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Dark Gothic- ATOE fan reviews ATOE:DG
07-06-2014, 06:11 PM (This post was last modified: 07-06-2014 06:28 PM by Pfr_Fate.)
Post: #1
Dark Gothic- ATOE fan reviews ATOE:DG
(NOTE: This can be moved to whatever forum the moderators deems correct. My apologies if I got the wrong spot!)

OK. So here it is: Dark Gothic. Now, I am a fan of Flying Frog games, and ATOE is slightly edging LNOE as my fav.

I am expert in ATOE and know it back and forth, yet I have never owned nor played a deck building card game, so I think this review is notable to ATOE fans like myself.

BOX: Let me first say I am pleased by the box and insert. The game fits easily and safely and it looks like there is room for more expansions and (as of yet) I have no need for putting the cards in cases. That alone is worth a shout out of THANKS to the frog.

CARDS: the card quality is standard (which means 'nice' for any frog game, but the high gloss coating is absent for the first time in a frog game. The cards 'feel' a little more delicate, but the decks are thin and more manageable (which is good for DG's larger Main Deck) and the initial shuffling stickiness is of course gone as well. The character cards are not cardboard, but are just larger cards, but that's OK in my book.

DIE: The die included is made by Q-Workshop. I have purchased dice from them in the past and their quality is simply outstanding. This die is no different.

RULES BOOK: I found the rules a bit confusing to me, but this may be because I was entering foreign terrain (a deck-building game) and have zero experience with such systems. The common language of a game (i.e.: CRT, Stacking, counters, draw pile, discard pile, etc.) may have been different, so this might not be a problem for others. I would have liked a simple list of the turn, but after reading and digesting the rules, the list would have been absurd to include...

THE SYSTEM: Well, I started looking at the cards, right off, flipping through the decks that were shrink wrapped (which are easier to open then the normal glossy coated Frog game cards). I don't think I saw any new art different from the ATOE game, but the art is still fun stuff and I was pleased to see most of my favorite elements from Shadowbrook: The elders, the locations, the equipment, the minions and monsters, the events, the allies, and so forth. Not all were included and the Heroes and villains were drawn from the ATOE base game and expansions, but the locations were all Shadowbrook.
But then I was a little discouraged to see a lot of repetition in the cards: whole hosts of the same card over and over. Why? Well, that turns out to be the right thing as the repetitive cards should be repetitive.

So, how does it go? More importantly, does it 'feel' like ATOE and tell a good story each game???

You start by getting your hero: Karl, Katarina, Cartwright (of course), Isabella Von Took, and Adrianna, Brother Marcus, Harlow Morgan and Charlotte Dubois. They have ratings for Combat, Cunning, Spirit and Honor (each hero totals 12 points, so they play-balance) and each have special abilities that make the character feel right to ATOE. Awesome! This hero defines your starting deck, using those abilities.

So, Isabella has four Combat cards, six Cunning cards, two Spirit cards and zero Honor cards (Oh, Isabella!) and she is still rich and manipulative, allowing her to more easily acquire equipment and can discard cards in her hand to block attacks.

Next, you randomly draw some Big Bad villains. All main villains are divided into three different levels, the meaner the higher. For example, a simple cursed werewolf is 'I', the Gargoyle is 'II' and the Horseman is a 'III'. There are three villains in each group (four in group 'III') and you blind draw one from each group and leave them unknown. You will have to beat all three, from weakest to toughest, to win.

Then you set up the 'line'. These are six cards lined up from a common deck, consisting of locations (The Windmill, etc) , events (Murder!, etc), minions (Succubus, etc), equipment (Tools of Science, etc), Allies (Lucy Hanbrook, etc), elders (Sophie, etc) and such. Each will have a 'cost' that you must pay made from your hand to 'beat' or acquire it (see the next paragraph). Depending on the card, there will be a host of benefits and oddities that occur when initially acquiring the card and that gives each a flavor. After acquisition, the card goes into your DISCARD pile, so it will come back (the hero's deck is never that large to not cycle through it in a timely manner). The beaten card (even minions) have a nice and helpful effect once acquired, so it's good to have them. Then a new card is placed on the line and that to (depending on the card) may have some immediate effects for all players (events, minions attacking, and such in the ATOE style!!!).

Now, during your turn, you have six cards from your deck and you use or lose them - all cards are in the discard pile at the end and you draw six more at the end of your turn. When your hero's deck runs out, you shuffle the discard pile and form the deck again.

Additionally, you may 'train' (simulating the buff up spots like the Magistrate's office) and get more powerful ability cards. Normally each ability card offers one point of that ability, a training card offers two points. So, it is more efficient in a limited hand of six.

You can also burn cards and destroy line cards instantly by paying for (attacking) an 'always on' villain called the hungry dead. I guess this is a game function that is required. I have no idea. But it seems worth it, gameplay-wise, to be able to do so.

Finally, there is the 'Shadow Track' per se. Certain cards will cause you to draw and not flip over the card and place it on the shadow pile. If ten cards get there, everyone loses as Shadowbrook is consumed. So you have to ultimately work your way through the three big villains in a timely manner or lose!

At the end, each and every card in your deck and discard pile has a value (called Investigation Points..IP) and, if the players beat the third villain, the one with the highest IP total is the single winner. The players can elect to play a fully co-operative game with two minor changes (besides not caring about IP totals): normally when a minion is drawn, it effects all players except the drawer - in co-op, it effects everyone. Next, when all the players have had a turn in a round, then they roll for each minion on the line. On a skull (which replaces the 5 and 6 on the d6), that minion is moved to the shadow pile. Ugh!

Oh! About the secrets! When a Elder shows up, secrets are drawn. This is a generic 'Secret' card that goes into your discard pile and will deduct from your IP total if it is still in there. If it shows up in your hand during the game, you have to play it and draw a Shocking Discovery card, which is really a lot like the actual Secrets cards in ATOE. This means that elders can join you, join the villain, allies get killed in late night experiments, and all the usual stuff from ATOE!!

Now, I have yet to actually PLAY this game, as I just got it.I am gonna try to cajole my kid to play it tonight, and will post.

So the VERDICT: So far: four out of five maniacs and a panda Insane05Insane16Insane21Freak04Insane19 I know I haven't played it yet, but I think I have been around the block enough times to get the way a game will play when I know the rules, and the rules are simple enough.

To wit: OldDwarf - spend the money....

I can tell you (for purposes of this review) that I feel that the story of ATOE game style is fairly present. It may not be as exacting (meaning things like the Horseman could have Succubi roaming about), but the ease of set-up and play is the trade-up for that. But all the characters, villains, events and locations of ATOE are still there and have game effect.

This ATOE fan is VERY happy with another way to play about in Shadowbrook.

So....... I look forward to seeing the rest of the cast and villains and locations come out in later expansions. Yep. I haven't even played it out yet, but want an expansion. Damn you, Frog! LOL

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07-07-2014, 02:44 AM
Post: #2
RE: Dark Gothic- ATOE fan reviews ATOE:DG
Thank you for the review. My order is set to come sometime toward the end of July (along with some other preorders that are coming out this month). You really made it this long without playing any other DBGs? I'm impressed Watchmen02
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07-07-2014, 12:08 PM
Post: #3
RE: Dark Gothic- ATOE fan reviews ATOE:DG
Yep. I've played collectible card games (namely overpower but I know magic and Pokemon well enough) but not one where the game-play builds your deck. I wondered if it was staid and programmed by card shuffle with little tactical input since there was few random factors besides the main deck shuffle. I wondered if it is a resource management thing like Cataan or carcassone, but it is more like cribbage, poker or rummy where you deal with each hand and card flop trying to manage those temporary resources for best use in a long term strategy molded by the draws. Very interesting system. The shuffling of each players deck and the main deck accounts for much random nature and replay ability. I like it. My first test hand had my very combat character loaded with cunning cards. So I could not go after the wolves and had to train while realizing that my cunning will be in short supply for a while as my combat should increase until I cycle the deck of twelve (so in a turn or so). Other alert players should see this and take the wolves down to deny me a move next turn. Or if co-op they should leave the wolves alone. Nice strategizing.

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07-07-2014, 08:20 PM
Post: #4
RE: Dark Gothic- ATOE fan reviews ATOE:DG
So... played it Co-op with two players....forgot some rules (like the big one about rolling on the minions for Shadow cards!)

The first play through was tough, because it was all about the numbers. Hard to create a story-in-you-mind when you are just getting the mechanics of the system down.

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