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Salem 1692 Puts More Weight Behind History Without Sacrificing Fun

Dan

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Are you a werewolf? Are you perhaps ultimate werewolf or more of a “one night only” kind of gal? Maybe you’ve been in the mafia? Well, then you may have played a game similar to Salem 1692, the second game in indie game company (and we mean indie, they have a total staff of two) Façade Games. Rather than simply re-skin the “deduct and accuse” formula that has, admittedly, been very successful, Façade instead takes the whole thing back to their roots, to the very first social game of accusation and deduction, murder and distrust that was ever played: The Salem Witch Trials.

Finally, a board game you can hide on your bookshelf when you need to seem “respectable”

What’s In The Box?

Salem is the second edition of Façade’s debut game, and officially the second in their Dark Cities series after Tortuga 1667 . It comes in a faux dark leather book that’s been beaten, scratched, and warped by (seemingly) 326 years. Façade’s choice to do the title in gold foil makes the small game pop whether its on a table or hiding among your reading material. It’s packed efficiently and reflects a high level care and planning on the part of the designers. The games cards and booklet are beautiful as well, glossy but with an aged look you’d expect for things ostensibly 400 years old.

The artwork, done by concept artist Sarah Keele, is highly stylized, without being cartoon-y, and pops off of each card. The character portraits are especially good, oozing personality without leaning too heavily on stereotypes or misconceptions. There’s also a little hourglass, filled with black sand of course, and a tiny little wooden gavel token that is mostly just a feelie but adds some extra physicality to the game.

All the fun and fear of the Salem Witch Trials, now in travel size!

How’s It Played?

In Salem: 1692, you aren’t just any random Puritan. Instead, you take on the role of a historic resident of Salem, Massachusetts at the time of the famous witch trials like the vindictive Abigail Williams, witch hunter Cotton Mather, and the man himself, Giles “I’ll Show You Stones” Corey. You might also think back to high school English and The Crucible, as most of the cast is represented here in some form or another. Each resident has their own special “power” that reflects something about them. Some are as simple as George Burroughs requiring more accusations than normal to lose a trial, reflecting his status as a minister; while others are more complex,  like John Proctor’s ability to take items from the dead just as he would accept pawned goods as payment in his tavern. These “powers” are huge help in the game, and make your “identity” in the game more than merely cosmetic.

At the beginning, the Town Crier is selected. Usually this is the most experienced player of Salem who will direct the game while they play. If nobody has played before, as in my first game, then you use a moderator who fulfills a similar role, but is not involved in the game. The players are each dealt a number of Tryal (not a typo, a fun bit of flavor to fit with the time) cards that determine their roles in the game. This is where the witches find out if they are witches, as well as the constable. The game ends when either the Witches have killed or converted the whole village, or when the constable has revealed all the witches lurking among the populace. These identities are secret, and only the players know if they’re guilty or innocent until the accusations start to fly.

Faster, Tituba! Kill! Kill!

The game progresses similarly to its brethren in the deduction game genre, though there are some twists in the formula that help it stand out. For one, each player’s Tryal cards must be selected blindly, meaning that a well-intentioned villager could waste their accusations on someone before finding out they were a witch, simply by random chance.

The constable role is another variation on the “sheriff” type roles in similar games. Here they retain their ability to protect villagers from witches , but the role of constable can change hands (sometimes more than once), and the constable can even BE a witch. And take my word for it, you DON’T want a constable witch.

There’s also special color coded cards that affect the game in different ways. They’re drawn at the start of each turn. Green cards are sort of like “instants,” single use cards that affect other players in the short term. Examples of green cards are “Arson,” which lets you discard another player’s hand, and “Alibi,” which lets you remove another player’s accusations. Blue cards are similar to an enchantment, such as the “Asylum” card that protects a villager from witches in the night. A particularly fun example of these is the “Matchmaker” cards, which link two players in such a way that if one dies, they both die.

Red cards are where the “trial” part of the game comes into play. These are the accusations that villagers can throw at each other to ferret out the devils in their midst. Most of these are worth one or two, but some go up to four in one go. Once a villager gets seven accusations they must flip a Tryal card (except for George Borroughs, who needs eight). If they’re a witch then they die. If they run out of Tryal cards, they die.

The scariest cards in the game are the black cards, played the minute they appear:  “Night”, and “Conspiracy.” “Night” is the traditional “baddies come out to do murder” portion of the game.  The “Conspiracy” card forces all players to pass one Tryal card to the left. This is how the witch coven grows, as the minute you get a “witch” card, you become a witch (which is how AARP works in real life).  And even if you lose your witch card, you remain a witch. The special “Black Cat” card comes in to play during “Conspiracy” as well. Initially gifted by the witches at the start of the game, when it serves to handicap another villager or throw the hunters off the witches’ scent.

The game goes as quickly or slowly as the players let it, and depends heavily on the cunning of the witches and the deduction skills of the players, but it rarely will last more than a half hour, forty minutes tops.

Salem: 1692 is a fantastic middle ground between the rapid pace of the One Night family of games and the methodical plodding of Ultimate Werewolf and the like. It’s refreshing to see a game stand out not with the use of flashy mechanics or weird gimmicks, but with a little bit of grounding in history instead. The flavor of the game is superb, mixing more dramatic ideas from The Crucible (how could it not) with things rooted in actual horrors that went on in Salem. Things like the “Matchmaker” card, the methods of accusation, and even the “power” of each character goes a long way towards immersing you into a distinct time and place.

It is also the first game I’ve reviewed for The Fandomentals that could be considered educational, and it even has deeper history in the back to illustrate how much work was put into researching the game.

The Verdict

For a company as small as Façade, the craftsmanship here is superb and very much a labor of love for designers Holly and Trevor Hancock. Little things like possible rules conflicts, adaptations for big groups and new players, and even rules for making the game last longer or become even more difficult. While it may not be different enough to sway those who like the more rapid or supernatural deduction games, I think that this is a worthy addition to any shelf for fanss of the genre, and a perfect game for Halloween.

Salem: 1692, as well as the other games in the Dark Cities series, can be bought at Façade’s website, as well as at your local game store, for about $25. Keep an eye here on The Fandomentals for more news and reviews on board games and the latest from Façade.


Thanks to Façade for the review material as well as the images used for the article.

Dan

Author, Editor, Podcaster, Media Junkie. Currently working towards an MFA and trying to get a sci-fi novel published. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Wichita and Indianapolis.

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Overwatch in a nutshell

Oni

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How do I talk about a game that should have been dead about a year ago, but is still going strong? If you didn’t get that, the game I am talking about is Overwatch. A game that is strictly online, which means no story mode to find out the lore behind this game. If you want to learn about the lore, then join the line buddy. Players have to wait months til another origin short comes out about their favorite hero, which makes sense if you want to keep an online game alive. Recently a new “hero” has been announced called Ashe, and we got a bunch of clues about who she is from a McCree short.

Heroes

Even though Overwatch came out in 2016, they are still releasing new heroes. According to a video by Your Overwatch, there are 5 new heroes coming out within the next couple of months. Once a new hero comes out, there is a good week or so before they are available to play. That means you have little time to master this new hero before they are out in comp. If you didn’t notice the error in my previous sentence then I will repeat it: a hero that is made to counter certain heroes. Do I believe this statement? Of course not, because Overwatch is about skill and luck at the same time. You need enough skill to be able to counter your counters with any hero, but you also need luck in order to group with a team that also has enough skill to carry its own weight.

Comp

The lowest ELO I have gone down to is bronze in Overwatch competitive and that is the lowest you can go. I had the worst luck in getting grouped with players that didn’t use mics. Now using mics doesn’t automatically guarantee a win, but it increases the chances. It is better to try and formulate a plan to win against your enemy, than to try and blindly attempt to understand your teammates actions. So, if you do decide to play competitive mode, then please try to talk to your teammates.

So, when do you believe that people will stop playing Overwatch? In my opinion, I believe the game is already dying, but you have players like me that come back to the game after months of quitting, just to see if it became a little less toxic. I quit because I was tired of the toxic players that kept throwing games and leaving so that you were missing a teammate. Something that Overwatch needs to work on the most is leavers. If you never played this game, then you wouldn’t see the problem with someone leaving, because you would get a new teammate right away. No, that would be common sense and common sense doesn’t work in Overwatch.

Toxicity

If they leave in the first 30 seconds to a minute, then the game is cancelled and no one loses anything, but any later than that then you have to hope that the player comes back. Leavers don’t make sense, because they still receive a loss from leaving, but there is the rare exception where someone just disconnects. If they do, then they have a chance to come back and help out the team. That is the only way you get the blank spot in your team filled.

Lifeline

The game will die when they finish releasing heroes and when we get the origin and shorts for every hero in the game. Then again, they are releasing new heroes every few months, so that day won’t be anytime soon. Blizzard makes money from the ever-growing Overwatch league and from the new players that joined because of sales and new heroes. I only bought the game because some friends wanted to play with me. The sad thing is, that I haven’t played with them since I bought the game because we have different play styles. I am a support main and I can’t play with someone that charges into a battle and doesn’t expect to protect the healer that is keeping them alive.

Should you buy?

So, what is my take on this game? I actually hate it more than anything else, and I wouldn’t exactly recommend it to others. It is a fun game to play with friends, but once you start playing with randoms, that is when the stress happens. I am not in a high ELO and I will take a quick break until next placements just so I can get my third gold weapon. The main reason we play comp is to say we have a high standing and to also say that we have a gold weapon for this hero, so praise us.

So, buy a mic, don’t get too stressed and remember unless you are on PC—you aren’t going to find yourself in the Overwatch league.

Hopefully you enjoyed  this review. Comment to let me know what game you want me to review next, and I’ll see if I can play it!


Image courtesy of Blizzard

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Let’s Unpack This: Star Realms: Frontier Unboxing

Dan

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Also, say hello to our new video wing of the Fandomentals over on YouTube, Fanfinity!

In this video, I’m taking a look at White Wizard’s newest addition to their Star Realms series of deckbuilding games, out now at your local game shop.


Image courtesy of White Wizard

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Tabletop Terror: The Fandomentals Guide To Halloween Gaming

Dan

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The spooky times are upon us folks. In just a couple days the spirits of the night will take hold, and the world will descend yet again into the darkness and horror that is All Hallow’s Eve. And for most of us, that means Halloween Parties. Maybe you’re hosting one, or maybe you’re just attending one.  It’s always good to have board games ready for a party, to bring people together and have some fun that doesn’t require cramming around a screen. But how do you please everyone at your party? If one guest only likes fun and campy spooks, while another is in to Halloween for the guts and gore, you may find yourself struggling to select games to bring to the dinner table this year. But fear not! Games writers Cat and Dan have teamed up to bring you a curated list of games, each selected especially for some of the most troublesome ghoulies who might haunt your Halloween fête.

Best Game To Play With Your High Goth Friend

They’re the first to arrive and the last to leave. This is their time of year, and they have gone all out. White face paint, black clothes, a frilly shirt. This is standard for them year round, but there’s something different about them come Halloween. There’s a spring in their step, a twirl to their parasol, and a twinkle in their eyeliner. They will accept only the darkest and most dramatic activities this Halloween.

Our Recommendation: Fury of Dracula

Fury of Dracula has been a classic staple of horror gaming since it debuted in 1987. The 2006 reboot, and its 2015 revision, have done nothing but increase its popularity. Based on, what else, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the game places players right into the gothic world of Victorian Europe. One player takes on the role of the infamous Count, and the other becomes one of his hunters: Jonathan Harker, Lord Godalming, Dr. John Seward, and Mina Harker.

The game is largely one of deduction, with the hunters using clues and signs to follow Count Dracula as a he carves a bloody swath through the continent. You gather items, defeat the minions of Dracula, and contend with the Count himself as he misleads, obfuscates, and lies as only he can to throw you off the scent. The game ends when Drac or the hunters bite it, he completes his dark mastery of Europe, spreads his vampiric curse, and survives. Winning requires smarts, cunning, and a flare for the dramatic even Dracula could appreciate. In the novel, Dracula was killed and the world freed from his dark presence. Will the same happen to you?

Fury of Dracula is available from WizKids, with the newest edition available for pre-order on Amazon.

Best Game To Play With Your “Psychic” Friend

They “knew” you were going to have a party, after you made the Facebook event, and they “knew” you needed more napkins, even though you had plenty and would have preferred they bring more snacks. They keep you updated on your horoscope, carry a tarot deck in a belt holster, and will almost certainly get very drunk and predict someone’s doom tonight. You should make sure the game you pick ensures that the doomed person won’t be you.

Our Recommendation: Mysterium

Our choice of Mysterium should be no surprise to board game fans, as the game of guessing and ghosts is already considered a classic by many despite its youth. One player in this game plays as the ghost of a murdered servant and the rest are mediums summoned to their master’s house to find out who did the deed. Think of it as a cooperative Clue, with someone playing as Mr. Boddy. The ghost, who is otherwise silent, hands out clues to the mediums to help them guess who the killer was and where and how they did it. If they can figure it out, and agree on their choice, in time, then the ghost will be set free to enjoy his eternal rest. If they can’t? They’re doomed to roam the halls forevermore.

Mysterium is available at most game shops as well as on Amazon, where it retails for $44.90.  The digital version is available from Asmodee Digital on Steam and most mobile devices. 

Best Game To Play With The Scooby-Doo Fan

They may not be as into the guts and gore as other people, and they may have a thing for the campier side of horror, but this guest is one of the most enthusiastic year in and year out. They make great sandwiches, kick butt at charades, and rock a mean ascot. As well, they’ve probably got the best costume at the party (though your goth friend will fight them over it).  They’ll want a game that isn’t too spooky, one that captures all the fun and silliness they love about the holiday.

Our Recommendation: Betrayal At House On The Hill

You can’t beat Betrayal for sheer classic Halloween flavor. Taking the roles of stock horror film characters like “The Professor” or “The Little Girl,” players enter a creepy old mansion that you don’t know the layout of until you begin to explore it. All sorts of strange things can happen as the house grows, from ballrooms in the basement to a balcony-adjacent kitchen. Players gather items, deal with mystical events, or are visited by dark omens that presage the dark presence in this house. When enough omens are drawn, or the players are highly unlucky, the game shifts and becomes a new challenge as they race to defeat a new and powerful enemy.

This “Haunt” changes based on where the Haunt was triggered and by what omen, and you will almost never get the same one twice. They range from a mass shrinking to an outbreak of werewolves to a full on demonic summoning, and often require a player to turn traitor and kill, transform, or delay their former friends as they try to escape. It’s a great game with infinite replay-ability and is just cartoony enough to keep it from truly scaring anybody. The 2016 Widow’s Walk expansion adds to the potential with all sorts of new monsters, haunts, and rooms for you to explore.

Betrayal At The House On The Hill and its Widow’s Walk expansion are available from Avalon Hill, at most game shops and on Amazon.

Best Game To Play With Your Gamemaster

They’re still miffed they had to move your session this week for the party, but they’ll get over it when they find the snack table (a DM’s one weakness). You’ll have to deal with them turning their nose up at games that allow for “structured” play, or stories that are “already written.” How do you please the lover of RPG’s when you only have one night to play?

Our Recommendation: Vampire The Masquerade 5e

It’s difficult to pull off pen-and-paper in a one time setting, but we at the Fandomentals are firm believers in the power of one-shots to capture all the fun of a good tabletop session without the long term commitment. And one of the best games for that, on Halloween or in general, is White Wolf’s newest edition of their classic Vampire the Masquerade. As Cat covered in her review, the new edition goes along way to update the game and improve its accessibility for a new generation. At its core a heavily story and character-driven game, Vampire doesn’t require quite as much minute number crunching other games do. It also fits quite well with Halloween, allowing you to craft a dramatic tale of horror and tragedy around one of the most classic monsters of all time. The only real question is, which clan are you going to be?

Vampire the Masquerade: 5th Ed. is available at most local game shops, from World of Darkness, and on Amazon, where the physical book retails for $42.95.  And keep an eye out, as the Camarilla and Chicago by Night books will be releasing soon to supplement your vampiric experience.

Best Game To Play With The Bookworm

They showed up dressed as someone from the 19th century, and are offended when nobody gets it. It’s not their fault nobody’s read the marginalia of Poe. They can tell you which books every horror movie is ripping off of, and they hold a grudging respect for Stephen King (even if, they say, he hasn’t been good since he wrote IT). They want a game that scratches their love of literature, while keeping things as bone chillingly spooky as their favorite dark novels.

Our Recommendation: Masque of The Red Death

One of our favorite games coming out of GenCon this year, Masque is a truly unique experience in the board game world. The game is a mix of strategy, deduction, and planning as you attend the famous ball given by Prince Prospero at the locked Abbey. Just as in the story, which is helpfully printed in the rules, players must gain favor with the Duke even as the plague known as the Red Death ravages the countryside. Fritter your time away with idle gossip and petty insults while secretly plotting your own survival. When the ebony clock strikes midnight, your only hope for survival is your ability to remember. It’s got beautiful art from Gris Grimley that makes even the box look like a Halloween decoration, and the gloomily colorful board and Ebony Clock standee make a bold statement at any party. Hopefully yours ends up better than Prospero’s did…

Masque of the Red Death is available from IDW Games at your local games shop as well as on Amazon, where it retails for $59.99

Best Game To Play With The Horror Film Snob

They’ve already gotten into three arguments with the Bookworm over the IT adaptations, and they brought a stack of beat up VHS’s in lieu of the bean dip you asked for. You don’t even OWN a VHS player. Nobody has heard of any of the movie’s they’ve brought, and you’re scared that one of them may end up being a snuff film. Any film you suggest is derided as pedestrian, cliched, and, worst of all, not scary. So how do you make them happy at the tabletop?

Our Recommendation: YOU Are The Maniac!

He’ll already be itching to play this based on the box, a beautifully designed thing built to look and feel exactly like the old VHS’s so many classic slasher flicks came in. It even has the wear and tear that signifies that yes, this is an original. But inside is not B-grade scares and badly done makeup. Instead, YOU Are The Maniac contains a well paced strategy card game that allows players to step into the shoes of their favorite slasher villains. Played across three “films,” you compete to rack up the highest kill count among all the slashers in the game. Chasing down victims, acting out scenes with the Maniac deck, handling the various plot twists, and killing the Final Girl at the end of the movie; it’s all in a days work for the killers in this game. It’s fun and darkly hilarious, working well as a fast-paced party game you could even play while watching one of the movies that inspired it!

YOU Are The Maniac! is published by Counter Culture Cards and can be purchased on their website for $24.95

Best Game To Play With The History Geek

They know the complete history of Halloween and will happily spend all night telling you exactly why and how candy corn came to be. They’ve been to Salem dozens of times, and complains that the rituals in Hocus Pocus aren’t historical accurate. They obsessively find old newspaper clippings from one hundred years ago to send you. They want a game that’s fun, scary, and has well sourced historical backing, dang it!

Our Recommendation: Salem 1692

Salem:1692 is a fantastic replacement or addition to your rotation of deduction games that you’ve been playing for years. Unlike standbys like One Night Ultimate Werewolf or Are You A Werewolf, Salem grounds itself in the real Salem Witch Trials while maintaining all the suspicion and plotting we love. As Dan said in his reviewSalem is a well researched and fun game that is visually stunning to boot, and you can read more about it in the previously linked review. Your history snob friend will never expect you to pull the next game straight out of the bookshelf!

Salem:1692 is published by Facade Games, and can be bought on their site for $24.99

Best Game To Play With That Guy Who Takes RISK Way Too Seriously

There’s a good chance this person is also your Gamemaster, and they’re certainly in your group, but they aren’t in it for the roleplay. No, this guest wants to prove that they are so much smarter than anyone else at the table. They have probably seen Patton too many times, and an entire wall of their apartment is covered in maps. But there isn’t really anything scary about Risk or Stratego (except for their length), so how do you make the tabletop general happy?

Our Recommendation: Eschaton

While the dark fantasy setting of Eschaton doesn’t at first seem to have the trappings of Halloween, the eldritch plot and beautifully grotesque art make it fit right in with its more seasonal friends. Taking on the role of a cult leader in a world on the brink of Apocalypse, players must battle for territory and the favor of the Dark One as they recruit men and monsters into their unholy ranks. Only one cult can walk at the side of the Dark One when the Eschaton comes, will it be you?

Eschaton and its expansion Sigils of Ruin are published by Archon Games and can be bought on their site, where they retail for $60.00 and $30.00, respectively.

Best Game To Play With Your Hungry Friend

This guest will not leave the snack table, and always fills a plate when the party moves away from it for any reason. They’ll probably suggest a Taco Bell run sometime around midnight. Yet they always seem hungry, famished even. Are they looking at your skull? Why do they keep trying to steal your hat? Why are they moaning like that? Wait, where’d the bookworm go? Do you smell blood?

Our Recommendation: Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game

There are A LOT of zombie games out there, and it was really hard to narrow it down. But there’s only one game that captures the full experience of the living dead, and that’s Flying Frog’s Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game. I mean c’mon, it’s in the title! Now celebrating ten years in the gaming world, Last Night on Earth is as much an ode to Romero and his ilk as YOU Are The Maniac is to Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter.

Playing as zombie movie cliches like high school kids, scientists, teachers, and more, most players must navigate the dangers of a zombie apocalypse. One or two players, however, get to play as the brain-hungry zombies. Each playable scenario is different, whether you’re rescuing a fallen friend, trying to escape, or just trying to “not die,” it’s easily re-playable. And with ten years under its belt, its had a lot of time to come out with expansions and supplements (22 as of this writing), including a spin-off Timber Peak and a spin on the cliche alien movie with Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game. Load the shotgun, keep your cool, and always remember to double-tap.

Last Night On Earth: The Zombie Game and its expansions are published by Flying Frog Productions and are available at most retailers as well as Amazon, where the base game retails for $59.99.

Best Game To Play With The Pescetarian

This guest really likes fish. They haven’t just cut meat out of their diet, they’ve cut nearly everything that else isn’t aquatic from their diet as well. You can’t get over the strange and salty smell that comes off of them, though, or how cold and clammy their hands always are. Sometimes you catch them mumbling to themselves in a strange language they keep insisting is just Polish. They’re quiet and a little odd, but they make great sashimi, so it’d be a shame not to have a game that caters to their unique self.

Our Recommendation: Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu

A spin-off of the popular Pandemic series of worldwide disease simulator games, Reign of Cthulu replaces the science and medicine with chaos and madness. Players take on the role of a 1920’s investigator working to stop the return of the Old Ones from their cosmic prison. They must defeat monsters, gather items, and seal the portals before the most ancient of evils can bring doom to the world. It’s a mix of strategy and teamwork as you and your fellow investigators move through classic towns like Innsmouth and Dunwich in search of an end to the evil. But beware, there are things man was not meant to see, and one’s mind does have a tendency to get lost in the darkness.

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu is published by Z-Man games and can be bought from their website for $49.99, as well as most retailers.

There you have it! Ten games we guarantee to spook and surprise, entertain, and ennervate in equal measure. Now all that’s left for you to do is finish your costume…but wait…is someone early? Better get the door, that growling sounds awfully impatient.

What games do you like to play for Halloween? Did we leave any off that we shouldn’t have? Sound off below!


Images Courtesy of Wizkids, Libellud, Avalon Hill, White Wolf Publishing, IDW Games, Golden Bell Studios, Facade Games, Archon Games, Flying Frog Productions, and Z-Man Games.

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