This week’s Kickstarter Game of the Week is Crows by Junk Spirit Games – a re-release of the original by Tyler Sigman.
For those of you unfamiliar with Tyler Sigman, he’s the mastermind behind the Darkest Dungeon video game (available on Steam). I fell in love with Darkest Dungeon for its cynical take on dungeon crawler video games (the core of the game revolves around its “affliction” system – your heroes not wanting to risk their lives by going deeper and deeper into the dungeon, and you having to poke and prod them onward). Darkest Dungeon featured gorgeous, stylized hand-drawn artwork, and it fits the game extemely well; it’s one part gothic grit, one part graphic novel, and one part cheeky cuteness.
The spirit of Crows is much the same as Darkest Dungeon – the same darkly humorous art style and world, while being just a damn good game. One aspect of Crows that works especially well for me–a hardcore video gamer and tabletop gamer–is that it’s ridiculously simple. When it comes to getting people into the tabletop hobby, a low barrier of entry is key. There’s no need for complex mechanics and tons of fiddly bits just for flash and panache – save all that for video games. Crows delivers all the grit and fun of a darkly gothic world, while managing to be simple enough for gamers new to the hobby to sit down and learn to play in just a few minutes.
The core of the gameplay centers on single-tile placement. Each turn, players lay down a tile, and then place their totem – a little crow-lure that makes use of the game’s geometry to score points at the end of each round (more on that in a sec.). Players can also play a spell card (if they have one) from their hand. These handy cards can do fun things to sway the game in their favor, and are a nice addition to the game without bogging it down too much with added mechanics.
Once all players have taken their turn, the crows (represented by awesome crow meeples, of course!) flock to the nearest totem. There are a few things that can alter the crows’ course, such as special tiles and the aforementioned spells; but all in all, that’s the jist of the game. Place tiles in the most tactically advantageous way. Place your totem to get the most crows. Repeat. It’s fiendishly simple, but has all the strategy of similar single-tile placement games like Carcassone and Lanterns, in that there’s a lot riding on that single tile. It’s a simple choice, but not an easy one.
As I mentioned, the artwork (created by the talented Justin Hillgrove) for Crows is stunning. While this game could easily tip towards being purely abstract due to its simple geometrically-based place-and-gather gameplay, Crows is remarkably thematic. The warring mages of Tessandor are as cute as they are gothic, and the titular crows are instantly recognizable; the game wouldn’t feel the same if it were just an abstract “collect the flattened marbles on a wooden board” affair. If you’re as geeked by the artwork as I am, there’s even a few pledge levels in the Kickstarter campaign where you’ll receive Justin’s original acrylic-on-hardwood paintings used to create the fantastic artwork for the game components. David Gerrard and Junk Spirit Games is going all-out on this re-release of Crows, and the quality looks amazing. I can’t wait to get my copy!
If you’re interested in backing, be sure to check out the Kickstarter. As of posting this, the campaign for Crows has just 12 days left.
Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,