About Tyler

In the wilds of Vermont.

Clue: The Great Museum Caper

All is quiet in the Boddy Museum. The thief has yet to strike.

Clue: The Great Museum Caper is a game from my nerdly youth that, sadly, I never got to play truly.[1] I admired its place of honor on a shelf for years, and then it probably disappeared in a yard sale some summer day. Recently, after playing Captain Sonar for the first time, I got the urge to finally try this one out after those years, and tracked down a used copy for sale.

The Great Museum Caper is an asymmetrical, one-versus-many game for four people published in 1991. One player takes the role of the thief. Their job is to sneak around the museum unseen, stealing paintings and avoiding being detected by the security systems or the characters. The other three players act as “characters,” or detectives or investigators or what have you,[2] who prowl around the museum trying to figure out where the thief is based on the locations of the paintings being stolen and limited information from the security cameras and motion detectors.

We played this sort of spur of the moment to wrap up after finishing the evening’s main event. I wasn’t as well prepared with the rules as I might normally have been, but we figured things out as we went and everyone seemed to enjoy the game. It’s not nearly as complex as a modern hidden movement game like Captain Sonar, but it plays fast and easily, which makes it a great fit for my game library.

The only drawback to me is the limited player count. Officially, it plays four people, including the thief. In our case, we had five people present, so two buddied up and shared a pawn. I suppose you could stretch player capacity even more by sharing all the pawns, since technically the characters are working together, but I think you’re trending into too many cooks spoiling the broth territory at that point.

To sum up, Clue: The Great Museum Caper is a fun, light game with an eye-catching three dimensional board of molded plastic that works best with four players. It’s a great charity shop find if the pieces are all present. Otherwise, you’re probably looking at $30 plus, total, for a complete used copy from an online seller.

[1] There was at least one failed attempt where I didn’t understand at all how the thief was supposed to move and the parent I had inveigled to feign interest left rules interpretation up to me. But at that age, I could sense something about the game’s balance was off if the thief were to zoom around the board without restriction.

[2] Nominally the characters are those from Clue, Miss Scarlet, et al, but that’s the extent of the connection. Purportedly, according to the BoardGameGeek listing, the game was designed under the name Heist and the Clue theme was added for marketing purposes.

Top Plays of 2017

My game plays in 2017 really dialed in on my personal preferences. Lots of the new Arkham Horror LCG and the Northern Crown role-playing campaign. Cat Tower is the weird outlier, because it’s easy to play 3 games of that in one sitting, especially when observing International Tabletop Day at the local barcade.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game 36
Northern Crown: New World Adventures (Pathfinder) 15
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu 9
Sentinels of the Multiverse 8
Betrayal at House on the Hill 5
Eldritch Horror 5
Codenames 4
Night’s Black Agents 4
Cat Tower 3
Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate 2

Northern Crown: Stronghold of the Stag Lord Sundered

This week in Northern Crown, the Sophian contingent resumed their assault on the Stag Lord’s fortifications. Somehow, despite the party’s best efforts, Ethan Allen survived the frontal assault, so that’s an issue. Ivy and the pukwudgies arrived in time to turn the tide, helping keep the Stag Lord and his minions confused and in disarray while watch towers burned.

Now, once all the level-up goodies are dealt with, there remains the question of precisely what is hidden under the Stag Lord’s stronghold.

Pukwudgie reinforcements take the Stag Lord by surprise from the rear.

They have an owl bear.

It wasn’t going great on the frontal approach, as planned.

Foxglove managed to strangle a watchtower guard and swing onto the nearby roof in one go.

Legends of Sleepy Hollow Print and Play

I am sucker for games with strong narratives and early American folk lore,[1] so when word about the Legends of Sleepy Hollow game started to circulate, it caught my attention. Being a cooperative game with a defined narrative arc, a shoe-in theme and an art style that clicked with me, I thought this was the perfect game for me. Even when the Kickstarter launched and I started scrolling through more details, I kept thinking, “Yeah, I’ll like this game.”

Probably my first glimmering this might not be for me was an admittedly emotional reaction to seeing the game would retail for $100 after the Kickstarter. I wouldn’t say cost was a concern, per se, but I’ve come to associate that price point with games that have a high “toy value,” where you’re buying a bunch of figures to paint as much as a game in and of itself. I’m sure there are plenty of games that don’t fit that perception, but it’s one I’ve found myself with after hearing about so many different miniature-based games made possible by crowdfunding. So that was my first personal warning sign.

Then I started thinking about the figures themselves. Again, this is a emotional reaction, but it basically went, “I’ve never owned a game that’s mainly a box of minis before. Do I want to?”

Fortunately for me, the publisher released a print and play version of the first scenario in the campaign. Originally, I skimmed it and thought, “Yeah, that seems fine.” As time progressed and I thought more about what I understood of the gameplay, it seemed increasingly like a wise idea to make use of it.

So with less than 24 hours in the fundraising campaign, I got everything printed, cut and taped together and my friend Carlo came over to test things out. As it transpires, the basic game itself feels a lot like Zombicide and Ghostbusters, with a map that keeps filling up with monsters the heroes have to manage while achieving an objective. There’s more to Legends, as characters have upgrade options between scenarios, but the core gameplay seems to be essentially Zombicide with a heavy narrative arc linking the scenarios, as the heroes search for Ichabod Crane in the days after the “incident.”

So given that, I decided this isn’t a game I want to own. I would play Legends for sure, but I don’t want to be the one who has it sitting on their shelf, thinking about how infrequently I get to play it — that’s what Eldritch Horror is for these days — or hassling a friend to paint the figures. That was a lot of manual cutting and taping to arrive at the decision, but it was probably worth it compared to arriving there after the box has been dropped on my doorstep.

[1] I hung on to watching Fox’s Sleepy Hollow series for way longer than it deserved. The first season is still delightful, though.

Invasion from Last Night on Earth

In celebration of Cabbage Night, we played an eight person game of Last Night on Earth — at which point is really a crossover with Invasion from Outer Space, as the game breaks into two parallel games of four players each, with both groups of heroes trying to send a pair of items over to the other board to win the scenario.

Unsurprisingly, it was chaotic. The four monster players took their turn together, as did the heroes. The Martians invading the carnival — including me — got some static for taking longer than everyone else, but dammit, Martians are complicated critters, especially when there’s a pen of angry zard beasts who need their walkies.

Arkham Horror LCG: Mr. Pawterson

Arkham LCG card titled "Cherished Keepsake," with a picture of a teddy bear sitting on a child-sized bed.

In this age of previews, spoilers and advance information, I really enjoy the moments of delight when I discover something for the first time on my own, and immediately start making connections.

Case in point, my Arkham Horror: The Card Game group recently took up the “Night of the Zealot” campaign, in which I’m playing as Yorick the gravedigger. Just hours before our side trip to Louisiana yesterday, the Echoes of the Past pack appeared in the local game store. I try to stay ignorant of what’s in these expansions, so I got to be surprised and delighted by Cherished Keepsake, which is a nifty little 0-cost asset that can absorb 2 points of horror. Since Yorick plays cards out of his discard pile, 0-cost things like the Keepsake and Leather Coat are helpful ways to shake off horror and damage.

Yorick still ended last night’s “Curse of the Rougarou” with 4 damage and 4 sanity on him, but he’d’ve gone down well before then without having Mr. Pawterson[1] around to console him. And it was a discovery I got to make all on my own, right off the bat with a fresh pack of cards.

[1] First Beary Manitou in Northern Crown and now Mr. Pawterson. Named bears are becoming a motif in my tabletop pursuits.

Northern Crown: Stronghold of the Stag Lord

This past week in Northern Crown, the Sophian colonial militia — aka the heroes, plus some interlopers to the nascent colony that no one important[1] would mind losing to the crossfire, like Ethan Allen — decided it was time to cement their claim to the territory of Vermont by removing the other apparent power: the Stag Lord, in his own home, no less.

Foxglove led Ethan and the other expendables on a frontal approach, while the remainder of the group, including our pudwudgie ally, scaled the rear of the stockade.

We all knew there was a good reason the rear approach looked so unguarded. Turns out it was a burial ground teeming with restless dead.

[1] Families and loved ones excluded.

Carnage XX: 20 Years of Tabletop Games in Vermont

Picture of the four horsemen of the apocalypse pointing in different directions, corresponding with a sign-post reading "Board Games, Card Games, Minatures, RPG." Text reads, "20 years later, they still can't decide what to play first at Carnage."

Planning for Carnage has been under way since early this past summer. With less than a month to go before the convention kicks off, things are starting to feel truly real. This year feels different to me, for several different reasons.

To start, it’s Carnage’s 20th anniversary. The convention was first held in 1998 in a small hotel ballroom in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Since then, it’s grown to the point of taking over entire resorts. I’ve been attending the convention since 2005, so I have quite a few under my belt, but there are still plenty of people attending this year who can proudly say they have been to every single Carnage.

Last year, the convention offered an online registration option for the first time, letting people skip printing out and mailing in a paper form. This year, Carnage took the next step forward, using an online, real-time registration system custom built for game conventions called Tabletop.Events. Having a dynamic system that facilitates customer self-service — people can see what games are open while lounging in their PJs, instead of having to pad down to the convention information desk! — has been huge for both the attendees and the organizers. Adding games to the schedule after the initial launch no longer means they’re on an addendum sheet that not everyone may catch.

In fact, the automation of registration has given me the mental bandwidth to work on something I’ve wanted to do for a while: work on more graphical elements for social media, like the one above. They may not go viral, per se, but I’ve seen the metrics on the few that have published so far and their visibility has been significantly better than text-only posts, or links to the Carnage website.

Plus, getting continuous seat time in Photoshop has been a help for me finally getting more comfortable in that space and learning what the tools really do as I’m following along with tutorials to achieve this effect or the other. Graphics for social media are a low stakes area for Carnage, so there’s room to play and get creative to see what sticks.

Lastly, but by no means least, for the first time ever Carnage will host live comedy games of Dungeons & Dragons featuring not one, but two groups. Friday night, Improvised Weapons is an actual play podcast featuring improv comedians from the Burlington area that I’ve been enjoying for a while now, and this will be their first live show with an audience.

Saturday night, Victory Condition Gaming hosts the next installment on their ongoing live stream game run by Joe from Gemhammer & Sons with a cast of characters from the regional convention circuit. And yes, you read that right, it’s a live stream game, available through Victory Condition’s YouTube channel. Victory Condition is also kindly providing live stream coverage of the Improvised Weapons shows and other games at Carnage this year.

Now, because you’ve made it to the end of the article, here’s a  sneak preview for something launching on social media tomorrow:

Northern Crown: Defending the Trading Post

One of my bucket list role-playing games has been Northern Crown ever since the setting was first published in the mid-aughts. In a fantasy-infused version of North American in 1650, the Republic of Sophia has sent an expedition in support of a lonely trading post on the western shore of a long lake named after the French explorer de Champlain, charged with exploring and claiming the lands there for the republic.[1] And so the heroes arrived at Ira and Jerusha Allen’s trading post, just in time to fend off marauding bandits who have come to raid the storehouse.

The layout that our GM, Tom, came up with to represent the trading post was pretty damn impressive — especially because he had it hidden under the surface of his game table. We started thinking we were just going to be using a Lego canal ship, then Tom broke out the Heroscape terrain for the interlude where we freed the sasquatch from cruel portagers, and then he said, “We need to move all this,” and started pulling up the table surface to reveal the diorama pictured above.

[1] I’m told it’s loosely the plot of Pathfinder‘s Kingmaker adventure path, reconfigured for the lands and peoples of Northern Crown, using an equally loose implementation of Pathfinder rules, with elements from Dungeon Crawl Classics and FATE.