Friday, 11 August 2017

Massive Darkness!

Yes, I know I promised a series of posts about jungle terrain and newly painted miniatures, but the truth of the matter is that I have been somewhat distracted by the latest offering from CMON, 'Massive Darkness'; yet another Kickstarter that I backed in April 2016.  Billed as a cooperative board game and building on the successful Zombicide: Black Plague mechanic, I nearly let this one pass me by, after all I have more plastic miniatures than I will ever paint.  Yet a chance email exchange with my good friend Stefan of 'Monty's Caravan' fame caused me to think again - solo play being the eventual hook that saw me pledge.  Well that pledge duly arrived at 'Awdry Towers' last weekend and since then all I seem to have done is venture further and further into the tunnels and dungeons, fighting guards and monstrosities along the way!
'Massive Darkness' is a dungeon crawl and allows standalone adventures or the option to play in story mode, building your characters' abilities along the way.  A huge fan of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy gamebooks as a boy, I was really looking forward to this and with what I thought was a fair understanding of the mechanic being used couldn't wait to get started.  The first thing that needs to be said is that this being and CMON Kickstarter there was a mountain of plastic to unpack!  These photographs just show the core box and don't include all the wondrous goodies that came as stretch goals.  The plastic miniatures are exquisitely detailed and I am sure will take paint just as well as the Zombicide versions; already there are some firm favourites that might yet skip to the head of the painting queue!
The quality of the card stock used for the sumptuously designed dungeon tiles is, as we have come to expect, superb and in fact all the pieces have that reassuring feel of quality to them and so it will come as no surprise to hear that the tutorial game was set up on the practice table* and away we went. Dutifully laying out the game as described, I started to become aware that there was an awful lot of paraphernalia on the table.  
Yes I am aware of how pretentious that sounds, but it really is a Godsend!  I have set up a small table in the spare room, which means I can leave unfinished games out overnight rather than pack them away so that we can use the dining room table - why hadn't I thought of this sooner? 
Event cards, door cards, treasure cards**, guard cards***, roaming monster cards, tokens, dashboards and class sheets - it was a good job that I was just playing the tutorial with only two board tiles on the table!  Unperturbed I ventured on, but couldn't help reminiscing that back in the day all I needed was an HB pencil and a couple of D6s!  Still it wasn't long before I was opening doors, picking up treasures and battling guards and banished such trifling matters as being uncharitable. 
**Five sets one for each level of Darkness.
***Again another five sets! 
Dwarves love their treasure.
Tutorial successfully completed it was time to get to grips with the first quest proper and at this point my issues with just how busy the table was started to resurface.  It all seemed incredibly faffy, I mean ridiculously so  - it was time for a rethink.  I am not a overly stupid man, but there I was sitting at a table five feet long by two and a half feet wide, covered in a multitude of cards and plastic miniatures and not really enjoying myself.  The need to check and recheck the class sheets of each of the characters, that were in turn separate from the player dashboards, meant that I was having to swap between distance and reading glasses and all the time getting more and more frustrated.  The absolute joy of Zombicide: Black Plague is its simplicity, the ability to fully immerse yourself in the story and enjoying the colloabtive nature of the game, ideally with friends, is what made us return to it time and again as our game of choice.  How then had CMON got this so wrong with Massive Darkness?  Of course the answer is they haven't, it was me!  
A very busy table!
In my bid to get going as quickly as possible, I had rather fallen foul of the old maxim that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!  Assuming that 'Massive Darkness' was, in effect, Zombicide: Black Plague by a different name, I had completely missed the point; this is a different game and should be treated as such!  The first realisation came with the number of guards that were spawned as you enter each room, it is dependent on the number of adventurers on the board. The more adventurers the more guards, so why was I trying to run all six adventurers at once?  By reducing my heroic band to a Wizard, Barbarian and Bloodmoon Nightrunner**** I was instantly able to really focus on what was important.  The class sheets, the paper pages used to record the characters' progress, were no longer spread all over the table, but stacked in order to make it easier to access.  
A Bloodmoon Nightrunner - a thief by any other name!
It was starting to feel more like the games of old, where interaction and understanding your character's unique abilities were key to success in your chosen adventure.  If you follow this approach through to its natural conclusion then the mechanic of the game should allow you to venture into the dungeon with just one character and still succeed in your quest, but I haven't been brave enough to try this yet!
****Thief/Assassin in old money!
Thou shall not pass!
So where have these revelations left me with regards to my 'Massive Darkness' enjoyment?  Mightily relieved for one thing!  I now feel that I have a much clearer understanding of what the game is all about.  As with my previous experiences of CMON board games there is a depth to them that isn't initially apparent.  The subtlety of the rules allows for complexities in the gameplay that will keep me engrossed for some considerable time to come.  
Wait! Don't open two doors at once!
Already we have had scenarios that have thrown up interesting, almost cinematic moments be they the classic 'bug hunt' or a 'temple run' style game that saw my adventurers race to the exit before the roof to the dungeon caved in, wonderfully realised by removing the preceding tiles according to the game mechanic.
Bad news for a High Troll.
It is a totally immersive game and the secret to its success is making your individual contribution exactly that - individual.  My initial mistake was trying to be too inclusive assuming that the more adventurers the better, something that we have found in Zombicide: Black Plague.  With 'Massive Darkness' the enjoyment comes through the development of the individual characters and I am really looking forward to playing this with a couple of friends to see how their own characters develop through the twists and turns of the dungeon's tunnels.
A Barbarian doing what a Barbarian does.

45 comments:

  1. Gah!! Just when I thought I'd resisted this game, you bring all the joy of it to the fore!! Love the gnomish dwarves too :-)

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    1. It will be interesting to see what Mike and Bull think of it as this will have a bearing on its longevity. That said I shall definitely be looking to complete all the original quests using the core box and then there is all the wonderful additions to contend with. The Dwarves are some of my favourites too.

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  2. Oooh, so now we're Questing together :-P Looks like a very nice game and I can't wait to see what you will do with the miniatures, so dump the jungle and get some paint on these!

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    1. Yes indeed, I was thinking of you when I took my first tentative steps into the dungeon. The problem I have is which to paint first as there are some lovely miniatures to choose from.

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    2. LOL! just close your eyes and pick some!

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  3. Arrghh! Great looking game. Thank You for a review sir!

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  4. Excellent report Michael. Still waiting for my set to arrive. I do appreciate your doing the legwork & finding those pitfalls we almost all fall into when new shinies arrive!

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    1. Thank you Terry, there was a moment when I thought that this was going to be packed away and never spoken of again. I am delighted to report that it is still going strong and I am looking forward to selecting characters to have a go in story mode.

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  5. Cool looking game and minis!

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  6. What a fantastic looking game, shame this one passed me by!

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    1. It is great fun, but yet another distraction.

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  7. That looks pretty smart. Part of me thinks "I wonder if they'll flog the minis off separately ?" and another bit answers "back that truck up, buddy. Finish what ya got first."

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    1. This is the problem with these Kickstarters, they 'reward' you with so much plastic.

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  8. Interesting game with nice figures!

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    1. I am certainly looking forward to a few more games yet.

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  9. What a great looking game and the minis look superb too. As in everything, practise makes perfect and the more you play the ore enjoyment you'll get from the game I'm sure.

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    1. It is really starting to gain traction now and I am looking forward to giving some of the beautifully sculpted miniatures a little paint.

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  10. Looks like a lot of fun and those are some sinister looking dwarves. I'd be hard pressed not to paint them like evil garden gnomes!

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    1. It is certainly playing nicely now and I know what you mean about the dwarves, green and red paint to the fore!

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  11. Very cool! Now back to those jungle posts.... :-)

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  12. Massive Darkness had completely passed me by but I saw a friend's set last week...looks fantastic!

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    1. I have to confess that I was trying to forget about it and then it arrived and, after my false start, now really getting into it.

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  13. Change the axe and The barbarian Looks very Sláine like

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  14. There seems to be a lot of really good stuff for solo gamers these days.

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  15. I actually pledged for this one at the time, for a full 24 hours before I convinced myself "No, I dont need it, its too like Black Plague and I dont need two games the same." I think a part of me regrets this on one hand, yet am relieved on the other, as my full Black Plague pledge is massive and I STILL havent plucked up courage to make a start on that yet... let alone another huge game as well (which I think is combine-able as well yeah? uuugh,brain ache of mammoth proportions).

    But seeing your really cool article on the game has REALLY got the wistful part of my mind working lol. "What if.... what IF I had bought it and all those cool stretch goals, why.. my Black Plague campaign would now be TWICE as cool." haha and thoughts like that ^^

    Wonderful blog Michael, and I feel ashamed I have not spent more time here, its awesome. Wasn't lack of care, I literally overlooked it. I wont make that mistake again. REALLY cool site. I`ll tell the others about it for sure:-))

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    1. It was the solo play along with the promise of crossover with Black Plague that hooked me in. I think ultimately that was the root of my perceived idea that this was just another expansion and not a stand alone game in its own right. Thankfully I seem to have got past that now and really starting to enjoy it - although I have just suffered my first failed quest and will need to rethink my strategy a bit!

      Thank you also for your kind words regarding the old weblog, we look forward to welcoming you back soon. :)

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  16. Now this looks really interesting, and if i'd seen it at the time I might even have broken my number one rule of never backing Kickstarters, if it ever hits a shop or show near me....

    Cheers Roger.

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    1. I have form for breaking my promises regarding Kickstarters, but happy to report that this one is starting to work out for me now.

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  17. Enjoy the new game Michael. I have to say, I am always impressed by the quality of CMON deep box games. :)

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    1. They really know how to put things together and although we seem to have had to wait a while for this one, and there have been a couple of printing issues, they always put it right - or certainly have done for me.

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  18. I rather think we are going to regret not having backed this when we could have, as I am sure we will end up buying the base game and some of the expansions anyway, only now at full price of course. Your article really shows the game off at its best, and has got me quite excited about it.

    I LOVE the Victorian theme running through your blog. Your style of writing is just so cool and atmospheric.

    So many cool (past) articles to read, and now Stevie`s nudged me to remember to check it out here, I will be a regular visitor here from now on, for sure (I`ve also added you to our own fav blog list).

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  19. I deliberately let this one pass by...running out of space to keep stuff:). But the miniatures look lovely and I can see you are going to have a lot of fun!

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  20. Some decidedly cool minis there, Michael.

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  21. I would love to have a go at this, but just don't have the time...bah!

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  22. Very nice, love this spider!

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  23. I too loved the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy game books as a boy. As someone whose best chance of playing boardgames is via the solo route this offering is certainly intriguing. And the miniatures looks fantastically detailed too.

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  24. A wonderful review, my friend!
    We tried the tutorial two weeks ago but failed. :-(
    Nevertheless we'll take M.D. to with us on holiday and give it another try then.

    Cheers
    Stefan

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