Gremlins, Inc. is a computerized board game designed by Alexey Bokulev and Sergei Klimov produced under the Charlie Oscar Lima Tango Interactive Entertainment brand. It was published in 2016 by The Merchant Guild of Rund to the Steam platform. It appears to be fully multiplayer, where players may play online competitively individually or in cooperative teams, or locally competitively individually or on teams as well. It appears the game may be played by 2 to 5 players. There are ladders that track player statistics that may be climbed. There appear to be plentiful mods to customize, enhance, and extend the base game, and the game appears to have been consistently updated since its release.
Players may play as one of five classes of character: the Explorer, the Manager, the Gambler, the Collector, the Thief, or the Damned. I am not yet certain as to the strengths or weaknesses of the various classes since I’ve only ever chosen the random character option. Hovering over each one should give a description of their strengths and weaknesses.
Players are dealt six cards each at the beginning of the game. As these cards are played or otherwise discarded throughout the game, they are replenished immediately from a random deck. At the beginning of the game, all players may discard as many cards as they wish from their hand to be redrawn prior to playing their first turn.
Each card has a name and unique game art that make them easily remembered and identifiable at a glance once you get used to playing. The Gremlinopedia contains an index of each card and what effects they have to be referenced by the player when needed. All of this information is also present on the cards themselves within a players hand.
The number in the upper left hand corner of the card is the movement number. Cards may be played to move around the board or they may be played to execute the card’s action, but never both. Once a card is played for movement or its action, it is discarded. When played for the card’s action, the card must be played on the spot that it corresponds to. A picture of this spot is located on the bottom left of the card. A description of all of the spots on the board is included below. Some cards have an added action effect when played. These cards will have a gear icon located at the upper center of the card. Hovering the mouse pointer on this icon will reveal text that explains the card’s effect when played.
There are numerous Gremlins, Inc. game boards to play on, and none of them that I have seen are fully linear. Be careful to check the arrows on the board to plan your movement. On the board I first played on, there was a primary loop to travel counter-clockwise around in a circle that was fairly low risk. This primary loop had loops to the unique game spots connected to it, so traveling around this loop would provide a player access to those spots. However, there are also places within the primary loop where the player may take short cuts or move to a different place in the loop entirely. The player must take into account the risk versus reward when choosing their particular path. Paths with high reward usually come with high risk, while paths with lower reward come with a lower risk.
The most important and precious resource in the game are the general game points. At the beginning of each game, the game host decides how many game points will be played to. In the game I played, the number of game points was 20. This means that the first player to reach 20 game points would win the game. The number of game points a player has is shown in the middle of a green gear next to their player portrait on the main game screen. Wherever game points may be added or subtracted from the player in a game, they are represented by a gear.
There are also votes that may be collected or lost while navigating the board. Whomever has the most votes when elections are called becomes the governor. It’s good to be the governor. Governors don’t have to pay any resources when landing on a bribe spot.
Pitchforks are another resource. The more pitchforks you have the more notorious your reputation which counts for something. Be careful that you don’t have the most pitchforks though as some of the nastier misfortunes target the most evil player in the game. Then there is the + and – resources. The – resource is used to pay off the police when landing on a police spot and pay bribes. Money, or G, is the common currency of the game.
Many cards require G to play on their respective spots. When G is required to play a card, the amount required will be shown in the upper right hand corner of the card. The more powerful the card, the more costly it is to play. Unfortunately for the player who likes to plan ahead, G is what is most often increased or decreased in all of the in game events around the board which makes the amount of it in your purse at any time highly volatile. Getting a high power card that requires around 1000G to play made my mouth water since it would pretty much settle the game if I were to successfully play it. So I would plan out how to get to the other side of the map to play that one card and save enough G on my way there to spend it solely on that card. I tried three separate cards like this in the game I played and each time there was something that made me lose enough of my money to keep me from playing each of those three cards. This was even with me being the governor for around 80 percent of the game. The fluctuation of G in my coffer was a strong signal that Gremlins, Inc. is as much a game of chance as it is a game of skill. Randomness is hidden by the complexity of the game, but is still present in full, frustrating force and compounded by the actions of each player added to the game.
Bribe – Looks like a dollar bill with a G in the middle. When passing this spot, a player must pay -, when landing on this spot double – is paid. If the player cannot pay the full amount, they pay whatever they have and receive pitchforks. The governor doesn’t have to pay when passing or landing on any one of these spots.
Gamble – Looks like a die with a heart, club, and spade on it. When landing here a six sided die is rolled. If a one is rolled, a misfortune occurs. Rolling a two subtracts 50G, while rolling a four or a six will add 50G or 100G to a player’s purse respectively. Rolling a three subtracts a voter and adds a pitchfork, while rolling a five adds two voters.
Income – Clearly a money spot. When passing this spot you get money, or G. When you land on it you get double G!
Misfortune – Signified by ominous red face. Passing this spot curses the player with a random misfortune. Landing on it allows a player’s opponent to choose one of two misfortunes that will befall the player.
Police – Looks like a police sergeant’s hat. When landing here a player must pay – or there is a chance they will be arrested.
Risk – When you land on a risk spot, a six sided die is rolled to see if any misfortune is caused to your player. Prior to the die roll, the player is offered the option to buy insurance for 20G. If accepted and a misfortune occurs, it will be directed toward other players instead of the rolling player.
Tribune – Looks like a bullhorn. When landing on one of these spots you can address your voters. A six sided die is rolled to determine the effectiveness of your speech.
The Astral Plain – Looks like a hot air balloon. When landing here a player may choose to skip one turn to lose two pitchforks and draw their choice of one out of three cards from the deck.
The Bank – Signified by a gold G. When landing here a player may spend G based on their + amount to increase + by 10.
The Casino – This spot looks like a dart board. Here a player may roll a six sided die to win or lose an amount of money wagered from their purse. Rolling a 1, 2, or 3 causes the player to lose 100G, 50G or 25G respectively. Rolling a 4, 5, or 6 causes the player to gain 25G, 50G, or 100G respectively.
The Court – Signified by an icon of an angry looking judge. When landing on this spot a player may pay 40G to take a vote from any player of their choice.
The Dump – Looks like a worn out boot. When landing here a player may roll a six sided die to dig through the junk. rolling a 1 causes the player to lose one voter. Rolling a four, five, or six, causes the player to gain 10G, 20G, or 30G respectively. Rolling anything else has no effect.
The Jail – Signified by a grid of bars. Many in game actions can send a player to the Jail. Upon entering the Jail, the player rolls a six sided die for the number of turns they will stay in the Jail. At the beginning of each turn spent in the Jail, the player may choose to engage in good behavior, be neutral, or engage in bad behavior. Good behavior helps you get out of the Jail quicker, but bad behavior increases your notoriety and jail experience while potentially adding turns to your sentence. Choosing neutral allows a player to walk the line between the two.
The Inferno – Looks like a pitchfork, seems a lot like hell. Appears to be the home of evil. Cards related to the Inferno tend to boost your player’s pitchfork resource number.
The Office – Signified by a blue hand. A player may sell 1 voter for 100G on this spot.
The Marketplace – Signified by a green moneybag. When landing here a player may sell one of their precious game points for 200G if they wish.
The Plant – Signified by a golden gear on a green background. When landing here a player may skip one turn to receive 50G and lose one pitchfork if they so choose.
The Treasure – It looks like the game designers attempted to depict a yellow diamond icon for this spot, but I spent my whole first game thinking it looked like a yellow heart. The player may roll a six sided die to see how much treasure, or G, they receive. There is no losing on this space. Rolling a 1 wins 10G, 2 wins 25G, 3 wins 50G, 4 wins 100G, 5 wins 150G, and 6 wins 200G.
Gremlins, Inc. appears to be more a game of overall strategy as opposed to methodical tactics. Because of all of the probabilities of success and failure on each turn, it makes more sense to come up with a winning method of playing the game that works best in most cases than to tactically plan out each move many moves into the future. A player can plan a general strategy that provides them success a majority of the time and refine their strategy to eliminate those things that cause a loss of resources a plurality of the time. Focusing on the big picture is key.
Gremlins, Inc. is a fantastically complex game. It’s the kind of game I always wanted to play as a kid but one I know I would never find anyone who would want to play it with me. If you are not a fan of complex games, don’t let that statement completely scare you away. The computer takes care of most of the complexity, it’s just the player’s job to understand what they want to do and figure out the best path to winning. It’s wonderful that the game designers have created such a game of vast complexity that is relatively simple to play and provides an interface through which to connect to other fans of complex board games worldwide with no real language barrier.
I found no evidence of unwholesome material in Gremlins, Inc. There is no violent or sexual content nor bad language that I encountered. It may be a game too advanced for younger children to understand, which could make it frustrating for them to play and for those who play with them. I would say if someone can easily play Magic: The Gathering, they should be able to handily play Gremlins, Inc.
I can’t wait to play more Gremlins, Inc. My wife and I both enjoyed our first play through and are eager to play as a team competitively to see how high we can rise on the leader boards. If you are a fan of complex board games, I highly recommend you get this game.
Disciples: Sacred Lands runs nearly flawlessly in Windows 10. When exiting the game, it sometimes fails to exit gracefully. All this requires on the part of the user is to click the “End Process” dialog that pops up when this happens.
Disciples: Sacred Lands is a fantasy themed turn-based strategy game released by Strategy First in 1999. In this game you play as one of four distinct races: The Empire, The Mountain Clans, The Legions of the Damned, and The Undead Hordes, all battling for supremacy of, well, the manual actually just says “war-torn world.” I guess they’re still working out a name for it. Not sure where these characters actually exist within the game’s lore.
Gameplay centers around three core components: city management, managing unit movements throughout the overworld, and actively engaging enemies in tactical combat. Disciples: Sacred Lands is a serious strategy title. A player does not simply train troops and send them out blindly in this game. A great deal of planning is required to ensure the player’s towns are adequately protected and logistics have to be thought out.
The player starts the game with a capital city filled with a variety of troops. A leader is stationed at the city to protect it, while another leader is at the ready to be sent out on quests on the player’s behalf. Regular troops must have a leader in order to exit the city and fight or travel in any strength or speed on the overworld map. The number of units a leader may lead is designated by their leadership indicator. If a leader dies in battle, but some of his units survived, the broken party may hobble back to a town controlled by the player to resurrect the current leader or create a new leader and offload the units to the new party.
Beginning Capital City Units
Once a party is created in the capital city, it may be sent out on quests. There are all sorts of bad fellows around the countryside to pick a fight with. Each fight won gains the party experience points and comes with a chance of obtaining some loot. The party may receive gold, magic potions, or magic staffs and scrolls that may be used to cast spells. When party members reach enough experience points, they may level up given that the appropriate structures are available in the capital city for them to do so.
It is best to leave some units behind protecting your towns. It surprised me how quickly and easily I got routed by the enemy AI when I was not expecting it. It is also good to always have a plan of retreat for all active parties. Building up a party’s experience takes time, and once the easy pickings of the game are dead, only difficult enemies remain. In one game I focused on leveling up only one party and was disappointed when they got routed and I lost the match. In another I focused on running a multitude of parties, maxing out my gold income per turn on units. I actually did better with this strategy, but it was not enough to overcome my opponent since he was able to level up his armies on my weak ones until he was at ample strength to wipe me out. A hybrid of the two approaches seems to be required. Treat your unit parties with kid gloves. Disciples: Sacred Lands seems to have been designed to be played more like chess and less like checkers. As long as one member of the party survives after a battle or retreat, you can resurrect the entire party if you can get them back to one of your towns.
Planting a rod to increase territory. Player territory is in green.
The player is provided a great deal of choices in Disciples: Sacred Lands while being granted finite resources. Gold is used to recruit troops and leaders, resurrect dead party members, build buildings to train and level up units, and buy other in-game items. Various colors of mana are used to research and cast spells. The amount of gold and mana received each turn is directly proportional to the number of gold and mana resources controlled within the player’s border on the overworld map. Rods may be placed by certain units to claim land that surrounds a precious resource. When playing as The Empire, the rod placing unit is the Arch-Angel.
When facing an enemy, the game enters a tactical battle screen. Each unit takes turns attacking enemy units until all units on one side have died, or one side has retreated or surrendered. When recruiting troops the player may notice there is a two by three grid containing the leader and her units. Moving units around in this grid changes their ultimate positioning on the tactical battlefield. Keep this in mind because troop position is incredibly important. I got burned when I placed all of my warriors, a melee unit, in the first column also known as the back row of fighting. When their turn came to fight, they were all out of range of the enemy because they weren’t close enough to hit anything.
You have got to be kidding me.
Even though it seems the level maps are static which provides a certain degree of consistency and predictability, the game has thrown me curve balls when I least expected it. This is a challenging game. Really fun, but really challenging. I would recommend keeping a notebook of all active units and their general whereabouts. There are no automatic orders that are continued from turn to turn. A player must simply click on a unit and move it any number of movement points that it can be moved in that turn. This makes it very easy to forget to move a unit on a given turn. My first thought was to be frustrated by this lack of game feature. As I continued to play I discovered how it would not be helpful since providing the player the ability to automate units would cause all sorts of problems for the player when an enemy human or AI is encountered. Disciples: Sacred Lands is a game where you want to be in complete control of all of your units at all times. It is best if all actions are calculated. Sending a unit out to explore as cannon fodder is always a losing tactic in this game.
Disciples: Sacred Lands Game Disc
It’s really not fair to relegate Disciples: Sacred Lands to a simple first impressions review. This game is incredibly deep and demands more time played to fully review its gameplay and winning strategies. My wife has been trying to get me to start doing weekly Twitch streams. Maybe this would be a good game for that. This game works nearly flawlessly in Windows 10, so don’t hesitate to purchase it online or from your local thrift store if you are a fan of strategy titles and want a good challenge to play on your modern computer.
Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magic Obscura is a role-playing game developed by Troika Games and published by Sierra in 2001. The game is played from an isometric perspective and combat occurs in real-time. I would say Arcanum feels most like a cross between Diablo and Fallout.
Upon starting the game the player first creates a new character or selects a pre-built character. The pre-built characters have compelling back stories regarding who they are, where they are from, and why they are boarding the IFS Zephyr air ship on their way to Tarant. The entire world of Arcanum has this steampunk feel to it. Some players are best with magic, while others with technology, and a few walk the line between both. There seems to be a great tension in the Arcanum story as to which type of power is stronger and will ultimately win out over the other. After selecting or creating a character, the opening cutscene plays and the player sees the air ship shot down by some unsavory fellows.
Many character background stories are fascinating.
After the crash, while fumbling in the wreckage, the player hears someone crying for help and moves debris in order to get to the person pinned down. Upon inspection, it appears the person is an elderly gnome. He gives the player possession of a ring and tasks her with bringing the ring to a boy while talking of unspeakable evil saying that the boy will know what to do. After breathing his last, a shadowy figure is seen approaching through the smoke of the wreckage and the game enters its first load screen.
Arcanum summed up in two words: Steampunk
Arcanum is incredibly rich in story but chock full of technical difficulty. The game lagged constantly while I played it. You can make your character walk smoothly or you can scroll to see more of the surrounding area in a given direction smoothly, but if you try to do both at the same time you will have problems. Entering new areas causes the game to seemingly lock up, though it really just seems to be an extension of the really long load times.
After the first obnoxiously long load time the player meets the shadowy figure from the cutscene, a man by the name of Virgil. He informs her that he is a recent follower of the Panarii religion, that she is the chosen one, and that she must fight the evil one while babbling about her like a half-wit. He suggests they go into the nearby town of Shrouded Hills to meet one Elder Joachim to get some answers. Once she agrees, he joins the player’s party.
I decided to take this time to scavenge among the wreckage and hunt wolves and other hostile creatures I found. From just killing all the unsavory creatures around the downed air ship I was able to reach level 2 and I picked up a sword that was twice as good as my starting dagger. Combat is achieved by clicking on an enemy using the left mouse button. Once a player has successfully slain all nearby enemies, combat mode does not always go away. Clicking the right mouse button will exit combat mode in those cases.
Notes are kept on vital in-game info you can refer to later.
Satisfied I had explored everything and received as much experience in the area as possible, I traversed the clearing that seemed to be part of a road. On the way the party of Virgil and I was greeted by a strange cloaked figure that wanted to know if I had survived the crash. It doesn’t matter what dialog options you use with this guy, he will attempt to kill you. He was apparently there to ensure no one survived.
Arcanum Overworld Map
Once the party is done killing the assassin, it is possible to bring up the overworld map and travel to Shrouded Hills. Alternatively it appears it is possible to just continue to walk through the entire world map without any fast travel, much like in more recent role-playing games such as those in The Elder Scrolls series. Upon fast traveling to Shrouded Hills, after fumbling about in town looking for it we entered the Shrouded Hills Inn. There we found dead assassins in Elder Joachim’s room. He had left a note and bid us to travel to the place where he was safe. It was at this point that I began looking for a way out of town. While looking we ran into an incredibly lucky wolf that got a fatally critical hit on yours truly.
The graphics are superb for when Arcanum was released. The cutscenes are emotionally stimulating and truly make you feel a part of the story. The in-game graphics are a step above Fallout and Fallout 2 though obviously similar in design. Arcanum was developed by Jason D. Anderson, Leonard Boyarsky, and Timothy Cain, all former designers of the game Fallout. The sound and background music is also superb and really places the player in the mood and environment of the story the designers intended to tell.
Arcanum contains great cutscenes.
It’s obvious I am going to have to spend much more time playing Arcanum. There is so much story here, all of which appears to be incredibly deep with well crafted lore. The question will be whether my patience will hold out with the technical difficulties presented by the game’s issues. This would seem to be the perfect title for a remastered version, one where all the bugs are fixed. Troika Games closed their doors in 2005, but given that Arcanum can still be purchased on Valve’s Steam platform, I would imagine that someone would have the rights to make such a remastered version possible.
Arcanum Game Disc
I would say Arcanum is worth owning for serious computer role-playing game fans who have already played through all of the other more approachable classics such as those from The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Diablo, and Dungeons & Dragons series. Even without the technical difficulties present in this game, it seems to be geared more toward the experienced role-playing gamer. The setup application even suggests the player get familiar with certain chapters of the manual while waiting for the game to install on their hard disk. At the moment I am writing this article, Arcanum is selling on Steam for $5.99. I feel that is a worthy price to have this one in my collection, but be advised this game does not hold your hand at any point. I look forward to exploring this game further as time goes on; perhaps as an angry Twitch stream, that could be interesting.