X-Files: Circle of Truth

X-Files: Circle of Truth

The tiny wallet that contains the game from Buttonshy

Remember the TV show The X-Files?

It was a great mix of sci-fi and horror and took risks in storytelling that really opened the door for what we have in sci-fi and horror TV today. It even adapted as cast came and went and whilst every season wasn’t a hit, it mostly was intriguing and a good watch…

… and to say I had a crush on Dana Scully is an understatement.

The puzzling, investigative nature of the show lends itself wonderfully to board game mechanics, as investigation and puzzles are the cornerstone mechanics of many popular games. From RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, to solo games like Rush Hour, these are the mechanics that can enthral any number of players!

This means that several games have been based on the show, and this one, X-Files: Circle of Truth is a re-skinning of a puzzle game for two players from Buttonshy called Circle the Wagons. Buttonshy are known for ‘wallet games’; cheap, small number of player games that usually have very few pieces, this game has 18 cards and two player ID cards, but contain fun, or at least interesting distractions that only take 15 to 30 minutes to play.

Our heroic duo!

X-Files: Circle of Truth sees two players choose whether they want to be Mulder or Scully, each character has a different advantage that doesn’t make much difference at the beginning of the game so the choice is has little relevance until the game starts to play, but you should still keep your advantage in your mind while you select cards.

The other 18 cards have ‘cases’ on one side and 4 images of aliens, microscopes, guns and other things the FBI would use, on a variety of backgrounds representing ‘places’, like fields, sewers etc, and the game set up sees three cases picked for the middle of the table, and the other 15 cards placed with the 4 images facing up in a circle around them (‘Circle’ of Truth… see?).

The point of the game is to have the most points and points can be achieved in several ways. The first is by scoring the most amount of a particular location, for example, you would get 4 points if you have 4 sewer cards connection, but none for any other sewers. The cards with the 4 images on them are taken by the players and placed in front of them, and can be partially laid over each other in an attempt to make larger areas of the same location. The trick with the accumulation of these cards is that it’s taken in clockwise order.

A game in play.

The play is started in one position chosen by the second player, but if the first player particularly wants a card two cards away from the starting position, the first player gets the cards in between, creating a personal ‘map’ by laying the cards as mentioned above.

The other way to get points is if one of the mission cards in the middle of the circle in achieved, which could be if you have UFO logos in a row, or getting bonus points for any 4 files attached corner to corner in a square.

The game is quite fun, and quick to play. The Buttonshy games are clever in their tiny size with big gameplay execution, but I think that sometimes the cleverness is the selling point rather than the actual gameplay. This game is fun, sure, but the fact it’s a reskinned cowboy game means that other than the iconography, it’s not very thematic as an X-Files game.

Also, considering it’s a extremely portable game, it takes up a lot of room on a table, so it’s not very suitable as a game one might take to the pub. There are certainly games that are more fun that take up less room that are more thematic to their theme. Love Letter is the perfect example of a small game that alters its gameplay slightly to adhere to the theme of its reskinning, like the Thanos or Star Wars versions.

To summarise, I do like the game, but it’s theme is tacked on and for a ‘little’ game, it takes up a lot of space.

Score: ***

Psycho Killer Card Game – The Expansions

Psycho Killer Card Game – The Expansions

The main game of Psycho Killer and it’s expansions

Several weeks ago, I did a review for a fun card game called “Psycho Killer’ from Escape Tabletop Games. The kind people from VR Distribution in Australia saw this review and kindly offered me a copy of each of the expansions to review.

If you wish to read that review, you can find it here: Psycho Killer Card Game – go back and read that first before embarking in this review.

The three expansions

In that original review, I do criticise the game for being packed in a far-too-big box for how small the game is, and when I saw how small these expansions are I assumed they would fit in the box with the original cards, which they do, but only if you remove the inserts that hold the original cards in place, or you can take these cards out and throw them in the box which would be a shame, because the audio cassette/ Walkman boxes are pretty cool.

Just on that: the boxes for these expansions ARE cool, but make no sense thematically. The original game, set around slasher films of the 80s come in a video tape, which is bang on for theme, but these seem to be more about the box art theme of the original rather than the game theme. Sure they all look cool together, but I just don’t get it.

The three expansions are called Gratuitous Violence, Z and Bloody Mary.

Psycho Killer: Gratuitous Violence

Gratuitous Violence is our first expansion, and it adds a much more combative experience. There are 15 cards in this little tiny box, all marked with a ‘V’ so if you want to play the game WITHOUT these cards, they are easily removed.

First, it adds a Psycho Creature to the pile, if you draw this guy, you don’t just drop all your weapons, you also take one from each other player… yikes! Save Yourself allows you to force another player to draw your last card instead of you. Creepy Local let’s you try to steal a particular card from another players hand. I Know What You’ll Do Next Summer let’s you look at rearrange the top three cards so you can pick who gets what for the next three hands, and finally, three ranged weapons (Flame Thrower, Crossbow and Hunting Rifle (not pictured)) which have the unique ability of the player holding them being able to put them on another players weapon pile to increase THEIR score.

An example of the cards from Gratuitous Violence

As you can see, these cards add a really nasty, attack-other-players element to the game, and the word “BAST-AAAAAAAAARD” will be exclaimed often. Also, the addition of the extra cards means that the player count can be increased to 7, so you can make even more people angry!

Score: ****

Psycho Killer: Z

Z is the next expansion, and adds a zombie apocalypse to the threat of a Psycho Killer. Again, this card adds enough cards to the deck so you can increase the player count to 7, but whereas Gratuitous Violence was all about attaching other players, this is all about you as an individual.

This expansion is all about getting infected by a zombie virus, and then trying to get rid of it to another player. The weapon cards in this expansion are all zombie attacks (Bite, Scratch and Swarm) but they don’t get played when a Psycho Killer attacks, but instead they get played when you draw an Infected card, and you will keep playing those cards as long as you are infected.

Some of the cards from Z

You can get rid of the card though, with either a The Cure card, in which you shuffle it back into the deck (keeping your wounds), a Supply Run card, were the player takes one card from every players hand (maybe they’ll take that infected card) and the Patient Zero Psycho Killer card, where you distribute your cards to the other players. There is also a Shallow Grave card, which can be swapped with the top card on the discard pile; got an Infected card? Swap it with a played The Cure, if you are lucky!

This expansion is hilariously self-destructive, but the zombie injury cards are affected by the Band Aids and Stitches cards from the main game, also cards like Let’s Split, Drop Your Keys and Disarm can also be a way to rid yourself of the Infected card.

Score: ****

The box for Psycho Killer: Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary is the final expansion, and it turns Psycho Killer into a drinking game! The first thing one must do to play this game as a drinking game, is to remove all the Psycho Killers and Weapons cards from the base game, and replace them with the Bloody Mary cards, and the Drink cards. The scoring is still the same, except when someone gets a Bloody Mary card, everyone has to take as many sips of their drink as the points on the card say. For example, if you got a Bloody Mary (+3 points) and placed a Beer card with it (+1), you would take 4 sips of your drink.

This game also adds ‘Character Cards’ to the mix as well. While you have a character card in your hand, you must take on the persona of that card. For example, if you have The Bartender in your hand, it’s your job to keeps everyone’s drinks filled, The Final Girl stops you from taking a drink, and The Jock allows you to pick a member of your frat, and they have to drink whenever you drink. These character cards make for an interesting experiment in the game, and even cards like Play Dead allows you to keep a character card should the opportunity come up where a character is to be removed, which is whenever a Bloody Mary is played.

A sample of cards from Bloody Mary

There’s also other drink-oriented cards like Pass Out Under the Bed, where instead of drawing a card to end your turn, you take a drink, and Splatter, where everyone must keep drinking their drink until they finish theirs, or you finish yours!

I’d like to point out at this point of the review, that the To Watch Pile encourages everyone to drink responsibly, look out for your buddies and please, don’t drink and drive.

This box also has a bunch of blank cards do you can create your own Psycho Killers: maybe your deck needs a Cropsy (drink a flaming sambuca), or a Madman Mars (you have to spend 5 minutes awkwardly in a spa with another person while terrible music plays), or even a Norman Bates (player wears a wig and impersonates their mother until the next Psycho Killer is drawn).

I have to make the points on this one a bit lower than the others for two reasons. One, the re-jiggery-pokery of the deck on setup is never a fun way to start a game, though the makers of the game have labelled all the cards with a little Bloody Mary so they are easily removed. The other issue is that it narrows the game to drinkers only, so under-18s are immediately left out as are non-drinkers. I think games are better when they appeal to a wider audience, and this narrows it. Don’t get me wrong, the actual mechanics of the drinking in this expansion are fun, but a non-drinker in your board game club isn’t going to get anything out of it. Also, it’s a shame the character cards weren’t in other expansions with non-alcohol related things for them to do, like maybe a ‘Lovers’ card who divide damage equally or something like that.

Score: **

These expansions all have a recommended retail of about $19.95, and I think the Gratuitous Violence and Z boxes are certainly worth it, even though the contents of the box don’t seem to be much. They do add fun extra elements of gameplay with a small amount of components. The Bloody Mary expansion I probably wouldn’t worry too much about, but I do like that you can make your own Psycho Killers! People whose board game nights turn into orgies of liquor might enjoy it.

I’d just like to offer a thank you to the people at VR Distribution for allowing me an opportunity to review their product.