Christmas in Creepypoint
When I bought Apocrypha Adventure Card Game several months ago, I made the mistake of playing the first 5 missions back-to-back. And with every mission, my enthusiasm waned. In the end I stopped, shelved it and put it up for sale on the GeekMarket.
Today I unearthed it because there is a Christmas-themed scenario in the game called 'Christmas in Candlepoint'. Even though I haven't forgotten what made me grow tired of it, I actually enjoyed my session. So for now, my verdict is: don't play too often, and it will be alright.
This particular scenario asks you to locate the troll Gryla, its cat and some troublesome boys, and get rid of them. They can be found at the Chapel, the Hospital, and the Main Street. I was playing two-handed with Alice (a young reporter) and Matthew (a middle-aged 'gentleman burglar'). There is a deck of Omen cards that works as a timer, and I managed to defeat Gryla right at the last minute.
All you do in the game is perform skill checks by rolling dice. The main challenge is to find ways to augment your dice pool, so that you have more chance of passing the tests. When you explore the given locations, you will be flipping cards to see whether you find a gift or a threat: if it is a gift and you succeed in the skill test, you gain it. And if it is a threat, you also do a skill test in order to beat it.
After a few missions, gameplay starts to feel repetitive and simplistic. Theme is very thin, even though the premise of the game suggests otherwise: you only have the short snippet that describes each mission and the illustrations on the cards. There is no narrative cohesion between the missions either. The game is creepy but not where one would think it would be: the enemies themselves are not really terrifying, just annoying. What is downright disturbing though is the 'fleeting fragment' cards: suppressed memories that the heroes remember when they win a mission. Some of these are very weird (see examples below).
The best feature of Apocrypha is its cast of diverse heroes and the artwork: it is good-looking, humorous and dark. All the rest is merely okay for me. I don't mind rolling some dice to see if I pass or fail but it doesn't excite me either. I have read that people found the second part of the missions much better, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, since I haven't tried them. Oh, and before you play, make sure you watch the set up and playthrough videos by Rahdo. There is no other way to get through those notorious for their obscurity rules.
Update: the complete series:
 12 Solo Games for Christmas
 Rudolph, the bazooka-carrying reindeer
 Nils Holgersson didn't make it to the South
 Monsters kiss under the mistletoe too