Thoughts from the EGG head

My slightly skewed view of the boardgame world from Eugene, OR.

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Quick Preview Essen 2014 Okazu Games

Chief EGG Head
United States
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Essen Quick Previews-Okazu Games

Isaribi by Hisashi Hayashi will make its Essen debut this fall. The designer is one of my favorites with a diverse portfolio of games that I enjoy playing and admire for the innovations such as the String series, Sail to India, Trains, Patronize and Trick of the Rails.

Isaribi which refers to the lights on fishing boats at night on the sea is a pick up and deliver game. The mechanism is action based. You start with 1.5 actions. On your turn you fish, upgrade technology, move or sell fish to the market. The winner is the player with the most money at the end of game.

You may only fish once per turn. You have a choice of hand fishing or net fishing. When using a net your catch is limited by your tech. When handfishing you can only catch 1 fish but cannot catch the most valued fish. Net fishing costs 1 action, hand fishing 0.5 actions.
You may move more than once per turn but each movement costs an action.
Upgrading tech costs 1 action. You may upgrade the number of actions you can take the amount of fish your net can hold. You can also puchase a special ability card that lets you boat store more fish from round to round and a personal market for selling one fish.
You are allowed to sell to one market for a half of action and two markets for a whole action.
Once you are done with you actions, you pass. When you pass you are allowed to choose one of 5 collaborator cards which give you a small benefit such as 3 money or peeking at the market cards.

Of course, there are always more things that you want to do than you have actions. The number of fish you can collect and the speed at which you move is limited by your tech. The type and amount of fish you can sell is limited by your market and actions. There is a bit of luck in the market determination because it is random card draw.
Part of the challenge is how to manage your money. Spending it on tech may help you sell more but obviously you are giving away VP as well. The other challenge is timing your fishing to get to get the most benefit from the market over you fellow fisherman. The game is over in 5 rounds so things move along pretty quickly.

Overall, Isaribi is a solid game although perhaps not quite as innovative as some of Hayashi's other games. What really helps raise this game for me above other pick up and deliver games is the fantastic art in the game by Ryoko Hayashi. It's done in Ukiyo-e style, a Japanese art movement during the Edo period and feels very thematic.

Edo Yashiki also by Okazu and Hayashi is quick tile placement game. Also set in the Edo period this game is about building the most prestigious house. It’s kind of like “keeping up with Jones.”

The basic mechanisms of the game are card selection and placement. It feels like a cross between Hanging Gardens and Factory Fun. The cards have 6 sections and you are trying to score columns or rows of same sections of at least 3 length. Cards equal to the number of players are placed, and everyone grabs one and then places it to maximize their score. The challenge is trying to score more than one thing at a time (which I haven’t mastered yet!) naturally there are rules about how and where you can place the tiles and the advanced game is a bit more challenging.

Makes a nice little filler. I think it will take a few more plays to for me to score better.
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Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:50 am
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Weekend games with 2, 3, and 4

Chief EGG Head
United States
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So finally got to play some games this weekend. Started off with some 2 player games. We played several games of Kulami, which is recent abstract from last Essen. Kulami is a combination area majority/ connection game with a modular board made of wooden tiles of various sizes.
the board can be set up randomly with no more than 10 spaces at the widest points. Players take turns placing marbles of their color on the board in the row or column where the previous marble was placed but not on the same tile or the previous tile played on. If no marbles can be placed, or players have used all the marbles the game is over. Scoring the basic game involves giving the tiles to the player with the most marbles on each tile. Tied tiles are discarded. You score the number of spaces on each size tile x the number of tiles you have of that size. The advanced scoring you may also score largest orthogonally connected area and add to the tile score and you may also add in chains of 5 or more marbles in a straight line or any combo of the above scoring.
So Kulami plays very quickly and I liked the advanced scoring with the chains as they were more difficult to complete. The game is easy to teach and I don't see any first player advantage. The modular board adds nice variety.

Also tried Exxit which was new to me. Exitt comes in a nice size box and the pieces are made of thick foam.
It's a bit different from a lot of the other abstracts I've been playing recently in that the goal is grow the board and score the most points on hex tiles of your color. Your largest connected area scores 2 pts per tile all other areas 1 pt. The rules are a bit confusing as on your turn you are forced to "dance" or move your tokens if you are as tall as or taller than a stack of the opponent's color, but exactly when this is forced or not was the difficulty. If you move your stack off the board and it is next to 2 hexes you may place a tile if you can't dance so it trying to set your self up without setting up your opponent was the trick.

Farlander has the nicest looking tiles that make up the board.
It's another abstract that plays quickly. The games has 2 phases. Placing your tokens on the board and then conquering neighboring territories. It's trickier that it sounds. You take turns placing tokens on the board one at a time in an empty area or where you already have a token up to a max of 5. When all the tokens are placed the conquering starts. If a players bordering areas have more tokens then the attacked area they may move in at least one token to 5 tokens and they remove the opponent's tokens from the board. This continues until no more conquering attacks are possible. Winner has the most territories at the end of the game.

Floriado is one of my favorites. Another fast abstract that makes you think a bit. Basically you place the flower tiles down i a 5x8 grid and start your meeples on a grid. You may take any flower you land on provided it is less than the number of flowers of the previous tile of that color that you took.
You move your meeple left, right or forward but not backwards. You can't land on an empty space and the game is over when no more tiles can be taken. Tiles of like flower colors are scored and the more you have of the color the more points you get. My winning flowers.


My dad got me a game(!) for my birthday. I'm glad I got a chance to try it out although next time I'm playing in the dark! Khet 2.0 is a cute little game of bouncing a light beam around the board with mirrors. It's kind of neat and nice of my dad to take note my hobby.

So next up we played a few 3 player games. First up I wanted to try Takenoko. This game has my win for best bits recently. The little panda is sooooo cute and a big impetus for my purchase. The bamboo pieces are also very nicely done.
Basically you draw objective cards and try to meet them. There are 3 types of cards, tile placement, growing bamboo an eating it. The game is over when someone reaches at least 9 objectives. Some people may not like the luck involved as sometimes you draw an objective that is complete already and you only need to score. Seems like this should be a family game but there is a lot to remember n each turn so I guess I'd call it more of a light weight game. It was fun with 3. Played again the next day with 4 and still ok but the downtime in 4 is not so good and it's a touch more chaotic.

We also played Terra Nova. I have played this nice little area majority abstract 2 player before but this was my first go with 3. You take turns placing all your meeples. Then you must move at least one meeple and may place a border stone or possibly 2 stones. The stones define the area and if you have the most meeples in an area when it is enclosed you score the points. Played pretty nicely 3 and I'd definitely recommend it if you like this sort of thing. Plays fast too.

Next was RED. RED is a strictly 3 player abstract. Each player is a color red, white or black and takes turns placing a tile from a common pool. Your score is determined by the number of colored dots in your largest group x the number of frames of your color in your largest group. Simple enough but as you stare at the booard, your mind starts getting a bit confused with all the dots and colors.
My first play was very fun and I'm looking forward to trying it again.

Finally worked up to 4 players and we played Hawaii. A nice little Euro. Lots of different ways to earn points in the game so nice to see different strategies do well.

We also played Takenoko as mentioned above.

We played Montage a 4 player partnership word game. Montage was recently reprinted after being a grail game for many years. It certainly meets it's reputation as one of the best of all word games.

We also played Kingdom Builder.
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Mon Mar 5, 2012 1:37 am
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Abstract Adventures

Chief EGG Head
United States
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Originally posted at http://opinionatedgamers.com/
So I have been mostly a Eurogamer and lately it seems the trend has been towards more theme but I have actually been more attracted to abstracts lately. So here are a few of the ones I've had a chance to play this fall.

Coerceo
The game comes in an appropriate sized box for the standard edition. One of the perks of most abstract games that I find appealing is that generally they are great looking games. Pretty and shiny if you know what I mean! Coerceo does not disappoint in this regard. I played the standard edition and it comes with nice, solid, triangular pyramids with a black or white pearlescent appearance.
The pyramids have a nice feel to them. Each player starts with 18 pieces. The board is made of 19 hexes which are divided in alternating black and white sections. The game includes multilingual rules and the English rules are concise and well illustrated.

Game play is pretty easy. The basic set up has players pieces on triangle sections of their own colors on the outer most hexes of the board (which is the hexes placed to form a larger hex-Settler’s style).
Players alternate moving a piece from one triangle or their color to an adjacent triangle of their color. They may capture an opponent’s piece if the surround it by their pieces on 3 sides. If an opponent’s piece is on the edge of the board then only 2 pieces are need to surround an opponent’s piece. If you place your piece into a spot surrounded by opponent’s pieces you are not captured.
The other aspect of the game involves a shrinking playing area, like ZÈRTZ. If you are the player to move the last piece off a tile and it is connected to the rest of the board by 3 or less adjacent sides it is removed (ie. no islands can be created). Players keep the removed tiles and at a later turn 2 of these tiles may be turned in to remove any 1 opponent's piece from the board.
The game ends when one player resigns or their last piece is removed from the board.

So, I like this game it's nice looking it's fun and it plays within an hour. I'd love to get my hands on a limited edition copy with red and black player pieces. It's easy to explain and play and there is ample opportunity for clever moves and set ups. Of course I hate it when someone does clever moves on me! Coerceo has the same gameplay feeling as one of the Project GIPF games. It was interesting playing on the triangular portions of the hexes, one opponent felt like the triangular spaces with the triangular pyramids made it very challenging to see threatened pieces. It is a bit of a different perspective than you might be used playing on vertices/intersections or square grids.
The shrinking player area helps keep the game from running on interminably and I suspect helps deter stalemate type situations. Trying to decide when to pick up a tile adds nicely to the decision making process. With the modular board it'd be interesting to see if the company or players have any other suggestions for starting set ups. The rule book did not initially address draws/stalemates or repetitive movement (we just applied common sense) but since then modified winning conditions have been posted stating that the first player with only one piece left loses and the with the conditions for a draw. In addition, a shorter game may be played with the winning condition of being the first to remove 12 of the opponent's pieces.


Talat
Talat from Bruce Whitehill was released by HUCH! & friends this year. It was originally released as Drei. Talat is a bit unusual in that it is designed for 3 players. It can be played by two but I haven't tried it yet. Talat is a nice looking game with 3 boards with 5x5 grids.
Each player has 9 pieces/towers (they are black, white and speckled). The pieces are 3 sizes - big, medium and small and 3 shapes - triangles, squares and hexes. Talat is a game of hierarchies where the weakest piece can capture the strongest piece completing the cycle.

Game play is a bit more involved here. Each player has two boards in front of them. The boards are 5x5 grids with player colors located on one side and opponent's color on the other. Players take turns placing one of their towers on their home color of one of the two boards.


Players may then move or capture on one of the boards on their turn. Towers move either 1 space ahead vertically or diagonally. You may not move backwards. To capture another player's piece you most be either adjacent horizontally, or vertically or diagonally ahead. In addition the rules of the hierarchy must e followed. Big pieces may capture medium towers and medium may capture small. If pieces are the same size, pieces with more sides top the hierarchy, in other words, hex beats square, square beats triangle. The small triangle can capture the big hex tower. Captured pieces score 5 points.
You can also earn 3 points by moving your towers to the opponent's side of the board to their colored area.

The game ends when two of the three player boards are "frozen" meaning it is not possible for any more pieces to be captured.

As a three player game, Talat provides an interesting challenge. You have to balance your moves over the two boards, sometimes sacrificing a move on one side to make gains on the other. At times, one player may feel "ganged up" on if both other players are making moves against them. I think 3 player abstracts are difficult to balance but I think Talat does a reasonable job.

Mondriaan 2020
Mondriaan 2020 is probably my favorite filler of the year. It's a smallish 2 player abstract from Cwali. It's been available to play at www.mastermoves.eu as Comino, but the designer, Corné van Moorsel feels it's much better as a f2f game and I agree. The game comes in a nice small box and it holds 21 tiles representative of the artist, Mondrian. All tiles have red, yellow and blue or some combination of the colors. The tiles are a nice size so the game can take up a bit of space.


Gameplay is easy. The players are each dealt 10 tiles, 10 at random and one player takes the red and the other the yellow tile. All tiles are face up. The extra tile is the start piece. The start player gets a 5 point handicap. Each player takes turns placing a tile orthogonally adjacent to one already on the table assuring that all colors of touching borders match.
The player scores points equal to the number of tiles of the orthogonally adjacent touching colors, not including the tile just played.
If a tile cannot be played it is discarded from the game. After each player has had 11 turns, the game ends and the winner is the player with the most points.

As you can see, a simple game, but I enjoy the puzzle aspect to it and the challenge comes in figuring out how score big and block your opponent from doing the same. The game plays in about 10-15 minutes. I find games like this, the perfect after work game when you've had a long day, short in length and a little challenging and a lot satisfying when you play well.

Shibumi
Shibumi is a game system designed by Cameron Browne to play a family of related games involving a stacking square pyramid with spheres. The system
includes a base with a 4x4 grid and 16 spheres in each of 3 colors - black, white and red. nestorgames produces 3 versions of Shibumi. The fancier sets come with phenolic balls which are like billiard balls in feel and density-really nice quality.
I found a nice wooden bowl in my cupboard to hold them when playing and they look great on the table too!

There are several games for Shibumi with rules listed on Boardgamegeek. Many of these are connection types games or grouping games. The number of players for the games range from 2-3. More are being designed as this is written. I have tried about 4 of the 2 player games so far. I'm not that great at the connection games but with the small grid the games play quickly so you don't have to suffer too long if you are losing! The games are challenging. The only issue I have is that some of the rule sets seem a little vague such as determining whether placements include diagonal or not or what is considered touching for example. Perhaps these are clear to people that play frequently but we made a few house rulings that seemed to go with the games. I like the concept of this game system quite a bit and this set is very nice. I look forward to trying out more of the games.
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Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:12 pm
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Delving Deeper into Abstracts

Chief EGG Head
United States
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So lately I've been on an abstract game kick and deciding to dig a little more into abstracts posted a recent geeklist to get some more ideas about good ones to try. As a result of this fascinating albeit somewhat lazy research, I got to try a few "new to me" games this past weekend and with very little arm twisting found a willing opponent
gameongameon
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First up was Scoozie. I kind of did a leap of faith on this game, recommended by
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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but Joe's taste in games and mine run reasonably similarly. I found the game is OOP and only a few copies left so I did what any good geek would do and bought a copy. Pricey, but I think it will pan out in the long run. It also comes with a very nice large, wooden board and pieces The game seems kind of loosely based on American Football. The game is asymmetric in that you alternate playing offense and defense. Here is the football
I feel tempted to paint it a different color
The light pieces are offensive and consist of guards and 3 ball carriers. The dark pieces are the defense and consist of all tackles.
Here is the opening game

The game is played on a grid and guards and tackles move from small circle to small circle. The ball carrier moves from large circle to large circle along routes.
Each player may move 2 pieces 1 or 2 spaces. The routes can be controlled by tackles that are adjacent to the routes. In addition guards and tackles can block each other essentially preventing each other from moving the rest of the round but also permanently having the tackles control certain routes.
A ball carrier cannot run along a route if it is controlled by a tackle but may move 1 or 2 spaces always advancing along open routes. In addition the ball may be passed to another ball carrier along a straight route. Here the ball has just been passed.

The farther across the grid the ball carrier moves the higher the number of points earned. The round is over when a runner is captured by a tackle, reaches the opposite row for a score, (here my runner just made it to the opposite of the board for a big score)
or the offensive can only move one piece. Then players switch sides.
All in all I thought this played well. It does have a football flavor to it and their are lots of options on each move. The first turn or two we were both kind of tentative in figuring out what to do but it's pretty easy to get into the game. I'm really looking forward to another play.

Next up was Sly.

Eugene
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-matt s.
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had recently played this as well and added it to the geeklist. This game is the epitomy of 1970's design, not game mechanics but game art and layout design. Let's start with the cover art, here's a nice image from
Dean
Canada
Ottawa
Ontario
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Wow, gotta love the fireplace, sweater vest and shag carpet. Open up the box and we have
a faux suede box insert! and lovely Avocado Green, Harvest Gold and Burnt Orange tokens. Finally we have the nifty wood grain patterned board
.
As for the game, or games rather, this box provides all the bits needed for a small collection of six Sid Sackson works.
We played Sniggle which is basically a race to get a group of 9 pieces across the board. Movement depends on the number of pieces your opponent has in the row in which you land. It was kind of interesting, but one of those games that I feel like someone else smarter than me has solved.
Then we played Line Up, where you win by connecting 4 pieces in a row or lose by being unable to move your designated piece. Players start with identical tokens but alternate which piece they must move on their turn in a set pattern square, triangle, cylinder. So I managed one win
and lost the next two on connections!

Finally we played Blockade. This classic kind of reminded me of Ricochet Robots only the ricochet parts can move. Basically you each have a king and must find a path to the other side of the board by ricocheting off blockers. Each player takes turns playing blockers then moving them until one player sees a path at the beginning of their turn. Here was our game in progress


I've had an unplayed copy of Orbit sitting on my shelf for a very long time. This game has very neat wooden bits almost preschoolish with nice chunky wooden bits in bright colors. It also comes with rules for 3 games, Orbit, Harun and Corona.Orbit is for 3-6 so we were only able to try Harun which is an easier version of Corona. In Corona, you roll the dice and then race against the other opponents in trying to mentally apply each dice rolled as movement to one of the colored discs. The discs can then move clockwise. Points are earned by the number of discs in a space when the the new disc arrives.


So it's basically a puzzle game and the rule book comes with a number of solitaire puzzles. I'd like to try Orbit next time. It gets to use more of the cool pieces in the box!

I recently traded for a copy of The Colony which I had never heard of, but it turns out it's a mancala variant. So The Colony each player has 6 ants to place and each player tries to gather the most eggs and at the end of the game you also count eggs that your ants are guarding. The game comes with some really nice wooden tiles.
The eggs are distributed evenly
and then players alternate moving the eggs and placing their ants depending on the number of eggs on a log.
When all the eggs are guarded the game is over and you add eggs collected plus eggs guarded.
Really a pretty quick and fun little game. I'm glad for the trade.

We also played YINSH one of my favorites of project GIPF and I finally got around to playing GIPF itself. All the games in this series are well done and great looking games to boot.
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Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:17 am
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My Personal Highlights from EGG Game Day

Chief EGG Head
United States
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So last weekend was one of our big EGG game days. We had a nice turnout close to 50 people which is pretty good considering the weather is still nice and there was a home game for the Ducks.
Here is a geeklist of a few of the games played there.
Unfortunately the game day runs from about 9 am to Midnight or so and there is just not enough time to play all the games I want. I did get to try a few games that were new to me so that was great.

So to start Andy had requested another game of Medici. Medici is a great opener because it scales well and as at previous events, we sit down and begin explanations and a few more people start to straggle in to the game day. We can easily add them to the game since it plays well with 3 all the way up to 6! Medici also has the benefit of having a relatively short rules explanation. For Sat we had a nice table of 5. I can't quite remember who all played but we had a fun game. The last round the scores were pretty close and it came down to Robert and I and the last 3 tiles to be divided between us. Robert had 2 spots on his boat open and I had 1. He took the two tiles leaving me to draw the last one. If it was a spice I'd reach the 10 bonus spot. If it was a 4 I'd tie for second the most valuable cargo, a 5 I'd tie for first. A pause, and I reached into the bag and drew a... 4 spice! Better to be lucky than good sometimes


I had a play of Quarriors! next, if anyone is looking for a copy contact me. Luckily right after this I finally got to try Titicaca. Since I'm a bit of a Cwali fan girl, I'd been interested in trying this one out. In fact, I had been dutifully carrying the game to all the game events over the last several months but it hadn't hit the table yet. I'd been distracted by Lancaster, Pantheon and the like recently.
The game is played with a modular board with the key features being a number of different landscapes and numbered lakes. Most Cwali games tend to be on the abstract side and this one fits the mold with the theme being tribes trying to take control of the land around lakes.Each player has houses of one color to represent your tribe and starts with "money." The money here is designated by weapons your tribe has shields, knives, spears and bow and arrows.
Each player also receives 2 temples and the start player gets the start marker.
Starting with lake #1 players then blind bid to take possession of a field/landscape around the lake. In bid order the players then choose and claim a field. All bids are paid unless you did not have a field to play on. After you claim a field you put fences around it-making borders between it and the adjacent landscapes, lakes count as borders. This is then a new country. Then you may merge your new country with an adjacent country if the landscape is a different type than already exists in that country. After that you may cause 2 other, different, adjacent countries to merge provided the will both have a new type of landscape and you have presence in one of the countries. Finally you may build a temple in one of your fields either the same or adjacent country. Temples are used to break ties. After a few turns the board may look something like this

Scoring occurs after lake 5 and lake 10. You score for money and countries adjacent to lake 5 in the first round and lake 10 in the second round. VP are given for each country. The player with the most houses of each land type in the country gets VP equal to the number of fields. The player with the most houses gets VP equal to the number of lakes bordering the country. Ties are broken by houses with the most lakes adjacent plus temples.
After lake 5 and lake 10 weapons are received equal to the total number of houses plus 3x the number in the longest chain of houses of your color.
After all fields are claimed final scoring occurs like after the lakes but in addition you earn 1 pt for each house and 3 points for each house in your longest chain. All countries are scored.
I am not a huge fan of blind bidding but it's relatively painless in this one and if you don't get a field you don't pay. I thought the game was pretty interesting. it takes a play to see how the scoring works and to see the merging of countries. I liked how the players can determine to some extent what the countries borders will be you also have to play somewhat tactically as well. Look forward to playing it again.

I also got to play one of my all time favorites Brass. The really fun part was that we didn't play the standard board but we played one of the fan based maps, Catalonia by
Jordi Ferrer
Spain
Barcelona
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Doug had printed up the map and cards for Catalonia and Anna joined in for the game. I am pretty impressed with how this map plays. It has all the tension of Brass but the focus of the industries feels very different as the designer followed the history of the area. Our game ended with fairly close scores I think we were all within 10 points.
A few of the differences are instead of canals, roads are built. In the road period you are allowed to build multiple industries in a city as long as they are level 1 industries.
If they are higher level then the usual rules apply. The distant market can only be reached through Barcelona. Cotton mills along rivers get a 2 dollar discount for hydro-power (we kept forgetting this in our game). You can sell as much cotton as you want to the Peninsula as long as you are not connected to any unflipped ports.
Those must be used first. Coal and iron tend to be scarce on this map. This map is a great change up from the standard board while keeping all the good parts of the game. I was inspired to print out my own copy for more plays. Just waiting on the cards now. I would highly recommend it for any Brass fans out there. Defintiely thumbsup and thanks so much to joffgracia for posting it.

I also had the opportunity to play another fan based map but this one was for Age of Industry. By the way, I don't recommend playing Brass and Age of Industry on the same day if you can avoid it shake, it can make your brain melt trying to keep it all straight!
I have tried playing AoI as a 2 player game a few times and while interesting it certainly loses a lot of the tension you crave, especially in the end game. There are just too many cards and too many locations to build letting you reach a point where everything has been built. I've been eagerly awaiting someone to come up with a specific 2 player map and
Claude Sirois
Canada
Quebec City
Quebec
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has done an excellent job with his Great Lakes map for 2 players. I had printed out this map as soon as I saw the file and couldn't wait to try it.
I think the removal of a color and the other cards really gives the right balance to the map. In addition each player removes the level 0 factiory and one of each level coal and iron.
There are a few interesting differences. Each round is considered a season in the year and player order changes at the end of the year. During winter no ports may be used only markets and distant ports connected by rail. Also there are 2 randomly chosen color zones which provide an extra $3 when a industry tile there is flipped.
The iron works in Northern Ontario can be built for only $1.
In our game the two profit colors were blue and green and it just so happened I built mostly in the blue in the west and Bryon in green on the east. We both built an early shipyard to get access to the coal and iron. I forged ahead into factory goods and cotton mills and Bryon built more shipyards. Bryon kindly built a rail link to Northern Ontario and I managed to drop an iron mill there on my turn. Later Bryon built coal in the south. Both coal and iron were overbuilt at least once during the game. These resources are plentiful with the shipyards built but in the end game coal was a bit short and it was very expensive to build rails. Our final score was 53 to 44. A big thumbsup for this map and a 2 player game. Thanks so much to klode for posting it.
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Wed Sep 21, 2011 6:10 am
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Adventures for Two! or Random thoughts on 2 player games/abstracts

Chief EGG Head
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So recently I've had a little more opportunity to try 2 player games out and was ruminating about my experiences with them.

Generally when I think of 2 player games I tend to initially think about abstracts. So the classics (chess and it's variants, go, checkers etc) aside, I find abstracts appealing for many reasons. They tend to be visually attractive, have relatively simple rules and yet can be quite challenging. Often they can be played casually as fillers and sometimes as brain melting challenges. It seems like a lot of them require you to be good at some form of pattern recognition. They tend to be symmetrical in that both players start with identical pieces and goals and action takes place on the same playing field.

I had some fun this past weekend delving into the world of abstracts circa 1960's and 1970s. This time travel was quite interesting in that it got me thinking. What makes a 2 player abstract good (at least to me)? and wow! I'm glad the way publishers do cover art now is so much better than back then!
So on to the games. A lot of these games include the ever popular polyominoes as their main components. While both of these games that I mention can be played with more players in partnership or with 4 it seems like they would be best with 2. First up was Vagabondo 1979.
Cover image by Big Bad Lex. Definitely a member of Blokus family tree. The board and pieces are adequately done although the score track is a bit fiddly. So from an aesthetic point ofview, not that attractive, at least to me. Produced by the same company that did Mastermind it's a decent enough game for the time. So the rules are pretty basic in Vagabondo. Players alternate placing the tetris shaped pieces on the board. The pieces must be placed orthogonally adjacent to a piece already played.You score the area of your piece and any opponents pieces you are adjacent too. If you cover one of the X-marked spaces on the board you get to double your score for that turn. In our two player game we found the board a bit too expansive to make it much of a challenge. We played again eliminating the outer row of spaces on the board and decided if you couldn't fit all your pieces on the board you would penalized for the pieces you had leftover (All the pieces fit in our game). This did make for a bit more interesting game. It seems like they made games a lot friendlier back then as it feels like there is less competition and challenge vs today's Blokus.

Along the same line we played Skirrid from 1977. Again this game involves playing tetris like pieces onto a board. This a a huge game. The board is flat and unfolding and huge! so the box takes up way too much space. The pieces are cool if not practical. They consist of clear and smoke colored transparent polyominoes. Some have small numbers (2 or 3) printed in some of the squares. You can kind of see it here in this piece. It was hard to photograph.

Skirrid for two is played on the inner colored diamond of the board.
The grid also contains numbers on certain squares. You alternate playing pieces orthogonally adjacent to a previously played piece. The reason the pieces are translucent is to make it easy to see the numbers on the board. You score for the sum of the numbers covered. If you play a piece with a 2 or 3 on it you multiple the number covered by the number times the number on the piece. Talk about funky and fiddly score tracks. This one is even worse than Vagabondo's as it increases by 20. The moves are fairly easy to decide as you obviously want to cover the larger numbers with your higher multipliers. The challenge is in preventing your opponent from doing the same. You are allowed to play a piece upside down for half points and prevent your opponent from playing adjacent to that piece for one turn. Certainly a reasonably interesting filler. Too bad it takes up so much space!

Chaseback from 1962 is for 2 players only. Again a big box with an unfolding board. Nice plastic tokens. Here is the board.
The pieces are placed on the center spaces of the board. Players take turns moving the pieces back and forth on the grid. Each player has 3 moves and the number of spaces to move the next piece is determined by the space the last piece ended on (the center spaces =4).
You must move the exact number either backwards or forwards.
The green spaces are "safe" and your opponent can't move them if the pieces are on your side of the board in a green space. You can have up to two safe pieces per turn. If you get a piece to the goal you score a point and the piece returns to the center. You play to 15 points. The game is a bit boring as there are not really any clever moves you can pull and it can take a long time to get to 15 points!

I think the piece de resistance of the weekend was playing Rrib-Bit from 1973. It was kind of fun as the copy we played had the original note from the designer of the game inside it still.

The production is a bit overboard. The pieces consist of giant plastic albino and brown frogs which are a bit scary in appearance. You take turns moving your frogs in an L-shaped/knight movement around the board. You can capture a frog if you land on it's square. The winner is the first player to get 3 frogs in row in the center red square without your opponent being able to disrupt it on their turn.


On to more recent games now.
The GIPF series seems to ideally represent 2 player abstracts. They have generally simple rules, beautiful components and challenging play. I love the bits to these games. DVONN,
TZAAR,
and YINSH
are my favorites. The only ones I haven't tried are GIPF and TAMSK.
The nice bits in abstracts are one of my favorite things about them. Ta Yü (the original Kosmos/RGG edition) is my favorite game with an Asian motif.
The tiles are nice and chunky and have a great feel to them in addition to being a beautiful, tranquil ivory and blue, as opposed to the garish and jolting red of the newer version. As far as connection games go I think TaYu is one of the more interesting ones out there. In my recent adventures back in time I also tried Connections from 1991. A decent production but the game play was a little boring.

I'll give a special mention to several of the Cwali games of which I have written about previously which again provide nice production values with fast and easy game play for 2. Gipsy King
Territories
and Floriado
are my favorites.

Kamisado is one I've had some fun playing recently. I find the original edition a little overdone from a production and size perspective, but I like the white edition
(photo by sentiero) from HUCH. This game is gratifying when you can pull off some clever moves but so frustrating when you miss an opponent's easy win!

One of the few asymmetric abstract designs I've come across that I enjoy is Chinagold
.

I've seen pictures for two new abstracts coming out this year and am quite impressed with the bits. Coerceo makes me drool a bit on the keyboard, but from reading the description of game play it sounds a bit dull. I think it's hard to tell from reading about an abstract game whether it will really pull me in or not. The line is pretty fine between a "wow, want to play this one again right away!" abstract and an "okay, I'd play it again but see no reason to own it" game. The other one is Moeraki: Kemu hoping to see some English rules or review on it.
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Tue Sep 6, 2011 11:48 pm
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Jarjais

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I like deduction games and was intrigued by the theme of the French Revolution in Jarjais. The goal of the game is to locate the "Carnation Treasure" which was supposed to be used to free Marie Antoinette from jail, with the note hidden in a bouquet of carnations given to her. I have been lucky enough to obtain a copy from the designer as the game is only available in France right now and was able to give it a whirl.

Jarjais
comes in a nice small box that includes a deck of cards, money, pencils and a note pad for tracking information and making your guesses. The game is for 2-4 players. So far I have only played 2 player but it worked surprisingly well.

The deck is composed of "clue" cards - person cards, location cards and date/year cards as well as 4 types of special cards. First the the person, location and date of the carnation treasure is determined by randomly drawing one of each type of card and setting them aside, without peeking!

The other cards in the game are gravel cards (kind of filler cards), secret cache cards to get more money and 2 or each of these red backed special cards the municipal council and flood cards.

Each player also takes a note sheet and 6 money.


All the cards are shuffled together (in a 2 player game remove 6 of the 12 gravel cards) and each player gets 4 cards to start. Before you are allowed to take notes you draft the cards keeping one and passing the others until each player has 4 cards again so a small memory element here. Then you may take notes. Each clue card also has some number (1-4) fleur de lis in the corner. To completely eliminate a clue you must see all 4 of theses cards.

Then each player chooses a card and places it face down, cards are added from the deck until 6 cards are in the pile. If a red back card is drawn at any time, you immediately follow the effects. The council cards makes you pass 3 cards to the player on your left and the flood card has you turn over cards from the deck until 2 clue cards are showing then reshuffled. After the 6 cards are placed this is called the major bid, players bid money for them. The winner takes the cards. Then a minor bid occurs in which the winner takes 3 cards from the deck.

Then is a small action phase in which you can play a secret cache card to get money, take 2 money or draw 1 card from the deck.

Next comes an optional trade phase which we skipped in our 2 player game but can add some bluffing and negotiation to the game.

Next players may reveal gravel cards. if a player discards 3 gravel cards they are allowed to draw 1 card from the deck and the gravel cards are discarded. Then players check for a hand limit of 8 and extra cards are discarded.

Then the major bid phase is repeated and so on until the cards from the deck are depleted. This ends the first round and players must guess the carnation treasure. The Discards are shuffled and the second round begins with a drafting phase again and so on.

After the deck runs out again, the second round is over and players make their final determinations. The answer is revealed and players earn 2 points for each correct guess in Round 2 and 1 pt for each correct guess in round 1 and minus 1 point for each wrong guess in round 1. The winner has the most points!

Mary's winning note card, the answers are circled at the top

My card


So overall a very nice deduction game with a theme that will fit right in with the rest of the games we play on Bastille Day Liberté and Guillotine. There is some luck involved but it's definitely not as chaotic as say Mystery of the Abbey.
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Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:35 am
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From Confusion to Crashing the housing market or recent games played

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Had the opportunity to try Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War again. This was the second game for me and the first for Mary. I really wish the instruction booklet had more picture examples in it. For some reason I overthink the simple setup and the tend to get the movement confused which arrows mean forward for who etc. After a couple of practice moves we got the game going and were off to race for the top secret briefcase!
So the game is a bit like playing Stratego without knowing what your pieces are. You ask your opponent if one of your pawns can move to a certain square and they tell you if it is a legal move or not. Each player has a notebook to track the movements of their pawns thereby deducing which piece each pawn if likely to be. The little kicker is that each player has a double agent a "?" which of course your opponent can say moves whichever way they want or not. So Mary's double agent happened to be the center piece or the X and right off the bat she decides to move it. (The key here is to remember to mark down what you've told your opponent about the double agent!) So the X eventually moved forward and we each moved a few other pieces closer to the briefcase.

Then she wanted to capture one of my spies with her X. Ugh! I couldn't let that happen, so midstream I changed the direction her agent could move. I saw a puzzled look and I tried to keep a straight face. After a few adjustments she start moving X in a different way.
The center of the board was soon clogged up with agents. Eventually I had to uncover her double agent so I could take the briefcase and make a run to the homeland. I also discovered my own double agent but by that time I had the briefcase and was making a run for the corner. The last few spies were limited in their movement and unable to catch me. Afterwards Mary said she just figured I had made an error when I told her the double agent went a different direction so chalk up a win to my error prone ways laugh

We played a number of lighter, older games this weekend as well. Trent, Rose, Mary and I played Arkadia which seems to be a bunch of different mechanism thrown hurriedly together but it works. A cross between tile placement and stock markets, Arkadia is really an interesting little game.

The key to success here is knowing when to turn a banner in for scoring and to get more workers to place on the board.

There were some pretty big scores early in the game, As Mary and Rose scored for Red and Green. I hung onto Black and bidded my time and was able to make a big score about 3/4 through the game. Overall this game still has some nice replayability left in it for me.

Eric, Mary and I played The Golden City by Michael Schacht and has some of the same feel as another of his games, and one of my Top 10, Web of Power. In Golden City you play cards to build networks that allow you to score and gain resources.
Eric built a lead taking several goods cards and making it into the city. Mary almost caught up by focusing on Bonus cards. A reasonable game although I'd still much rather play Web of Power

I had been dragging Fossil around to the last several game days wanting to get a game in so I could decide if I should keep the game or not. I like the paleontology theme and the tiles look nice. Unfortunately the game just didn't hold much excitement. We played a 6 player game with Trent, Cary, Julie, Mary, Rose and myself. Basically there are two stones you move along a grid and set collect the tiles of the distinct fossils. You score for the points on the tiles. If you have the most tiles of a fossil you get a bonus if anyone does not have part of the fossil. This one will go in the giveaway pile.

Cary, Anna, Julie, Mary and I then played Neue Heimat. This is a beautifully produced game with bright colored, chunky building blocks and nice red dome roofs-it almost looks like a kid's game but it's really an evil, evil game.

Neue Heimat is an auction game with a closed monetary system. The first block of each color building earns the winner control of that color. They will gain points, negative or positive, at the end of the game for each building that has that color block on the top. Rows of houses that are completed (all buildings haves roofs) at the end of the game score positive and uncompleted rows score negative. Players can bid on and win any color blocks and place them wherever they like. There are also some special building which extend or shorten rows and the mayor who doubles value whether it is positive or negative. Sometimes this is a game where the winner is the least negative!
The jockeying of position in rows and and the management of money in this game really drives the decision making to agonizing heights and makes it oh so challenging a game which deserves much more recognition in my book.
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Thu Jul 7, 2011 5:43 am
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Age of Industry Expansion #1 or how the heck do you connect Duluth to Tokyo at EGG?

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Last weekend was one of EGG's Game Days. We had the biggest turnout ever with well over 40 people, that's pretty darn good for a sunny, summer Saturday in Oregon!
The geeklist is here EGG Game Day June 25 games played with contributions from attendees.

The highlight of the day for me was being able to play the prototype Age of Industry Expansion #1: Japan and Minnesota. I believe the maps are shipping soon (fingers crossed). AoI has taken a while to grow on me. It's big brother Brass has been one of my all time favorites since KenH first taught me how to play. The first few times I played AoI, I wasn't that impressed because Brass just seemed to do everything so much better. After a few more plays and adjusting my strategies I began to appreciate AoI for itself and the fact that it may be slightly easier for new players to learn. The original maps are fine but it was great to see the new ones.

First we played Japan. The main differences here are that track is worth $3 instead of $2 and the number of shipyards that can be built. In addition coal and iron seem much less important since the shipyards allow a lot more free importation of those resources. I had some difficulty formulating a long term strategy with this map. Jeff aggressively went after shipyards followed by Gordon (who was playing his first game) in building shipyards. I initially built a port in the north but Jeff beat me to the shipyard and I kind of floundered from there. I got caught in a loan death spiral having to take loans to pay my interest and never recovered still carrying 1 loan to the end of the game. Gordon built some key rails in the middle of the map with lots of points on both ends and this carried him to the win, just edging out Jeff. The $3 track is more lucrative for sure in the end game.

The Minnesota map is has some key changes to the basic rules as well. Certain areas/colors give different benefits. The brown iron range of Northern Minnesota put an extra cube on iron mills built there and pay an extra $2 income when flipped. The blue areas let you build cotton mills without using coal as hydropower is used instead. Coal can only come from the demand track to be used as a resource and coal can only be built in Chicago. Distant markets accept iron. The entire Chicago area counts in the end game as one large area for purposes of calculating the value of the rail links. The Twin Cites area counts as separate ones. The biggest change is that iron and coal can only be sold to the distant market as part of a sell goods action.

Jeff and I played a 2 player game. We didn't remove any cards at the beginning of the game but the next time I play a 2 player game I will take out 10 or so cards, otherwise the game is not as interesting in the final round or two because everything has been built. Still this was a hard fought game and with the selling of coal, iron and cotton some huge profits were made. Jeff again somehow managed to make the most of the shipyards but I think I bested him in cotton mills. We both sold the same amount of coal and iron. I eked out a win because I think I started making profits a little sooner than Jeff or perhaps due to my familiarity with Minnesota having lived there...at least that was Jeff's theory
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Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:43 am
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Pergamon, Uluru, and Olympus

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Just thought I'd jot down a few thoughts about some newer games to me. First up Pergamon. This game has a nice archeology theme and is light to mid-weight in complexity. The goal of the game is to gather pieces of artifacts, complete them and exhibit them for victory points.
The board is nicely done and the components are nice cardboard chits, the game comes in a nice, smaller sized box.
The game consists of 12 turns. The first part of the turn involves placing your archeologist meeple on the track which accomplishes three things 1)collecting money to pay for excavations and polishing exhibits 2)determining the depth of which level you can excavate and 3)player order for excavations.

Starting with the meeple farthest to the right on the track played will collect money. Guesstimating how much money you can earn is part of the game. Each space on the track has a number of coins you can collect from none to 6 with none being the farthest right. At the start of the turn 2 money cards a red drawn and placed face down. Small money bag cards have coins in value 1-4 and money chests have coins in value of 5-8 on them.
After everyone has placed a meeple the cards are flipped and starting with the meeple farthest right the money is paid out. Depending on the sum of the two cards and where the meeples are played, sometimes, the left side players may get less money or no money than their position. If the sum is large the left most player collects any extra money left over.
Next the player farthest to the right will have the opportunity to excavate one of the 5 levels. The levels that they player is allowed to excavate is determined but the ones on the space that their meeple is on. The player must also pay coins equal to the level they choose ie level 3 pays 3 coins. Then they may all the artifacts in that level.
Next the players may put on exhibits.

The value of the exhibit is equal to the age (in the picture the value of exhibit I is 5 and exhibit II is 8. Tiebreakers are the smaller numbers followed by AC. When you put on an exhibit you can pay 1 coin to "polish it" and make it worth one more in value. You also earn 1 victory point which looks like these.
It took me a while to figure out what they were for! blush
The value of the exhibit will earn you VP at the end of the game. The other little tricky point is that the older exhibits lose value when a new exhibit worth the same or higher value is displayed. You can also earn bonus VP for having the oldest of each type of artifact and the oldest show.
I found Pergamon to be a pleasant light weight game that is fun to play with one of my favorite themes. The game fits the theme nicely too.

Uluru: Tumult am Ayers Rock is a neat puzzle game for 1-5 players. There is a timer involved but players do not race against each other. Each player takes a set of Dreambirds (one of each color) and a board with Uluru or Ayer's rock in the middle of the board.
Next one card is placed under each color.
Each of the cards contain one rule which applies to the color above it. For example the red bird wants to sit next to the green bird or the pin bird wants to sit across from the orange bird. The players then have to try arrange as many of their Dreambirds around the rock in such a fashion as to fulfill each rule. The trickiest part of the game is remembering what rule each card stands for!
Here is the designer's explanation of the cards.
(go to the image page to see his explanation)
Next the timer is flipped and each player tries to come up with a solution. When the time is done each player gets a stone to represent a minus point for each card that was unfulfilled.
the end result in my example
So if you like puzzle games you should give this one a try!

Olympus was released last Essen but I had put off trying it. I finally got around to playing it as mentioned in a previous blog at GameX 2011. I found it pretty interesting, sort of a worker placement crossed with favor tracks and buildings. The main board has the gods with their favors listed on the left and common buildings which may be built by players on the right.

Each player also gets player board
and each player has a set of their own buildings here are some examples.
Of course each building gives a player a benefit as well.
Each player starts with 3 meeples and at 1 on every track except population which starts at 2.
The start player places a meeple in the alpha space of one of the gods, earning the favor. Then the other players my choose to go in the beta space of that god earning a slightly lesser favor, such as building 2 buildings vs building 1 building. This is a pretty interesting mechanism especially with 4 players. Then the next player places in a alpha space and so on. The players advance up the different tracks.
Culture allows you to build better buildings as you advance on the track and you get an extra meeple at 8. It is the only track where your marker can be advanced ahead of your population marker and stay there.
Population lets you get an extra worker at 6 and in addition the population markers is as far as the other tracks may be advanced.
Military lets you attack other players and you get a resource if your military is greater.
The last 3 tracks are different resources needed to build with.
You earn VP for buildings and for Glory cards
which are given to the first player to reach the end of each type of track. The game is over when 4 of the Glory cards are taken.
The game seems to have multiple paths that can be explored so that makes it interesting to me. The only reservation I have is the downtime with new players as they try and learn all the cards/buildings.
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Tue Jun 7, 2011 5:39 am
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