Rinella ruminates on 2018 so far

Originally published at: http://statelyplay.com/2018/11/01/rinella-ruminates-on-2018-so-far/

Around this time of the year, I start wondering whether any of the games I’d hoped to see before year’s end may still be coming. More broadly, how well did my anticipation of the gaming universe in 2018 match reality? This year, I broke out my top five most eagerly awaited games by platform; here’s what we know so far:


Games which make me wish I wanted to sit at a computer more:
  • Battletech - Seems like just what I want it to be, but not where I want it.
  • Overland - 2019
  • Phoenix Point- 2019
  • Into the Breach - On Switch! Quite good, but subject to the same strangeness as FTL, where most of the reason to keep playing is the achievements [um, I keep playing FTL because I STILL CAN'T WIN THE DAMN THING -ed.] which unlock new squads, but many of those achievements seem to rely on opportunities you can’t force. Playthroughs which don’t present those opportunities accomplish nothing, which is fairly demotivating.
  • Mr. President - 2019
  • Victorian Masterminds - Preordered for November.
  • Stuffed Fables - Reviews made this seem like it didn’t solve my major problem with Mice and Mystics, which was that it seemed a little slow and fiddly for such a shallow game. I never liked messing with cheese. I still might play it, but my enthusiasm has receded to manageable levels.
  • AuZtralia - Reviews suggest that it turned out to be more of a train game [and a new Martin Wallace train game is a bad thing how? -ed.] and less of an anything else game than I was hoping. I might still try it eventually, but it's not a priority.
  • Root - I was hoping this would be more approachable than it seems to be. I’m still excited to play it someday, but it doesn’t seem like the GMT COIN series made kid-friendly I wanted.
  • A Way Out - Took a darker tone than Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, so it doesn’t seem appropriate as a couch co-op option with my 10-year-old the way I was hoping it would. Had it been similar in tone to Brothers, that would have been very enticing. This might be the game, more than any other, which made me realize I make these lists with a bit too much hope in my heart.
  • Shadow of the Colossus - I can see why this was unique, and it was interesting, but it felt like a slog by the end.
  • Ghost of Tsushima - No word.
  • Call of Cthulhu - Reviews were pretty mixed. I’m intrigued, but happy to wait for a deep discount.
  • Far Cry 5 - Hope again. This could have signaled a dramatic and daring shift into meaningful contemporary commentary. Instead, it seems to have been sort of bland in that regard. I got it out of the library, and played for a while—it still feels like Far Cry, which isn’t bad. Liberating outposts remains a fun stealth/combat puzzle. But it also doesn’t feel culturally meaningful the way a game like Spec Ops: The Line does.
  • The Resistance: Avalon: My kids and the neighbor kids got into One Night Ultimate Werewolf, so I figured I’d introduce them to the reigning monarch of the genre, according to reviews. They love it, but the concept of deception is slippery in their hands, so I’ve no idea what it would be like with consistently competent players.
  • Lovecraft Letter: We’ve played a lot of Love Letter in my family, mostly because it’s so portable and quick. It’s … fine. That’s pretty good for such a small game; Lovecraft Letter is dramatically better, though. I bought it because it was on clearance and had unusually nice bits, but it adds a few strategic wrinkles and some surprisingly effective temptations. Where success in Love Letter often feels like a matter of lucky guesses, lucky draws, or obvious plays, it’s madder cousin does more to let you set up lucky draws into plays which dramatically raise the volume in the room.
  • Villainous: Our first game included this exchange: “Why can’t I go to the Cave of Wonders at the beginning?” “Because-“ “Oh, it’s just like the movie!” Sometimes this game feels terribly imbalanced, but it does more to get my kids thinking about theme/mechanic fit than any other has, and its bits are just a joy to be around. Even better, we’ve given a copy to a cousin who lives far away, so we’re hoping to play via FaceTime one of these days.
  • The Arkham Horror LCG: after I bought the Carcosa big expansion, I was disheartened by the mechanic of secret cards, which don’t seem to work well with solo plays, so I’d planned to give the rest of the cycle a miss. Eventually, I tried the scenarios that kicked it off, and then quickly bought everything else. Still fantastic. I do find myself enjoying the early scenarios in a cycle more than the later ones, though. They’re more familiar, so it’s easier for me to feel dread. Bend reality too far, and I don’t recognize it enough to feel any particular way about it.
A few games I haven't played also seem much more promising than I expected. Spider-Man on PS4 is good? I don't know what to make of that. After a friend pulled my 9-year-old son into a few games of Magic: the Gathering, KeyForge started looking pretty nice. When you're playing decks you didn't build with cards you don't know, it'd be nice if everybody else were, too. While we're dreaming, if nobody got mana screwed, and the art were a bit more colorful and cheery, that'd be swell. I'm also noticing that I really wish I wanted to play games on a PC, because Battletech, Return of the Obra Dinn, and Terraforming Mars send the homunculi fruitlessly scurrying around my skull in search of the levers they can pull to play those games.

Great post, Kelsey

I’m with the Editor: I not only have never won FTL, but I can’t even get past the 2nd area (how many areas are there?).

Most of the time (though not always), I make it through the first gate, but I always die sometime before getting to the 2nd one.


Don’t worry about missing A Way Out. For every kind of cool moment there is, there’s ten busted or awkward ones to match. And the writing is dogshit-awful. I did have a lot of fun playing it, but it all came from trying to break the game or screwing over my partner. Easily the worst game I’ve played this year.


I know it’s not the point of this post, but I think I’ll have another blast through FTL this weekend while setting up the decathlon poll. Looks like Ive not installed it on this iPad before so I’ll be starting from scratch again.


Excellent post, Kelsey. More of this kind of thing, please.

I feel as you do about the Arkham Horror LCG, though I am not as far into the expansions as you are. I also play solo, and the earlier parts are more enjoyable for me. I wonder if it just becomes too much to track in the late stages? It distracts from the mood and enjoyment? I’m not sure. I still like it, but I don’t love it and expected to.

Root is making a lot of people happy, but it’s not really what I was hoping for from the game either. I have not tried Lovecraft Letter and had chalked it up as another Love Letter clone, but ti sounds more interesting than that–thanks for the tip. Wishlisted Call of Cthulhu because I’ll try anything Lovecraft, but waiting for a sale as well.

The game I’m still looking most forward to this year is Betrayal Legacy. Just wish it had come out before Halloween.

Fine post.

I haven’t started The Room 4: Still Stuck On That Damn Box. Reviews of the Return of the Obra Dinn and the ongoing hankering to play Into the Breach might actually get me to open my laptop.

On FTL, I feel the need to open a support group to help everyone through (credentials: I have won on Hard. Once). Damn, but that’s a good game. Probably go back once I’ve worked through this Invisible Inc craving.


I’d definitely “sign up” for that FTL support group. I’ve made it to the final battle a handful of times without winning … on easy.

I think anything I’m looking forward to was always slated for 2019 or later. Overland, Phoenix Point, and Here Be Dragons definitely make my list, along with Nowhere Prophet and The Sigma Theory, off the top of my head. I’ll keep hoping for a few mobile ports I either won’t buy on PC (like Terraforming Mars) or would be happy to buy again (Into the Breach). And who knows–Michael Brough could drop another game seemingly out of nowhere that I’ll insta-buy without knowing a thing about it.


I’m with @geigerm - made it to the final boss a few times but have yet to win… I wish FTL was on my phone, as it’d get a lot more play there.

FTL is in my category is great games that I don’t have the patience for.


Much to my surprise I finished two runs with engi A, on easy then on normal. I used the same kind of strategy on both games and found it surprisingly easy. 2x ion 2/ ion 2 + burst 2 to deal with the shields then weapon systems, and combat drone 1+2/ 3x combat drone 1 to deal reliable damage.

I do have to echo Kelseys sentiment though. These subset games do unlocking and progression so very very well that it does feel a little hollow when you don’t actually unlock anything.

I want to describe it as a “Yahtzee problem”. On the first turn, in Yahtzee, you can do no wrong. I mean, sure, you can try to do the hard stuff, but no matter what you do, you’re ticking boxes. As the game progresses and you tick more boxes, there are fewer of them available, so you need to pay attention to manipulating probability so you have the best chance of satisfying one of your few remaining goals. But there’s still so much input randomness, and at least the broad strokes of your strategy to accomplish those last few goals are sufficiently obvious, that whether you get it or not on any particular run is up to the dice more than you. When some of those goals require low-probability random inputs and those are the only goals you have left, you have to play very well at all times yet it probably won’t matter.

I don’t love that dynamic.


Root is kid-friendly in theme but the game itself is every bit as savage as the Redwall racism that inspired it. And it’s not really COIN either, although that was used as a description, which is accurate but not to the extent of even being adjacent to GMT’s series.

Into the Breach I enjoy playing just to play, and also because even when you can’t get achievements, you can improve your play, which is valuable to me because I’m just not that good. Still not really ‘got’ the play style of the Steel Judoka for instance.

Auztralia I’ve not played but the early Space-Biff! review left me hopeful: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1931298/study-squamous-look-auztralia-space-biff-preview

A Way Out is a joke. It’s enjoyable if you have a partner willing to mock it mercilessly with you, but you can’t really have an authentic, emotional experience with it beyond that.

Far Cry 5 is fun, and that’s it. By all accounts commentary was dialed back during development for fear of alienating their main audience.

Waypoint did a nice little podcast about Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraft in general. https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/wj9w39/lovecraft-horror-games-cthulhu By all accounts the game is worth it and no doubt I’ll get to it in due course.

Obra-Dinn is apparently superb.

I’m loving Sniper Elite 4 and Valkyria Chronicles 4, Obsession, Inbetween, and Dragon and Flagon.


None here either :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Resurrecting the dead horse here for Overland - just emailed with the dev, who says “Overland will be available on iOS via the new Apple Arcade service, as well as on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux, this fall!”

This one looks great and I’m psyched it’s coming to Switch and iOS. Might be the first Apple Arcade game to pique my interest.


Arkham Horror. I’ve played it a few times. It is brutal. Seems like I’m doing fine in the game then BAM, I’m not. When I’m done I’ve tried thinking about how I could have survived a scenario, but it just seems impossible. And I’m playing it on normal. Why are there harder versions?

I’ve only played the core box scenarios and a single independent one. I’ve bought all of Carcosa, but have been a little daunted to start in on them. I’m afraid I’ll spend several hours just getting destroyed.

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It can be brutal, yes. I wish it were a little less luck-based with regards to the chaos bag, for example. Are you playing solo? With how many characters?

I don’t know why there are harder versions either. No interest in that.

From what I recall, I believe Carcosa starts off pretty approachable and then scales as it goes along, eventually crushing all hopes and dreams–oh, I mean, presenting greater challenges. That’s what I mean.

Have you played Mansions of Madness?


I initially thought that the harder versions were a brilliant way to make revisiting scenarios with decks and strategies tuned to them a more interesting challenge, which both adds to replayability and allows the game to appeal to different player profiles (and offer at least some reward for buying lots of cards, which let you tune your deck more effectively). I tried it once, and it worked just that way and was fun, so I have proof-of-concept. In practice, though, I have a life. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but I have lots of other games I want to play. So I play a bunch of AHLCG for a while, then set it aside to do other stuff. By the time I come back a year later, I don’t know enough about the mechanics of any of the scenarios to tune a deck to them, so I get to experience the mechanical challenge at normal difficulty all over again.

Admittedly, the story beats are frequently quite memorable, so it’s not as fresh as playing it for the first time again, but (with the exception of the train) the mechanics don’t stick in my head as well. Which leaves me still feeling like it’s an amazingly written and designed game.

In semi-related news, I found myself with a surprising itch to break out my old Arkham Horror (the unlabeled second edition board game) stuff for some solo play, and was dismayed that they never updated the toolkit app to 64-bit. The prospect of sorting and shuffling all those cursed cards put me off it pretty fast.


I’m playing solo with two characters. I have two core boxes so I’ve been able to give multiple good cards to each character. I played one stand alone scenario with a huge range of chaos tokens. It hurts when you are 4 points over the test and draw a -6 chaos token. Once or twice I’ve just re-drawn a token when I know the result will just crush my investigators.

Hopefully in a few months I’ll have some time to crack open the box for another game. I just moved; I know the game is in a box … somewhere.

I’ve not played Mansions of Madness.


That is exactly the way I play : ) 2 investigators, 2 base sets, and redraw tokens if necessary. I have limited time to game, and I want to get through the story, not come back again and again–that would ruin my enjoyment of the game too much.

Mansions of Madness is FF as well, and also Lovecraftian. It’s a modular board that’s different with each scenario, and you have investigators exploring and battling evil. A necessary companion app helps move you through the game. It has a lot of miniatures, to my chagrin (I usually avoid games with miniatures), but it’s enjoyable and very immersive (though pricey, sadly).

Hope your move went well!


That’s pretty much my situation as well. If enough time passes, when I come back to the game, I essentially have to relearn parts of it. Which is a symptom of a) being old, and b) playing a lot of other games in between with a lot of other rules-sets. And because I play it solo, I don’t have the other players to sort of fill in the gaps as we play.