Paleo Review - A Queen of the Stone Age

2021-03-10T19:37:40Z

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I said a while ago that I thought many “big” games were being biased towards optimising the first play experience rather than depth on repeated plays, and this seems like an example; SVWAG reached the “low replay value” conclusion from the opposite direction (to over-summarise their response, no meaningful choices, mostly a memory game). If that’s what you want, fair enough; to me a board game shouldn’t be a thing that’s played out after eight games. (Yeah, not a fan of legacy either.)

I was surprised Quinns didn’t mention the “lose all your lives, restart from the beginning” of 1980s video games, but maybe he’s too young for that to have been a thing.

I do feel that the over-whiteness is the sort of thing you’d expect from a small operation, not the largest firm in the business; a big company should be able to afford one person to do what a standard publishing operation apparently can’t, take five minutes to look over all the art roughs and ask “is there a reason everyone’s white?”

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I’m pretty ok with legacy games. I think they provide an impetus to actually play a game a bunch of times in a row and can elevate the experience. My favourite being Betrayal Legacy. It really did something good with regards the wonkiness of the core. The games that were over before they began at least built up the story.

However I think a non legacy game that has a single play through in it which relies on what’s on a card surprise a bit disappointing. I’ve become a convert to narrative games recently having for years disliked all I played in the genre. This review of Paleo brings me right back in to what I want dislike about so many of them. Treating the player as simply the hands on a games own internal generation engine bores me senseless. If I want to be surprised and delighted in a narrative i have no input in to why don’t I read a book or watch a film? It’s more likely to be a better crafted and engaging narrative experience. Few board games have good enough writing or even the space for it to be worthwhile. For a narrative board game i don’t necessarily need foresight in my choices but even if my blind guesses give the game a shape than that is sometimes enough for me.

This does however lead me to an interesting comparison. Paleo gets some glowing praise but is it fundamentally a very similar core to the game as Arkham Horror? Could Arkham have got a better review if it was much shorter and released now?

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Good review because it makes it very clear this game is absolutely not for me!

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Interesting follow-up from the SUSD twitter account:

"We’ve got a happy ending to this review! The publishers of Paleo have apologised and will be improving the depiction of race in future Paleo products:

BoardGameGeek "

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Interesting, looks as if the whiteness was introduced by someone in the publishing/art pipeline rather than the designer…

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After seeing several favorable reviews and getting a recommendation at FLGS, I am glad to have seen this one and decided it is not for me either. I want more coop games but not this one.

re: over-whiteness.

This is from a German designer and originally published bei Hans im Glück. Sadly, I am not surprised this still happens. -.- I am glad though that they (I wonder ZMan or Hans im Glück or both?) are willing to learn and do better.

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I don’t know if Paleo is a game I’m interested in or not, but

I see this asked a lot with both boardgames and videogames. I read books and watch films, too. Probably more so than I play games, at the moment. But I enjoy a narrative in anything I’m doing, and the boardgames and videogames are telling different stories than books and films, and are a different way of experiencing stories that, IMO, more than compensates for any weaknesses in the actual story. There’s more sense of participation, more immersion, the joys of any mechanical cleverness or simply the feedback of popping heads or whatever, depending on the game. And I definitely find that more compelling than really excellent mechanics in an otherwise thematically barren context. Go may be a classic, but without that wrapper I just can’t bring myself to care.

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In general, RPGs satisfy my interactive story cravings better than boardgames do. An Ameritrash game like Firefly or A Touch of Evil will throw off microstories just by combining its contents (why did she work with him and why did it then come out really well?). But I do like a sense of progression, of turn N being different from turn 1.

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Sure. But also RPGs aren’t boardgames, and don’t scratch the boardgame itch for me. (And TBH, I don’t want to play RPGs as much as boardgames - they’re so much more work.)

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I think experiential board games have a place, but if there’s a shortish campaign with not much replayability, that instantly makes me think “shall we just play it on TTS then?”.

Paleo sounds like a great time anyway. I’d like to try it out, but personally, I wouldn’t pay £50 for what it is. It looks like more of a £25-30 ‘play through and sell on for a small loss’ game. It isn’t much cheaper than the king’s dilemma, which appears far more substantial.

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I call this the “Rory’s Story Cubes Effect”. Thematic games can spark emergent narrative, but the player(s) have to be receptive to it and be willing to put in the work themselves.

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I’m firmly in the camp of “Paleo isn’t my bag”. However, after watching the SUSD review, I really would like to see the card system used in Paleo developed into something more my style/speed.

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I feel your quoting of me makes it look like I’ve applied that statement to all narrative games which isn’t the case. I maybe wrong but also your reply seems to back that up. That complaint is very specifically about some styles of narrative game. I mention liking Betrayal Legacy as a game for the narrative. I really love Too Many Bones, have played through Gloomhaven noting and telling stories about my characters for example. I very specifically dislike and would rather watch a film/read a book than play a narrative game that the player is just effectively a cog in the games internal logic engine largely just there to draw cards. Even if I have to make guesses that will cause a fork I’ll be able to get in to a narrative game.

Board games ability to engage you in a story, and crucially, giving you a space to make decisions that are outside of your own experience are the part of the magic that you can’t get from reading a novel for example.

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I much prefer boardgames with emergent narrative to RPGs. I’m not a fan of the making stuff up part of RPGs, it feels too much like ‘enforced fun’ and I don’t enjoy making up my own story - it all feels a bit laboured I suppose. Getting just enough information to read a story in the games mechanics is much more fun/interesting for me.

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Nothing here excites me at all. THat’s mission success for the review, i guess.

I would have loved Eldritch Horror more if it has 1 mission (that is a bit longer) than 3 detached missions that goes on for hours and hours.

They also need to sort out the whole “roll some dice and read paragraphs of text” that FFG seems to love.

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…and there needs to be more to do on your actions. Two actions per turn, and one of those will probably be spent moving (or buying a ticket to move). Limiting autonomy for tension is great when done well, but these days games should be more inventive in how they do so. ESPECIALLY when there is so much failure that you need to spend your next turn trying to do what you failed this turn. I never felt like I had much to do in EH.

The card game solved every issue I had with AH/EH. Shame it’s such a high barrier to entry. In general, action cards are a great way of imposing limitations and fragility whilst still allowing players to feel powerful once in a while. Spirit Island, Gloomhaven etc etc.

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I have owned Eldritch Horror longer than almost any other game in my collection. I really want to like it. I’ve played it once, solo, to learn the game.

A story it is not. It’s more like someone took a hundred discrete stories set in the Cthulhu mythos setting, jumbled them all up chapter-by-chapter, added shotguns-capable-of-killing-elder-gods and then surrounded the reader with busy work to fiddle with while reading the story.

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Sorry, usually when I see people making a statement like that it’s dismissing narrative in games entirely, so I interpreted it that way. My mistake. :slight_smile:

I’m not really clear on what games would qualify as the thing you’re describing, though. Paleo didn’t look like that to me from the review, for example - I haven’t played it, so I can’t be sure, obviously.

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Sure. I should perhaps have expanded on that bit further: I already play quite a lot of RPGs, and because I’m doing that anyway I’m happy to be relatively undemanding of narrative in boardgames too.

A lot of RPG play seems to come down to complex mechanics plus emergent narrative – the system tells you which fights you can win by staying in and swinging vs doing something clever, but you decide what you shout as you retreat. (I’m not a big fan of dungeon-based RPGs; I’m more interested in plots that are about people.)

There’s a big space of RPGs. (Which you may know; I have no idea of your gaming background, so I apologise if I’m talking down to you.) Something like Fiasco or the Hillfolk system is constantly calling on every player to fill in details: “OK you did well in that scene, now narrate how that went”, and I find they’re very hard work to play (especially if one’s playing after work and people are tired). A more conventional game may well need players to make plans but doesn’t necessarily require the same sort of real-time inventiveness.

To be fair one can get this kind of feeling with Firefly too, but because the story generators are mostly people it doesn’t feel like a wrench to say “what if he had hired on with her instead of with that guy”.

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