Friday, June 14, 2024

The Last Lighthouse - Tower Defense and Nameless Horror

 The Last Lighthouse is the sixth game in Scott Almes’ Simply Solo series. As someone who has stumbled into Print and Play, solitaire, and Button Shy, the Simply Solo series is one that I eagerly look forward to every new entry.

The game consists of eighteen cards (which I have been told is how many cards fit on one professional printer’s sheet) Two of them are your light house and a way to keep track of its health. The rest are duo-purpose monster/trap cards. Monsters are trying to destroy your lighthouses and traps are how you destroy monsters. 

The game consists of a queue leading to the light house. Monsters get added from the deck and you add traps from your hand. Monsters attack your lighthouse and your traps. Traps attack monsters.

Here are the two really clever bits. Both traps and monsters have special abilities that either go off when placed or when defeated. And managing special powers are a big part of the game. And, after your initial hand, you don’t draw any more cards. The only way you get more traps in your hand is by defeating monsters and getting those cards.

I hadn’t thought of The Last Lighthouse as a tower defense game until I saw other folks use that description. Trying to protect a lighthouse against a column of monsters? By Jove, it is totally a tower defense game!

My first two plays of the Last Ligjthouse were terrible experiences. That was because I got a rule seriously wrong. I had assumed that traps were one use and got discarded after taking out a monster. Even at easy level, that made winning neigh impossible. Then I realized that traps stick around until destroyed by monsters or the tide.

After I got that straightened out, the game got a lot better. In fact, I think that the mechanics are a treat. Games get tight quickly and there’s room for clever moves.

Most of my issues with the game are actually about the theming. In particular, with the term traps. Because traps implies a one-shot item and the traps are functionally work just like monsters, only on your side. A term like drone or automaton would have made a lot more sense.

I also wish traps had more theming.  The monsters don’t have names but they get creepy imagery. And being nameless may make them more dreadful. Traps don’t get a name or a picture, just numbers. It’s a level of abstraction that pulls away from the theming. 

That said, the mechanics carry the game and mechanics are the real deciding factor.

After a really bad first impression, The Last Ligjthouse is really growing on me. After I got the rules straight, it fits the Simply Solo mission statement. Easy to set up, doesn’t take too long to play while still having some meat on its bones. It went from ‘why am I playing this’ to ‘this is coming out on the regular’

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