Working out exactly why we like a game, and keep playing it, is one of those complicated tasks that most gamers don’t ever really consider. Liking a game is almost a visceral thing, something deep in the bones that causes even the most stone-hearted of gamers to look over at their model collection and long for the next time they can open up their model cases and get some toy soldiers onto the table (let's all accept that is what we are doing here).
Sometimes though, someone does ask that question and you have to sit back a while and actually work out what it is that keeps you playing. In the case of a part-time blog writer, I get that little conundrum more often than others. I’ve also got a lot of games to compare (though not as many as some). Potentially this makes the task to get my attention even harder, I have expectations and a lot of competition to work against, and I call myself the “Big Grumpy Gamer” for a reason. Then there is another issue, I don’t get to game very often. There are wonderful advantages to living in the middle of nowhere, but an active gaming community isn’t one of them.
All this boils down to one simple thing, if you want me to play again and again, with the limited chances I have and the plethora of games I already play... Well, you had best have something to get me excited about.
I’m sure you are already aware, sat there reading the Wild West Exodus blog as you are, that my reaction to the Beta rules has been pretty positive. You’d not be wrong, but please keep reading. After all, I’m just a player. I got enough of a buzz from seeing what was going on with the game rules, and with the story, that I decided to see if the people at Warcradle would let me post a few articles (and potentially stories) about their game. In some small part, this enthusiasm has only become stronger since I went and played a game, there is even a video online if you really want to watch it (and yes, we made mistakes). At the end of that recording, my hosts and I sat and talked about how much we liked the game, how good we thought the Beta was, and also what we weren’t sure about.
At the time, I quite happily championed the Action cards, which are such a good idea. I also loved the story, the way in which portals worked and gave melee focused forces (like my Warrior Nation) a chance to get up the field before being shot to pieces. However, at the time, I wasn’t sure how much I liked the Adventure Cards. I thought remembering them throughout the game might be hard. It’s the same thing I stumble upon with other games, where special cards can be used for added effects… but only if you remember to keep looking at them, and most of the time you don’t.
I’m willing to hold my hand up now and admit I am totally wrong. Adventure cards do something which I think completely refreshes the objective card style of system. Of all the things it's not happened by streamlining them or simplifying them. It's all happened by adding more to them.
Guts and Glory, ways to get more actions or special effects during an activation on one side, while on the other side the option to score more victory points. My first thought on that was “I won’t remember, they will sit at the side of the table and I won’t do anything with them” and I thought I had proven myself right by the end of the game. I said as much at the end of the video. However, when I got a chance to watch the game back and replay what had happened, I realised I had used around one card a turn (at least), and I was constantly looking at the cards I had available to me. They were more or less always in my hand at the start of an action card draw. I was checking them, working things out in my head so I could get the right number of actions on my models (something I did badly sometimes). It was because of that need to look at the Guts side of the card as often, that meant I spotted a chance to use the Glory side and get myself some more points. Well, I realise we aren’t talking rocket science here, but this simple act of doubling up how the cards can be used makes the whole system fit into the game.
There are so many things in Wild West Exodus that make me want another game already. However, the thing in the back of my head right now is wanting to do more and learn more about the Adventure cards. Can I build a turn around maximising the number of VP I get from the cards, which combination of Guts and Glory will be the most exciting, or most efficient? I’m imagining being behind in a game and then doing some crazy combination of cards which brings me up the VP scale and allows me back into the game. It’s that last part, the part where I’m never ever truly so far behind I can’t catch up or keep up, that made me realise just how potent the Adventure Cards will be in this game. There is nothing more frustrating in a game than finding in the first couple of turns that you have no way back into a game. The advantage of the Adventure cards is, no matter how well your opponent has shut down the objectives, you are still going to get something out of the game, and that alone makes them exceptionally interesting to me. Add on top of that the sheer cinematic nature of the cards, especially the Guts side. Having a simple unit or a face suddenly pulling off focused shots or getting that extra point of limit to go crazy, dive through an open no man's land, and then go to town on the opponents boss. So many things can happen when models aren’t limited to just their stat line, and even the smallest hand can become a superhero.
Of course, as a learned and experienced gamer (read: opinionated and completed unskilled in game development), there are things I might like to see change about them. I’d personally have the background colour on each half be different. I just think that will remind me to keep checking each half of the card. I’m sure might be some complaint about the cards that only have symbols on them (they might induce some rulebook delays while people learn the game the first time), but I quite like unique symbols on cards rather than just text. Each to their own on design, I guess. A really important thing to note, if you do have any ideas after a game of Wild West Exodus than you can feedback to Warcradle via the Feedback form in the Beta Rules section. So, if you are like me and have had a couple of ideas or issues during your games, then please make sure you feedback to Warcradle so that they can have a look at what the community is thinking. I have, so you never know, we might get dual coloured cards?
The Beta rolls on, and each new change is another chance to review and scrutinise. With the current direction of the game, I have to say I’m still really excited. With my gamer hat on (which is styled to suit my opinionated and unskilled mind), I needed to find that little something that would keep me coming back to the Wild West and playing more games. The truth is there are so many little gems in Wild West Exodus, but what I really want to do more of, is a little bit more Adventure.