$10.00

Empty Nest Gamers

With our children now grown and out of the house, my wife and I have a lot more time to fill. This blog will feature our thoughts on games that we've played recently (with an emphasis on how they've worked for us as two-player games).

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [10]

Recommend
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: June 2015

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This was cross-posted from my entry to the June 2015 "New to You" geeklist.


Fields of Arle

(Image credit: akroatis)

Excellent entry into Rosenberg's "harvest" series, optimized for two.

Fields of Arle is a two-player-only descendent of Rosenberg's "harvest" games (Agricola, Ora et Labora, Caverna, etc.). It shares many of the features of that lineage: worker placement, farming, animal husbandry (with animal breeding, space requirements, and support buildings), land reclamation (constructing dikes, draining land, and cutting peat), goods conversion (materials are shipped away to nearby cities and return as finished goods), buildings with special powers, and a harvest phase where you sow what you've reaped and then pay maintenance costs.

But this is a game about prosperity, rather than near-starvation. So you're filling your barn with expensive vehicles and constructing prestigious buildings, rather than sharing your living room with a sheep. Things are still tight, but there's no sense of anxious dread.

After two plays, I'm comfortable saying that this is a great game. It's almost a perfect fit for my wife and me, as gamer spouses. It's got medium weight and length, with a strong developmental arc and lots of decisions. The worker placement isn't brutal, but it gives plenty of opportunity to get in each others' way. There are a number of ways to specialize and (unlike Agricola) no penalty for doing so (except that you're rewarded for having a well-balanced stock of farm animals).

The physical production is great, with lots of wooden animals, stickered player markers, thick boards, charming art, and clear iconography (for the most part -- there's some wonkiness around different colored arrows that still eludes me).

I've mostly played Rosenberg's "harvest" games two-player, so I was really excited when I heard that he had designed one specifically as a two-player game. I pre-ordered it, despite the big price. And I'm very glad I did. This is a definite keeper; a very handsome and mature entry in Rosenberg's design space.

Highly recommended.


Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs. York

(Image credit: da pyrate)

A really enjoyable historically-themed area control slugfest, with card drafting, money management, and blind programmed actions.

At base, this is an area control game, with a well-integrated dose of historical theme (the struggle between the Lancaster and York families for control of England in the 1400's). Players take control of locations (castles, towns, and ports) and personalities (nobles, ship captains, and bishops), all of which can give you income or "control points" (the latter are used in determining area control for each of the map's regions).

But everything is up for grabs. Players can try to bribe personalities to switch allegiance or can use armies to seize control of locations. Defensively, players can bribe their own allies to keep them loyal or raise extra troops to defend locations (which also have their own innate garrisons).

All of that costs money. And you can't be strong everywhere. So how do you decide what to do each turn? Answer: secretly.

Each player has a really well-designed player mat that abstracts everything on the game board into a clear schematic, hidden behind the biggest player screens I've ever seen in a game. Each turn, you must decide where to move your nobles and ships, who to bribe (or counter-bribe), and where to raise armies in attack or defense. All of this is plotted on the player boards and then simultaneously revealed.

People who don't like blind bidding and programmed movement may not like this. There's a lot of scope for misreading others' intentions and screwing up in a big way. But I really enjoyed it (which, honestly, might have been because things broke my way; I might have felt differently if I'd spent the game guessing wrong and getting kicked to the curb). But your planning isn't completely blind. You know what matters to you and to others, and so you'll be making educated guesses about what you and others might be doing.

Another point worth noting: the players are divided into two factions (Lancaster and York) and there's a meta area control contest each round. The faction with the most "votes" based on areas they control will control the throne for that turn, with each of the dominant family members netting some points. So there's a shared incentive not to go after your "ally" too badly. That said, there's nothing stopping you from back-stabbing if it makes sense.

Finally, it's worth noting that the physical production is outstanding. The components are of very high quality (except for my wooden cubes, which had that odd dusty mildew that some wooden game bits get). The map, player boards, shields, cards, and tokens are all thick, functional, and really attractive. I thought the game remained very readable, despite the density of stuff going on. Great design work!

I really liked this game. But with a 3+ hour duration and the heavy dose of hidden/blind planning, I'm not sure how often it will get played.


Lords of Scotland

(Image credit: W Eric Martin)

Clever and highly interactive card game, with good art design (at least in the Z-Man edition).

Lords of Scotland is a simple and fairly quick card game, with a lot of interesting kinks.

• Each round, players can play cards in front of them, with the goal of having the highest numerical total value at the end of the round. At the beginning of the round, random cards are turned up to determine the point pay-outs for the round. These are awarded to the players in order of their set value. E.g., in a three player game, the point cards are 10, 7, and 5. Whoever has the most valuable set chooses the 10, next most valuable gets the 7, and worst gets the 5.

This random allocation of point chunks each round reminded me of the second phase of For Sale. Sometimes there will be a wide disparity in possible points and players will have an incentive to fight hard. Other times, the spread will be narrower and a player could hang back and save resources for the next round's fight. I thought that was interesting and fun.

• When you play a card in front of you, you can play it face up or face down. If you play it face up, there's a chance it will trigger a special power (each suit of cards has a different power). To trigger, it must be the lowest valued card of that suit in play by anyone.

This creates a very interesting trade-off between playing a high value card for end game set scoring (even though it won't trigger its power) or playing a lower value card in order to use its power (and strangle other people's ability to use that power, by lowering the bar below which they'll need to play to trigger the power).

• The card powers create lots of interesting interactivity, especially those that let you discard or steal another player's card. That felt a bit swingy and overpowered in our one play BECAUSE WE TOTALLY FORGOT THAT YOU CAN PLAY CARDS FACE DOWN! This meant that we never hid our really strong cards, opening ourselves up to powerful screwage.

I enjoyed the game quite a bit, despite the fact that we didn't use an extremely important rule. With that tweak, I expect future games would be even better.

An attractive, clever, and fun filler.




Brew Crafters

(Image credit: ckirkman)

A worker placement, order fulfillment, resource management game themed around operating a micro-brewery.

The game owes a lot to Agricola, with several mechanisms recognizably borrowed from that classic. But the main worker placement engine is built into a game about producing goods for money and victory points. There's a very interesting assembly line that needs to be fed and operated in order to keep product moving out the door. That assembly line can be enhanced with various accessories that make it more powerful in various ways.

You can also hire expert employees, who give you special powers and form local partnerships with spice and coffee companies, which allow you to trade for advanced ingredients.

And there's a tech tree, with four branches, each of which gives you goodies as you advance. The last space on each branch is an end-game VP booster.

You get a huge number of employees and beer recipes, from which you use a different subset each game. I expect this will really enhance replayability.

There was a lot to grok in the first play, especially as the brewery enhancements and special employees all have text that needs to be read carefully the first time you see them. With future plays, we won't need to re-learn the core mechanisms, and I expect it will be easier to get up and running.

The game plays very smoothly, with some turn angst when you get frozen out of stuff you need, but there are a lot of alternative things you can do, so you're never entirely stiffed.

Solid economic game, with great looking bits. It's a keeper.


Cacao

(Image credit: jesb)

A clever and pleasant entry into the Carcassonne niche, with really nice looking components.

Very quick, light, tile laying game, with interesting spatial scoring considerations. Tiles are square and come in two flavors. There are "jungle" tiles which provide various benefits and player village tiles. The player tiles have from zero to three workers on each of the four edges.

Village tiles are played orthagonally adjacent to jungle tiles (and may never be orthagonally adjacent to other villages). When placed, the workers provide whatever benefit is shown on the jungle tile touching their edge. Place a two-worker edge next to a cacao plantation jungle tile and you harvest two cacao.

If you place a village tile so as to create an empty space between two or more village tiles, you get to fill it with a jungle tile. That tile immediately provides benefits to adjacent workers (of any player).

The jungle tiles let you harvest 1 or 2 cacao, sell cacao (for from 2 to 4 gold each), mine 1 or 2 gold, collect sun tiles (which let you overbuild your own village tiles near game end, allowing you to re-score especially valuable locations), establish influence over temples (which offer majority scoring at end-game) or advance your water carrier along the water track (which scales from -10 to +16 VP at game end based on how far you've advanced).

With two, it played in under 30 minutes. It looks great and offers some fairly interesting spatially-dependent tactical play. Pretty fun!


Monikers

(Image credit: AlxHague)

Really great, silly, fun party game.

This is a nicely produced version of the public domain game, Celebrities.

There's a large deck of cards, each naming a different person. Teams take turns, with one member trying to give clues so that teammates will correctly guess as many cards as possible.

In round one, clues can be anything other than the name of the person. Round two, the clue can be only one word. Round three, pantomime only. No words.

I ordered this immediately after watching the video review from Shut up and Sit Down:




Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:52 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: May 2015

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in May 2015.

1846

(Image credit: sourwyrm)

Excellent "shorter" 18xx with variable start conditions.

This is an excellent 18xx title. As compared to the rest of the series, it's relatively short (~4 hours). And it's got some features that I really enjoyed.

The private companies offer an interesting mix of special powers, and if you're playing with less than the full complement of five players (as I will almost always be doing), you'll have a different set of them in each game.

The public railroad companies also have minor special features and, again, if you're playing with less than five there will be some randomness in which companies are present in the game.

That combination of unique characteristics and variable availability from game to game is very appealing. I'm a huge fan of variable set-up in games, as it keeps things from getting too scripted. I can see playing this game repeatedly without it feeling samey.

There are also a number of other minor tweaks that distinguish 1846 from other titles in the series. For example, all track construction costs money (unless a special power allows free construction in a specific context).

Also, companies float at 20% and keep the remainder of their shares in their treasuries. The company pays itself dividends for every share it still holds. And companies can sell their shares to the open market to get a cash infusion (at slightly below market price). And if it makes sense, they can later buy them back (at slightly higher than market price). This adds an interesting element of cash/stock management to the operating rounds. But beware, companies will take a hit to their share price if they've got any shares in the open market at the end of a stock round. This is all very cool.

This might be my favorite 18xx!


Arboretum

(Image credit: punkin312)

Excellent, mean, thinky filler card game (with charming art).

Cards are in suits running from 1 to 8. On your turn, draw two and play one to your tableau. Cards can be drawn from the face down deck or any discard pile.

In your tableau, you're trying to build orthagonally connected sequences of cards in ascending numerical order. In order to be scored at the end of the game, the sequence must begin and end with a suit that you're eligible to score.

Eligible to score? Yep. To be able to score a sequence, you must have the highest sum of cards in that suit in your hand at game's end (with the added wrinkle that an 8 is worth 0 if anyone is holding the 1 of the same suit).

This creates a huge potential for dickish blocking and anxiety. Your opponent building a valuable sequence in Oak trees? Keep that 7 in your hand and they won't be able to score it. Ha ha! But your hand size is only 7 and you need to keep cards in your hand to ensure you can score your valuable sequences. Which is more important, keeping your scoring opportunities alive or blocking your opponent. You can't do everything.

With two it was fun, but maybe a little too calculable. It might be a little too easy to know what your opponent is holding as the game draws to a close. That would be harder to do with more players (at least for me!). But I wonder if the downtime would become a problem with more than two. Especially if you've got an AP calculator in the mix.

For me, this fits a similar niche as Parade (numbered suits, with mathy sequencing concerns), but is more complex. I suspect I'll continue to prefer Parade as a lighter travel game. But Arboretum might get the nod as a game night opener or closer with people who won't play too slowly.

Very good game!


Mythotopia

(Image credit: percatron)

Variable set-up, 2-4 player Snow without the history.

My wife and I had a lot of fun playing A Few Acres of Snow when it first came out. So I was very interested when I heard that Wallace was designing a reimplementation of the core game concept (deck builder crossed with light strategic conflict and development on a map), with the goal of making it playable by up to four.

So what do I think? I'm pretty happy with it (at least as a two-player game, which is all I've tried so far). It plays well, with a moderate weight and length, and provides a lot of interesting choices.

I miss the historicity of Snow — I find it really satisfying to load your settlers into canoes in New York and send them upriver to establish a foothold in wilderness Albany (and then worry about whether you'll be able to build a stockade before they're wiped out by raiders). Mythotopia doesn't have that kind of thematic appeal. It's just dudes on a generic fantasy/medieval map.

But the game play is still a lot of fun. And the disconnect from a specific historic setting freed Wallace to introduce significant variability in the game set-up, ensuring that each play will have a different configuration of resources and objectives (and no single dominant strategy).

I've heard complaints about the endgame bogging down at higher player counts. I can see how that might happen, but it wasn't a problem in our 2p game.

I'm glad to have another game built on the Snow engine, to breathe more life back into the system.


Bausack

(Image credit: KNUT STROEMFORS)

How the hell did you do that?

This is more of an activity than a game, but it's a fun activity.

Choose eccentrically shaped wooden bits and use them to build towers.

That's pretty much it, but there are also a series of variant auction rules that you can use to decide who must use which block. The most interesting are the ones that allow you to stick someone else with an absurdly difficult piece.

I get a kick out of being surprised when something really unexpected actually works.


Kashgar: Händler der Seidenstraße

(Image credit: wamboyil)

A "queue-building" order fulfillment card game.

Each player has three merchant "caravans" (i.e., vertical rows of face-up cards) that are traveling the Silk Road trade route to the market city of Kashgar.

Play is very simple. On your turn, you select one of the cards at the "front" (i.e. bottom) of one of your caravans, either perform one of that card's actions or pass, then move the card to the back of the caravan.

There are cards that let you (1) get more cards (either from the standard deck or the smaller "special" deck, which has better cards in it but is harder to access), (2) get more stuff (i.e., various spices, gold, or mules), (3) thin a queue by permanently deleting cards, or (4) complete a contract card. A contract card may require one or both of the following: a minimum number of mules as transport (these aren't spent) and the expenditure of a specified mix of spices, gold, and mules (these are spent).

Some of the caravan cards have points on them. But most of the points come from completing contract cards. The game end is triggered when someone gets to 25 points (you then complete the round, so everyone has the same number of turns). Most points wins.

Cards that let you complete contracts are crucial, so you'll need to dig for those early. It's also valuable to thin your caravans so that it doesn't take so long for your important cards to cycle back to the front. You can even thin a caravan down to a single card, in which case it is always available to be chosen for its action.

The game plays very quickly, and includes some interesting deck-building type choices (with the interesting twist that you also need to manage the fixed sequence in which your cards can operate). With three caravans, you can try to optimize each one for a different purpose (e.g., contract fulfillment, resource generation, etc).

Two-player felt a bit too zero sum and luck dependent (which is how I often feel about two-player card games). But it plays up to four and I'm looking forward to trying it at a higher count.

There is no English version of the game, and there's lots of text on cards. So you'll either need to read German or use paste-ups or a cheat sheet.


The Staufer Dynasty

(Image credit: punkin312)

Good (but not great) area control with travel cost management.

Hansa Teutonica is one of my favorite games, so I'm always up to try another game by Andreas Steding.

This is a fairly quick and very tight area majority game, with a spatial limitation that's based on moving clockwise around the six segments of the circular board. Each player has only three actions for each of the game's five rounds. So there's very little time to accomplish much.

There's a clever turn order mechanism, which I won't describe, that creates a trade-off between doing important stuff now, at the cost of going later in the next turn.

On your turn, you either get more dudes from your general supply or put some dudes on the board. To put dudes on a board space, you must pay one dude per space that you need to traverse to get to your destination (moving clockwise from the current location of the king), and then pay more dudes to occupy "offices" within the location that you're targeting.

After both players have taken all of their actions, 1-2 regions are scored. The regions that will score each round are mostly determinable, though in a few cases the choice of space to score is contingent on the game state at the end of the round (in a way that you will know in advance and can try to manipulate).

Players score decreasing points for most offices, second most, etc. Big dudes (who are harder to get) count double. And ties are decided by whoever occupies the leftmost office (which increase in cost towards the left).

Throughout the game you have chances to acquire treasure chests, which are used either for end-game set collection VP, one-off special powers, or to purchase always-on special power cards.

At the beginning of the game, players are dealt three end-game VP targets, which can produce a lot of points. One nice catch is that end game VP can only be scored based on dudes on the board at the end of the game, and dudes that are used to score majorities at the ends of the various rounds are removed from the board. So you'll need to make some difficult choices about whether to put dudes out to score in the current round, or to salt them away for end-game scoring.

Total JASE. I won't even try to debate that. But it's a clever combination of euro mechanisms that produce a very tightly constrained set of difficult choices. It all hums along pretty smoothly once you know how it runs. (But I doubt I'll try to teach this to anyone besides my wife; there's just so much fiddly special power information to manage that it would be a pain to teach. "What's this do again?" I also see some potential for AP, since you've got significant look-ahead to how the regions will score throughout the game.)

It's a good game, but not great.


Norenberc

(Image credit: nekrataal)

Medium weight simultaneous action selection, worker placement, and set collect (with cupcake meeples).

Another Andreas Steading game! (With art by Josh Cappel and an extravagant set of custom meeples.)

Players are buying and selling goods (and recruiting guild members and special power characters) from various guilds. All of this builds toward end-game scoring based on various set collection criteria.

The best stuff about the game:

• The physical production is very nice. Lots of silly custom meeples (cupcakes, beer, hats, etc.)

• There's an interesting simultaneous card selection mechanism for determining which guilds you'll operate in each turn. This produces some really nice timing tension.

• There's a lot of interplay variability. The price of the various goods will fluctuate each turn based on numbers that are randomized each game (but known and therefore predictable, within each game). There will also be a random subset of special power cards that will be available to recruit each game.

• The money economy in the game is interesting (and in conflict with your VP generation goals).

Here's what wasn't so great:

• The money economy seems a bit fragile. You need to be very careful to stay liquid. If you overspend, it's possible to wind up in a hole that you can't dig out of. That happened to my wife in our first game and we decided to quit halfway through, because her position was futile.

• It's also possible to just limp along, without your engine ever kicking fully in. That can be a bit frustrating.

Overall, the game's a bit of a glorious mess, with lots of competing priorities to manage. But it hangs together well enough and it presents some interesting trade-offs and timing decisions.

The game is designed to scale with the number of players, but it was probably a bit too zero-sum with two.

I'm very glad to have finally played it, but I'm not sure if it's a keeper. Good, but not great. Probably better with more than two, but that might make it more prone to the fragility problem, with some players getting kicked to the curb and unable to recover.


Louis XIV

(Image credit: i just lost)

Classic euro, with a dry historical theme pasted onto a solid set of mechanics.

There are four rounds in which the players take turns playing cards to either put their dudes onto various "noble" spaces or retrieve dudes from the general supply for later placement. When you place dudes, you start in the space shown on your card and put down up to three pieces. You can dribble them out across diagonally adjacent spaces in "trail of bread crumbs" fashion (which is pretty familiar, for a Dorn design).

After everyone has finished playing all of their cards, the noble spaces are scored, providing money, task tokens, or other good things based on dude majorities and/or payment of dudes or money.

Task tokens are collected to fulfill the requirements of task cards in hand. Once fulfilled, task cards are worth VP at game end and give you a permanent special power for the remainder of the game.

A solid, old school euro. I've heard it's good with two and would like to try it at that count.
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:00 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
20 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: April 2015

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in April 2015.

Wildcatters

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


A long, handsome, complicated, and very interesting logistics and majorities game, where synergy is king.

The players are four major international oil development companies. Each turn a player selects one card from a face-up array of eight. This card indicates which one of the eight oil producing regions the player can act in (players can also build some infrastructure in non-producing regions).

Players can build drilling rigs, refineries, rail networks, and tanker ships. They can then take "oil actions." These include exploration, building pumps, and shipping oil.

All of these operations are in service of extracting and delivering oil to one of the seven continents. Many of the operations cost money. Others cost shares of your own company's stock. At the end of rounds 5 and 7 (of 7), majorities score VP for most oil delivered to each of the continents, most shares held in each of the four companies, and most money.

There are also important set-collection VP for taking over wildcatter operations and for building a high number of refineries.

Money and shares are very tight, and everything is interconnected in interesting and constraining ways.

Importantly, there are several opportunities to leech off of other player's activities, deriving some benefit (at a cost) during their turn. You'll also often need to sell your oil to other players' refineries, which may help them as much or more than it helps you. But you still need to do it!

With instructions, our first play ran about four hours. I expect a second play with the same group would be the advertised two-hours. That would be a very satisfying time/weight/decision ratio. There's also supposed to be an official two-player variant in the works. I'd like to try that out.

The game reminded me a bit of Brass/Age of Industry (which I love), in three ways: (1) Card play geographically limits where you can act. (2) You need to use other player's infrastructure to conduct your own operations, and pay them for the privilege. (3) There's an interesting logistics puzzle where you must produce goods and then ship them to a market (which has limited capacity).

There were two rough edges that we ran into, which are probably learning-game problems only: (1) Components are limited. This came as a surprise to one player when he built all of his pumps about 3/4 of the way into the game. This left him very hobbled in the concluding turns. Pace yourself! (2) As mentioned, the game depends heavily on inter-player synergy. You need others to be working near your work to do well. If you wind up in a backwater by yourself, you're probably in trouble. Spread out!

A very good game!


I, Spy

(Image credit: tranenturm)


A thematic hidden identity espionage game, with lots of ways to stab at vague shapes in the dark.

This is a hidden goal influence game themed around pre-World War I espionage. Each player is secretly aligned with one of the six European powers. If that nation has the most "power" at game's end, the aligned player wins.

Every card that you play gives "influence" points to one of the countries. There are also actions you can take in locations on the board that give influence to the countries. Every couple of turns there is a scoring round. The influence from the cards players used in the preceding turns is tallied up. Countries can also get influence from face down "politician" tiles assigned to that scoring round. The country with the most influence gets a specified number of "power" points. Second place gets fewer, etc.

The cards are used to move around the board, get money (to buy "asset" special power cards), put "trace" counters on other players, do hurtful things to traced players, and do hurtful things to the country's influence. There's also a system for gaining control over the face down politician tiles. Control lets you peek at them (to see whether they help or hurt your country, or have other special powers that will activate if they are scored). You can also swap two politicians, or discard one and replace it with a fresh face down tile from a draw stack. Politicians can have very large effects during scoring, so this sub-system is pretty important.

On reading the rules, I was pretty sure I would enjoy the game, and I really did. The cat and mouse game of helping your side, but not too much, was deliciously stressful. And the actions on the board felt thematic and fun. One of my friends observed that there was more game to it than he expected, and I think that's right. It's fairly meaty.

It ran longer than I'd hoped, maybe 2.5 hours with rules explanation. It didn't outstay its welcome in terms of my enjoyment, but the length makes it an awkward fit for our Tuesday night sessions.

The production values are good overall. I really liked the art on the cards and production tiles. There are a large number of hand-drawn portraits of various personages of the period. This gives a nice historical feel. The board was functional and ok, but a bit bland and a little too obviously computer drawn.

Overall, I liked the game quite a bit.


At the Gates of Loyang

(Image credit: LanaDove)


Extremely tight efficiency game of growing, trading, and selling vegetables.

I'm very glad to have finally played this. It's an extremely clever, tight, resource conversion and order fulfillment game, themed around being a farmer in China 2000 years ago.

You get fields in which vegetables can be sown (and harvested incrementally in later turns).

Then there's a wonky little card drafting system which ultimately gives each player two cards to play to their tableau.

Then players take turns doing as many actions as they can afford or choose to do, using their cards and harvested vegetables.

The possible actions include:

• Trading one kind of vegetable for another on one of your installed market stall cards.

• Fulfilling an order from a one-off ("casual") customer.

• Fulfilling an order from a repeat ("regular") customer. Regular customers are interesting because they want to buy the same pair of vegetables each turn. If you can't meet that demand on a turn, you pay a penalty.

• Use a "helper" card with a rule-breaking special power, then discard it.

• Buy a vegetable from your dedicated "shop."

• Sell a vegetable to fill an empty spot in your shop.

• Sow a vegetable in a field.

After all players are done with their actions, players decide how many victory points to buy on the sequentially numbered VP track. The first advance bought costs 1 coin, any further advances cost a number of the coins equal to the number of the space on the track. So, if I'm currently on space 4, I can move to space 5 for 1 coin, then move to space 6 for 6 coins, etc. This is enjoyably difficult.

This is an excellent two-player game, with lots of difficult trade-offs and very tight constraints. My wife really enjoys it. Every one of our games has been decided by a single point!

The production values are great as well, with colorful Klemens Franz art and six types of wooden vegemeeples.

Highly recommended.



Polis: Fight for the Hegemony

(Image credit: jsper)


A beautiful two-player war-euro, with a brutal population feeding requirement that can easily leave you in a death spiral.

This is a really handsome production, with interesting mechanisms and lots of historical theme.

It's two player only, Athens against Sparta. Players build land armies, fleets, and merchants. Armies can interdict land travel, fight other land armies, and besiege cities (hopefully to take them over). Fleets can interdict sea travel and fight battles at sea. Merchants travel on trade routes to foreign markets to trade commodities (or silver) for grain (or sometimes silver).

You also have a sneaky git called a Proxenos, who can take over cities through treachery (which costs silver). Unlike sieges, which involve a die-roll, Proxenos bribery is guaranteed success if you have enough money. The Proxenos can also bribe his way past interdicting units when traveling. And he can be captured if he's trapped in a successful siege. You then need to ransom him back.

The heart of the game is a brutal starvation economy, with two currencies in terribly short supply: prestige points and grain. You need prestige points to make any kind of military move. And you need grain to feed the population of your cities. If you can't feed a city, it goes neutral.

How do you get grain? For the most part you need to trade for it. This means that you need goods to trade. To get goods, you use troops to levy tribute from a region in which you have a city. That costs you a prestige point. Then, if you have enough commodities, of the right type, you can trade them with a foreign market. IF, your trade route to that market isn't interdicted, and IF you have a merchant you haven't used yet in the round, and IF the foreign market goods haven't already been taken by your opponent. If you get stymied, you're in trouble. This game is strewn with potential death spirals. It would be easy to fall into one, run out of food, and starve your way to a loss.

There's a little card-based mini-game for resolving land and sea battles between player forces. It was a bit wonky, with a degree of fiddliness that seemed out of synch with the smoothness of the rest of the game.

Incidentally, combat is a great way to get more prestige. I fought some battles just for that reason. I didn't really care if I won. I just wanted the poets to take note, so I could raise more tribute from the country-side.

Everything is tightly interwoven and the game works very well. It really is a great piece of design. The only downsides are the long play time and steep learning curve. (You might want to start with the shorter learning scenario included near the back of the rules.)


Impulse

(Image credit: MrPretty)


Another weird, intense little Chudyk card game (which is a good thing)!

It's a space empire 4x game mixing spatial movement on a map with card combos. Once you get your head around the wonky rules, it works very well and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

There's a tableau of face down (unexplored) cards, on which players can move their ships (cruisers and transports). Move into or over an unexplored card and you get to explore it. When you explore, you take the card you've discovered, put it in your hand, then take any card from your hand -- including the one you just picked up -- and place it face up in the place of the card you removed from the table. This gives you some control over how the map develops, which is cool.

Transports that move onto a card immediately activate the card's special power. These powers do things like:

• Command (activate more cards -- this is where the crazy chaining combos spawn).

• Build (build new ships).

• Execute (immediately use the action of a card from your hand, installed technologies, or deck).

• Research (play a card into your personal tech slots, giving you powers others can't use).

• Plan (letting you stash cards into a private action queue for possible later activation -- more combo chaining potential here).

• Mine (converts cards from your hand or the deck into minerals -- stored minerals boost the powers of your actions -- more cascade-fodder here).

• Refine (trash minerals for VP).

• Trade (trash cards in hand for VP).

• Sabotage (try to blow up opponent ships in spaces where your ships are present).

There's also the "impulse," a shared card queue that every player gets to add to and use as part of a turn. The impulse can never exceed 4 cards (it gets trimmed at the end of a players turn, first in first out). So the impulse is a changing chain of actions, which you can exert some control over, knowing that everyone is going to share it. Cool and fun.

Then there are rules for cruiser combat, which involves blind card draws (based on number of ships involved in the fight) boosted by "reinforcements" played from your hand. Some luck here, but larger forces (and larger hands) tend to prevail.

Despite the small size of the package and the minimalist component design, this is a fairly rich blend of possibilities. It's mostly tactical, but the tactical choices are fun and its possible to pull off some very cool combo chains. And it isn't devoid of strategy. The control you have over placing explored cards means you can groom your corner of the map to create a particular strategic potential, which you can then tailor your tactical choices to exploit.

I've enjoyed the game, but my opponents have been fairly lukewarm. I've played it twice now with my wife and she didn't like it much. I think that direct attacking was too important for her taste.


Akrotiri

(Image credit: Percatron)


Handsome two-player exploration, spatial deduction (kind of), and pick-up-and-delivery game. Very cool.

Players are ancient Greek explorers, searching for lost Minoan temples. Tiles with fragments of islands are drawn and placed, creating a complex archipelago. New tiles come with resource cubes that can be snagged and delivered back to the home island for money (there's a simple supply/demand pricing mechanism that pays more for resources that are more scarce).

The weird kind-of-deduction thing involves "map" cards that can be purchased. They tell you where temples can be found and excavated. Each shows a temple in the center of the card with one or more colored icons above, below, left, and right of the center. Those colored icons correlate to icons that appear on the island tiles that make up the growing archipelago.

A map card functions as a set of specifications, telling you where it is legal to excavate a temple. So, e.g, if a map card shows blue above, green to the right, and gray below, you can build a temple on any island space that has a blue icon above it, green anywhere to its right, and gray anywhere below it (based on the icons on the already placed tiles). Maps come in three levels of difficulty, with increasingly complicated specifications that must be satisfied. The higher the difficulty, the more points the card is worth if used to build a temple.

Also, building your temples gives you more action points per turn and also unlocks end of game scoring cards.

The game is mechanically fairly simple, but the geometry of how shipping lanes link up, where resources are placed, and where you can build based on your map cards can be a bit brain burning. My wife had unusually bad AP and complained quite a bit during the game about how she was having a hard time grokking the spatial aspects of the game. Then it turned out that she beat me and said she really liked it.

The game is very interesting and really attractive on the table, but watch out for AP lock up and brain melt.


Colt Express

(Image credit: lacxox)


Programmed movement cowboy brawl on a gimmicky 3D cardboard train.

I enjoyed my one play as a light social game with some "oh no" chaos and take that interaction. Fun enough in that niche, but not really my thing.


Harbour

(Image credit: EndersGame)


Rug repeatedly pulled out from under me. Not in a good way.

This is a small worker placement game, with one worker only, and a strangely constrained and volatile resource management core.

You accumulate resources of various types in order to build "building" cards from a central pool. Those buildings are also the worker placement spaces (as are other player's built buildings, if you pay them a resource for the privilege).

I won't try to describe how the resource system works, but it's a wonky and a bit unforgiving. It's also subject to direct player manipulation, which can radically revalue the resources (meaning you don't have as much money to build as you thought you did). I felt continuously wrong-footed in the game, never quite having what I needed (in part because the other players' actions would shift the value of things before I could use them). I found that pretty frustrating.

There's a lot that we didn't explore in the game (special player powers, hidden end-game VP goals), the rules explanation was rushed, and I was tired. So it wasn't an ideal chance at a first impression. I might try it two-player to see if it is better at that count (or with better understanding). But I might not.


UR

(Image credit: GeoMan)


Thinky spatial area influence game. Blech.

It's a well-designed game, but I didn't like it. Too much work, for too little enjoyment. That's partly the result of me not grokking the game. I didn't understand some of the rules for a few turns, and only started to see the strategic implications late in the game.

Might improve with repeated play, but that's totally not going to happen.
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Mon Jun 29, 2015 3:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: March 2015

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in March 2015.

Shipyard

(Image credit: cnidius)


This is a fun and interesting midweight euro, where you're building ships to meet VP criteria.

Some of those criteria are based on secret government contracts that you're dealt at the beginning of the game (all but two of which must be discarded by you at game midpoints, so you're forced to whittle them down to one contract by game's end).

You also get VP for meeting special criteria that apply when you've completed a ship (they're different kinds of inspector judging ship's "shakedown"). You have some control over these VP goals, which is fun. It lets you dynamically tailor the scoring rules to what you're able to accomplish. I liked that.

Mechanically, there are a lot of rondels controlling player choices. There's one for action selection and others that regulate access to various bits and bobs — employees (permanent special powers), crew of various kinds, and ship attachments.

The game's intricate and presents a lot of choices, which I liked. But I can see a lot of potential for fun-crushing AP with the wrong players. I'll only play it with folks I know to be brisk.

Overall, this is a very solid order fulfillment euro. More thinky than playful, but I like that. And I really liked the art design (I'm a sucker for industrial revolution period-style art in games.)

Excellent!


La Isla

(Image credit: thfreak)


This is a quick, light, spatial, area enclosure game with a modular board and a huge deck of multi-purpose cards (i.e., lots of replayability). It was more fun than I was expecting, based on some of the lackluster reactions it has received.

Each turn you get a hand of three cards. You must assign each card to a different slot (A, B, or D -- phase C is used to place a man on the board). The slot you chose for each card determines what the card will do for you -- A = become a continuous special power; B = acquire a cube of the specified color; C = promote the VP value of one of the five kind of animals.

You can only have three special powers active, so eventually you will be required to replace your previously played powers with new ones.

Whenever you bump an animal up the VP value track, every player that has collected animals of that type gets one VP for each animal possessed. Collected animals also give VP at the end of the game, based on the position on the track. And complete sets of all five kinds of animals are worth 10 VP at end game.

How do you get animals? By surrounding them with your dudes on the weird modular board. How do you place dudes on a space on the board? By playing two cubes matching the color of the target space (that's what you do in phase "C.")

My wife crushed me in our first game. I made the classic Hobbes mistake of souping up my powers instead of getting VP. She's also generally better than me at spatial games. In the next two plays, I decided to focus on points. Surprisingly, that helped!


Murano

(Image credit: fretnut71)


This is a midweight euro, themed around Renaissance development of the famous glass-making islands of Murano (in the Venetian Lagoon).

Players manipulate a modified rondel mechanism to select actions -- there are ten "gondolas" in actions spaces around the board. On your turn, you must move a gondola counter-clockwise around the action space track. You can move any number of spaces, so long as you don't move a gondola into an already occupied space. This makes things jam up in interesting ways. But you can also pay money to move gondolas that are in your way, allowing you to perform a critical action at an increased cost. This all creates a puzzley tactical problem, which was fun.

Your main source of VP are secret end-game VP goal cards (which you purchase by using one of the action spaces). Once you have some end game goals, you'll need to use all of the other available actions to develop the islands so that they match your goals and provide you the most points at the end of the game.

I liked it better than my wife and friends did. They grumbled about the lack of control that comes from not knowing what other people are trying to do, and the bad luck of having someone disrupt your secret plans accidentally.

A solid euro with some interesting constraints on action, but with a strong dose of hidden information and luck.



The Witches: A Discworld Game

(Image credit: PZS69)


Players are apprentice Witches, solving problems as they pop up throughout the various locales in the Kingdom of Lancre (from Terry Pratchett's witch-based Discworld novels).

I was motivated to acquire and try this, as a tribute to Pratchett, who died on March 12.

It was pretty light, as I expected.

Each player's turn begins with a new problem popping up at a random location (determined by a flip of cards from the draw deck). If there's already a problem in that location, it gets worse and you flip another card; etc until you find a spot for the new problem.

Then the player takes two actions. Each consists of movement, and then interaction with the destination space. You can't move through other players or problems (unless you play a broomstick icon card, which lets you go anywhere you want).

Solving problems requires you to beat the difficulty number of the problem with the roll of dice. I won't explain the details of the dice-rolling system, but it's clever and provides some opportunity to mitigate bad rolls.

If too much trouble develops, or the wrong kind of trouble, the game can end early, with all players losing. This creates a mild prisoner's dilemma, as all players need to keep the game from sinking, but there may be good reason to defect and force others to carry your share of the load.

There's also a system that can punish you for using magic effects too often.

One drawback is that the tension never really ramps up too high. It's fairly easy to avoid the game ending conditions, which takes some of the interest out of the crisis management elements of the game. This is probably because the game is being pitched to include family play.

The art is thematic and fun, and the game's a moderately enjoyable romp. I'm glad to have tried it, but prefer Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, which has more direct player interaction and a greater variety of card effects.



Antike II

(Image credit: W Eric Martin)


I don't remember enough about the original Antike to make a useful comparison.

It's a Gerdts rondel game, which is always a good thing. I like the bite-sized turns that system produces (it really helps to tamp down AP).

Gather resources, build dudes, move dudes, build cities, build temples, purchase tech increases. Scoring is based on a set of achievement cards. First player to satisfy one gets it, so the game's a bit of a race.

Our first play (with four) was a marred by three of us not being familiar enough with the game to see the strategic implications of different choices and situations, which led to a lopsided runaway win.

Even without that problem (which probably wouldn't reoccur), it seemed like the game might tend toward a similar arc: expand out until you bump into neighbors, build temples for defense of key points, then grind out resources to see who is the first to get over the finish line.

It all works really well, but I suspect this just isn't my kind of game. (I'm starting to think that I'm not a fan of mutliplayer dudes-on-a-map games in general, even though I want to be.)


Imperial Settlers

(Image credit: tycjan)


This is an okay tableau builder, with asymmetric faction abilities, lots of card powers, and direct player aggression. The kind of thing I'd usually really like. Not so much.

Our four player game took over two hours, which is way too long for what this game offers.

I suspect this might be better as a two-player game, with a shorter play time and more ability to observe and react to opponent play.

But I won't find out. The game was completely ruined for me by the absurd graphic design. All of the special power text and icons are in a ridiculously small font, leaving the great majority of the available text space blank (see above). WTF?

It's hard enough to read my own cards in my hand; tracking what other players have played to their tableaus (which is crucial) is just not going to happen. Really bad design work here.
Twitter Facebook
6 Comments
Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
12 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: February 2015

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in February 2015.

Brass

(Image credit: GeoMan)


My wife and I are used to playing Age of Industry with two, either on the regular maps for a more relaxed experience, or on the excellent two player maps by Klode, for a tighter game.

So I was very glad to find that there was a well-regarded two-player variant for Brass (developed by Henri Harjou and Tim Harrison), with a beautiful map file (developed by Michael Schacht). It scales the action down to a smaller number of cities, with a matching reduction in the number of cards, while keeping all of the other rules intact.

It was great. It has the same core mechanisms as AoI, but adds:

(1) A division between two technological eras (canals v. rails), with a partial game reset in between. All of your canal links and tech 1 industries are removed before the rail era begins, forcing you to think and plan hard for how to realize some benefit out of them before they disappear. Very interesting and stressful (in a good way).

(2) A different system for generating money and managing loans. Rather than getting paid cash each time an industry tile flips (as in AoI), instead you move up an income track. Then, at the beginning of each turn, you receive income based on your position on the track. When you take a loan, you move down the income track (rather than paying end of turn interest as in AoI). Those changes are elegant and interesting.

(3) A greater emphasis on selling cotton, and an interesting system for managing foreign cotton demand.

Loved it. Really looking forward to trying it with more players.

Huge thanks and praise to the folks who designed the excellent 2p materials. That is an example of BGG at its finest.



Onward to Venus

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


This is medium weight hybrid euro-dudes on a map game with scoring based on area majorities. The production values are top notch (especially in the limited edition, which is chock full of wooden bits).

I enjoyed it. It has a lot of interesting mechanics:

• There is a mix of military unit types, which trade off between strength and mobility in interesting ways.

• You use your units to claim tiles that are seeded onto the planets (and moons) that make up the game space, moving from orbit to the surface to do so. Once they've landed, you can't use them again until the next round (when they all go back up into orbit ready for redeployment). This creates a fun dual-use trade off. Sometimes you need to land lots of units, in order to overcome a strongly defended tile you're trying to capture. But that depletes your supply of possible actions for the turn (unless you build more units, which begin in orbit, ready to use).

• Mines and factories determine your end-of-turn income and also determine majority control of planets for determining end-of-game VP.

• There are a boatload of nicely-illustrated cards, with a mix of interesting powers. And there are lots of chances to draw more cards, so you'll see and use a bunch of them.

My group didn't like the game as much as I did, and some of the negatives they griped about were:

• The "crisis" system, which can create growing threats of serious harm on the various worlds, didn't have enough consequences. In the early game they weren't threatening so we ignored them. In the later game, they were easily dispatched.

• The "tension" tiles, which create rare opportunities for direct player v. player aggression, weren't numerous enough. To be fair, that was probably a consequence of a weirdly improbable tile draw. About half of all tension tiles in the game wound up on the moon (where they had little effect because there was anything worth fighting over there).

• The luck of the dice could be pretty swingy. That kind of thing normally bothers me more than others, but it didn't seem to me that anyone had wildly disproportionately good or bad luck over the whole arc of the game. Yes, there were moments of spectacularly bad luck, leading to groans/cheers, but I found that to be part of the fun.

Sadly, I'm unlikely to play this much more, given the generally tepid/negative reactions of my group. Too bad, as I found it to be reasonably fun and charming.


Gardens

(Image credit: joeincolorado)


On its surface, this is a pretty and fairly simple edge-matching tile layer (think Carcassone). But it has an element of route blocking that makes it much more strategic and interesting.

The key rule is that when you place a tile, you must be able to place your gardener on the new piece, by moving the gardener along the pathways that have been laid down in prior turns. The kicker is that you cannot move through another player's gardener. Also, each player has a second gardener that can come into play. Once both are on the board, both can be moved on a turn (one to place a tile, the other to grab a strategic spot or block opponents).

So there are a couple of layers of spatial thinking going on and you need to keep an eye on other players and what they're trying to accomplish.

Plays pretty briskly, especially if players choose their next tile as soon as they've placed one (so they can start planning before their move).

Pretty good overall, as a thinky superfiller with opportunities for screwage.

The two player rules involve playing two colors, which I never like. So that's disappointing and will limit play a bit.


Patchwork

(Image credit: evantozer)


Abstract quilt-themed game with spatial tile-laying, currency/income ("button") management, and time management (think Thebes).

Tetris-shaped pieces are spread in a randomized ring around the central time board. Each has a cost in buttons and in time.

On a player's turn, she either buys one of the next three tiles in the ring (clockwise from a marker that moves to the vacated space when a tile is bought) or spends time to get buttons.

The time track is also the game clock. When both players reach the end, the game is over.

Some spaces on the time track are divided by either a button or a leather patch. When a player passes a button, she gets income equal to the number of buttons showing on the tiles she has already placed on her board. If she is first to pass a leather patch, she takes it and uses it to fill any one space on her board.

The first player to build an uninterrupted 7x7 square gets a marker worth 7 pts at game end.

Scoring is based on the number of buttons on hand at the end of the game, plus the 7 pt bonus if anyone has it, MINUS two points for each empty space on the board.

This is a very clever spatial tile layer, with difficult trade offs between money on hand, pieces that will generate future money, and time. An excellent quick two-player puzzle duel.


Deus

(Image credit: punkin312)


I enjoyed my first play, even though it was a bit marred by my unfamiliarity with the rules. I forgot the hand size of 10 and I hurt myself by not remembering that some temple bonuses are capped at a certain number of VP.

On your turn, you either:

(1) Construct a building onto the map (play a card, put a meeple of the matching type onto the board, and then activate your queue of cards of the same type that you just played -- including the one you just played). The cards in the queue all execute their special powers.

In addition to the main flavors of buildings, you can build temples, which give you end game VP formulas.

(2) Discard cards. This allows you to activate the discard power associated with one of the colors of cards that you discarded (and then draw back up to five). This is a powerful way to quickly get stuff you need (money, resources, meeples, VP, more cards).

There's also competition on the map to get good locations (including adjacency to "barbarian villages" which award VP to players who "attack" them).

Game ends when all temples are built or all barbarian villages are pacified.

Overall, I think it's pretty promising and look forward to trying it again with the right rules! Rating is provisional until then.



The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet


(Image credit: lacxox)


Ok, you're a planet.

This is a cute little tile layer for 2-4, themed around the twee classic (for everyone who studied French in high school), The Little Prince. If you know (and like) the book, then you'll probably get a kick out of all of the thematic bits. But it isn't necessary in order to appreciate the game.

I probably wouldn't have given it a second look, except that someone with great taste in games evangelizes about it:

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb


Players are building small planets, which will consist of a 4x4 grid of square tiles. The tiles come in four flavors: interior, left horizon, right horizon, and characters. The first three comprise the planet's surface, with various bits of art on them, e.g., animals, volcanoes, baobob trees. The characters each have a end-game VP scoring rule.

At the end of the game, players apply their four VP rules to the features on their planets to see who wins.

The interesting twist is the tile selection mechanism. Whoever is the active player decides the order in which the players choose tiles from the set that's on offer. This means figuring out who needs what, and trying to game the order to screw everyone over. Whoever gets the last tile becomes active player for the next turn.

So far, I've only played it 2p, which has its own mind-@#!& variant tile selection rule. Choose three, look at them, place one face down and two face up. The other player chooses one (without seeing the face down tile first). Then the active player chooses from what's left. This creates some opportunities for double-thinkery.

As a 2er, it's good, but not great. I really want to try it with a full boat to see how the screwage works out.


Sanssouci

(Image credit: Camdin)


Quick, pretty, tile laying game.

The gist is that you're using card matching (from a very small hand) to acquire tiles, which must then be matched to spaces on your individual mat, so as to create the best array of scoring.

I found it claustrophobic and frustrating. I expect that repeated plays might reveal how to make longer term moves to mitigate short-term bad luck. But man, did I have a lot of short-term bad luck.



Ziegen Kriegen

(Image credit: Gonzaga)


Extremely light trick taking game with only one suit -- high card takes the trick. The wrinkle is that, in the first four rounds, low card draws a card with two values and chooses one of them. The sum of the four values chosen is a cap on player scores. The winner of the game is the player with the highest point total that is less than or equal to the cap.

Good at what it does; but not really my favorite kind of game.
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
16 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: January 2015

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in January 2015.


I'm still making good progress on my personal challenge to whittle down my unplayed game list: Hobbes' 50x1 Challenge!.


Mysterium

(Image credit: punkin312)


I've played this twice, with six and four. Both times, I played as the "ghost" (which is fun and challenging).

I don't ordinarily like coops, but this one managed to avoid the kind of pushy player dominance that I find irritating in most of them. Everyone is collectively trying to solve a puzzle. There are no obviously "best choices" and all insights are potentially useful. In our plays, everyone was into it and having a good time contributing.

The art is great -- atmospheric and somber. That's what prompted me to shell out for an imported Italian copy. The prototype art shown for the upcoming Libellud edition is too cartoonish for my taste. The original art has gravitas!

So far, I'm really enjoying this. I suspect the shine may fade a bit with repeated plays, but for now it's a very good gaming experience.


Roll for the Galaxy

(Image credit: punkin312)


This is an excellent reimplementation of Race for the Galaxy, as a dice game.

I really liked it. The dice manipulation/action planning process is clever and fun.

The fact that you have construction queues for your developments and worlds and can pay construction costs incrementally over multiple turns gives a satisfying degree of control over your strategic direction. I like it better than Race in that regard.

Components look great; rules are clear; and there's text to supplement the iconography.

Overall, this is a stellar engine builder in the under 60 minute class. It gives you some interesting decisions, combined with the chance to chuck a lot of dice. Very fun!

(I suspect that I'll eventually like this more than Mysterium; it's a lot easier to get to the table. But I gave Mysterium top honors this month because it's such a unique experience. Both are great!)



Magnum Sal

(Image credit: xodroolis)


Very good logistics euro that is themed around salt mining.

Money is VP in this game, so everything you do presents a difficult choice.

The most interesting mechanism is that salt must be moved out of the mine as part of the extraction process. It has to follow along an unbroken chain of miners, and if any of the links in the chain are made up by other players' miners, you need to pay the other player to use them (1 coin per cube for each of that player's workers that you use). That is very painful, because it produces a net swing of 2 vp for every $ paid to the other player (you lose a VP, the other player gains one).

With only two players, that zero-sum swing felt a bit brittle. In future plays, I think we will pay much more attention to avoiding using each others miners for transport. Of course, the game is also a race to be first to get the good salt and deliver it to fulfill royal demands, so there will be tension between taking the time to lay down a good transport chain and rushing to grab goods first.

I'm definitely interested in trying it with the higher player counts.

As a bonus, the theme comes through pretty strongly. Recommended.


Paperback

(Image credit: JackyTheRipper)


My expectations were pretty high for this hybrid deck-builder and word game; I'd heard lots of good things. Happily, the buzz is justified.

It's a very nice little package. Great looking and useable design. Simple; interesting; fun. It really works.

Everyone liked it and I expect it will stick around and see frequent play as a two-player and in the regular game group.


18MEX

(Image credit: brainstOrm)


I really liked the operational aspects of the game. The map is a good size, and has an interesting mix of expensive terrain. The companies have a fair number of tokens, so there's opportunities for blocking (and wrangling to get around blocking with track upgrades).

The minor companies were an interesting twist. I liked having them in the mix.

The game had a nice overall arc to it, ending just before it would have worn out its welcome.

A very solid 18xx!


AquaSphere

(Image credit: bkunes)


Very intricate efficiency euro, with some difficult and constrained decisions to make.

Program bots (using a limited set of actions to choose from, which change their configuration each turn), to take actions in one of the six sectors of the deepsea research station.

Then execute the programmed bot operations. For each bot, you get to choose where it will act (in one of the six sectors of the undersea lab complex). To choose, you move your "scientist" meeple to that sector (which consumes scarce "time" tokens).

Gather crystals (which are worth VP and are critical in allowing you to progress past certain gates in the VP track); capture octopods for VP (unchecked octopods will damage your bots at the end of each round, costing you VP); launch submarines (which will give you extra time tokens at the end of round and which unlock higher scoring possibilities); add new segments to your personal lab (which increase abilities or add to end-game set collecting VP); grab bonus cards (which give you special powers); or collect time tokens.

The trick is figuring out which choices to make, when, in order to surpass other players when VP are scored at the end of each round.

The components are colorful and evocative of the theme, and they do a good job of providing reminders of the VP targets and income rules.

The design works very well, but the whole thing felt a bit too claustrophobic. Not just the theme, haha, but the way that your choices are so tightly limited.


Dominant Species

(Image credit: zerofaces)


This is a great brain-burning area control game. The game play is driven by worker placement, used to select from a long list of actions that either alter the game state in various ways or score tile majorities.

The design is brilliant, but this isn't my favorite kind of game. Area control, especially complex area control with lots of levers and pulleys, is not something that I'm good at.

That problem is compounded by the length of the game (3+ hours). It's much easier for me to enjoy this kind of jostling and elbow throwing in a 90 minute window (e.g., Tammany Hall) than over a whole afternoon.


Abyss

(Image credit: bkunes)


This game has a few well designed and clever mechanisms, linked up into a good playable whole.

Push your luck card draw to get resources of different types to buy the VP/Lords with special powers.

In my one play I couldn't seem to get anything going. I was always just a bit behind the curve. In last place from start to finish.

I'd play it again to see if I can figure out what I did wrong (but I wouldn't suggest it).
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:00 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
29 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: Best of 2014

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in December 2014.

Best of 2014


My favorite new-to-me game in 2014 was La Granja.

I was intrigued by the game from my first look at its cover. The box art evokes a dreamy, pastoral, pleasantness that struck a chord with me. And the game play has a similar overall quality of relaxed enjoyment. It's a farm development game without starvation!

You will always have something useful to do with your turn. So there's little of the kind of poor-get-poorer desperation that people love or hate about Agricola. You're still playing a tight efficiency game, with lots of opportunities for engine building and smart combinations, but the arc of the game is upward (rather than a struggle to avoid decline).

While the game doesn't really offer any novel mechanisms, it combines a lot of solidly good ones into a very satisfying whole. There are multi-use cards, dice action selection, tableau building, resource production and conversion, order fulfillment, etc. And it all hangs together well, feeling natural rather than forced.

Importantly for me, it plays great as a 2 player game and my wife really loves it.

Honorable Mentions

I played a lot of other really excellent new-to-me games in 2014. Among the best:

Panamax Intricate but intuitive; thematic as hell; brutally tight. This is wonderfully difficult logistics euro.

Russian Railroads. A worker placement game with an turbo charged engine builder afterburner. Light the fuse and stand back.

1775: Rebellion This is a really fun conflict-euro that I need to play more. It's got a very interesting connection between area control and where reinforcements can muster that creates some great strategic possibilities. And I really liked the team play. There need to be more good team games!

Rococo The main novelty here is the neat deck building and card drafting mechanisms. But overall, the game just hangs together really well and is a pleasure to play.
Twitter Facebook
3 Comments
Sat Jun 27, 2015 6:36 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: December 2014

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in December 2014.

La Granja

(Image credit: Uli Blennemann)


My wife and I have really enjoyed this medium weight card-driven development game, which themed around improving your farm on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It's a pleasant, attractive, and interesting game that plays very well with two.

The game is an amalgam of familiar mechanisms: multi-use cards, tableau building, resource development and order fulfillment, dice based action selection. There's nothing really new (and the designer is open about crediting his influences), but it all meshes very nicely, producing game play that is greater than the sum of the parts.

And my wife and I can play it in an hour or so, which fills a good niche for us.

A definite keeper.


Helvetia

(Image credit: W Eric Martin)


Only one play so far, with two.

Interesting logistics game, with production chains to make the more advanced goods (e.g., to make cheese, you must activate each of the buildings in the chain: water, goats, and then cheese).

You can "marry" your townspeople into production buildings in other players' towns (provided that the other player's building is owned by an eligible person of the right gender). These out-married folk then become available for activation by you, to produce the good from the foreign spouse's building. So you can snitch your way into buildings built by others.

Married couples can also have children, which is the only way you can get more people to place into buildings.

Our one play was marred by significant misunderstanding of the special two-player rules (and a mistake about making babies -- don't ask).

Probably a keeper, but I need to try it with the correct rules.


Madeira

(Image credit: punkin312)


One play with four.

This is a fairly long (4 hrs), meaty, thematic, resource management game. It's set in the 15th Century Portuguese island colony of Madeira.

Cut lumber, grow crops, build out the cities, curry favor with the guilds, man the city watch, send ships back to the home markets or to foreign colonies, and FEND OFF PIRATES.

Everything is tight, with interlocking mechanisms and chokepoints. Play is driven by dice rolled at the beginning of the round, chosen in lots of 3, and then used one by one to power actions.

Players also choose one VP goal tile each turn and then decide which ones will be scored at the end of the 1st, 3d, and 5th rounds. This is fun because it lets you shape the direction you'll take to maximize your score.

Bear in mind that this is a heavy euro. It is not really an economic development game -- you're manipulating mechanisms to produce VP for a short-term payout, without much of a long-term arc. Still, it's very good at what it does.

Maybe not quite worth the investment of time with four. Looking forward to seeing how it is with two. (Rating might go up or down depending on how that player count works out.)


Fresh Fish

(Image credit: punkin312)


This is a very interesting spatial puzzle with lots of room for dickishness. Try to get your food stalls closest to their sources. Played with the new rules, which groups stall spaces into small regions with a numerical threshold -- when a stall is placed so as to meet that threshold, all pieces but the last placed are flushed. This strategic nastiness is the best part of the game. Watch out!

I don't own this, but will be happy to play again.


Castles of Mad King Ludwig

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


This was pretty much exactly what I expected: a solid medium-light spatial building game. Nothing too exciting for my tastes, but a good game for the regular game night group.

My first play (with four) ran a bit long, which isn't surprising because the game invites a bit of AP. Each round one player sorts the 7 available buildings into 7 price slots, ranging from $1 to $15. To do that intelligently, you need to know what every other player needs and would be willing to pay. That means watching everyone's developing position fairly closely. That takes time.

I'm hoping that the game will play well with two, because I think that would make it easier to keep opponent needs in mind, shortening the play time and easing the brain burn.



The Great Heartland Hauling Co.

(Image credit: ckirkman)


Two plays with three.

Pick up and deliver stripped down to its essence. Move your truck around the grid of location cards. Load goods found there or unload goods in demand there. Refill your hand. There's a nice hand management problem (with "gas" cards for truck movement, and "bill of lading" for loading and unloading the different good types) and a modest logistics puzzle of navigating the landscape of supply and demand.

My wife's snap judgment: "That was fun enough." That's about right. I'll probably keep it as decent super-filler.


Town Center (4th edition)

(Image credit: Jon Snow)


Three plays, with two.

Very tough to teach -- not complex, but there are a couple of very wonky little rules. Unhelpful player aids (I'll need to look to see what's in the files section before trying to teach it again).

My wife HATES it. She finds it frustrating, in a bad way.

I'm grokking the spatial logic better than she is, but find that the luck involved with the blind cube draws can be pretty irritating (especially with regard to the critical red cubes). That might be a bit less of a factor at a higher player count, but at two it can feel like it's tilting things pretty steeply.

Very nice bits though, and one of those games where you can admire the handsome thing you built at the end of the game.


Graenaland

(Image credit: Ladinek)


This is a 3-5p development game, with players acquiring resources of different types to use in constructing various types of buildings across a landscape of cards of different terrain types. The most interesting thing about the game is a voting system that is used to dole out the resource produced in the different location cards. Players take turns proposing an allocation of the goods in one spot, and then those who have stuff in that location get to vote on the proposal. This means that you are investing in votes, either fixed in one spot (buildings) or mobile (heroes). If you are strong enough in a location, you can give everything to yourself. But two or more minority players can combine to divide things among themselves. This all produces some very interesting wrangling.

Victory conditions are based on your success across a number of criteria, with each player having a different (and hidden) mix of criteria. This hidden info avoids the problem of players refusing to cooperate with someone because it is obvious they are on the cusp of winning.

A little wonky; pretty hard to teach; but interesting.



Camel Up

(Image credit: HunterRose)


A short and simple little racing game, with some clever mechanisms. I'll be happy to play my friend's copy once in a while as a filler. No need to own it.


Red7

(Image credit: punkin312)


Very simple; very quick; very clever.

At worst this will be a quick thinky filler with about the weight of Parade. With the addition of the scoring rules (which I haven't tried yet), this might be a worthwhile 30 minute duel for two.

Time will tell.



The Cards of Cthulhu

(Image credit: Hex_Enduction_Hour)


Cards of Cthulhu

This is a really nicely put together game. The boards and cards have very nice, atmospheric art. The custom dice look great and your money/experience/sanity markers are custom-made coins. Really a top-notch production.

It's all in service of a solo game of survival against the Lovecraftian mythos horrors. You've got to hold the world together until you've worked your way through the entire deck. In the mean time, if any of the four cults in the game manage to summon a Great Old One (by having five minions in play at the end of turn), or if your character dies in combat or goes mad, that's it. You've lost the game (and the future of humanity).

Each turn you draw 4+ cards. Some are followers or artifacts that you can acquire to strengthen yourself in various ways. Most are baddies -- gates (which increase the number of cards you draw each turn), minions (who guard the gates and sleeping horrors), and horrors (the unthinkable entities that can drive you mad, once awakened). Awakened horrors also guard minions and gates.

Then you roll dice to attack one of the cults and try to whittle down its forces. Overall, it's kind of like a tower defense game, where you need to decide each turn which fire most needs to be put out.


Among the Stars

(Image credit: 3pod)


One play with four.

Meh. Seven Wonders engine with a spatial tile-laying front end. Not bad, but don't care if I play again. Sold my copy to a friend.
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Sat Jun 27, 2015 6:36 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: November 2014

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in November 2014.

Panamax

(Image credit: Oblivion)


This is a very well designed and produced medium-heavy logistics game. Players own shipping companies that must acquire contracts to load cargo onto differently sized ships and move them through the Panama canal. There's too much going on for a full description, but the hightlights are:

• Lots of scope for interaction between players; you can load cargo on anyone's ships, move anyone's ships, and buy shares in each others' companies.

• Interesting rules about how you acquire cargo and load it onto ships. Some cargo has a specific destination and can only be loaded onto ships in the areas serving that destination (at one or the other end of the canal).

• Fun and interesting rules about how ships can group up and push each other through the narrow constraints of the locks.

• Potentially crippling cargo storage costs for undelivered cargo at the end of each round, with the cost varying based on where in the canal system the cargo winds up. Managing these costs is critical. If things bottleneck, you may be in trouble.

• An interesting separation between player and company money (think Chicago Express). For you to do well, your company needs to do well, but ultimately only your personal money is used in determining victory.

Everything hangs together very well and mostly makes sense thematically. The graphic design is clean, attractive, and functional (once you know what you're looking at).

I've really enjoyed the game so far, with 2 and 4 players, and look forward to playing it more. My one reservation is that it can be very hard to recover from a misstep. At the higher player count, that can mean a fairly long stretch of inevitable losing.


El Gaucho

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


This is a solid medium-weight set collection game, with dice allocation as the driver of the action. A bunch of dice get chucked at the beginning of each round and then players take turns choosing (and removing) pairs to use in performing actions.

Dice can be used to acquire (or take an option on) cattle of different numerical values and breeds, or to reserve a handful of special actions for use in future turns. These special actions beef(!) things up a bit, allowing re-rolls, theft, early cattle sales, etc.

The main kink in the set collection is that the cattle you acquire of each breed must either ascend or descend in numerical value as you add them to your existing sets (think Qwixx, below). If you acquire a cow that would break the sequence, you are forced to sell the existing set of that breed (for an amount of VP equaling the number of cows sold multiplied by the highest value cow in the set).

The game is pleasant, interesting, and attractive (the 3D corral fences are a nice production gimmick). A good dice euro.



Qwixx

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


A very quick and simple dice game that's good as a light filler or to play with non-gamers. In that niche it's a very good design.

Each turn, the active player rolls six dice (two white and one in each of four colors). Every player has the option of marking the sum of the two white dice on their score sheets, choosing one of the four colored rows to record the value. The active player then as the option of choosing one white die and one colored die and marking the sum in the row for the colored die. If the active player opts not to do either, she takes a penalty.

As in El Gaucho, the kink is that the rows for the color dice either ascend or descend in order (12, 11, 10... or 1, 2, 3...). Once you've marked a number in a row, you can't go back later to mark an earlier number in the row (e.g., in a descending row, once I've marked 7, I can't mark 8).

These constraints tighten as the game proceeds and your earlier decisions start to hem you in.

The goal is to mark as many numbers in each row as possible, and take as few penalties as you can.

It's quick, easy, and just interesting enough to be worth the short play time. And it's small enough to be portable.


Age of War

(Image credit: punkin312)


This simple dice chucker is a re-theme of Knizia's Risk Express. On a turn, a player rolls a handful of 6 sided dice showing custom icon faces (1, 2, or 3 swords, cavalry, archer, or daimyo).

The player then chooses a card showing a feudal Japanese castle and assigns dice to match the recipe on the card. The recipe is made up of a series of "rows" of icons. Once you start working on a particular card on your turn, it's locked in. You can't switch cards mid-turn.

On each roll of the dice you can only complete one of the rows. Those dice are then set aside. As you try to complete further rolls, you'll do so with a smaller pool of rolled dice. If you can't complete a row on your roll, you discard one die and continue trying. If you complete all of the rows, you claim the castle (and its end-game VP). If you fail, you accomplish nothing on your turn.

The card recipes vary in interesting ways, with the associated VP reflecting their difficulty. Also, the cards come in "clan" sets, which give you a bonus if you acquire all of the cards in the set.

It's a dice game, so there's a lot of luck. But the design is clever enough (Knizia) to be worth occasional play as a filler.


Johari

(Image credit: punkin312)


Johari is a decent set collection and redemption game, with some interesting choices to be made. Each round has three turns of simultaneous selection card play (from identical sets of action cards).

The first card that players choose each round must be paid for at its full monetary cost. The second card chosen in the round has its price discounted. The third card is free. This creates an interesting incentive to delay taking the more expensive (and powerful) actions, to avoid paying their full costs. But if you wait too long, the other players may stymie you. That creates some modest decision angst that can be fun.

The game has some other interesting wrinkles: special power cards that you can get, different rules for selling sets of gems that are all the same or all different, "fake" gems that you may forfeit under some situations, etc.

It's a nice mid-weight card game. Nothing groundbreaking, but good. Not sure if it will stay in my collection, but worth a few more plays.


Planet Steam

(Image credit: jgoyes)


I may not be giving this a fair shake. I played it right after playing Panamax, so my heavy game thinkium reserves were somewhat low. It was also a learning game, with five, which probably isn't optimal.

Players bid for turn order cards (with special powers), acquire title to land spaces in a constrained orthagonal grid, buy and upgrade extraction machines to be installed on their land spaces (spending money and some water), produce resources with those machines (spending energy), upgrade resource storage facilities (which limit your maximum capacity for each of the types of resources), and buy and sell resources on a market (with resulting supply/demand price adjustments).

Money is VP, so you need to do all of that in way that maximizes your revenue. You also need to strike the right balance between infrastucture investment and end-game balance.

I'm generally drawn to this kind of game, with investment-income trade-offs, but I didn't much enjoy this one. Success was too heavily dependent on turn order manipulation, which in a five player game was pretty punishing. Also, there's a very strong rich-get-richer feedback. I usually don't like either of those things in a game, especially a longish game.


Lords of Xidit

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


This is a re-theme of Himalaya. It reminded me that I don't like Himalaya.

I don't want to knock the game itself, which seems well-designed (though the rulebook was pretty hard to grok on one point and I really don't like the twee-fantasy art design).

It's me. I'm absolutely rubbish at multi-player programmed movement games. I always seem to wind up following everyone else around, just a little too late to do most of what I planned to do.

Will do my best to avoid playing it again.


Black Fleet

(Image credit: punkin312)


A lavishly produced pick up and deliver game with players moving their pirate and merchant ships and also directing the movement of a couple of royal navy ships which can destroy pirates.

At the beginning of the game players are dealt a set of special power cards of increasing value and cost. Each has a special power that activates once the card is purchased. Game wins when one or more players manages to purchase all of their cards.

The special power cards can produce very strong synergies (if you're lucky enough to draw them), that I just found annoying.

I actually won my first (and only) play of the game, but didn't enjoy it. As I said at the time, "this was the most frustrating win I've ever had." Not for me.
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Sat Jun 27, 2015 5:00 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

New to Me: October 2014

United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
Where should I start?
badge
Near the end?
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an archival post of a write-up I did for the New to You geeklist in October 2014.

Five Tribes

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


This is a lavishly produced VP capturing game with a very clever mancala-type mechanism at its core. The board is a variable 5x6 array of square tiles. These tiles come in various types, with different innate powers and an end-game VP value for the player that claims them. At the beginning of the game, each tile is seeded randomly with three meeples of various colors. Again, each color has its own power.

Each turn, there is a bidding process to determine turn order. Then, in the resulting turn order, each player does the following:

(1) Select a tile containing meeples and "walk" those meeples along an orthagonally connected path, leaving one meeple in each space that is entered. The final tile in which a meeple is placed MUST contain at least one meeple of the same color as the meeple placed in that space.

(2) Remove all meeples from the final tile that are the same color of the meeple just placed there. If that completely clears the tile of all meeples, the player "controls" it (placing a camel in the space to record that fact).

(3) Activate the power of the meeples removed from the final tile.

(4) Activate the innate power of the final tile.

(5) Optionally, sell card sets for cash.

This presents a complicated spatial puzzle, with players figuring out how to best activate meeples and tiles, and hopefully take control of valuable tiles. In addition, it's crucial to avoid setting other players up with powerful opportunities.

Some AP is unavoidable, even with normally brisk players. I wouldn't even try to play this with people who are predisposed to slow play.

One of my friends disliked the very tactical game play. The words "point salad" were also mentioned in grumbly tones -- and it is true that virtually every turn you will net you *some* points. Also, our scores were very close in a four player game, with a three point spread on final scores in the 130 range.

I liked it and will play again, but I'm not yet sure it's good enough to have a permanent place in my collection.

[Also, if it bothers you, slavery is a thematic element in the game. You've been warned!]


Evolution

(Image credit: Mouseketeer)


I've only played this once, but it was pretty enjoyable. It's a tableau building game themed around competition between different species of herbivores and carnivores. Game play was pretty simple and tight. There was a lot of player interaction. Herbivores are competing for a fixed pool of food each turn. Carnivores are trying to eat other species. You get VP for food eaten, population size of your species, and any special evolved trait cards you've assigned to your species.

The trait cards are an important part of the game. They allow you to specialize your species, giving them defensive abilities to ward off predators, efficiency gains, or offensive traits to make carnivores more effective.

Powerful combos seem crucial, and this means that the game will need a few plays before newbies will be competitive. In my play, the only experienced player locked down a strong anti-carnivore combo early and the rest of us didn't have the cards or experience to know how to get around it. He had an easy win.

The artwork is excellent and the game play solid. I don't feel the need to own it, but will happily play when asked.
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Jun 26, 2015 4:43 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [10]

Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.