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Warhammer Quest: Cursed City Review - DOA

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23 Apr 2021 00:38 #322461 by Michael Barnes
It feels a little strange to be writing a review...

OOP and already looking like a dead game?

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23 Apr 2021 11:54 #322462 by themothman421
What a strange product, simultaneously fully-formed in terms of art/aesthetics and certain minis but totally half-baked in others (gameplay, bad guy minis..).

I've been taking my time painting up the objective markers and recently finished the corpse rats. The level of detail in these seemingly extraneous pieces are insane, but like you said also incredibly brittle. I broke off at least two rat tails just trying to jam the damn things in the base.
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23 Apr 2021 12:05 #322464 by Shellhead
Due to the negative comments and reviews, I keep finding others things to do instead of try out Cursed City, even though I finished making my tokens days ago. Tonight is laundry night, and my laundry room is adjacent to the boardroom (basement area with dark wood paneling and my big ikea gaming table), so I will finally play tonight. In between ironing shirts.
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23 Apr 2021 15:51 #322471 by Msample
For a $200 game, this is a pretty damning review.
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23 Apr 2021 19:19 #322481 by Michael Barnes
Yeah, it really is. And it’s kind of surprising...I don’t know if COVID had something to do with it all or what. I do think the minis may be a combination of engineering then for push fit, using a softer but more brittle plastic, and new sculptors/CAD elements. It’s weird that nobody is really mentioning these figures- but aside from detail they are almost like Mantic quality.

I love that it has just plain old bats and rats and skeletons and not Sanguinus Skitterrippers or Vertiginous Flederfangs or junk like that. But man, those boss models are trash. They just look stupid. A couple of the heroes too I’m just like wow, boring. After the awesome models in Black Fortress it’s pretty surprising.

I wonder if there is some kind of behind the scenes drama or angst over the development, production and distribution of it...and I am pretty surprised that more people aren’t vocal about the fact that it’s not good like myself and Joel Eddy have been. Rob Oren took it to task on availability but that’s it.

I was also weirdly unmotivated when it showed up...after putting some of the models together and feeling like something was off, I had to forge myself to build the rest and punch it all.
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24 Apr 2021 23:59 - 25 Apr 2021 00:00 #322514 by Shellhead
I entered the Cursed City with trepidation. I heard it would be too easy, but everything looked so ominous. I enhanced the atmosphere by putting on some Arcana, which might be best described as gothic medieval music. The hunt began.

The rules should have been easier to pick up, especially since I have played through both the Silver Tower and base set Blackstone Fortress campaigns in the last year. The Silver Tower rules were easy, and easy to learn due to the user-friendly rulebook. Blackstone Fortress was a bit less friendly in layout, and now Cursed City is a bit difficult to parse. It starts with five tutorials, but they only cover the basics and then the reader is left searching elsewhere for specific rules without an index or table of contents. Fortunately, the rules are then laid out according to turn order, so it's still possible to struggle through a first adventure without completely reading the rules in advance.

I randomly took the ogor, the aelf, the exiled noble, and the dwarf (aka "steampunk fire hydrant"), with the dwarf as leader. The hunt was super-easy at first, until a bad stretch of dice-rolling that left both the dwarf and ogor with a disease token each. Then the ogor got mauled by the Gravekeeper and then buried alive on the next turn. Buried alive is very bad news in this game. Either the character or someone adjacent to him must spend two activation dice showing 6s, or else the buried character takes 2 wounds that round. I just barely managed to rescue the ogor on the turn that he would have died. At other points in time, both the noble and the dwarf were roughed up pretty badly, down to just one or two activation dice for a while.

Combat wasn't as lopsided as I expected. It's true that three of my heroes had ranged attacks while none of the many monsters in this hunt had any ranged ability. But the map layout tended to keep the sightlines short, and the monsters often got extra moves, so most of the fighting was in melee. Some of the monsters were a challenge to put down because they had a chance of reducing each hit by 2 wounds.

The hunt was successful, though we ended up running through most of the encounter deck in just that hunt. A couple of the big five threats even showed up, though apparently there aren't encounter cards for all five, or at least not for zero level encounters. We didn't get a single crisis during this hunt, so I don't have an opinion about that aspect yet.

I like the way this hunt mission had a lasting impact, adjusting citywide influence and fear. The map tiles looked amazing, as it dawned on me that the peculiar silverly blue of most of the tiles was there to convey that we were fighting in streets and alleys under a full moon.

If I understand the leveling rules correctly, it appears that this campaign will take at least 18 missions to complete. The limited variety of monsters will probably wear out their welcome before the end of the campaign, but so far, I am enjoying it.
Last edit: 25 Apr 2021 00:00 by Shellhead.
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26 Apr 2021 09:45 #322541 by Shellhead
I played a scavenge mission yesterday. Very similar to a hunt mission, except the goal is loot instead of body count. Though very comparable to the previous mission, this one went more smoothly because nobody got impaired early on. There was a bad moment late in the mission when a zombie could have impaled (trapped) someone just by hitting, but I lucked out. During the mission wrap-up, I learned that both the influence and fear levels rise in the city after a scavenge mission, so there is a price to be paid for doing too much scavenging and not enough other stuff.

There is a lot of content in this game, more than either Silver Tower or Blackstone Fortress had in their base sets. That plus the miniatures should have been enough to justify the high price of Cursed City. But a full 1/3 of the minis are the skeletons and zombies, and they are the least interesting opponents in the game. A couple of the named bad guys can enhance them, but there's a good chance that these leaders and their favorite minions won't be on the table at the same time. I'm sure that the intention was to deliver that zombie horde experience, but unless a game is primarily about zombie hordes, it's probably better to go with more variety. Also, it's a shame that another 1/6 of the minis represent inanimate objects. They should have made those into tokens and then put 10 more hostiles in the mix. Both Silver Tower and Blackstone Fortress offered a good mix of opponents, encouraging players to adjust their tactics depending on the enemies on the table. It's too bad that the expansions have all been canceled, because Cursed City could really benefit from an adversary card expansion.
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26 Apr 2021 10:31 #322548 by hotseatgames
One of my favorite touches in the miniatures is, I believe, one of the Kosargi guards. There is a random rat that plugs into the base, and the rat is holding a key in its mouth. I thought that was just such a cool little detail.

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27 Apr 2021 10:14 #322605 by Shellhead
I started a deliverance mission last night. For the first two turns, things were going smoothly and I thought this would be a cakewalk. Then the end of turn random event jumped the night marker forward an extra space, and that death spell thing smacked my ogor for 2 wounds. We opened up a new section of map and got two consecutive small rooms with no citizens to warn, just the watch captain and one of those wall-crawling vampires. The watch captain was directly adjacent to the dwarf and got his fury action, dealing a lot of damage to the dwarf. The vampire ignored one of his possible opponents and chose to hit the wounded dwarf due to bloodlust, putting the dwarf on the ropes.

The brutal part of a deliverance mission is that the heroes must constantly move to stay ahead of the death spell, so even a single wound becomes a real drag, and also reduces the chances of getting a 4+ activation die to open a closed gate, or a 6+ activation die to warn the citizens. The next random event deprived us of the destiny dice, so the dwarf fell behind and was lost. A few turns later, he was brought back by a lucky event roll, but a bad destiny roll left him heartbroken and again lost to the death spell.

We soon got one of the nightguards, and he did some real damage to the aelf and the ogor. They both had healing potions and managed to recover and put him down. When I took a break for the night, the three remaining heroes still need to warn 4 more groups of citizens. Nightfall will happen next turn. The death spell is just one room behind us. Both the aelf and ogor are injured again. The dice seem cursed. It seems possible that it will all come down to my duellist noble making a desperate solo dash as the aelf and ogor fall behind.

The dice were very swingy. Many of my attack rolls were either a pair of blanks or a pair of hits. A pair of hits is unnecessary since you only use the outcome of the best die. I often rolled badly with the destiny dice and only had one to work with that turn. A couple of crises popped up, but both times allowed an option for me to ignore them with tolerable consequences.

Maybe I had unusually bad luck this time around, but this deliverance mission has been very tense and challenging so far. Maybe it was just because of that early bottleneck with two tough opponents, with cascading consequences since then. But it almost feels like this is the specific mode that Cursed City was built around, with extra design effort to make sure that it works properly.
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27 Apr 2021 10:20 #322607 by hotseatgames
Getting deprived of Destiny dice definitely adds to the challenge. When I did a deliverance mission, the gravetide never even got close to me, but I can certainly see how things could go awry.

During decapitation missions, you do a deliverance but instead of warning citizens, you just play through 10 cards. Seems like a much more manageable way to do it.

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29 Apr 2021 09:47 - 29 Apr 2021 17:40 #322681 by Shellhead
I completed the Deliverance mission, but it was rough and somebody may have squealed like a pig. By the end, my duellist noble was inspired, my aelf was seriously wounded, and both the dwarf and the ogor were lost to the gravetide. But I warned enough citizens and got out of town in time. Everybody leveled up, so I will next tackle the first decapitation mission. So far, I am having fun with this game. The lack of variety in the monsters will probably eventually become a problem, but for now it is all good.

EDIT: The dwarf and the ogor got eliminated during this scenario due to wounds, but that doesn't automatically mean that they died. It just means that they get taken out of that session. Then there is a vitality roll or something like that for each character to see if they really died or not. Both the dwarf and the ogor are pretty tough, so I rolled okay and they both survived.
Last edit: 29 Apr 2021 17:40 by Shellhead. Reason: clarity
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29 Apr 2021 17:37 #322712 by Shellhead
Maybe Cursed City is just too expensive to meet reasonable expectations. I have never paid $190 for a boardgame, but if I ever did, I would be expecting either a near-perfect game or else a unique experience that can't be found in games within a more normal price range. Since I only paid $70 for my stripped copy, plus a few more bucks to create my own tokens, I am satisfied that I got my money's worth from Cursed City. There have been games that I ended up spending well north of $100 on due to expansions, like Arkham Horror 2nd or Marvel Champions, but I already knew from playing the base set that I would likely enjoy the expansions. I think the most expensive standalone game that I ever got was maybe The Gothic Game for $110 plus shipping, but fortunately I had played it before and knew exactly what I was getting. Also, I knew in advance that it was a game that I could easily get on the table with a variety of friends, even some friends who don't often play board games.
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30 Apr 2021 01:47 #322721 by themothman421

Shellhead wrote: Maybe Cursed City is just too expensive to meet reasonable expectations. I have never paid $190 for a boardgame, but if I ever did, I would be expecting either a near-perfect game or else a unique experience that can't be found in games within a more normal price range. Since I only paid $70 for my stripped copy, plus a few more bucks to create my own tokens, I am satisfied that I got my money's worth from Cursed City. There have been games that I ended up spending well north of $100 on due to expansions, like Arkham Horror 2nd or Marvel Champions, but I already knew from playing the base set that I would likely enjoy the expansions. I think the most expensive standalone game that I ever got was maybe The Gothic Game for $110 plus shipping, but fortunately I had played it before and knew exactly what I was getting. Also, I knew in advance that it was a game that I could easily get on the table with a variety of friends, even some friends who don't often play board games.


I'm with you on so many of these points. I was lucky enough to get this discounted down to ~$158 from a local store, but even that was steep and the way I ationalize this purchase is that I think of half my money went toward a game and the other half was for miniatures. Specifically, these are miniatures that would work in other miniature games my friends and I like to play. Frostgrave 2e has been staring me down through most of the pandemic and I can't wait to use most, if not all, of the Cursed City miniatures in that system.

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03 May 2021 10:42 #322814 by Shellhead
I am halfway through my first decapitation mission. The first half is effectively a short deliverance mission, only without the need to conduct the 6+ actions to warn the town folk along the way. Pressure was high because we got a couple of random events that moved the clock and the gravetide faster. The rules for the decapitation missions were a bit unclear in spots, and the specific rules for this particular mission were also weak. There are references to non-existent Crisis cards, when the crises are actually triggered by random event rolls and then determined on a roll chart and looked up in the Quest book. I suspect that this game used a mixture of location and crisis cards in the same manner as Blackstone Fortress, then maybe changed course because another deck of cards might have pushed this to a $200 price point. That oversight suggests that this game was rushed to publication, possibly with the idea that this game would do unusually well in a pandemic lockdown environment.
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03 May 2021 11:13 #322817 by Michael Barnes
Folks Shell’s commentary here is maybe more valuable to some readers than my review or any other was- he really knows this system and has done a deeper dive than most reviewers will. Great stuff.
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