GAME STORIES (PART 3)

In this continuing series, I am detailing and reviewing the various stories presented in many of the board games on the market. Turns out, most aren’t particularly good, but there are a few exceptions…

FORBIDDEN DESERT

A group of nameless scientists, explorers, and adventurers seek out an unidentified desert in search of an ancient buried city boasting advanced technology. A sudden and almost sentient storm brings down the helicopter, stranding the crew in an inhospitable landscape. The city turns into a reality as the dust is cleared to uncover the pristine ruins underneath, but with water supplies running low and no rescue to arrive before the lot die from dehydration, survival takes precedence. Within the ruins, the heroes find technological relics and plans for an advanced anti-gravity vehicle. Alas, said vehicle lacks critical parts, forcing characters to explore the city before the storm buries them and the ruins once and for all.

The only thing Forbidden Desert lacks is some Cthulhu-like monster that hunts survivors as they gather the required parts in hopes of escaping the desert. Of all the Forbidden games (including Forbidden Sky and Forbidden Island) Forbidden Desert is considered the best, the hardest, and with the best story. There’s not much there, but they made a movie out of Flight of the Phoenix, so I could think of worst ideas.

Story Quality: 4/10

GEN7

I won’t be able to properly review this one yet as I am still playing it, but Gen7 is another Plaid Hat Games story-based title though one not following the formula of other entries like Stuffed Fables, Mice & Mystics and Comanauts. Gen7 is a Crossroads game like another title, Dead of Winter (which I am not including in this list). In Gen7, players are technically represented by a department aboard a spacecraft, but I am still including the game here because you are playing as…well…you. Your personality reflects your decisions. You have friends on board, both PC and NPC. You possess unique skills and motivations based purely on your personal responsibilities.

In the future, a colony ship has left an exhausted Earth for a distant planet in the Epsilon Eridani system. Colony ships are fast, but as Douglas Adams once said, the universe is really big, and the journey is expected to take hundreds of years. Those that leave Earth will never live long enough to see the ship arrive while those born to see their new home will possess no memories of where they came from. Smack in the middle are those fated to be born with no hopes of seeing the mission through. They will live and die on a ship without ever seeing a real planet. In total thirteen generations will live upon the vessel, each generation a steward of the hopes and ideals of the human species.

As you might have figured, the first six generations went off without a hitch, but now with generation seven, everything is hitting the fan. A terrible mystery emerges that will threaten the entire mission. The commanders of Gen7 are about to discover that everything is not as it seems, and the fate of the human species will hang on the choices they make.

Oh yeah, this is a good one…at least so far. Alas, my players are already starting to figure out some of the early twists that I hope not to be true. Some gamers than have finished the core box’s story have claimed the resolution to be disappointing.  Here’s hoping that’s not true.

Story Quality: 8/10

GLOOMHAVEN

Years later, even Gloomhaven’s most ardent fans admit that after 60+ campaign-specific missions, the game doesn’t have much story to speak of. Most scenarios require the killing of monsters to advance a simplistic narrative. Sure, there are Road Events and City Events, but these are bumps in a journey, nothing more than passing tales characters mention and readers/watchers never see. The actual battle is fun, but that’s all it is…a battle. There is no character development, no story arc. It’s a classic dungeon crawler, and one thing Dungeon Masters discover when they try to retell their campaigns as stories is that dungeon-delving makes lousy fiction.

It’s repetitious, dull, and contributes nothing to a larger narrative. While players are struck with occasional missions that will deviate the story, all that it really does is dictate the next mission to be played, which is often just a slight variation on encountered monsters on the same map. Plus, the story, if it can be called that, only occurs outside of combat, which is itself the majority of the game. This means that of the time spent playing Gloomhaven, only about 5% of that is spent making decisions and advancing the thin plot that does exist. Gloomhaven is a perfect example of what not to parade as an example of good storytelling on board games

Story Quality: 3/10