Game Review: “Shenanigans” by Kazam Games

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At first blush, the cards in “Shenanigans” look a lot like a standard set of playing cards, with one major difference: there’s only one “suit,” and that’s lucky clovers. As luck would have it, the good folks over at Kazam Games gave 3-Sided-Die the chance to playtest and review a prototype of this new card game.

How do you win?

The goal of “Shenanigans” to have the least number of points among all players by the end of the game.

How do you play?

Each player is dealt nine cards. You arrange the cards into a three-by-three grid and turn any two of them face-up. The rest of the deck is put into the center of the table and becomes the “draw pile.” The top card of the draw pile is turned face up and put into a separate “discard pile.” The person to the dealer’s left starts the game.

When it’s your turn, you choose a card from the top of either the draw or discard piles. If you take a card from the draw pile, you can swap that card with any one of yours or put it into the discard pile and pass the turn to the next player. If you take a card from the discard pile, you have to swap it with one of yours. The card you swapped goes into the discard pile, and you pass the turn. It doesn’t matter whether you switch one of your face-up or face-down cards, but your new card is always turned face-up.

The three-by-three grid for a two-player game of "Shenanigans," with the draw and discard piles in between.

The three-by-three grid for a two-player game of “Shenanigans,” with the draw and discard piles in between.

Each of the cards in has a point value of 1 through 10. Kings, queens, and jacks are each worth 10 points, and the aces are worth one point. Jokers not only serve as a “wild card,” but have a negative value of -2 to drop your overall points. There are two cards unique to “Shenanigans”: a “pot of gold” card that’s sort of a “super joker,” worth -5 points as well as a wild card; and a “mischief” card that’s literally “good for nothing” … it’s worth zero points and is not wild.

The “pot of gold”: one of the unique new cards in “Shenanigans.”

Three cards with the same value across, up, or diagonally in your grid is a “three-of-a-kind,” which cancels out the points of those cards (totaling zero). To keep your points low, swap out your higher-point cards for lower-point cards, make as many three-of-a-kinds as you can, or (why not) both.

“Three-of-a-kind,” with the joker helping as a wild card. Together, these cards are worth -2 points (zero for the three-of-a-kind and -2 for the joker).

What can’t you do?

You can’t turn a card face-up without swapping it from the draw or discard piles, you can’t look at any of your face-down cards (sorry, this isn’t Magic: The Gathering, folks), and you can’t choose among the cards in the discard pile; you can only draw the one on top.

When does the game end?

The turns, or “rounds,” end when one of the players has swapped out all of their face-down cards. At that point, each of the other players gets one last chance to swap a card from the draw or discard piles. They then turn up any other face-down cards they have and count the total points on all of their cards. Whoever has the lowest number of points is the winner.

The end of a two-player game. My cards, at the bottom, totaled 5, while my opponent’s totaled 8.

We do enjoy making shenanigans!

Overall, we found “Shenanigans” to be a fast-based and rousing alternative to traditional card games. The setup and rules may sound daunting, but the game is deceptively simple, quick to learn, and a lot of fun to play.

What’s delightfully unexpected in “Shenanigans” is the tension. In the test games we played, there were a few times one of us drew a 10-point card and had to make the hard choice of soaking up the extra points or discarding it and give the next player a three-of-a-kind. Then there was the hope of pulling off a three-of-a-kind by swapping a card from the discard pile, only to find that the face-down card we swapped was the exact same value. These “shenanigans” had us howling with laughter, especially the turns of fate late in the game. The games went fast; a two-player game can easily be finished in five to 10 minutes, and rules say an average game lasts seven rounds.

The box top promised us “skill, luck, and frustration,” and it deftly delivered on all fronts. Give “Shenanigans” a go in your gaming circle … it might just be the “pot of gold” you’ve been questing for!

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Can you become legend? SHOULD you become legend?

Good morning, 3SDers.

I’m going to talk about a game that’s garnered a lot of attention since its release, in both good and bad ways. Yes, I’m talking about Bungie’s Destiny.

Destiny is a first person shooter that was referred to as an MMO, or “massively multiplayer online” game. As someone who’s active in the MMO scene with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, I had some expectations as to what I was going to be walking into when I threw the disc into my Playstation 4.

DISCLAIMER – please do not throw anything at your Playstation 4.

I had expectations of being able to communicate with your teammates when you needed to, and Destiny is a game that you almost definitely need to communicate in, when things can (and almost always will) go south for your party, or “Fireteam” as it’s referred to. You have five ways of communicating with others in Destiny — sitting down, pointing, waving, dancing, and voice chat.

Now, voice chat is something I often do when I play Final Fantasy XIV when it comes to complicated raids or trials, because there’s very often a large amount of communication that’s required as well as coordination; healers communicating with tanks, tanks communicating with DPS, all sorts of things. Well, in Destiny, you don’t need a program to communicate as you do in other MMOs, such as Mumble or Teamspeak — just do it right over your console. However, other than voice chat, you *ONLY HAVE THOSE OTHER WAYS TO COMMUNICATE*, and that can get very hairy very quickly. “Well, is there a chat log you type into,” you ask? Well, no. There isn’t. You’re screwed. Period.

Luckily, communication isn’t exactly necessary to succeed. The game is very simple in that you go on missions that involve you holding the square button in numerous places, and often fighting off hordes of enemies. After that, you find other places to hold the square button in numerous places while fighting off other enemies. After that, you find even more places to hold the square button while fighting off even more enemies — except there’s also a BOSS. Nevertheless, despite the repetition of the game, it doesn’t actually feel as repetitious as you think it might be, simply because of the environments around you and the toughness of the enemies you have to kill. There are weak points to every one, though it’s usually a predictable glowing spot you have to shoot.

Other than the lack of communication, the game is hardly multiplayer. In raids, or Strikes, you have a maximum of three players, or Guardians, at any given time. Mario Party is more of an MMO than Destiny can ever hope to be, and that’s saying something for a game that cost five hundred million dollars to produce and promote.

F I V E H U N D R E D M I L L I O N D O L L A R S.

That makes Destiny the most expensive video game ever made; second on the list is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II at two hundred and fifty million dollars.

That’s right, Destiny was the most expensive video game ever created, by twice as much as the game that previously held that title. Well, where did that money go?

One thing I can say about Destiny is that the game is gorgeous; I mean it’s flat-out breathtaking. Everything is rendered perfectly, there’s an absurd amount of detail involved and the atmospheric effects of your enemies really bring out the power of the Destiny engine. It’s superb and flawless, though I do wish there was more equipment with enough visual differences so that a lot of the player base doesn’t look the same.

Character leveling is also something that was incorporated into the game, so there’s another positive thing that came from its development. There are lots of abilities you can learn as either a Hunter, Warlock, or Titan, (attacker type, caster type, and tank type) and mixing and matching them is a lot of fun; you can also use that to your advantage when you want to make things more challenging.

The storyline for Destiny, though, is one of the worst I’ve ever seen in a video game as far back as my memory banks can take me. It’s horribly made, horribly directed, and incredibly hard to follow. I’ve beaten the main story; and if you asked me to tell you what happens, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Not because I don’t want to spoil anything, but because I legitimately couldn’t make sense of any of it. You’ll more than likely figure out what happens at some point, though, because every time you repeat any part of the game, you’ll re-watch the storyline cutscenes again; it may be worth mentioning that you cannot skip any of the cutscenes in this game, no matter how many times you’ve already seen them.

My final verdict on Destiny is that if you can get past the fact that it’s essentially a glorified shooting game, it’s a very beautifully done game from a visual standpoint. If you’re looking for a story to follow, go find your favorite children’s story, as you’ll find a better story in those.

Final Rating — 7/10

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

Dave Rehm
@pizzaflare on Twitter

Why you should be playing Shadowrun 5th Edition right now

Picture above found here.

This image was found at http://store.steampowered.com/app/234650/

In 2013, Catalyst Game Labs brought us the newest installment of the Shadowrun Universe, with the 5th edition of the role playing game that takes place in the 6th age.  I’ve never played the previous editions, though I’ve always wanted to.  While my go to RPG is Dungeons & Dragons, there was never a Science Fiction game that really floored me.  Alternity came close, with some interesting choices, but never enough options for my liking.  Anyways, I can’t remember if it was late 2013 or early 2014, but my co-DM wanted to play some Shadowrun.  I was all in for a change, especially something more Science Fiction oriented.  The group seemed to agree and off we went.

I’m the type of person that needs to have the hardcover book in my hand.  I immediately jumped on amazon and ordered it for about $40.  Luckily I had prime shipping at the time, so it came within a couple days.  The book is a monster at almost 500 pages, but boasts beautiful artwork on almost every other page.

After cracking it open, I found out that it is the year 2075 (approximately), and is in a future dystopia themed setting that sets you up to play as Shadow runners, who are those that skirt the law to make a living working for large corporations, that may include jobs of all types, including smuggling, infiltration, bounty hunting, stealing data payloads among other things.  It’s dangerous, you need to think on your feet and always be 5 steps ahead of everyone else, otherwise your shadow-running days will come to a quick end.

I was surprised to find that you didn’t even get into character creation until page 62!   While I found it odd, it was nice to get a very detailed background on the current world and what to expect.  It makes more sense to get the background first, as knowing the type of world you’re in, will make it easier to determine what type of character you would like to play and how well he/she would fit into the mix.

If you don’t already know from reading some of my other posts, is that I’m a power gamer.  I’m not the type who is looking to exploit the game, just someone who enjoys optimization and customization.  So, I skimmed through the background info, knowing I can come back at any time and delved into making a character.  One of the things I really like about Shadowrun, is the give and take concept with the priority system.  There are 5 main priorities to take and you can assign each of them a priority A,B,C,D or E respectively.  Once a priority is assigned, it can’t be used again.  For instance, if you picked attributes at priority A, you’re looking at 24 points to spend on Strength, Intuition or perhaps Reaction.  Priority A is off the table and can no longer be used for the other 4 items to be prioritized, which are Magic, Metatype, Skills and resources.  It really forces you to flesh out the type of character you want to have or need, in order to build it.  I went with a Decker and you can see him in one of my previous posts, here.

So one important thing I’d like to mention about the Shadowrun system, is the rules, their placement and on occasion, their complexity needing a little work.  One of the main frustrations I found when making my characters, was that the rules were not clear.  Take this priority table below:

attribute table

So I’ve picked my priorities, but I quickly ran into an issue.  What do the #’s in parenthesis mean for the metatype?  What does a Magic 6 mean?  What does skills at a 46/10 mean?  It wasn’t clear.  I read through the chapter, looking for some semblance of what these #’s were, but found nothing.  I feel like a lot of the rules written in this book were expecting you to have played previous versions, which unfortunately, I had not.  I can understand that most people don’t jump into a new RPG at $40 with no prior knowledge, so Catalyst probably assumed that most of the revenue would be coming from those that played previous versions, but the clarity was definitely lacking as someone new to Shadowrun.

Another one of my issues, more often than not, when looking for an answer, I would find it in obscure passages, 180 pages after the topic was discussed.  A good example would be the discussion of lifestyles on pg. 95.  Then, on page 375, they talk about team lifestyles and how you can live together with someone else and only pay 1/2 the cost of a lifestyle + 10%.  Something that would have been good to know earlier and now you have to go back and change.  I found this tidbit in the GM’s lifestyle section, something I may not have even decided to read as a player, but puts more nuyen into the player’s pocket, while giving opportunities for players to intertwine their backgrounds.  Again, something that should have been mentioned earlier.

I personally had to create my own document to capture important notes on key things that weren’t explained well and couldn’t be found in the obvious places.  I think they should have separated, large and bold in a note or put some type of symbol for key pieces of information found nested within paragraphs.  Plus, though you don’t want to be repetitive, should have kept all relevant information together, where possible, even if it means repeating.

Now don’t get me wrong, the book is jam packed with information and I do understand it is not always possible to keep the information in the same place, especially when it effects other rules.  One of the great things about this system, is that it does try to cover everything you can think of.  They even have rules for treading water.  While I love the system, it can be a lot of information to take in and I’ve seen on some of the other players faces who are just getting started with Shadowrun, the confusion and the feeling that they are overwhelmed.

We were also really lucky too, for the fact that our GM is well versed in all character concepts and rules, and so was therefore able to help us move forward without much page turning.

One of the things I think Shadowrun does really well, is give you options and customization.  You could make two Dwarven riggers and have them be completely different in concept.  One could focus on all types of drones, one could be surveillance only, one could have no drones and focus on being a master of all vehicles, sporting guns on them to boot.  Two Deckers could have completely different programs.  One could be in it for cyber-combat while another is more infiltration.  That’s even if you have two of the same in a group.  There are MANY different types of concepts including street samurai, covert ops, smuggler, combat mage, face, tank, rigger, bounty hunter or weapons specialist.  I play in a group of 7-8 people and we have seen NO overlap and lots of diversity in our characters.  Plus, you can make combinations of concepts too.  You aren’t pigeonholed into JUST a rigger or JUST a smuggler.  I made a infiltration specialist who is covert ops, has a cyberdeck (and necessary infiltration programs) and is a martial artist to boot.  The customization is limitless.

Another thing I like about the rules system is that to perform any test, you use your appropriate skill and attribute, take that # of dice (d6) and roll.  For every 5 and 6 you get on the die, you get a “hit”.  If you have more hits than the defense test the GM rolls, you win the test.  Granted, there are some variables that can include bonuses or penalties to your dice pool, but that is the meat of every roll in Shadowrun.  For an example of a penalty, if the skill required is not one you took or have, then you can only roll the dice for your attribute, with a -1 penalty to your dice pool.  It’s interesting, it works and it’s a lot of fun rolling 15d6 to see how many 5’s and 6’s you’ll come up with.  There are times when you roll more 1’s than 1/2 your pool and you get a “glitch”, or if you do the same and not a single die hits, which makes it a “critical glitch”.  These make for some great storytelling and side quests to clean up the mess you just made.  They don’t seem to happen that often, but when they do, it’s pretty damn fun.

Another reason why I enjoy playing Shadowrun so much, is because it really makes you think strategically what you are going to do next.  Combat is somewhere between uncommon and common, but by all means, the legwork before a job, the surveillance, the approach, the assumptions, etc., make planning the biggest and most enjoyable part of the game.  Because this is the case, role playing takes the drivers seat, which is something our group has really needed for a long time.  As a DM for Dungeons & Dragons, role playing was never my forte, but I have been continuously working on it in order to make the game come alive in ways they haven’t in the past.  Though I’m not the GM for Shadowrun, there are many more opportunities for role playing and seeing how effective it is at adding to the role playing experience, I’m looking forward to implementing it in my D&D campaign as well.

Overall, if you like RPGs, this one is a winner.  Will you do some book surfing for some of the rules?  Yes.  Will you enjoy just about every second of game time?  Damn right you will.  It’s a fantastic system, with a setting that borders on a darker theme.  Well worth every penny and is why you should be playing Shadowrun 5th edition right now.

– Jinx

About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called “The Fall of Astia”. Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you’d like to see featured on our site.

Hyrule Warriors – The Zelda game we weren’t looking for, but will take anyway

This week, I’ll be talking about a recent release that was anticipated for a very long time – Hyrule Warriors on the Nintendo Wii U!

hyrule-warriors-cover

You may or may not be surprised to hear that this is, at its very core, a Dynasty Warriors game. For those of you that are unaware of that particular franchise, allow me to break it down for you.

You’re part of an army with about a dozen main story characters, up against literally thousands of enemies on any given scenario. Luckily, these enemies go down in a couple of hits, however there still remains that there are thousands of them. For those of you that enjoy racking up kills, this is definitely a series you would definitely enjoy. For this particular installment, you will most likely enjoy this game even if you may not have been a fan of the Dynasty Warriors games themselves, which are reminiscent of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games from a long time ago.

I enjoy this game very much, and find it to be the Zelda game we weren’t looking for, but will take anyway. There are many playable characters in Hyrule Warriors; though I won’t go into how many there are, or even who they are (because I’m typically anti-spoiler) you’ll be happy with who you’ll see. Obviously, you’ll play as Link. I don’t think I had to give that one away.

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As you can tell, Hyrule Warriors is a gorgeous game. While gorgeous isn’t what draws people to playing games, typically, you’ll feel like you’re flowing through battles and effects that are made easily possible by the Wii U’s processing and graphic capabilities.

The combat in this game, supposing you haven’t played a Dynasty Warriors game before, is typically simple. All characters have combos with their weapons by entering button combinations, all characters have wide sweeping techniques to deal damage to more enemies at a time, (though with less power to make up for it) and you’ll charge up energy to unleash devastating attacks on a large portion of the field at once. In Hyrule Warriors, Link does make use of the popular subweapons you see in other installments, such as bombs and the Fire Rod. Other than that, though, it’s a pretty lather, rinse, and repeat style of gameplay, which can start to feel repetitive. However, as I mentioned earlier, if you’ve ever played a title in the Dynasty Warriors franchise before, none of this should come as a surprise.

Overall, I’m happy with Hyrule Warriors. While the gameplay is nothing new, it is still one of those rides through Hyrule that don’t seem to come up often anymore, and I’ll happily take it. As the story progresses, you do unlock additional characters to play as, as well as weapon and combo modifications that will, obviously, make your characters stronger. It’s a very fun game, and it’s probably worth playing anyway, even if you’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game before.

Verdict – A very fun and beautiful game that does not require a steep learning curve, but can feel repetitive. 7/10.

Thank you for reading my entry this week! I’ll have another entry from my RPGem Files for my next entry, so you won’t want to miss it!

RPGem Files – Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

Hey everyone, and welcome to my first post for 3 Sided Die!

Today I’ll be going over something that was released on the Playstation 2 in 2005, a pair of RPGs called Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga.

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The Shin Megami Tensei series is over 25 years old, first releasing in 1987 on the Family Computer console, or as some refer to it, the Famicom. The most popular series in Shin Megami Tensei is the Persona series, making its breakthrough in popularity with Persona 3, released in 2007 in North America.

I’m focusing on Digital Devil Saga because it’s my personal favorite in the Shin Megami Tensei series (referred to as SMT going forward). When it comes to the SMT series, most everyone thinks of Persona. This is a title that, while I can’t discuss the story very much, is definitely worth looking into if you’re a fan of darker-themed games.

image4Digital Devil Saga (referred to as DDS going forward) is a story focused on characters who are able to become demons that must consume their own to win a war, and then achieve Nirvana, a large part of Buddhist religion.

DDS is an industrial-themed game in both audio and visuals, as you begin the game in a junkyard with your tribe, called the Embryon, followed by almost immediate plot twists.

Unlike previous titles in SMT, you have no demons to battle alongside you as you would in the Persona and Devil Summoner series, and no personas to summon. The only demons you have to battle alongside you are yourselves, which you can shapeshift to and from at any time in battle.

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Each of the six protagonists you control in both games — Cielo, Gale, Sera, Serph, Heat and Argilla, have different weaknesses and strengths in battle, as you may expect from most RPGs. At times, you’ll be forced to make a decision as to whether or not you want to stay in demon form or revert back to your humanoid form. While your demon forms have large amounts of power that come from their “Atma Branding,” there are times you’ll want to remain in your humanoid form. While your defenses are significantly reduced, the ability to use guns in battle will sometimes outweigh that detriment.

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Digital Devil Saga has something for everyone. From experience, I can attest to it being not as difficult as some of the other entries in the SMT universe; Atlus wanted to “ease up” on its difficulty so that a broader range of their audience could enjoy it. It is worth noting, however, that there is one “hidden boss” in the first Digital Devil Saga, and while I won’t mention who it is (because spoilers,) said boss is widely considered to be the hardest boss fight in the history of JRPGs – so much so that it’s still on my bucket list to get past it. If you’re an avid fan of SMT, you’ll be both pleased and horrified to find out who it is, when you get to that point.

The soundtrack to Digital Devil Saga, just like SMT in its entirety, has a fantastic soundtrack. Every track throughout the game puts you in whatever mood Atlus wanted you to be in at the time – whether it’s feeling ready to devour your enemies for skill points to earn skills, or feeling clouded with doom and mystery, Digital Devil Saga will have you on the edge of your proverbial seat the entire time.

On a difficulty scale, I would put Digital Devil Saga at 7/10. The games definitely have their moments where you really need to think about your strategies for certain bosses, though it’s simple enough to where you can enjoy the ride the entire time.

Thank you for reading, tune in next time where I discuss a modern release, Hyrule Warriors!