Game(s) Buzz: Level 99 Games Minigame Library

As much as I say I’m done with Kickstarter, I still find ways to bring them up.  OK, here’s another Kickstarted project:

image by BGG user Kyokai
image by BGG user Kyokai

The Minigame Library was a project Kickstarted by Level 99 Games last summer.  In the box, you get not one, but six different small card games, all designed by D. Brad Talton, Jr.  I’ve really been enjoying smaller card games lately, and so I think this might have been something I would have looked more closely at when it was being funded.  I think it’s a cool idea to package them all together, and you can get them all separately as well.  So, let’s dive in and see what we’ve got.  I’ll be going through the games in alphabetical order.

image from Level 99 website - http://www.lvl99games.com
image from Level 99 website – http://www.lvl99games.com

Blades of Legend is a 30-60 minute game for 6-11 players.  This was the fifth game added to the project, as part of the $25,000 stretch goal (the initial plan was just to have four games).  The game comes with 56 cards – blades, crests, seals, and reference cards.  The premise is that there are two Masters, and the rest are Wielders who want to protect their Master.  However, no one knows who is on which team – you know who the Masters are, but you have no idea who each Wielder is rooting for.  So it’s a social deduction game in the tradition of Werewolf and The Resistance.

At the beginning of the game,the Masters are each dealt an equal number of Seals – the total Seals used is equal to the number of players plus two.  Each Seal has a matching Crest.  The Seals are dealt evenly to each Master, and each master shuffles the matching Crests into their own pile.  Each Master will then draw one Crest from their pile and one Crest from their opponent’s pile.  These are the Seals that are vulnerable.  In this way, each Master will know one of their Seals that is in danger, and one of the other Master’s.  The remaining Crests are shuffled together and dealt to the players, with a Collector Crest added with odd numbers.  The Master who has your Crest is your Master, and that is your team.  Each Wielder also gets a random blade and three power tokens.  One Master gets one power per player in the game, and the other gets half that much.

Players each take turns in clockwise order (beginning to the left of the Master with the most power).  If you’re a Master’s, you do one thing: give all of your power to Wielders, gaining one power per player at the end of the round.  Masters do not know who is on their team, so you need to be careful.  If you’re a Wielder, take a power, then put a power from the supply on a Seal that is not your own.  You then take one action:

  • Channel – Place one power on any Seal other than your own.  You can do this on as many different Seals as you like, but only one per Seal.
  • Draw – Take one power from up to three different Seals.
  • Duel – Challenge another player to a duel.  Duels are essentially an auction – secretly bid power in your fist.  Masters bid as well.  Before bids are revealed, the next Master in turn order declares his support for one side.  The other Master is automatically on the other side, and the winning dueler gets a bonus.
  • Wield – You can use an ability for your blade if it is ready by paying the power cost.  You then unready your weapon (rotate it 90 degrees).  Weapons can be readied after Channeling, Drawing, or winning a Duel.
  • Strike – If you have a readied weapon and 3+ power, you can initiate a strike on a Seal that isn’t yours.  Pay three power, then each player in turn order (starting with you) can choose to put one power on a Seal.  Your weapon unreadies after this.

A Seal is destroyed with 7 power.  If a Wielder’s Seal is destroyed, it is liberated.  He gets all the power and his weapon gets stronger.  If a Master’s Seal is broken, the Master is endangered.  He gets more power per turn, but if his second Seal is destroyed, he loses.

This sounds like a pretty good social deduction game.  There are clear lines between the teams, and it’s good that the teams don’t know who each other are.  It kind of reminds me of Shadow Hunters in that way.  It might stink a little to be a Master because you’re a target and don’t get to do much.  However, the rules do state that you can order your minions around.  Although they may not really be your minions.

image by BGG user Kyokai
image by BGG user Kyokai

Grimoire Shuffle is a 45-60 minute game for 4 or 6 players.  In this one, you are all apprentice librarians racing through the library, collecting books as you make your way across.  Books contain spells that you can use to your advantage.  There are 56 cards in the deck, including library cards, grimoire cards, special roomes, and badges for the teams.  There are also 6 player pieces.

Players are split into two teams, red and blue.  They sit in alternating positions, and badges are used to identify each.  Library cards are played out in a 3×5 or 4×5 grid, and team pieces are placed at either short end.  Badges are assigned to the teams to identify the current leader and the direction your team is heading (you want to make it to the other edge).  Each leader is dealt 3 grimoire cards in a 4-player game, or 4 cards in a 6-player game.  During a round, the cards will first be distributed.  The leader hands one to each of his teammates, then puts one face down on his team leader badge, and puts the other face down on the opposing leader badge.

Players will the take their turns based on the cards they were dealt.  Grimoire cards describe several steps you must take in order.  For example, the Earth card allows you to flip a room (they are double-sided with different paths on each side), move up to three spaces, flip another room, and move two more spaces.  The card is then placed face down under the leader’s badge.  If a player ends his turn at the opposite side of the board, he collects his grimoire card as a trophy, reorients his direction card to the opposite direction, and gets a new grimoire card to put under the leader card.  After all players have performed their card actions, the leader’s grimoire card is discarded and a new one is drawn.  The leader badges are passed to the next team member to the left (since players are seated in alternating order, this skips the person in between two teammates).

The game ends once one team has collected as many trophies as there are players in the game.  If both teams collect their final trophy in the same round, a sudden death round is played.

This game features some programmed movement, which is always a big draw for me.  The leader has some tough choices to make here, trying to give players cards that will maximize their movement, or to maximize the chaos they can cause (which is probably how I’d play it).  The rules don’t say anything about table talk, so I assume it’s OK for leaders to discuss what they’re thinking with the player who is moving.  That might be a sore spot for people who don’t like cooperative games for the alpha gamer problem, but I’m sure you can house rule out talking if it bothers you.  The game looks interesting at the very least – RoboRally with cards and no lasers.  Plus, the library theme is a good one, if not really that immersive.

image by BGG user Kyokai
image by BGG user Kyokai

Infinity Dungeon is a 30-60 minute game for 3-8 players.  This one is more of a roleplaying style game than the others, with humorous cards that take you through the dungeon.  There are two sets in the box, with a total of 20 character cards, 80 room cards, 8 voting cards, and active player card, and an active GM card.  Each player gets two character cards to choose from.  Then one player gets the Active GM card, and the Active Player card goes to his right.  Everyone introduces their character, either reading the card or making stuff up.

You’ll decide how many rooms are in the dungeon – generally, 1-2 per player.  Five cards are dealt into a pile, and the GM reads the top card.  Players can ask questions the GM will answer, and then the Active Player will come up with a plan that will get the party out of the current room.  The other players then vote to agree with the plan or challenge.  To challenge, you announce a condition that will get you to agree to the plan.  If the Active Player thinks of a way to work it in, you will then agree.  If not, you dissent.  After all players have voted, the GM checks to see if the plan succeeded based on the number of yes votes and challenges cleared.  If it succeeds, the GM narrates how it succeeds.  If it fails, the Active Player is dead and that player draws two new characters to choose from.

Once all the dungeon rooms are cleared, the party wins.  The player who had the most fun wins the most.

This seems like a very silly experience with a lot of potential for wild stories.  It takes creativity, and probably a group that’s willing to just have fun with it.  There’s not really much of a game there, just some fun.  It reminds me of other storytelling games like Once Upon a Time and Aye Dark Overlord in that respect.  It would probably be a lot of fun, but I think I need to stress that you would have to have the right group to enjoy this one.  If you have a bunch of Eurogamers or people expecting some deep strategy, they will most likely hate it.

image from website
image from Level 99 website – http://www.lvl99games.com

Master Plan is a 20-40 minute game for 3-6 players.  This one was the sixth game added to the set, included after reaching the $40,000 stretch goal.  It’s described as a game show for supervillains – you’re racing for a prize across obstacles and through traps laid by your opponents.  You’re building the board as you go using the 47 space cards included in the game (there are also 6 player starting cards and a trophy card, as well as 6 villain pawns).  It is recommended that you have at least 3 feet of playing space.

At the beginning of the game, you set up the contestants in a line on one edge of the table with a long card length between them.  Villains have optional powers, and you can use the power side if you wish.  The trophy is placed about two feet away.  Each player is dealt four space games, and the game begins.  On your turn, you may move, add, and draw (in that order).  To move, place a card face down do that its short edge bridges the gap between the card you’re on and the card you want to move to.  If it does, you move and get your card back.  If the card is facedown, flip it over and resolve it.  If it is face up, you get one free move.  You only get one free move per turn.  There are no cards to move to on your first turn, so you won’t be able to do this step.

To add, take a card from your hand and put it facedown anywhere on the table.  It can’t overlap another card, and you can’t measure the distance to make sure it will work.  You can add as many cards as you like.  To draw, take one card.

As you move through space, some cards may be destroyed.  If you are on one of these destroyed cards, you fall, discarding your hand and drawing a new hand of four.  You also return to the start space.  After you go through the deck once, you reach Sudden Death, and a fall means that you’re out of the game.  The first person to reach the trophy, or the last one standing, wins.

I’m sure the big interest in this game will be strategically placing your cards so you have an easier time/your opponents have a tougher time.  It plays a little like a miniatures game with a variable playing surface and steps that aren’t set.  Not knowing what the cards are keeps me from knowing exactly how this game will play – however, it looks like it should be a lot of fun, with plenty of opportunities to go after other people.

Noir
image by BGG user Kyokai

Noir: Killer vs. Inspector is a 15-30 minute game for 2 players, with a variant for 3-4 players.  In this box of several different games, this is a system that contains rules for four separate games.  The same 25 card suspect deck and 25 card evidence deck is used in each, as are the four reference cards.  The board is set up with the suspect cards laid out in a 5×5 grid.  Then, the rules change.

  • Killer vs. Inspector – The Killer takes one card from the evidence deck, which is his identity.  The Inspector draws four cards.  The Killer goes first, killing one suspect card adjacent to his secret identity.  The Inspector then chooses one card to be his secret identity, and will use the remaining cards as evidence.  On future turns, the Killer can shift a row or column one space, moving the card pushed off the row to the other side; or they can kill an adjacent suspect; or disguise himself by drawing the top card from the evidence deck and changing his identity if that character is still alive.  The Inspector’s turn consists of shifting cards; or he can arrest a suspect by pointing to a character and asking if it is the Killer; or exonerate a suspect by drawing a card from the evidence deck and discarding one from his hand.  If the Killer kills 16 characters, he wins.  If the Investigator arrests the Killer, he wins.
  • Hitman vs. Sleuth – The big difference with this game is that the Hitman has a face down row of four cards, a hit list that he must kill in order to win..  Both have a secret identity from the beginning.  The Hitman’s actions are to shift, kill, or evade.  Evade is just like disguise, but if it’s successful, the Hitman adds a card to his hit list (so there must be at least two cards in the deck to attempt an evade).  The other difference is that if the Sleuth is killed, he plays another card from his hand as a new identity immediately.  If the Sleuth has no cards, he loses.  The Sleuth can shift, arrest, or canvas.  Canvassing allows the Sleuth to draw a new card and discard, with the Hitman admitting if he is adjacent to the discarded card.  The other difference is that a failed arrest allows the Hitman to discard one from his hit list.
  • Spy Tag – This is a 3-4 player game, with each player as a random spy.  Your goal is to gain 3-4 trophies, which are gained by capturing opposing spies.  On your turn, you can shift; you can capture an adjacent suspect, which will earn you a trophy if you manage to capture another spy (and get the captured spy a new identity); or you can canvas by selecting an adjacent suspect , causing any other spies adjacent to the selected suspect to raise their hands.
  • Master Thief vs. Chief of Police – In this 2 player game, you add a treasure token of some sort to each suspect.  The Thief is trying to steal all the treasures on the board, while the Police Chief is trying to catch the Thief.  The Thief gets two secret identities (one of which is active and the other which is kept in hand).  The Chief of Police gets three cards, one for the Chief and two for other officers.  On a turn, the Thief can shift; disguise by shuffling his two identities together and picking one; or steal by taking any token adjacent to his secret identity.  The Chief can shift; arrest any adjacent suspect, which causes the Thief to lose if his current identity is chosen (not the one in hand); or deputize by drawing a new evidence card and discarding one of his officers.  Deputizing lets the Thief steal one treasure from anywhere on the board.

I think it’s great that this minigame library includes a game that is, in itself, a minigame library.  The system looks like it has a pretty good deduction element.  The two player games all look like they’re going to be good quick battles, and the 3-4 version doesn’t look bad either.  I imagine that luck has a lot to do with how the game plays out, but it’s probably fast enough that you can just play again.

image by BGG user Kyokai
image by BGG user Kyokai

Pixel Tactics is a 30-60 minute game for 2 players.  Along with Noir, this is probably the most highly regarded of the games in this set.  It’s a tactical card combat game where players call up units and fight in a world of 8-bit graphics (which seem to be all the rage these days).  The game comes with two 25 card decks, damage counters, and a current wave marker.  It’s played over a series of 3-5 matches, each consisting of any number of rounds.  The object of each match is to kill your opponent’s leader.  Leaders are chosen as each player draws a hand of five cards and chooses one from those.

The game is played on a theoretical board.  This means that there’s a 3×3 grid of play space you both have right in front of each other, but at the start, only your leader will be on the table.  There are mats you can get for the game, but they are really only necessary for organizational purposes.  The front row of your grid is called the Vanguard, the second row is the Flank, and the back row is the Rear.

In each round, players will take turns doing two actions in a wave with the appropriate row.  So one player will take two actions on their Vanguard row, then the other; player one then takes two flank actions, then player two; finally, player one takes two rear actions, then player two.  The first player changes after each round.  Your action choices are:

  • Draw a card – From your deck.  If your deck is empty, you can’t do this.
  • Recruit a hero – From your hand.  Place it in the current wave, in any empty position.
  • Attack – Use a hero or leader from the current wave (not one recruited during this round) to attack.  Melee attacks are used against the closest hero or leader in any column.  This could hit one of your guys if you’re not carefyl.  Ranged attacks can hit anyone, though heroes with the intercept ability can’t be fired over.  Heroes that take too much damage during a wave are dead and are flipped face down on their space, a corpse that clogs up the spot.  It’s possible that they can be revived.
  • Play an order – From your hand.  Instructions will be followed on the card.
  • Clear a corpse – Since dead heroes are useless, you’ll need to use an action to get one out of the way.
  • Restructure – Move a hero to any empty position, regardless of wave.  That hero can’t attack during this wave, and leaders cannot be moved.

When a leader is dead at the end of the round, the other side wins, claiming the leader as a trophy.  Neither the dead leader or the victorious leader may be used in the next match.  If both leaders die at once, the army with the most heroes wins.  If there’s still a tie, it’s a tie, and both player claim their own leader as a trophy.  You play either a best-of-three or best-of-five series, choosing new leaders each time and determine the winner.

This is another game where I’d really need to see the cards to see how it plays.  Of the cards I’ve seen, they seem to be mostly text with small 8-bit illustrations.  Still, there are some things that appeal to me about the game.  First, I always like it when cards can be used in several different ways – as a leader, a hero, or an order, in this case.  Also, I like the thematic addition of corpses piling up on the field of battle.  It doesn’t make sense for dead heroes to magically disappear, which already makes this game different than the video games it was inspired by.  It seems cool, and nice to have a quick tactical game that you can play several times to determine an ultimate winner.

So, after going through all these games, I really think the Minigame Library is a very good product.  I like the quick games a lot, and there’s definitely a place for portable stuff in just about every collection.  Looking at everything here, I’m impressed that none of the games look anything like each other.  There may be some cosmetic similarities, but you have a fantasy social deduction game, a magical library race, a roleplaying dungeon crawl, a supervillain obstacle course, a murder mystery deduction game, and a tactical 8-bit combat game.  The variety there is quite respctable.  And they all look like fairly good games.  Maybe on the lighter side, but pretty good bang for your buck.  I’d be interested in trying out all six at some point.  Thanks for reading!

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