Police Precinct Board Game Review

Police Precinct

The first time I saw Police Precinct, it was at the tail end of its successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2012. A year later, after exceeding their pledge goal by over $3,000, publishers Common Man Games and Passport Game Studios have released their anticipated game to the public. But does the final product live up to the early promises?

Police Precinct casts you and up to five friends as one of eight selectable police officers and detectives, each with their own special abilities to solve crime and navigate the board. Your objective is to work together to gather enough evidence to arrest a murderer before he can escape town, while at the same time controlling the local gang population and handling different emergencies that pop up at every turn. Fail to apprehend the murderer in a set number of turns, or neglect to keep the gangs and emergencies in check via the ascending crime tracker, and it’s game over.

With well over 20 different types of boards, tokens and card decks, Police Precinct is a robust and daunting offering to dive into, and the instruction manual sits at 16 pages. Unfortunately, the manual can be quite confusing and tough to read in parts (including a setup page with minuscule images of some of the game pieces), and in my first playthrough with three friends, we spent an hour just trying to get through the instructions to learn how to set up the board and play. This made for a frustrating first encounter, and while the instructions do suggest that new players set up the game and play a few rounds by themselves before explaining it to their gaming group (a great suggestion), they wait to do so until page 13, well after we were in the thick of things.

To their credit, Common Man has been proactive about the instructions, uploading a cleaner downloadable version of the set-up guide to Police Precinct’s BoardGameGeek.com page, which is very helpful. Hopefully updated versions of the game can include these instructions in-box.

But after that rough initial playthrough, and after a thorough re-reading of the instructions by myself, subsequent playthroughs of the game became much easier and intuitive, and I found myself really enjoying it. Balance is the name of the game in Police Precinct, and if you and your team neglect to tend to the various emergencies and gang activity in favor of just the murder investigation, you’ll soon find the entire map gridlocked and the crime tracker approaching dangerous levels. Communicating and plotting your moves is necessary for success – sending two players to deal with an urgent bank robbery while the others collect evidence, for example – and when we pulled off a well-coordinated strike to bring down the murderer two rounds before he was set to escape, it was a pretty satisfying experience.

Be forewarned, with a crime tracker board and evidence board in addition to the main game board and various cards and tokens, Police Precinct takes up a lot of space. My first playthrough was on a narrower table, and it made for a cramped experience. If you don’t want to be stuck holding your character card and tokens while trying to roll dice, a bigger table is a necessity.

Adding a wrinkle to the teamwork, players can also play with one secret dirty cop, whose goal is to covertly sabotage the efforts of their fellow officers and allow the murderer to escape. Acts of sabotage can be removing evidence (by pretending the card you drew is blank), hoarding resources, or even accusing another player of being dirty to deflect suspicion. It’s a nice way to change up the pace for returning players, and Common Man has also added more clarity to the dirty cop role, again on BoardGameGeek.com.

There are also a few typos and spelling errors that make the final product rough around the edges. These range from small (“or or” instead of “or”) to several significant ones. One player card is for an officer named Doug Piece, yet on his police car token and in the instruction manual, his last name is spelled “Pearce”. And most egregiously, the game board features a compass that has east and west incorrectly reversed (so east is on the left instead of the right and vice versa). None of the errors will directly impact your playing of the game, but they still warrant mention.

Despite its flaws, Police Precinct is a game that I had fun with, and look forward to introducing to more people. I wouldn’t recommend it for your less-patient friends, but if you’re willing to look past the rough patches and dedicate some time to the instruction manual, you’ll find an experience with enough variety and strategy to earn its place on your board game shelf.

Rating: 7.5/ 10

Police Precinct Board Game Review/ Common Man Games, 2013

(This board game was reviewed with a copy provided by Common Man Games. Cameron Gidari is a freelance writer and the author of Seattle Before8. Follow him on twitter at CGidari)

Dungeons of Dread Book Review

 

This book is a compilation of four Advanced Dungeons & Dragons modules (Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, Expedition to the Barrie Peaks, and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth). The glossy style of current Dungeons and Dragons releases does these old adventures well, creating something that provides dungeon masters with a much more focused approach than was present during the cardboard / paper module years.

The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (S4) is my favorite module, blending a proper amount of skill with a compelling narrative. In this adventure, players are brought together with the promise of tremendous wealth. The success of the party will be up to the build of the team (along with some fortuitous dice rolls), along with the creativity and problem-solving skills of the players helming characters. Taken together, these four adventures will provide a playgroup with a number of nights of play.

Make sure to check out the adventures contained in the Dungeons of Dread book and see exactly the level of immersion that AD&D players experienced during their gaming settings in the early eighties. Look to purchase a copy of Dungeons of Dread at your local gaming store; if none are available, the title is readily accessible at a number of online retailers. Strong sales of this effort will ensure that Wizards of the Coast will continue to release the modules and titles that players have been clamoring for; experience this set of retro Advanced Dungeons and Dragons adventures to see exactly why the title received such large support in the years after its initial release.

Rating: 8.0/10

Dungeons of Dread / Advanced Dungeons & Dragons / http://www.dungeonsanddragons.com / Suggested Retail: $39.9561XS2Nlx7zL (1)

Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Command: Blood of Gruumsch Review

 

Blood of Gruumsch is a new faction pack for Dungeon and Dragons’ Dungeon Command game, allowing players to champion the orc race. This time around, Strength, Wisdom, and Constitution attributes are focused on. Players can created pitched battles or move around the map finding the treasures in the world; there is a wide-open aspect to the game that significantly increases the replay value of the title.

The strongest part of Blood of Gruumsch has to be the build quality of each of the miniatures. The care taken in their crafting allows players to easily identify which role every miniature plays, while the set of cards accompanying the miniatures provide players with a number of possible strategies to ultimately become victorious.

Make sure to purchase a copy of the new Dungeon Command expansion; the constituent elements can be utilized on their own, or be mixed alongside previous faction packs to create a wholly unique experience. For those that are new to the Dungeon Command game, the Blood of Gruumsch expansion allows two players to take on a syncopated version of the title. Blood of Gruumsch can be purchased online or at any local game store that has a strong miniatures section. There have only been a few expansions at this point, so if these types of titles interest you in the slightest, I would strongly suggest that one purchase the entirety of the title’s releases and keep up to date on each of the subsequent releases.

Rating: 9.1/10

Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Command: Blood of Gruumsch / http://www.wizards.com / https://www.wizards.com/Dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndmin/dungeoncommand619kp1FYwcL._SL500_AA300_

Magic the Gathering: Gatecrash Review

The new expansion for Magic: the Gathering is set to be released on February 1st, and we were given a special sneak peek into the set.

The Gatecrash expansion captures the exploits of five guilds – Boros (Red/White), Dimir (Blue/Black), Gruul (Red/Green), Orzhov (Black/White) and Simic (Blue/Green). Each guild has their own keyword. We were able to test out the Dimir Dementia Intro pack, consisting of blue and black cards focusing on the Dimir guild. This deck focused on the new cipher mechanic, which allows players to cast a spell each time the ciphered creature does combat damage to an opponent. This means that an effect like Whispering Madness (2UB), which forces players to discard their hands and draw cards equal to the largest amount of cards held by a player, could happen four or five times in a game. Boros has battalion, a buff that occurs when more than three creatures attack, while Orzhov has extort, an extra mana cost that pings an opponent for 1 damage and grants the Orzhov player with 1 life. Gruul has a set of combat tricks called Bloodrush that bolsters attacking forces should a mana cost and a discard occur; Simic allows creatures to evolve, or gain +1/+1 counters when a creature with a greater power or toughness enters the battlefield.

Two planeswalkers are present in this expansion – Domri Rade (Red/Green) and Gideon, Champion of Justice (White). Domri Rade allows players to either fight creatures (assign an attacking/blocking pair), stockpile creatures in hand, or get a game-changing emblem that grants double strike, trample, hexproof, and haste. The latest Gideon provides a +1 ability that gives Gideon loyalty counters to the tune of enemy creatures, while his 0 ability turns him into an indestructible soldier that cannot be damaged. The -15 ability exiles all other permanents. Players will be able to go to their local gaming store or department store to purchase packs, intro decks, and fat packs.

Rating: 9.3/10

Gatecrash Expansion / Magic: The Gathering / Return to Ravnica Block / http://www.magicthegathering.com
GideonChampionOfJusticewizards-magic-gatecrash-logo

Return to Ravnica

The original Ravnica block was one of the most beloved and powerful efforts present in the pantheon of Magic: the Gathering expansions. The amount of hype that was surrounding this set was incredible, but this first look back at Ravnica lives up to the hype. For those that were not playing during the original Ravnica block, the plane is one massive city, replete with a set of 10 guilds that vie for control. The Return to Ravnica expansion focuses on five of these guilds – Azorius (blue/white), Golgari (black/green), Izzet (blue/red), Rakdos (red/black) and Selesnya (green/white).

Each of these guilds has a power (a keyword) that fits into the storyline. For example, the Azorius are those that dictate the law of Ravnica and can detain – ensuring that a permanent cannot attack, block, or use its activated abilities until the next turn of its controller. This new keyword works well with Forecast, Azorius’ keyword from Dissention; the scavenge ability for Golgari (pay an alternative cost to add +1/+1 counters equal to the power of a card exiled from a graveyard) Two planeswalkers – Jace, Architect of Thought and Vraska the Unseen – have created ripples through all variants of Magic: the Gathering. Vraska the Unseen’s ultimate (largest costing ability) forces players to use all stops to kill three 1/1 assassins that, if unblocked, will cause the defending player to lose the game. Jace, Architect of Thought contains a similarly-earthshaking ultimate, which allows a player to tutor two cards – one from their deck and one from their opponent’s – and cast them without needing the mana to do so.

Watch out for the two concluding sets of the block. Gatecrash is slated to release in February, 2013 and will focus on the remainder of the guilds. The third set – codenamed “Sinker” – will unite the two sets of guilds.

Rating: 9.3/10

Return to Ravnica / Magic: the Gathering Expansion / http://www.wizards.com

Dungeon Command Tyranny of Goblins

 

Tyranny of Goblins is a great addition for players of Dungeon Command. This sub-$40 set contains a wide array of miniatures that can be used as graphical additions to any Dungeons & Dragons command or as a new force to go against Dungeon Command players. Wizards has added enough twists and turns to Tyranny of Goblins that overall strategies employed have to shift; by continuing to provide support for some of the most well-loved tribes, Wizards of the Coast has ensured that there is an excited fan base for this title.

For those that have other releases in the Dungeon Command line, I would strongly suggest to pick and choose some forces from the Tyranny of Goblins set to add to their forces. There is considerable synergy that can be found should one make a blended troop from the Heart of Cormyr or Sting of Lolth expansions.

A pro-tip here: the cards included in the Tyranny of Goblins set can also be used in the D&D Adventure System board games (Castle Ravenloft, The Legend of Drizzt), to add further legs to these titles. Tyranny of Goblins can be purchased at a number of online retailers, as well as any well-stocked local game store. Keep an eye out for further additions to the Dungeon Command line;  Curse of Undeath will drop down at the end of November. For those that are on a smaller budget, do not fret; the Tyranny of Goblins set can allow two players to go up against each other. Regardless, the Tyranny of Goblins expansion to Dungeon Command is solid, and should be considered as a stocking stuffer or as a gift during this holiday season.

Rating: 8.2/10

Dungeon Command Tyranny of Goblins / Wizards of the Coast / http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndmin/398710000

Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue (Dungeons and Dragons)

Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue is a must-have title for anyone that wants to further flesh out visiting the titular city in any campaign. The sheer amount of information that is stashed in this title will fuel many a session. I believe that the descriptions made of the city itself are perhaps the most valuable additions to the title. Successfully painting a backdrop for the players as a DM is perhaps the best way to ensure that the players will finish the campaign. However, the different characters and organizations that are presented here allow for much greater detail to be drawn in any session that focuses on Menzoberranzan in particular or the established world generally.

Of particular note during Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue has to be the sixth chapter, “Be A Drow”. This chapter provides much more of the Drow mindset than had been present in a rulebook. The different settings that the title provides allows for players to take on the Drow at a number of the pivotal points of their civilization. The book is pushed to a higher plateau due to the art that is included; while the text allows for certain visualizations of Menzoberranzan, I feel that the art provides a certain ambience which the book can reside.

Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue is a title that allows for a more cerebral dynamic – to exist. I feel that the political side of things is ignored quite often in Dungeons & Dragons games. The presence of Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue to the pantheon of Forgotten Realms-related titles means that a much larger subset of players will be ensnared.

Rating: 9.0/10

Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue / 2012 Wizards of the Coast / $29.95 / http://www.wizards.com/dnd/product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/39889000

Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr

 

With a cost of $39.99, the cost to entry is extremely small. The box set provides players with an additional set of materials, which begin with the rulebook and continue with sets of creature and order cards. Other inclusions – tokens for . The plastic miniatures are rendered with extreme care, establishing considerable variation between the competing forces. I believe that players that have played other miniature titles will be able to pick up Dungeon Command with incredible ease, while there is not a too-high learning curve for those new to the genre.

The game itself is oriented into four distinct phases – Refresh, Activate, Deploy, and Cleanup. The different terrains benefit or bog down forces – there are markers for both difficult and hazardous terrains. The different commanders (2 in each set) that players can choose provide their forces with a specific power (Aliszandra Malistros provides a buff to the speed of spiders and Drow). The commanders also vary in terms of the amount of creatures that they control and orders that they can provide (those in the player’s hand). The creatures and order cards provide interesting twists and turns to the overall tenor of the game. Dungeon Command runs with a faster clip than other miniatures efforts; I feel that the design of the cards allows for a cat and mouse style without being unnecessarily bogged down with verbose explanations or contradictory rules.

There are two other releases that will round out the 2012 Dungeon Command releases; keep an eye out for Tyranny of Goblins (releasing in late August) and Curse of Undeath (November). Dungeon Command would be an excellent gift for birthdays or holidays for teens and up, or for those younger players that are adept.

Rating: 9.0/10

Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr / 2012 Wizards of the Coast / http://www.wizards.com

Magic: The Gathering: 2013 Core Set

We just started playing Magic: The Gathering after the 2012 Core Set dropped, and have noticed that this year has had a number of impressive releases by Wizards of the Coast. Whether it was the addition of the Graveborn deck to the Premiunm Deck Series or the Venser Vs. Koth Duel Deck, players have been able to access a wide array of gameplay styles and see the diversity of game play elements and styles.

The Core Set is a collection of old and new cards alike, and it has brought three clans – Cats, Merfolk, and Goblins – back to the fore. There are two new planeswalkers – Ajani, Caller of the Pride (which allows +1/+1 counters, a one-turn double strike, or a number of 2/2 cat tokens), Liliana of the Dark Realms (which tutors Swamps, buffs or hinders creatures, or ramps black mana considerably), dual lands (coming into play tapped if they are the first land out), and some game-shattering artifacts.

We’re a big fan of Akroma’s Memorial, which gives a player’s creatures a bevy of abilities (flying, first strike, vigilance, trample, haste, and protection from black and red sources), but Sands of Delirium allows players to mill their opponents to death. Krenko, Mob Boss is a legendary creature and will drastically bolster the amount of goblins that one has on the board. Talrand, Sky Summoner is similarly strong and works in tandem with Innistrad’s Snapcaster Mage – every time one casts an instant or a sorcery, they can put a 2/2 flying blue drake on the battlefield.

The intro deck that we received is a blue/red deck that builds off of the resurgent Merfolks, headed up by the aforementioned Talrand, Sky Summoner. The deck is able to provide players with a great beginning point, while the move to two booster packs in the intro pack makes it easy to bolster the deck. Make sure to pick up a box or two of Magic 2013 when it drops down on shelves at the end of the week.

Rating: 9.5/10

Magic: The Gathering: 2013 Core Set / http://www.wizards.com / http://www.wizards.com/Magic/TCG/Default.aspx

World of Warcraft Trading Card Game: Champion Deck

 

The World of Warcraft trading card deck has just released four premade decks; Murkdeep (shaman), Elderlimb (druid), Dark Lady Sylvanas Windrunner (hunter), and Jaina Proudmoore
(mage). These Champion Decks come with additional materials – there is a reprint card, tokens, booster pack (Crown of the Heavens), and a hero card placed alongside the different rule books.  The reprinted cards are some of the most powerful in the World of Warcraft TCG; Hemet Nesingwary and Darion Mograine make their triumphant return here. The loot card could make everything worthwhile – for those that play World of Warcraft online, the Blazing Hippogryph is one of the sharpest mounts that we have seen.

The decks all have tremendous synergy together. While there is some sense that part of a deck set will be weaker than the others, those in the World of Warcraft are crafted to the same level. The draw and a player’s skill is what will ultimately determine the winner of the game, rather than the specific cards that are present in each deck. The MSRP of these decks – $12.00 – makes them into something that will not break the bank. Furthermore, by putting up $50 and purchasing all of the sets, one can have 24 different styles of matches. Total all of the time spent going through these game and the outlay becomes far lower than if one would bowl, go to a movie, or even hang around a mall with one’s friends.

The World of Warcraft Champion Decks are perfect as a birthday gift or as placement in a stocking. They also represent a great introduction to the World of Warcraft trading card game. Keep an eye out for the Tomb of the Forgotten expansion, which drops down in stores on June 12th.

Rating: 8.7/10

World of Warcraft Trading Card Game: Champion Decks / http://www.wowtcg.com