Buzzworthiness: Minigame Megareview

Another review!  This time, it’s six in one as I look at

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

The Level 99 Minigame Library (as covered in this blog post) is a set of six card games all packaged together in one box.  All six are designed by D. Brad Talton, the owner and operator of Level 99 Games.  All six games in the set are pretty different from each other in length, complexity, theme, mechanics, and  number of players.  This product was sent to me as a review copy by Brad, but that’s not going to affect the review at all.  Other than the fact that it means there can be a review.

I’m breaking with format here as I have six games to review.  I’ll be looking at each game separately, then looking at the whole library together.  So, let’s get to it.  Games will be discussed alphabetically.

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

Blades of Legend is a 6-11 player social deduction style game.  There are two Masters, and the other players are Wielders (with one collector if playing with an odd number of players).  No one knows who is on which Master’s team.  There is one seal for each Wielder on a team, and two for each Master.  Each Master knows one of their vulnerable seals, and one of the opposing Master’s vulnerable seals.  Each Wielder knows which Master’s side they’re on, but the Masters do not know who is on their team.  Each Wielder also has a Blade, which grants them a special ability if they pay the power cost.

On a turn, a Wielder takes two power and places one on a seal not his own.  He then has several options: channel his power by placing one on as many seals as he wants (again, not his own); draw one power from up to three different seals; duel another player; use his Blade’s special ability; or initiate a strike against a seal.  Duels are fought out using an auction system – the Wielders hold some power in their hands, with Masters joining one side or the other.  The loser gets all the power, while the winner gets some spoils.  Strikes involve every player deciding whether or not to put one power on a particular seal.

A Master’s turn is much more basic.  They distribute the power they have to the Wielders, then draw as much power as there are players in the game.

When a seal breaks, the owner reveals the matching crest.  If it belongs to a master, they are halfway to defeat, though they start getting more power every turn.  If it belongs to a Wielder, their Blade becomes liberated and more powerful.  So you want to break the crests of your team’s Wielders, but you don’t want to break the crests of your Master.  The game is over when both crests of a Master have been broken, or when all Wielder crests on one team have been broken.

COMPONENTS: The cards here are broken into three categories – seals, crests, and blades.  The seals and crests are identified both by a color and a symbol, always a nice gesture towards the colorblind people.  The blades are very varied in their powers, and illustrated both front and back.  The liberated side is lighter than the darker side to help you differentiate between them.  Also, the back of every crest has an action cheat sheet.  This is very nice so everyone knows what they can do.  The masters similarly have a reference on their card, but they really don’t have much to remember.  The other side of the master cards is a reference to how duels work, and that got passed around a lot.  The game is fairly complicated, so it’s nice that there are so many ways to remind yourself what your options are.

You also need some power tokens, which are included in the minigame library.  However, you might want some extras on hand as we ran out in both games I played.

THEME: The genre of this game is listed as Epic Fantasy.  However, I never got the feel of Epic Fantasy.  The blades add a little bit of a fantasy element, and I guess the use of power is another fantasy element.  However, I wish there was some kind of story included with the game to set up the world.  Other than a few sentences of flavor text, there’s no story.  And there could be.  I guess you could come up with your own reasons that there are Masters with unknown Wielders on their team, but the theme as it is feels kind of weak.  According to Brad, the theme is based on an anime called FATE, which I don’t know at all…maybe the theme will ring truer for fans.

MECHANICS: Blades of Legend is a social deduction game where you have to find ways of uncovering both the people on your own team as well as te people on the other team.  As such, the main mechanism of this game is persuasion – it’s your job to convince other that you are trustworthy.  Also, you have to use your deductive reasoning to try to separate the truth from the lies.  In this, it’s similar to games like The Resistance and Werewolf.  However, not knowing who is on your team is an element reminiscent of Shadow Hunters.  Plus, with uneven numbers of players, you add a Collector, who is his own team – another element that reminds me of Shadow Hunters.

Unlike Shadow Hunters, however, you have to win a duel with another player to find anything out about them for sure (without them actually getting revealed).  Duels themselves have a kind of blind bid mechanism to them, where each dueler puts power in a closed fist.  Each Master also chooses a side and adds to the auction.  It doesn’t seem like much of a duel to me…I guess you can think of it like firing spells at each other.

The other thing I need to comment on is the role of the Master.  The Master is the team leader, but does not get to do much in the game, other than distribute his power.  It makes things kind of frustrating for that player, especially since they don’t get a blade or anything extra to work with.

STRATEGY LEVEL: Like most social deduction games, the strategy here lies in trying to read your opponents.  Early on, it seems that you may want to do more duels to spy on other characters.  As it goes on, your strategy may shift to using your blade, or striking at seals you know will be advantageous.  There are a lot of unknowns in the game, and that makes it hard to develop a cohesive strategy from the start.  However, that’s true for most social deduction games.  The Collector adds another unknown element, and can be quite devastating if left alone.

MGL RANK: 6.  I had high expectations for this one, and ended up liking it a lot less than I had hoped.  There are certainly some good ideas here, but there are also a lot of complicated rules that interfere with enjoyment.  It’s one I think will get better the more you play, but that first play is a hurdle.  The game is also fairly group dependent…if people aren’t getting into the deception aspect, it will be less fun.  And, having played the Master twice now, being the Master kind of stinks.  So, I’m kind of giving it a sideways thumb – I’ll definitely play again, but I’m looking forward to playing it with people who already know how.

image by BGG user Kyokai
image by BGG user Kyokai

Grimoire Shuffle is a 4 or 6 player racing game.  The basic premise is that you’re wizard apprentices racing through a big library.  As you do this, you’ll be using various grimoires to help you get to the other side.  Players take turns as the leader of their team, and the leader is responsible for programming the actions of each of his teammates, as well as the opposing leader.

The library is laid out in a 3×5 or 4×5 grid of cards, with teams starting on opposite ends.  In each round, the leaders will get a hand of as many cards as there are players on his team plus one (so, three or four).  He’ll then give one card to each team member, one card to the opposing leader, and keep one on his leader badge.  This card will be discarded at the end of the round, or (in the advanced variant) can be used as an extra leader effect on the game.

Once all cards have been distributed, each player takes their turn.  They basically just follow the instructions on the card they have, but can choose how to carry the instructions out.  Once a card has been used, it is placed under the leader badge for their team.  Once all cards have been played, the card on top of the leader badge is discarded, a new one is drawn, one leader badge passes, and play continues.  This means that cards will be recycled from turn to turn.

When a member of a team goes off the edge of the board, they claim a trophy.  When a team has as many trophies as there are players in the game, they win.

COMPONENTS: There are 24 different room cards that are used to lay out the library.  The spaces on the cards are a little confusing, as there are four dark spaces and up to four narrow spaces in between.  These narrow spaces are either walls (or bookshelves, I guess) or are empty.  I think the empty spaces are not actually spaces, just demonstrating that there are no walls in your way.  There are also 24 grimoire cards, which show the tome you are using, plus the actions available, plus the leader effects.  They’re pretty easy to follow, and the books all have nice illustrations.  You also get player badges and leader badges, which all serve their function.  6 player pawns are needed, and these are included in the library box.

The biggest problem with the components here is just a problem of movement.  Since you’re moving around on the table, you’ll be bumping the cards, and they will move.  This means you’ll have to keep adjusting them throughout, which can be a little annoying.  You track the direction you’re heading with your player badge, and these also have a tendency to spin around, seemingly on their own.  This can all probably be fixed by playing on a tablecloth.

THEME: In this game, you are wizard apprentices using magical grimoires as you race across the library floor.  The theme works pretty well for me – I can imagine you pulling books off the shelf, opening to a random page, casting spells, tossing books to your teammates, and so on.  The card layout does not really evoke a library for me, but with some imagination, you can make it work.

MECHANICS: This is a racing game, so the mechanics serve to get you from one end to the other.  Grimoire Shuffle has a sort of programmed action mechanism, much like RoboRally.  However, this one is different as the leader is choosing actions for others, and not actually for himself – the other leader does that.  This means that everyone is going to play a card that they did not choose.  This means that you kind of have to think around corners, give good boosts to your teammates, and try not to help the other team too much.

There are four different special rooms that can come into play – a frozen room that allows you to just slide across in one move; a swamp room that doubles movement between spaces; a burned room that you cannot stay in; and an overgrown room that you cannot enter.  These add some variety to the game when they get added.  Also, some grimoire effects allow you to rotate or flip rooms, so the board is modular throughout.

The advanced version of the game has leader effects that you choose for yourself.  Basically, this is a change of the rules for the round that affects everyone.  The rules say you should  only use it when familiar with the game, and unlike other advanced rules in the library, I agree.  In my one game, we decided we’d try it with the leader effects, and wished we hadn’t.  There’s enough to get your head around without throwing that on top.

STRATEGY LEVEL: There is a lot of strategy in this game.  You have to divvy up the cards advantageously – one to each team member, one to the other leader, and one to yourself for the leader effect (if playing that version).  Once you have your card, you have to figure out the best way to use it.  The directions are vague, giving you flexibility in your actual actions.  A leader can guess what their teammate will do, but table talk is discouraged.  Besides, it’s more fun to figure things out for yourself.

MGL RANK: 4.  I do like this game, it’s just hard to get your head around the concepts.  I think it would be served better with tiles instead of cards, but that would have to be in an expanded release.  As a minigame, there are a lot of good ideas in the box.  There’s a puzzle that needs to be solved, and I like the concept that a team has to take turns trying to solve it.  Definitely one I want to play some more.

image by BGG user Kyokai
image by BGG user Kyokai

Infinity Dungeon is a 3-8 player storytelling game.  You are a party of adventurers, heading into the dungeon for various reasons.  Each player begins with a character (selected from two options).  One player takes the role of the Active Player, and another as the Active GM.  The GM draws five cards and lays them out so the items on the bottom of each can be seen.  The card on top is the room, and the Active Player must make a plan as to how the party will escape.  He can use any of the five items, or any items that any of the heroes are carrying, or the heroes themselves.

Once the plan has been relayed, each player may accept the plan or challenge it.  If you challenge, you must give the Active Player some detail that you want resolved.  If the Active Player does this successfully, you accept the plan.  If not, you reject it.  Once all players have voted, you add up the strength of the plan based on votes (accepted challenges are stronger than straight acceptances) and flip the next card to see if you passed.  If so, the Active GM narrates how it went.  If not, the Active GM narrates the grisly death of the Active Player, who must choose a new character.

Once a preset number of rooms have been cleared, the game is over with the player who had the most fun winning.

COMPONENTS: This game consists of two sets of cards, with 40 room cards and 10 character cards in each.  The cards for each set have different backs and the faces are different colors for easy differentiation when sorting.  But it really doesn’t matter which cards are stored with what set as they get mixed together anyway.  I think they’re setting up for adding more sets in the future.  The cards are all easy to read and consistent in their presentation.

THEME: This is different from a traditional dungeon crawl in several ways.  First, instead of your traditional wizard-barbarian-halfling-elf-dwarf adventuring party, you could be a pop star.  Or a tycoon.  Or a railroad conductor.  Or a postman.  Or an evil overlord.  Or a panhandler.  There are 20 different characters included in these two sets, and not one of them is a traditional Tolkienesque adventurer.  Then, you have the rooms themselves, which are not traditional dungeon rooms.  One has gears and pistons that slam down at regular intervals.  Another is full of ghosts.  Another is full of line dancing zombies.  Another is a monster break room.

You can probably already tell that this is a very silly game.  Basically, the theme is irrelevant…really, you’re just trying to have fun in some absurd situations.

MECHANICS: The only real mechanism used in this game is that of storytelling.  There’s a strong RPG element as you’re creating stories and situations on the fly.  It’s really just about setting the scene and determining what to do.  The voting element is not very strong – it would be very easy to game the system and just challenge-accept everything to get the strongest possible plan.  But that would be no fun.  And fun is the point.

STRATEGY LEVEL: Let’s face it – this game has NO strategy.  About the only possible strategy in the game is in how you’re going to vote, and I’ve already mentioned that this would be no fun (hint: you should challenge everything, but you should be very strict in whether or not you’re going to let something pass).  It’s not even that this game is all that luck-based – you’re relying on your imagination to give you a good experience.

MGL RANK: 5.  This game can produce some very memorable moments, and it’s very fun to play.  But, as people have mentioned before, it’s not much of a game.  There’s no real goal – you want to clear the rooms, but the reward is simply the satisfaction of a job well done.  It’s about creating those moments together, and really requires the right mindset to enjoy.  If you want a deep, thoughtful experience, look elsewhere.  If you want a tense, highly strategic dungeon crawl experience, this is not your game.  But if you’re looking to have a laugh, this game provides ample opportunity to be as absurd as you want.  I enjoy it – it’s only ranked so low because it’s more of an activity than a game.

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

Master Plan is a 3-6 player real space game, billed as a “game show for supervillains.”  It’s a real space game, where you’re using cards to make a path from one side of the table to the other – that’s where the trophy is.  Each player has their own supervillain, and each villain has a superpower (the game recommends you don’t use them your first time).  On your turn, you can move, add, and draw in that order.  You can skip steps.  To move, you simply move your villains pawn to a card with jumping distance (i.e. the short width of a card).  If it’s face up, you may make one free move.  If it’s face down, you flip it up and resolve it.  This could be a big red button that allows you to set off any card on the board.  Or a springboard that gives you another move.  Or a bomb that will blow up the space and everything around it.  There are nine different cards, some good, some very bad.

To add, you simply put a card face down on the table.  You can add as many as you want.  You end your turn by drawing a card.  The game ends when someone reaches the trophy, or when there’s only one person left in the arena.

COMPONENTS: The cards for this one are well illustrated and it’s very clear what each one does.  The text is even printed in both directions on the card because you’re moving around so much, so it makes it easier to read from whatever angle you’re at.  There are only nine card types in the game, which is a good number, but it may limit the game’s replayability.  More on that in a bit.

THEME: Come on.  A supervillain game show?  Sign me up.  Seriously, I think this is a great theme.  The act of trying to reach the other side and throwing stuff in other people’s way works well, and I doubt you can play this game without cackling or laughing maniacally at least once.  In fact, I think anyone who does not should not be allowed to win.  All the little gadgets you get are very thematic.  It’s also good that you have superpowers, though I think it might be fun to have some back story for them.

MECHANICS: This is a straight racing game with some memory elements – you have to remember what you placed, or you’re going to be in trouble.  It’s really not very difficult – you follow the Move-Add-Draw sequence (MAD) on your turn, and that’s it.  Without a board, you have the freedom to place cards wherever you like.  There’s some push-your-luck elements as you guess the best places to step, as well as some strategic placement of cards.  But it’s all very simple mechanically.

STRATEGY LEVEL: This is a pretty light game.  You don’t have to think much.  If you do, you’ll probably fall into one of those “clearly I can’t choose the wine in front of me” situations.  At the same time, you can try to outthink your opponents with clever placement of your cards.  The superpowers provide some extra strategy, which is nice.  The rules say you shouldn’t use them until you are familiar with the game, but I think they make things more interesting.  I certainly would like to use them every time.

MGL RANK: 1.  This is my favorite game in the library.  It’s just a lot of fun.  There’s a lot of luck elements to it, but it’s highly thematic, simple, and allows people to go after each other.  It appeals to me in the same way King of Tokyo does – you do the best you can with what you’ve got, and try to pound on your opponents in the process.

More than anything else, I think this game could benefit from a bigger release.  The minigame is fine…you can have a great time with the cards included.  However, I think a bigger game could be amazing.  I was thinking about it, and came up with some ideas:

  • More villains – Naturally.
  • More types of space cards – Nine works for the game, but if you had more, you could create a new set of nine every time.  Like in Dominion where you’re always picking a new set of 10.
  • Obstacles – This doesn’t even have to be placed in the box, just some more stuff for people to get around.  You could use a coffee cup or something to block the line to the trophy.  Or, you could pull two tables slightly apart to create a chasm that needs to be jumped.  This could lead to some entertaining scenarios and challenges.
  • Gadgets – Have some bonus gadgets spread around the table.  The first person to get to one claims it, and can use it at anytime during the rest of the game.  They don’t even have to be balanced – a race for the extra powerful stuff would make things exciting.

Again, the game is really good as is.  I just see a lot of potential there, and hope to see it grow in the future.

Noir

Noir is a 2 player deduction game (with a 3-4 player variant).  There are actually four different ways to play this one.  In all versions, a 5×5 grid of character cards are dealt out.  The first game is called “Killer vs. Inspector”, with a killer trying to kill the inspector, and the inspector trying to find the killer.  The second is “Hitman vs. Sleuth”, with a hitman trying to knock people off his list and a sleuth trying to stop him.  The third is “Spy Tag”, with 3-4 players trying to discover the identities of their opponents.  The final version is “Master Thief vs. Chief of Police”, where the thief is trying to steal treasures from the other characters and the chief is trying to catch him.  All four versions play similarly, but each has its own little twist: Killer vs. Inspector is a straight you-catch-me-or-I-catch-you game.  Hitman vs. Sleuth adds a four card hit list for the hitman, and the potential to add more to change his identity if the cops are getting too close.  Spy Tag is, of course, a multiplayer variant.  Master Thief vs. Chief of Police adds treasure tokens and a team of identities for the thief.

COMPONENTS: There are 25 suspect cards that are laid out to form your 5×5 grid, and 25 evidence cards that are shuffled together.  The cards are all nicely illustrated, and very easy to identify.  The suspect cards are double-sided, with a deceased side and a regular side.  Each suspect begins with a different letter of the alphabet, and the font is different for each one.  Overall, the cards are all easy to read, and there’s a good reference card for each player included.

THEME: It’s a murder mystery…sort of.  I’m not very familiar with noir as a genre, but I know they tend to be about crime, and deception is a big part of the intrigue going on.  In that, this game fits the theme pretty well.  You’re getting clues as to who your opponent is, but there are plenty of opportunities for smoke and mirrors.  Additionally, I’d suggest speaking in a Humphrey Bogart voice if you’re the good guy, James Cagney if you’re bad.  Brad told me that they originally wanted to theme it around the Death Note anime, but couldn’t get the license.  I think the theme works fine for what it is.

MECHANICS: Noir has some very simple gameplay as each player only has a minimal amount of actions that can possibly be performed.  Shifting is common to all players throughout all games – this is where you adjust a row or column one space.  Other actions are dependent on the goals of your character.  Canvassing helps you find out more information about your opponent.  You’re able to switch between identities in different ways.  And of course, you’re able to kill and attempt to capture different characters as you try to discover the other’s identity.  You’re using deductive reasoning, and need to remember the information you already know.  All four games are similar in play style, but have their own goals, which helps them stay separate.

STRATEGY LEVEL: Noir is listed as being light-medium in terms of weight, and I can agree with that.  None of the games are super-complicated (thought to be fair, I have not yet gotten to play Spy Tag or Master Thief vs. Chief of Police).  Killer vs. Inspector is very light, and easy to understand.  You’re relying mostly on luck in the game as you take some shots at people, but there’s some strategy as you try to maneuver yourself next to the other player’s character without them discovering you.  Hitman vs. Sleuth adds a level of complexity as the Hitman tries to knock off his entire hit list, and the Sleuth tries to zero in on him.  Both have their merits as strategic games, and I’m definitely looking forward to trying the other two variations.

MGL RANK: 3.  This is probably the easiest game to explain in the whole set.  It’s like Guess Who, except with some actual strategy and stakes involved.  It’s not overly complicated, has varying degrees of complexity, and provides some good intellectual entertainment.  I suggest switching sides after one player wins so both get the experience on each side of the law.  I enjoyed this one very much, and look forward to playing some more.

image by BGG user Kyokai
image by BGG user Kyokai

Pixel Tactics is a 2 player fighting game.  Each player has their own identical deck of 25 cards, each of which can do five different things.  At the beginning of the round (you’re supposed to play a best of 3 or 5 match), each player draws five cards from their deck and chooses one to be their leader.  Each leader is printed on one end of the card, with its own special ability that allows you to bend the rules.  The leader is placed in the middle of an imaginary 3×3 grid on the table in front of you.  This grid is made up of three waves – the front wave is the vanguard, the middle is the flank, and the back is the rear.  Each player takes turns doing two actions in the current wave.  So you each get two vanguard actions, then two flank actions, then two rear actions.  After the rear actions, player order switches and you’re back to the vanguard wave.

There are several options for actions you can take:

  • Draw: Draw a card from your deck.
  • Recruit: Play a hero from your hand into an empty space of the current wave.  The hero is printed on the opposite end from the leader, and has four rows of text underneath its name.  Heroes cannot attack the same turn they are placed.
  • Attack: Use a hero in the current wave to attack a hero in the opposing unit.  To do a melee attack, go after the front hero in any column, giving them wounds equal to your attack value.  Ranged attacks can target anyone (but may be intercepted if an intercept power is in front of the target).  If, at the end of the wave, a hero has more wounds than defense, they flip over and become a corpse.
  • Order: The bottom row under the hero (purple) is an order – a one-time use effect.  You can play the card, enact the order, then discard the card.
  • Clear: Every time someone dies, they become a corpse.  Corpses remain on the battlefield, blocking up crucial spaces, until they are cleared.  You can use an action to clear one corpse.
  • Restructure: Move a hero to any empty space, regardless of wave.  Heroes that move cannot also attack during the same wave.

When a leader is dead at the end of a wave, the round ends.  Both leaders are claimed by the winner as a trophy, and you start again.  Play continues until one player has won the match.

COMPONENTS: I had several concerns about this game in terms of the components.  First, I thought that 25 cards would not be enough.  It is plenty – I never ran out of cards in the best-of-five match I played (which went all five rounds).  I also thought the rows might get confusing, particularly in figuring out which one went with which wave.  It was a little bit – I kept wanting to make the order row into the rear action effect.  I wish there was some sort of indicator to tell what row went with what – it could be as simple as a big V, F, R, and O.  But the cards were all relatively clear.  It’s a game that has its own vocabulary (forerunner is the hero right in front of another, supporter is the hero right behind, and so on), and there’s not really a cheat sheet for that.  Still, everything can be figured out relatively easily.

THEME: This game is themed in the BattleCon universe (another title from Level 99), and the characters are some that have and will show up in future games of that line.  The eight-bit art is very minimal on the cards – most of it is evoked through the text and the rows.  I don’t really understand nostalgia for old-school video games and this pixellated art style that is all the rage lately.  It’s probably mostly because I wasn’t really into video games back in the 80s when this was actually the way games were.  But all the characters make sense as to what they’re doing, and you can definitely tell there’s a world there and stories behind these fighters.

MECHANICS: The central mechanism of this game is the card play.  It’s not as simple as just choosing a card and plopping down in a spot.  Each card does something different if in the vanguard, flank, or rear waves, as well as having a different order effect.  It provides some good decision-making opportunities throughout.  Also, the flow of gameplay works very well.  One player takes his turn in a wave, then the other player.  You then move on to the next wave.  Player order switches once you’ve gone through all three, meaning that one person won’t always be first.  This provides more to think about as you try to set yourself up for the next time the wave comes around, or try to get in the other guy’s way.

The variable leader powers is another mechanic that helps this game along.  Each leader has a unique effect on the game, but you have to know that the leader will be gone after the round is over, win or lose.  This means that the associated hero will also be gone.  It’s just another thing to think about.  All the leader powers have their unique strengths, and each one should be used or counteracted in different ways.

STRATEGY LEVEL: The strategy here comes in determining where and when to make the best use of your cards.  And it’s often a very tough choice – you might really want to use a card for its intercept ability to protect your leader, but you also may want to save it for the rear wave to use a powerful ranged attack.  Then again, that order looks very tempting.  Pixel Tactics is all about tactical maneuvering – short-term planning is the order of the day.  You never know how your opponent will react, and you need to be prepared for some bad stuff to come your way.  Ultimately, the goal is to kill the leader, but you can’t do that with people standing in the way.  So you chip away and try to find the best combinations of cards to achieve your objective.  There’s a lot to think about and consider in this game.

MGL RANK: 2.  Pixel Tactics is fantastic.  I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did.  I had my concerns about all the text on the cards, but ended up having a great time exploring the different strategies.  In fact, I had a little too much fun – I used a leader that allowed me to deal damage after issuing an order, and I kept doing that.  I completely neglected the leader, and got pummeled.  But I had fun.  There’s a lot of chaos, but it’s controlled chaos, and I like it a lot.  A sequel, aptly named Pixel Tactics 2 is coming out this summer.

Those are the games.  Let’s now look at the whole box.

OVERALL COMPONENTS: The box comes with seven tuckboxes (two for Infinity Dungeon), six player pawns, and some plastic gems for various purposes.  Additionally, all the rules are contained in a single book.  The rules are not the easiest to follow, and the games are seemingly randomly scattered throughout the book.  There is a table of contents at the beginning, but I think it might have been nice to include some tabs since there are six different games.  If not that, they maybe should have been alphabetized so you’re not flipping through trying to figure out where the particular game is that you’re looking for.  It’s not a huge thing – the book is nice, and includes some examples of play throughout.

OVERALL ACCESSIBILITY: The great thing about this library is that you have a wide range of complexities contained within.  Noir, Infinity Dungeon, and Master Plan are all lighter experiences, while Pixel Tactics, Blades of Legend, and Grimoire Shuffle offer some heavier and more strategic experiences.  As such, there are games for casual play and for gamers.  The themes all tend towards the anime/comic book/video game style, which may turn some people off.  However, I do think that there’s a lot here for people to enjoy.  And, as they’re all available individually as well as in the library, you can always just get the ones you like.

OVERALL REPLAYABILITY: Again, six games in the box significantly increases the replayability of the product.  One of the issues of having minigames is that you inherently cannot have too much variation in the individual games.  However, I would imagine that extra sets are forthcoming – Infinity Dungeon is made for more sets, and Pixel Tactics has a sequel.  But just within the library, I think there are a lot of experiences to be had.  Individual games may not be ones you’d want to play over and over and over, but it’s nice having several options in one place.

OVERALL SCALABILITY: Have you only got 2?  Try Pixel Tactics or Noir.  Have you got 4?  Try Master Plan or Grimoire Shuffle.  Have you got 8?  Try Infinity Dungeon or Blades of Legend.  No matter your player number (well, as long as you have 2+ and no more than 11), you’ll be able to find something to play.  I’m not sure how the individual games scale yet, but they seem to do pretty well with the printed numbers.

IS THE LIBRARY BUZZWORTHY? Yes, I’d say so.  My reservations about Blades of Legend aside, I think everything here has merit and are worth a try.  I love Master Plan and Pixel Tactics, and enjoyed the rest.  Yes, even Blades of Legend – my second play was more enjoyable than my first, and my third might be better.  I think the Minigame Library is a great product, and I look forward to hearing more about the next one.  They’ve been taking submissions, and Brad teased me with the information that some are being designed by big names in the print-n-play world.  Who they are, we’ll find out.

BONUS!  As if I haven’t gone on long enough!  I also got the Microgame Collection from Level 99, including 10 games with the rules and boards printed on a postcard.  I haven’t played any of them yet, but I’m going to run through them quickly here:

  • Castle (by James Ernest): 2-5 players attempt to connect stones of the same color within a castle.
  • Deep Space Prospector (by D. Brad Talton): 2-8 players use change to simulate mining the universe.
  • Divide & Conquer (by James Ernest): A two-player game where players attempt to connect their dots into triangles for points.
  • Mapple (by James Ernest): Two players put coins on a map of the Western US, attempting to control states by using high values.
  • Minoquar (by Daniel Solis): A solitaire maze game that can be played on QR codes.
  • Pebble Rebel (by Daniel Solis): Two players move stones on a 6×6 grid, with one player attempting to line up four stones of one color, and the other player attempting to stop this.
  • Pip-Pip (by Daniel Solis): A two-player dice game where players put dice on a 4×4 grid and attempt to convert dice to their side by comparing numbers on adjacent faces.
  • Skullduggery (by John Parmalee): A storytelling game where players are coming up with plans accomplish goals in a certain location.
  • Sumo Dice (by John Parmalee): Two players take turns advanced their dice across a board to push the other off.  Dice are advanced by looking at the number on top, and rolling the die into a new space that many times.
  • Take-Back-Toe (by James Ernest): Two players take turns moving tokens on a 3×4 grid to get three stacks of the same size on their own side.

Thanks again to Brad Talton and Level 99 Games for the review copy, and thanks to you for reading!

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