Thursday, October 2, 2014

Meet Me at the Table - Giant

*Disclaimer: This is an unpaid review of a Kickstarter Project. This review is of a prototype copy of the game. Please be aware that any components or gameplay may be subject to change in a final copy.*


This past month at GenCon, one of the highlights of my and my husband’s time there was encountering game designer Mark Hanny and playing a total of five of his games over the course of that insane weekend. His games are full of interesting ideas and his mind as a designer seems to be in overdrive. His games often combine themes and game styles that would be considered strange at the surface, but in practice proved to be incredibly engaging. My husband’s favorite game of the entire convention, stacked up against the major releases from the likes of Asmodee, Iello, AEG, and Fantasy Flight was one of Mr. Hanny’s games.

We got to be such regulars at his demo table that when he told us about his game he was testing for an upcoming Kickstarter, I offered to review it for IGG.

Now, with the project officially launched on Kickstarter, I can tell you all about Giant, an innovative and tactile game that entertained us more and more with each progressive play and even sparked delight from our 4 year-old daughter.

Title: Giant

Giant Game Picture

Geeky Specs

Designer: Mark Hanny       Published by: Joe Magic Games
Year Published: Currently on Kickstarter!          Rough Game Time: 60-90 mins
Players: 3-5                     Suggested Ages: 12+ (with an adult’s help under 12)
Type: Card/Token Drafting, Light Tableau Building

What’s the Story, Morning Glory?

The Giants of the North, long absent in the civilized kingdoms, have returned! They do not come in peace. And thus the kingdoms rally their armies and hope beyond hope they can end the Giant threat before a trail of devastation is left in their wake.

Giant the GameWhat’s in the Box?

  • 6 Giant Stand-ups
  • 6 Giant holders
  • 32 Troop Cards
  • 60 Victory Tokens
  • 75 Combat Tokens (15 of each color: red, blue, green, yellow, orange)
  • 7 Dice
  • 5 Flag Cards
  • 5 Card Holders
  • 1 Draw Bag
  • Needed (not in t he box): 1 cup to shake tokens

How To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question

    Giant Setup
  1. Prepare the Giant Standees and set them up in the middle of the table.
  2. Each player selects a colored flag card. The Combat Tokens for the colors being played are then added to the Draw Bag
  3. Shuffle the Troop Deck and deal each player 6 cards from it
  4. Each player selects one Troop Card from their hand, keeps it, and passes the rest of the hand to the player on the right. Continue this until all Troop Cards have been drafted. These will be the potential armies each player has available to them.
  5. Shake the Token Bag well, draw 3 tokens for each player, and place those tokens in the cup. The starting player then shakes the cup and either tosses the tokens out onto the table with flair or slams the cup down dramatically (whatever makes you happy). Then, starting with the first player, each player drafts one token from the newly created token pool and you are now ready to begin play. (See token types below.)
  6. On your turn you have three actions you may take.
  7. First, for each numbered token of your color in the token pool you may draft any token other than a numbered token of another player’s color from the pool. You are always allowed to draft one token (even if you have no tokens of your color showing) and can never draft more than 3.
  8. If you have NO tokens you can legally draft, a re-roll occurs. Add 2 tokens per player from the bag to the cup, shake, and add to the token pool.
  9. Second, you may EITHER play a Troop Card to the field, paying any gold cost it has OR draw one random token from the Token Bag. Spent gold is returned to the Token Bag.
  10. Third, you may EITHER initiate an attack on a Giant of your choice, paying the necessary activation costs of any Troop Card you wish to bring to battle, OR draw one random token from the Token Bag. Spent Activation and Bonus Tokens are returned to the Token Bag.
  11. When attacking, select the Giant you wish to attack as well as the specific Body Part Token on the Giant you are targeting your attack on. Add up the Attack Ratings on all your activated Troop Cards, as well as any Bonus Tokens spent, and if the number is greater than or equal to the white number on that Body Part Token, your attack is successful. Pop the token out of the Giant and claim it as your prize! This method of combat is purely deterministic, so you should never fail an initiated attack (unless of course you did your math wrong!)
  12. When a Giant has its fourth and final Body Part taken out, he is defeated and it’s time for scoring. Any player who claimed a token from that Giant makes a scoring roll for each of those tokens. Roll a number of dice equal to the blue number on that token, take note of the target roll as shown by the picture of the die on that token, and for each success you earn one Victory Point Token.
  13. When a Giant dies, there is an automatic re-roll to add tokens to the token pool.

The End

The game ends immediately when all six Giants have been brought down in glorious victory and the last Giant’s points have been claimed! Whoever has the most Victory Points at the end of the game is the winner! Ties are broken by the commander of the largest army. If there is still a tie, the player with the most gold buys bragging rights.

Rules Weren’t Meant to Be Broken (Or Were They?)

There are 5 types of tokens in the game:
Gold (Used to put your Troop Cards onto the field of play).
Military Activation (Used to pay activation costs on Military Troop units).
Magic Activation (Used to pay activation costs on Magic Troop units).
Attack Bonuses (Used to give straightforward bonuses to your overall attack on any Giant).
Numbered Color Tokens (These are the reverse side of the other tokens and, while in the token pool, they determine the number of tokens a player can draft on their turn as well as your fate when it comes time for Giants to SMASH puny humans.)

Some Troop Cards have special abilities that take effect when they the unit’s activation cost is paid for an attack.

Watch out for the Re-Roll! The giants have a chance to attack you back! Whenever there is a re-roll (either after a Giant dies or when a player cannot draft a token) it is time for Giants to SMASH. After the re-roll, if the sum of any color’s numbered tokens is 7 or greater that player loses one of their Troop Cards. Ouch!

Some Giants

Best Played Under These Conditions

Giant works well with any of its player count. This is a game that you can use the play with three or more aspect. You do, though, need at least 3 players to play.

The game is lighter in weight with many random elements, but it offers a fair bit of strategy in managing your resources to efficiently get the best value Giant tokens and maximize your points so I think it appeals to a wide audience. Whether you’re a novice or a veteran gamer, it has a little something for everyone.

Though the recommended age is 12+, I think younger kids will have great fun with it as well making it a nice family game. Our daughter, who is 4-years-old, loved the giants and had fun poking out the pieces. We had to do a great deal of guiding with her, but it was still fun for everyone.

Spice Up Your Game

This game has so many fun ways to spice up your gaming night. There are two bents you could take. . . You could get the giant or the food could be giant food. Let’s start with you being the giant.

You’ve chosen to make yourself feel like a giant! Great! I highly recommend the awesome cookbook called Tiny Food Party. There are some seriously adorable recipes in the book to really help make you feel like a giant in your own right. If you’re not into baking, there are tons of mini-items to purchase at your local stores, like mini-├ęclairs, mini-quiches, mini-candies. Get some baby carrots and use a tiny bowl to put a little dip in. Even mini-rice cakes! Lay out the spread and enjoy!

Chocolate Eclairs


Let’s not forget the drinks! Pour your drinks into tiny glasses. Use disposable and cheap shot glasses or just use shot glasses. Maybe you have mini-little-kid glasses. Whatever floats your boat. Then use appetizer utensils or tiny little forks to eat with. Use things that continue to give you that giant feeling! Even use the smaller plates, verses the larger dining plates.

Giant Cupcake


So eating tiny isn’t your thing? Well, then think big! I always love this Giant Cupcake Cake dessert. I love cupcakes, so a Giant Cupcake. These are always a fun treat and guests should always love cake. If they don’t, though, you can make a Giant Hershey Kiss Rice Krispies Treat. Use a funnel to create the impression of the Hershey kiss and then wrap it in foil. Instant giant deliciousness! Quite honestly, anything you can make larger than life, will probably be a hit!



If you’re feeling creative enough, can talk in Giant Voices or stomp around like giants. I know I enjoyed voicing the giants in the game whenever they attacked back. It added to the fun of the game. For even more ambiance, create Giant Tissue Flowers to place around the table or on the backs of the chairs. These are adorable for parties, as well as games.

giant-luau-tissue-flowers

Finale

Having played several games from Mark Hanny, we were accustomed to very meaty, thinky games from him. So we were surprised (pleasantly so) to find out just how fast-paced, light, and easy to pick up Giant was. It’s just smooth-flowing, easy-going fun. As mentioned above, it is also delightfully tactile with the bag shaking, token drawing, cup slamming, and Giant poking!

There are some who might be turned off by the randomness of a number of elements in the game, but if the token pool isn’t cooperating with you, it is somewhat mitigated by your ability to draw more tokens instead of taking actions on your turn. And while the points gained per Giant Token is random, it is very well balanced randomness in terms of effort/reward and with the deterministic combat you at least know for sure an attack won’t ever be wasted. We played eight games in preparation for this review and we were very pleased with just how tight each game wound up being at the end.

There are a lot of really interesting effects on the Troop Cards and every game will play out differently depending on what types of armies hit the battlefield. This interesting dynamic combined with fun and simple mechanics is proof of a very neat concept.

As for the production quality of the game, I should make it clear that Mr. Hanny self-publishes his games. But while you’re not going to see the lavish production values you would find from a major company like Asmodee, Mr. Hanny has been making games for a very long time and has the equipment and materials to produce very nice looking games for a one-man operation. The art on the Giant standees varies in style from comically cartoonish to grimly intimidating. They provide excellent table presence that will make passersby stop and watch as chaos ensues. And Mr. Hanny’s pride and joy are his unique cards. They are treated with a special laminate that protects them better than any sleeve, provides a nice sturdy feel, and yet still shuffle very well. Purists may be turned off by the slick feel and glossy sheen, but I find it a nice change of pace. Plus, we hate sleeves in this house!

All in all, you’re probably not going to find anything out there that gives quite the same feel as Giant and for a lightweight and lighthearted game good for families or gaming groups, Giant is a welcome addition to our collection.

Pledge Levels:

The Giant Kickstarter is offering discounts of Mr. Hanny’s previous successful Kickstarter projects alongside your Giant reward at various pledge levels. That’s five games Mr. Hanny has already delivered on (another point in his favor) that might pique your interest and sweeten the pot and seal the deal for you. While we have not played two of those available (Famous Zombies and Bellwether), I can provide a little feedback on the other three.

Argosy: On the surface, Argosy looked like any other game of interstellar exploration, colonization, and conquest. It revealed itself, however, to be a brain-burning abstract game in a 4x space vessel. Abstract games are not my or my husband’s genre of choice, but we were still fascinated by this game where you manipulate three types of research tokens into triangular patterns to gain knowledge to open up various powers to progress your quest to colonize your way to the center of the galaxy. It’ll make smoke pour out of your ears, but it is an elegant design.

Super Powers: This one was conceptually so out there that we were telling people about it for days. A Euro Superhero game? Insanity! Yet, extremely interesting. Super Powers is fundamentally a worker placement game where the placement of your pieces earns your hero powers, opportunities to fight villains, or other unique actions. This was the first game of Mr. Hanny’s I played and I immediately knew how outside the box his ideas were, but this was both clever and strangely charming.

UFO Hunter: This is the beefiest, most epic of the games discussed here. UFO Hunter is a globetrotting game where players seek out proof of extraterrestrial life. It features bidding, trading, and exploration as players travel around a map of the world, starting rumors, investigating rumors, gaining contacts and alien-finding equipment, all in the hopes of being the one to collect the most evidence that there is life out there in the stars and it has come to visit us on Earth. There is a ton going on in this game, but it is has a genuine cool factor and is another game that provides excellent table presence with its dual game boards and lots of cards and tokens again.

So there you have it. If you like what you’ve read and seen here, head on over to Mark’s Kickstarter page and consider giving him your support. This is a very short run project for a limited edition run of Giant so get it while you can, but keep an eye out for his next, longer running Kickstarter for his game Demise of Dr. Frankenstein (my husband’s favorite) coming out right on the heels of this one.

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