel, and “Two” to indicate that the clue I’m giving relates to two of the words on the table. Teams alternate giving clues to their own members until one team either discovers all of their operatives, or a team accidentally pics a word that represents a hidden assassin, immediately losing them the game.

It’s great fun, and there’s a lot of pressure on the Spymasters to provide clues that won’t be misinterpreted by your team, resulting in them choosing the wrong terms – potentially revealing opponent agents and helping them win, or worse, picking the assassin. Seeing a Spymaster trying not to react as their team hover over disastrous choices is hilarious in itself, and the relief that ones clues have been understood correctly is palpable. pic2453926_mdAfter that, we had several rounds of Spyfall. Sharing the spy theme of Codenames. Here, the game is made up of various decks, each representing a location. One of these is chosen at random, and one card is dealt out to each player, who keep their card secret. Each card, barring one, reveals the location, and informs that player what relationship they have with that location. The final card reveals absolutely no information regarding the location, and only serves to inform the player that they are the spy.

The goal of the game is for the players to ask each other questions regarding the location in order to determine which one of them is the spy, while the spy desperately tries to deconstruct the questions to determine what the location is. As such, players can’t ask questions that give away their location, but need to ask questions specific enough to gather information. As mentioned, cards also specify how players are related to an environment – they may be a manager, a waiter, or someone who has no relation outside of simply happening to be there at the time. This can often throw a wonderful wrench in attempting to locate the spy, as  answers to questions can often be unexpected, and thus suspicious.

I really enjoy Spyfall, though it’s awkward to get used to at first, as one sits there trying to figure out which questions to ask. Being the spy is intimidating and definitely stressful, though the opposite is said for being in any other position – outside of realizing a poorly answered question means everyone is staring daggers into your direction!photo-original (4)On Saturday I played a game I’d never heard of before, and it was all the more surprising for it. On Her Majesty’s Service has amazing production value, which made it all the more baffling that this was the first time I was encountering it. The game sees players sent to the Shadow Market on orders from the Queen to gather certain rare elements and rare artifacts and be the first among players to return successful. BoardWhat makes the game interesting, is that only parts of the board that faces each player actually affects what they can buy, and how much they pay or gain through selling. More so, as players move through the board trading, the board changes, and with it how it relates to all players at the table. While easy to understand, it presented a surprising level of tactical gameplay I quite enjoyed. Plus, as I said, it looks AMAZING. pic2422712_mdAfter that, I finally got a chance to play Blood Rage, a massively anticipated boardgame that just now being released across the world. Sporting a strong Viking End of the World theme, the game pits up to four (or five, if you backed the kickstarter) players in gaining the most glory before the world ends. This involves invading and pillaging areas on the map, killing enemies, and even dying in glorious battle can be advantageous. The game is surprisingly brutal, and a player’s luck can potentially flip round to round. Players gain abilities from cards, though their hands are drafted at the start of each round, meaning you can potentially grant opponents strong cards if you opt to pick alternative cards for yourself. It’s very interesting, but also potentially punishing. I really enjoyed it, though I got beat down quite badly when I played it. Very eager to get more games under my belt to get a better idea of how much I enjoy it, though!pic2637725_mdOn Sunday, I kept to smaller, lighter games. First thing I delved into was trying the new Portal game, which was interesting and not quite what I expected. Despite its name, portals are a relatively minor feature, and it focuses more on players controlling their respective test subjects as they run through test chambers, avoid death, and collect cake pieces (all while destroying both test subjects and cake pieces of your opponents). I’m unsure how I feel about it, as it seemed to lack much momentum towards any conclusion outside of one that was either disappointingly quick, or one that took a bit too long to achieve. pic2060091_mdFollowing Portal,  I had the pleasure of jumping into Cash ‘n Guns, a game which I’ve desperately wanted to play more of. Thematically, the players have all just pulled off a massive heist, and are divvying up the loot. Naturally, the players all being criminals, gangsters, and mobsters, guns are immediately out as players compete with each other to gain the most money out of the haul. The game consists of eight rounds, each seeing players point wonderfully aesthetic foam guns at each other – each gun potentially loaded with a bullet card, but statistically more likely to be loaded with a blank. Players can choose to back off depending on how many people aim at them, avoiding taking damage but not getting the chance to nab loot. Then there’s the Godfather player, who can force anyone pointing guns at him to point at other players, and who also gets first pick of the loot. After eight rounds, the player who’s managed to make the most money wins!

It’s a fantastic game of light bluffing – you know players only have three Bang cards, so it’s statistically unlikely they’ll shoot you early on in the game. This flies out the window when several players are pointing at you, but sometimes you need to take the risk to stay in a competing position. It’s great for laughs to, as most good light games are.

I had a wonderful weekend at rAge playing boardgames, and I retain that it’s the absolute best reason to go, as awkward as it is to champion tabletop gaming at a convention primarily focused on the digital medium. I’m definitely going to be there next year, and I’m excited at what they’ll have on offer!

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Guest Contributor - Tabletop
Kharrak loves and owns a lot of boardgames, which have over time mutated him into a being solely sustained by schadenfreude and dice. Hopelessly addicted to Fantasy Flight card sleeves, and fears the inevitable intervention by geek friends.
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