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: Star Realms

Reviewer: Stuart Holden

Designers: Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty

Publisher: White Wizard Games

 

Star Realms is a deckbuilding game designed primarily for two players. The theme of the game is classic science fiction, with players acquiring spaceships and space stations in order to defeat the opponent’s empire. To do this, each player starts out with rudimentary spacecraft, slowly building up to larger and better ships and space stations. Players will often find that it is necessary to get rid of the lesser talented craft in their deck to make room for the more qualified ones, since cards are reshuffled and drawn multiple times over the course of a game.

You will need a bit of table room for set up. There are quite a few different card piles, counting the individual player’s decks, as well as mutual card decks that everyone has access to (such as the spacecraft that players can purchase each turn to improve their deck).  For a card game, this might be one of the downsides; it just seems to take up a little too much unnecessary space. It’s not obtrusive to the point of distraction, but worth mentioning nonetheless.

Gameplay is simple and smooth. While new players will likely take more time to make decisions, when players are familiar with the game and know what they will play in their turn, the game can go from one player’s turn to the next rather quickly. Gameplay can become rather mundane, though, once you are familiar with the game’s rhythm: going back and forth, slowly whittling down each other’s life points. However, since each game is an average of 15 minutes, it isn’t too much of an issue.  It does seem to be more exciting when playing in one of the game’s other modes that involve more than two people; these other modes keep the experience fresh. There’s a free for all mode for 3+ players as well as team based variants; the one we at Gospel a Gaming played was called Raid, where one player competes against two or more players working together.

Which brings us to the next point: the rules. Printed on a single sheet, they seem pretty well laid out. I for one hate searching through rule books, just trying to figure out the essence of the game. The Star Realms creators got it right and put sincere and to-the-point instructions. Alas, no more 3 hours of searching; at least, not for the standard two-player mode. Things weren’t as straightforward with other modes. When the staff here at G&G played one of the game’s three-player modes, we had to go online to verify a few rules that we’re still unsure of. It didn’t inhibit our game, just delayed it and left some thoughts of uncertainty. What could have inhibited our game is the fact that we needed an additional deck to play with more than two players; fortunately we had an extra copy of the game on hand, but buyers should be aware that you will need this extra copy in order to play a game with three or more people.

The retro artwork is very good, going for a 90s sci fi feel and modifying it to look more updated and less campy. Star Realms is already a good game, and the quality artwork just makes it better. The humorous commentary/quotes on each card are another bonus that add some character to the game. It’s just one more element of the game that I enjoy.

This is a good game for people who want to play short games, and not dig through a Bible-sized manual on how to play it. It’s targeted for people who like to build decks, as well people who like to socialize with others because the gameplay can be very relaxed. I must say, the dynamics change completely with three or more people, and it can become very competitive and exciting.  Altogether I think Star Realms is one of the best deckbuilding games, and maybe one of the best tabletop games, available.  To top it off, most stores sell the game at under $20, which is a good investment for a game with this many highlights.

 

OVERALL SCORE: B

Stuart Holden is a volunteer with Gospel & Gaming.