Idle Remorse

Guest Review: Lost: The Game

Today’s guest review is by Melissa! Melissa is a Milwaukee-area thrifting minion with a lifelong love for gaming. She is one half of the group The Tester Sisters, who are print ’n’ play enthusiasts providing playtesting for games not yet published, rulebook reviews and general honest gameplay feedback. Melissa can usually be found at GenCon and Wisconsin-area Protospiels. You can reach out to The Tester Sisters online or find their impressive resume on Board Game Geek

Review: Lost: The Game
Publisher: Cardinal
Year: 2006
Tagline: (none, sadly)

This cover photo is courtesy of Flip the Table’s blog post

how we met

I’m pretty sure that I heard that the Flip the Table crew had done an episode with this game, but I don’t remember actually listening to the episode. Either way, I was a fan of Lost when it was on more than a decade ago. The show was filled with mystery and exploration, which I found really interesting. The ending wasn’t really what I was hoping for, but it was ok.  So, when I found the game at my favorite thrift store for $1.99 I knew that it had to come home with me.

how it plays

The object of the game is to be the last one standing on the island. Yup, it is a game of player elimination. So, that’s promising.

Each player gets to choose between 2 randomly dealt characters with power values ranging from 1 to 5. If you get two characters with powers of 2 or less, you get to keep both. 

Then you set up the island using “Shore” and “Inner Island” tiles. There are about twice as many tiles as you will use in each game, so there is a lot of randomness or replayablilty depending on how you look at it. The tiles are placed face down and will be explored during the game. Some have a red camp triangle and when explored (flipped over) will introduce a new unplayed character onto the map who players can try to get to join them.

Each player starts next to one of the shore tiles and at the beginning of their turn must move each character they control one space (unless they have an ability or FATE card that allows them to move further). After each character moves, if they are on a face down tile, the tile is flipped over and they must do whatever the tile directs them to do. Most often, the player will draw one or two FATE cards. The FATE cards will be one of three types: an encounter with something bad that the character has to roll a die against, an item which may be useful, or an event card (which can be saved for later, though you can only have 4 in hand at the end of your turn).

The game ends when there is either only one player left or a player has reached one of their character’s alternative win conditions. It is important to note that 12 of the 17 characters have an alternative win condition.

how it went

I played this twice, on the same day with two different groups. The first game was with my husband and older preteen son. I gave us each one of the characters with power of 4 or 5 just to even that playing field. My son and I landed on tiles that gave us cards that were items or events, my husband landed on a tile that only did something for another character and then a tile that gave him a FATE card that was an impossible encounter. Then on his third turn, I used my character to try and “lead” his character. I won the die roll and his was eliminated from the game. Two turns later I eliminated my son from the game.

The second play was with six players. Two players were eliminated very quickly by failing die rolls against other players. A third player was then eliminated by a tile that called for a coin flip, which he failed and then was eliminated from the game. Of the three remaining players, one was much more powerful and had gathered a hoard of six characters. The other two players just ran around avoiding the powerful player until we decided to just call the game and be done.

play or pass

Hard Pass. I’m not a fan of player elimination and I’m really not a fan of player elimination when it is based on a die roll. Everything about this game is random: the character you get to start out, the tiles that make up the island, the cards that you may or may not be able to draw, and the die rolls. In both games I played, players were eliminated due to die rolls (just one roll and you’re out of the game) and one player was eliminated by a coin flip due to landing on a tile. That’s not fun for anyone. And if you aren’t eliminated early on, you either start gathering an unstoppable hoard of followers or you run for your life.

My husband did suggest that the way to improve this game would be to introduce the marble race element from The Magnificent Race to replace the die rolls. One marble per power on your characters, and one black marble for the Smoke Monster. Winner of the race gets all the characters. It would be short, but much more fun.

Miscellaneous: a love letter to Gloomhaven

[this post contains no spoilers]

My Dearest Gloomhaven,

Over two years ago you arrived on my doorstep, and you were ambition itself. I didn’t know much about you, but I adored you. I placed you on a shelf of prominence. And I thought about you, read about you. I heard about you.

I thought our story was epic. Spanning years and organizers. Cards torn and blood shed.

Life went on. My eyes found you less frequently. And life went on. You became part of the background. And life continued to go on until I didn’t really see you anymore. When I did think of you, I debated selling you since I just wasn’t going to get around to giving you the attention you deserved. No, demanded. And then I met a stranger, someone who claimed to know you. Someone who introduced me to how you think, your quirks, your subtlety, your maddening logic.

It has been over two years since I met you and over one year since we started getting to know each other. And oh boy.

We aren’t perfect, are we? I wasn’t happy with you out of the box, and I bought Plano organizers to make you just a little bit better for me. You bring out the nasty pedant in me. You make me fight with my friends. And honestly, you are kind of heavy. You take up a lot of space, both on my table and in my head.

Yet I take bath time quizzes about monster movement because of you. When looked at closely, all of the rules make sense. Could be no other way. But you make me work for it. Ambition itself.

And just when I think I know you, think I know just what you might do, you show me something new. Sometimes I might catch your move a little early, or more often a bit late, but just when I think I understand you thoroughly you tease more depth and different (but strangely similar) gameplay. I didn’t even realize I was on an upward trajectory until I looked down. And I need a whole new strategy to ride this wave.

Then you introduce me to new characters, new ambitions. And then you take them away. What kind of cruelty is this? Would I know how to love you without this hate? You push me when I don’t feel ready. But I rally.

And my friends love you too, in ways I don’t even catch all the time. Our characters have ridiculous names at first glance, but if you take a closer look they are deeply tied to us. We are bringing ourselves to you in these small ways. We are showing up for you. I parade games from all decades in front of my friends, but they still ask for you.

Gloomhaven, you keep me guessing. You keep me gold-poor. You keep me cursing. You keep me blessing. You keep me occupied. You keep me in the high-highs and the low-lows, often in the same night. You exhaust me. You make me want to paint. You make me want to go back in time and appreciate punching you, all those months ago.

I will send a midnight group text about you. I will marshal my google skills to find an obscure ruling. I will lovingly organize you for hours, and I will protect myself from your secrets. I will be your champion.

I thought our story was epic. Spanning years and organizers. Cards torn and blood shed. And here we are. You are my only 10.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Gloomhaven.

Review: Harassment

Review: Harassment
Publisher: TDC Games, Inc.
Year: 1992
Tagline: THE GAME THAT LETS YOU BE THE JUDGE

The cover shows the word Harassment in large bold type, with the "ment" looking like it is torn away

how we met

Harassment is a game I found during that silly exercise when I looked at games by year on BGG. Thank goodness I only got through like 2-2.5 years or my wishlist would be even more ridiculous. But a game from 1992 about Harassment? I’m interested.

I eventually ended up purchasing Harassment on eBay, something I rarely do. But this copy was sealed and cost scarcely more than I could expect to pay at a thrift shop, shipping included. So I should not have been surprised when I received a cash-on-delivery slip from my local USPS because the sender had shipped as media mail (a cheaper form of shipment which games do not qualify for). I mildly harassed the seller until we struck a deal, I agreed to cover a small portion of the fee, and the game was mine.

FUN FACT: I’m not sure about your post office but mine seems to always check media mail. Just this past week I got a kickstarted RPG book in the mail that was opened and examined. And it was rather book-shaped.

Within a year of my purchase I would find another copy of Harassment in shrink for $1 at a local thrift shop. I believe eventually I will find anything, and this is one game that helped solidify that theory.

how it plays

The goal of Harassment is to be the first to the end (or have the most points after however many cases you decide) by correctly guessing how your fellow players will judge specific cases of possible harassment. Players can split into individuals or, if you have a lot of people, into teams.

One single person will play the JUDGE each turn. The JUDGE begins the turn by reading out one of the cases from The Case Booklet. The rules do not specify or suggest how to choose a given case, so you can go in order, pick at random, or read a couple of lines to find one that strikes your fancy.

The three booklets: The Cases, Yes and No

After the JUDGE reads their chosen case, the player to their right reads the YES argument out of the Yes Booklet. Then the player to the JUDGE’s left reads the NO argument out of the No Booklet. After both arguments have been read, all players except the JUDGE may discuss if they want to. After the discussion is over, the JUDGE votes on how they feel about the case by playing one of their voting cards face down: YES if it was harassment at either 5 or 10 points, or NO if it was not harassment at either 5 or 10 points.

Then the other players bet on how they think the JUDGE ruled by placing their own vote cards face down. They too can bet 5 or 10 points on their decision, depending on how sure they are.

The voting cards are black and red
The backs of the cards all match, but you can secretly wager more on your guess by playing 10s instead of 5s

Then everyone reveals their cards, points are assigned and the JUDGE position passes to the left.

If players guessed correctly (meaning a correct yes/no regardless of points) they receive the points they bet. If they are incorrect they lose the points they bet. The JUDGE receives the points on their card only if a majority of other players correctly guessed their judgment. They do not lose points (so always play 10 point cards as the JUDGE, guys).

Scoring tracks have numbers 0 through 9 on the left and 0 and 5 on the right
The scoring track is a little wonky but not difficult to use, particularly since you are betting 5 or 10 each time

Play continues until each player has been JUDGE twice or until some other ending point that you determine. The player with the most points wins!

how it went

This was an interesting game. It was not as ridiculous as I expected, and I kind of like games that force people to argue viewpoints that they don’t necessarily agree with (I’m looking at you, Loudmouth). There were a few cases that were so obvious that even our snarky group did not have to think or argue or wonder about their bet. But we always started our Yes / No readings with a very decided, “Yes!” or a very resolute, “No!”

And some of the cases aren’t all that obvious. Some of the issues are petty while some are perfectly insidious. It’s pretty interesting.

The cases in Harassment range from things like a boss able to watch you work constantly from where their office is, or a shopper yelling at someone that has 12 items in the ten items or less line, to truly vile things like a person that likes to give hugs.

This case is about a boss that asks a man to stay for meetings often around 4:55pm when he has a train to catch
We’ve all been there amiright? Lots of open questions here though.
The yes/no arguments around the boss harassing the employee
When does being a jerk make you guilty of harassment? This is why we have professionals for these types of things.

I like, too, that the game allows for some nuance in the wagering of points. That’s not a whole lot of wiggle room, but it allows you to kind of say, “I think you will say this but I’m not 100% sure.” Because maybe a reasonable person could go either way on some of these. Or argue specifics beyond what is presented to the group.

You also might decide to judge a case a certain way based on the grace of the person involved (spoiler: usually not much grace) versus determining whether or not someone was harassed. For example, we can argue the ethics of a person standing with 12 items in the ten items or less line, but the game is really asking whether the person that loudly called them out and shamed that shopper was harassing them. The offended shopper yelled, “I can count! Can’t you?” And I mean, maybe they can’t. Or maybe they just don’t care. Or maybe they are in a hurry. Or maybe they are distracted by extremely distressful personal issues. Or maybe they think they are better than you. And why did the other shopper yell at them, maybe the same reasons? We really don’t know. There’s something to be said for giving the benefit of the doubt. Although I wouldn’t always bet 10 points on it!

And that’s because Harassment scenarios, like real-life, are full of assholes. And sometimes the assholes are harassing people, and sometimes the assholes are getting harassed by people. And if you are harassing an asshole, you are a harasshole. It feels like the game is often trying to trick you into voting against the jerk regardless of who is being harassed, which just goes to show that Harassment is hanging its hat on what was probably a less discussed and understood word in 1992, harassment.

We all played decently, but Bill was ahead for most of our gameplay. And Bill won Harassment!

play or pass

Mmmmm, pass. Not a big, booming pass recommendation because I think Harassment has the potential to point out biases and assumptions that we have. The judgment is not as straightforward as one might assume. The game forces you to constantly reshape your definition of harassment, but many of the scenarios rely on confusion or righteous irritation to create the nuance that exists in real harassment stories. And maybe that’s the point.

But it’s still a party game, and we had a good time.

Review: Clarissa Explains It All Game

Review: Clarissa Explains It All Game
Publisher: Cardinal Industries
Year: 1994
Tagline: (none)

Clarissa is on the cover looking cute

how we met

I first learned that a game based on the early-90’s Nickelodeon show Clarissa Explains It All existed when it was covered on the podcast Flip the Table. I am not sure I ever went so far as to add it to my wishlist, but I have kept my eyes open for it ever since. And like always, one day I found Clarissa Explains It All Game sitting on a shelf in a thrift shop, just waiting for me. I paid my $1.99 and went home with a smile on my face.

how it plays

The object of Clarissa Explains It All Game is to be the first player to the Deals on Wheels Car Dealership with both a Driver’s License and the right color of key. Then you win a (pretend) car and the game!

During each turn one player acts as the “reader” and reads a CLARISSA EXPLAINS CARD out loud to their fellow players, but do not look at the back of the card! Each player, including the reader, then writes down the answer that they think is best and that Clarissa’s friends would have chosen, and they also write down their own answer to the question. The reader then turns the card over and reads out the outcomes. Each given answer will allow the player to move forward however many spaces and do what that space indicates.

A Clarissa Explains card about chores
A front and back example of a CLARISSA EXPLAINS CARD

Then players take turns reading their made-up answers to the question. If anyone matches, they each get to choose a key!!! You can choose from available keys or steal from another player.

Plastic keys in different colors
Some of the keys. As you can see, some are Made In China and some are China Made In

Some spaces on the board let you get a Driver’s License. Other spaces allow you to draw a RESCUE CARD, which you save until you get a corresponding CRISIS CARD to get out of trouble. For example if you get a RESCUE CARD about Ferguson then it will only help you against a CRISIS CARD about Ferguson. The other CRISIS CARDS are gonna get ya! Other spaces let you roll the die to see if you can get a Driver’s License. Or just chill. Or get snacks. All are self-explanatory.

Example Crisis and Rescue cards
A couple of the CRISIS and RESCUE CARDS, including a Clarissa RESCUE CARD that can be used on any CRISIS CARD!

When players get all the way around the board to the Start space (you do not have to land by exact count, just stop there), also known as Deals on Wheels Car Dealership, then they can turn one of the CAR CARDS right side up. If that player has a key matching the revealed car color then they win! If not then reshuffle the CAR CARDS and head around the board again. Because you got a car for the wrong color key, ya dummy!

The CAR CARDS face down and face up
This is what the CAR CARDS look like, face down and face up. Your goal is to flip one up and have a matching color key on hand Varoom!

how it went

You may be wondering if my desire to own this game comes from fond memories of the television show, and it does. I watched Clarissa Explains It All whenever I could in the early 90s. The last time I watched it was not even super long ago, on an airplane. They had one single episode, and I ate it up.

Clarissa Explains It All was ahead of its time really. You are essentially watching Clarissa vlog. She was quirky, likable and dressed super cute. She would be very successful on YouTube. I really liked Clarissa. She was confident, imperfect and even went so far as to make me want to accessorize. I probably have her to thank for every headband I ever owned. Even now I have a closet of hats I don’t wear. I think admiring Clarissa made pre-/young-teen me more comfortable being myself, even amplified.

Drivers License cards of Clarissa
Clarissa Darling <3 stop making me want bangs

The game is definitely trying to capture the essence of the show, and I think it does an okay job. Not great, but not bad, and not judged by me in its own time which is worth mentioning.

Pawns are stock paper standees with shoes, skateboard, bicycle, scooter
The pawns scream 90s to me, but they don’t scream Clarissa Explains It All to me

The rules are too cutesy for my taste – but I think they pull off what they are probably intending which is that you read them in your head in Clarissa’s voice, so there is occasional digression. But I am older now, and I got no time for that!

Clarissa Explains It All Game is unique in that you are moving around the board and following whatever the spaces say, but the meat of the gameplay is very similar to a party game. Players are answering odd questions and trying to match each other.

The CLARISSA EXPLAINS CARDS do not seem to have any consistency with which responses give you the best progress vs the least. This gives players the impression that the five choices they have are completely random. And that’s kind of dull, even for a gambler like me.

A shot of the shoe pawn on the board
Our play

It is really important that games don’t require landing by exact count, so yay for Clarissa Explains It All Game on that count. Exact count is one of the most painful experiences that can happen in vintage gameplay. But to force another trip round the board is its own kind of acute pain. You invest nearly an hour into gameplay (at least we did, maybe we were slow) and have to start from the very beginning again. You keep your keys and Driver’s License, but everything else is a blank fucking slate.

A sketch of someone's hand that they turned into a turkey
Proof I found in our answer sheets that someone was bored…

I think a decent house rule would be to not reshuffle the CAR CARDS. That would not only shorten gameplay but also introduce a stronger Take That approach as you head around the board again.

In the end Bill was able to match a CAR CARD to a Car Key and won Clarissa Explains It All Game!

However, this match didn’t happen until Keri flipped all the CAR CARDS over at once after Bill’s initial mismatch. That might not mean much to you, but Keri is my lover-of-games, my Can’t-Stopper, my ever-enthusiastic gamer. Her flipping those cards told me more about how terrible this game was than my own boredom ever could. Also it turned out we were missing a few of the keys. Oops.

play or pass

Pass. The me from Junior High wants to point out that if the show even approached this level of tedium, this board game would not exist. I was a fan of the show in the early 90’s. I was a fan of the show when I watched it on an airplane a couple years ago. I was not a fan of this game.

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