Board games in Assassin's Creed 3 (Fanorona? Really?)

Okay, I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning this, which I feel is a bit of a travesty, as the stupid board games are by far the absolute worst thing about this game. To think that the fandom would scream bloody murder about how Connor is abrasive or the combat system’s been revamped (I had no complaints) and not say a word about this travesty.

I mean, think about it, what an Assassin’s task? Kill the target and not be killed. And since many of the targets are either well-defended or amazingly durable (I once took on Thomas Pitcairn in a straight fight and was astonished how much damage he could soak up…didn’t try that again), that means he needs to gain some kind of advantage. Height, concealment, weaponry, misdirection, anything to make his target an easy kill and give him a chance to escape. The game actually enforces this mechanic pretty rigidly this time around (as opposed to the escapades of Almighty Unstoppable Bulletproof Death Machine Ezio); bite off more than you can chew, even just a little, and you’ll get cut down in short order. But if you do plan properly, if you use the right weapon and method, nothing can stop you.

And if you get far enough, you’ll run into a task where finding the right strategy can be a bit challenging, even counterintuitive. But when you do fail (or “desynchronize”, to use the game’s terminology), you get to try again. There’s no “game over” in AC; you get to keep pounding away at the problem until everything goes just right that one time or you eureka the solution. And yes, I’ll admit, it is satisfying to finally hit on the solution, especially if it’s a “why didn’t I think of that before?” moment.

All of which gets turn on its head and blasted about 2,000 trip mines by the board games.

Okay, let’s get something clear: I don’t mind silly little diversions. But they should not, under any circumstances, be MANDATORY for anything. I didn’t like that the video games in Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People were required for ranks (the third one, in particular, was nerve-wracking), and I find it absolutely deplorable that you have to win 500 pounds in games to meet one of the Thief Guild requirements. Without which you can’t get the Guild completion trophy or 100% completion. Worse, the maximum bet is 100, meaning you have to win five times to meet the requirement.

But how hard can it be, you ask? Well, one of the games is checkers (possibly UbiSoft throwing us one, not that it helps). The other two are Nine Men’s Morris and Fanorona. What, you ask? It’s okay, I never heard of them either, and I certainly never encountered either game growing up. Which means that you’re an absolute rank novice who knows absolutely nothing when you first start playing.

Think of a much better-known game, chess. Think of the thousands and thousands of books that have been written about that one game. Think of everyone you’ve ever known who’s achieved even moderate skill, the hours, the days, the years of constant practice and effort and training, suffering who knows how many crushing defeats in that time, just to reach that level. Are you going to do the same? Are you going to spend months, maybe years, of playing Morris or Fanorona to reach the necessary competence to get those precious five wins?

“Can it be that hard, Darrell? Why not just take on the Beginner NMM player and be done with it?” I tried that, and I can attest that this is yet another sad example of video game programmers not knowing the damn meaning of the word. (I see this often in fighting games, too; the easiest setting on some of them had me climbing the walls within 10 minutes.) He makes one mistake…MAYBE…during the placement phase, after which he turns into a 5-time world champion. I didn’t come within a hail mary of beating him the three times I faced him. If he’s an easily-beatable scrub, I’m Charles Lee.

“Okay, take on the checkers player, at least that’s more familiar to you.” Tried that too. He does not want you to win. He will make the absolute best move every single time. He will relieve you of pieces as quickly as if he were using a vacuum cleaner. He’s an “Intermediate” player, probably because after winning 25,000 straight games and amassing enough money to buy England, he can call himself whatever the hell he wants. He is a god of checkers. He is death with twelve little black disks.

Never even tried Fanorona, but I know exactly how that would turn out. I’m no fool.

See, the thing about these games is that both sides are absolutely equal. That means that the only way to gain an advantage is to outthink the opponent, find the opening he doesn’t, make the move he doesn’t. Problem is, there are dozens of possible moves every turn, and not only do you have to be able to see them all, you have to think three or four turns ahead.

I have a Bachelor’s in Accounting, a very difficult subject for a great many who try it. I’m currently in a job that requires considerable technical knowledge and a dizzying number of rules. I’m not a moron. And yet, nearly every chess game I ever played, I could count on getting clobbered. I won maybe five games my whole life, and that’s being generous. And these are ordinary folks, classmates, teachers, camp buddies, relatives, not anywhere near a club member or chess aficionado. I just never had the energy or motivation to spend the countless months it would take to get any good. And now I’m supposed to learn an utterly foreign game, possibly two, or take on checkers’ answer to Asashoryu?

And then of course there’s the trophy which requires you to win at Nine Men’s Morris and Fanorona, and also Bowls on the Homestead…where all the opponents are Expert level. (I never played the Expert bowls, but I did do the Homestead Mission with Godfrey as a “Beginner” level opponent. The first two times he absolutely wiped the floor with me; the third, I barely squeaked out the win in a 5-frame war.) And this is a Bronze trophy?? Hell, there should be a separate Platinum trophy just for this!

The Homestead missions weren’t a problem. Every other Guild task wasn’t a problem. Hunting wasn’t a problem. Hell, I got all but four Optional Objectives (and some of them were just plain ridiculous, like crossing the raging battlefield without getting nicked even once). The problem with the games is that I know that I’m never getting them. Everything else can be done with enough dedication and persistence. Hell, I could even see myself nailing the outrageous Thomas Hickey assassination requirements. (Stay left, run-kill the first soldier, run-kill the second soldier and grab his musket, chase down Hickey, and shoot…just gotta actually do it!) The board games, one, five, a hundred, twenty thousand attempts, makes no difference. I’m never taking a single win from any of those invincible grandmasters.

Threw the game away today.

(P.S. Did the same to Revelations when I found out how brain-crushingly impossible those first-person block-jumping levels were. Honestly, AC2 was a fantastic game without any of this stupid crap, what happened?)

I don’t really care too much for trophies/achievements so unless they’re fairly easy to get, I don’t bother.

But I’m also a completionist, which means I try to get everything that has some in-game repercussions.

The way to win $500 is to play Six Men’s Morris. There’s a certain strategy that when either it or a rotation of it is played, every game will be guaranteed to end in a win for you or a draw. A Google search will find it.

Well, chasing cheevos often is an exercise in scrotum self-pounding. Gotta learn to let go of that OCD, man.

I don’t… what ? We must have had fundamentally different experiences, because I thought they were a pointless, mindless waste of my time that didn’t even pay me back in decent story or characterization.

Now, the tower defense, that I really did suck at and was annoyed at. Also the annoyance of having to send my krazy krew on bogus text-based “missions” every 5 minutes to grind their experience, then post them to keep control of countries and grind the experience bars of a whole 'nother batch of punks. Again and again and oh god the tedium. Was it too much to ask to just be sticking explosives on hapless dudes at all times ?

Pardon, it was the Six Men version (that’s the one with the “Beginner”, har har har hyuck hyuck hyuck, player).

I forgot to mention this… I never thought I’d be saying this, but if you’re going to have an even-sides must-win requirement, make it pure dumb luck. That way, at least we’ll get it eventually. Take the the achievement in the Brotherhood add-on mission that requires you to win 10,000 florins in Hazard (a primitive version of craps). The odds of any one win are slightly less than 50%, and by that stage of the game you probably have several hundred thousand florins. I don’t remember what the maximum bet is, but it’s really high, something like 2,500 or 5,000. So with a bit of luck, you can actually profit on this (I did, believe it or not), under normal circumstances you’ll break even, and even with horrible luck you only lose a small chunk of your bankroll… and in any case, you get the achievement.

Or for that matter, how about a requirement that you simply wager a certain amount, win or lose? Heck, if the thieves are trying to get you to promote the tavern life, what the hell do they care what the result is? Set it as high as you want. 5,000? 30,000? 100,000? Fine, here you go, sir, pleasure doing business. The wilderness is rich; I can always make more money when I need it.

Hoopy Frood - Huh… did the Google search. Didn’t say much. (I also looked on YouTube, and the impression I’m getting is that this isn’t a popular game.0 Aside from that, a draw doesn’t help; it has to be at least five wins. So even if I were to go for it, I’m looking at, mmm, conservative estimate, several dozen games. I’m pushing 40. I have stress issues. I can’t afford to spend hours slamming my head against the wall anymore. Sorry.

Kobal2 - The levels contain out-of-bounds areas and obstacles, and if you so much as graze one for a millisecond, you’re tossed back to the last checkpoint. See if you can guess what my breaking point w… on second thought, I’ll just tell you: about midway through level 2, the orange glowy area where the blocks break apart and plummet. Head, meet wall! Gah. I am so glad we live in the YouTube age now, otherwise I probably wouldn’t even see about 75% of the good stuff in video games.

Hardly several dozen games. IIRC, it took me less than 10 using this method: