Thursday, September 30, 2010

Board Game Review - Those Pesky Humans

I've been giving my life a lot of thought recently, and I think I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up - an ogre. And not metaphorically, in the sense that people think of crotchety old bastards who punch people in the face and urinate in their lunch boxes as ogres. I mean I want to be an actual ogre, a big, tough bruiser, and I want to run a dungeon.

Sure, it sounds like a ton of work, running a dungeon, and my co-workers are likely just as irritable as I am. But on the other hand, look at the perks - endless hordes of minions jumping at the chance to do my bidding (I want breakfast in bed every single day), nubile witches and dark elf enchantresses who want me to impregnate them so they can breed monstrous children (if there's a downside here, it's that those children may grow up and try to kill me), and the paycheck is enormous (just ask anyone who ever played D&D - ogre lairs are loaded up with treasure). I don't care if the retirement plan sucks, though I am a little disappointed that my office won't have a window.

It would all be fantastic, but for one little wrinkle - Those Pesky Humans. For some reason, every so often, groups of cash-hungry home invaders crash through the front door and make off with anything that isn't nailed down, and they bring pry bars for anything that IS nailed down. The only way to stop them is to kill them, and even then, more will follow. Sooner or later, some group of human thugs is going to break into my kick-ass pad and get away with my stuff. It makes me mad thinking about it. No wonder ogres are always so touchy - they have to put with a constant parade of armed burglars wading through their homes like they belonged there.

So maybe the life of the ogre overlord isn't all champagne baths and naughty chicks in chainmail bikinis. It would be great if I could try it before I decide on a career change - and that's where Minion Games comes in. They've created a game called Those Pesky Humans (wild coincidence, if you ask me) where you get to experience just how tough it is being the master of a dungeon full of evil minions. Of course, the other player is going to be living out the joys of armed robbery, playing as the humans, but that's a job for someone else. I want to be the ogre.

The humans will have to invade your dungeon, find three enormous gems, and then get out again. Not all of them have to live - and honestly, they'll be lucky if any of them survive - but if just one human gets out the door carrying your belongings, they win, and you're a chump. You'll need to stack the deck a little to make sure you get them all.

For starters, you build the dungeon yourself from ten randomized rooms. Put Fido the Killer Lizard Puppy at the front door, to take a bite out of those rascally humans, and hide the gems as far away as you can. Stick one in the back of the meat locker, and you'll really make those humans work for it. Stock your place with killer treasures for your minions to wield, and put traps all over the place. Just remember where they are. No sense killing off all your goblin cohorts just because you didn't tell them to keep their greasy mitts out of the pantry.

Speaking of cohorts, you'll have a ton. You move slower than molasses in a blizzard, so you'll need some helpers who can shag it a little. Kobolds, orcs, imps and a whole lot of other nasty goobers are just waiting around for the chance to kill something for you, like a cat who leaves dead squirrels at the door. You'll be calling up these minions like they were free - which is good, because they are. If you're holding the card for the troll on your turn, just put him on the table and let him do his thing.

Of course, the humans come in remarkably well-prepared. The priestess can keep the others alive long after you should have been chopping them up for soup. The rogue will walk right past all the trapped doors you put all over your dungeon, and the paladin can chop up your employees like raw veggies in a soup kitchen. As if that wasn't bad enough, the wizard delights in lighting up your little helpers like holiday fireworks. Happily for you, the human player has to pick just three, so you won't have to deal with all of them at once.

To play out all the ensuing madcap violence, you'll roll a heck of a lot of dice. Combat is simple - just add your roll to your attack, and then compare it to the other guy's roll plus his defense. If you're higher, he starts bleeding from the face. It's fast and easy - which is nice, considering how often you're going to be hitting each other. Minions will come and go so fast, you won't even remember their names (not that you would be likely to remember their names anyway - you just need someone to fetch your slippers and bring the paper. Any dopey kobold will do).

Both players have decks of cards that they'll use to twist fate their way. Healing spells, speed potions, killer blows and last-minute dodges can keep the humans alive a long time after Fido the Scary Dog should have been chewing them up for kibble. And the pure rage of the ogre, along with the not-infrequent ability to kill the lights and make the humans stumble around, is great for keeping the interlopers from getting too comfortable in your underground home.

If the humans play well, they'll sidestep a lot of your monsters and rush around the dungeon grabbing whatever they can steal. Eventually, they're very likely going to get their mitts on your priceless gems, and then they'll be running for the door. At that point, you'll have to pull out all the stops and send your monsters running willy-nilly after the escaping thieves. It can come right down to the wire, and it might take some serious maneuvering to get that lone runner out the door before your spider queen poisons his liver and glues him to the floor. And every so often, those rotten bastards actually get away!

If Those Pesky Humans is any indicator, being an ogre overlord would be a blast. The game is very fun - my favorite so far from Minion Games - and the art is a hilarious blast. A few minor issues hurt it, though. There aren't enough stands for all your monsters, meaning that you're going to end up having to swap out bases as you play, and this is a pain in the ass. Seriously, are those little plastic stands used as currency in Canada? Would it be so hard to put in enough to fit all the guys? Incursion had the same flaw, too, and it's ridiculously irritating.

I've mentioned that Minion Games got hosed by their Chinese printer, and you can see that in the crappy cards. It's a shame, but what are you gonna do? The game is fun. Sleeve your cards. It's worth it.

I still haven't decided if I want to go back to school for a degree in dungeon management, but I can definitely say that I'll play Those Pesky Humans again. It moves fast, with a nice balance of tactical maneuvering and balls-out dice fest. The theme is fun, the art is a hoot, and the game is ridiculously playable. It might not work for everyone, but it sure as hell works for me.

Now if I could just get my kids to carry spears and bring in dark sorceresses to tend to my every need, I would be in business.


2-4 players

Great art
Fun theme
Fast and easy, but with room for smart plays
Randomized dungeon setup and varying human parties makes for good replay

Not enough plastic stands
Unfortunately crappy cardstock
Bunches and bunches of luck (not a con for me, but I thought I would warn you)

Minion Games has Those Pesky Humans, and a few other good games, too. In fact, since they know their cards fall apart, if you buy Nile (a very fun game), they include sleeves. You should take them up on that.

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