$10.00

On Gamer's Games

Wherein I Discuss Those Games Described As Gamer's Games

Archive for Pre-Release Predictions

1 , 2  Next »  

Recommend
72 
 Thumb up
1.05
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions: Keyflower

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Keyflower, by Richard Breese and Sebastian Bleasdale and published by R&D games, is the latest in Breese’s long line of “Key” games. I am mostly unfamiliar with these games, but was mightily impressed by the 2010 release of Key Market. This, plus a promising description of the mechanics, was sufficient to get me to pre-order the game. The rulebook was released last week, and after digging around a bit in it, I think I have a pretty good feel for what are going to be the key differentiating factors of the game.



Workers, Workers Everywhere
One of Keyflower’s core differentiating factors appears to be how the game handles worker management. At its core, it is a worker placement game, where players take turns placing one (or more workers) on the board in order to activate abilities or get access to new powers. However, unlike other worker placement games these workers are able to be spent permanently or transferred between players, with a steady infusion at the end of each season insuring that no individual player runs out.

Players are able to freely place workers on any tile on the board; even tiles that are currently up for auction are available. However, any worker that you place on another player’s tile ends up in their hands at the end of the turn. You essentially end up trading an opportunity for access now for a reduced ability to take advantage of opportunities on the board later. Workers come in four colors, with these colors having a direct impact on how the players are able to use them. A given tile starts the round as being associated with no color, but once a particular color is used to take an action on a tile, or used to bid on a tile then all further actions on that tile will require using the tiles of the same color. If you know what colors the other players have then you can use this as a weapon, taking advantage of their perceived weaknesses in order to force them into an awkward situation, as they are either unable to take advantage of a particular tile or bid on it.

It is also possible to use a space that has already been activated by another player, but only if they place more workers than a previous player. There is a hard cap of six workers that can be placed on an individual tile, so if a player is willing to be slightly inefficient in their worker usage, it is possible to prevent other players from being able to use a spot, either by making it so it is not possible to meet the minimum worker threshold and not exceed the worker limit, or by taking advantage of other player’s lack of the right color of workers.

Your ability to take advantage of this information is limited by the fact that a player’s current allotment of workers is hidden information. This makes sense to some extent, as a player’s initial allotment of workers is hidden, but as the game goes on it becomes more of a memory game, which is something that I find a bit disappointing. I understand the general desire to use hidden trackable information in order to create an illusion of tension, but I find the possibilities for being able to use known information as weapons to be far more interesting and will likely keep public information public when I play Keyflower, much the same way I did with Key Market.

Worker Auctions
Ownership of particular tiles is granted at the end of a round based on whoever has the most workers placed adjacent to the tile at that time. When someone else exceeds your bid on a tile, then you are able to move those workers, as a group to another tile. This results in what I suspect will be some pretty interesting interactions, as players are able to interfere with other player’s ability to get needed tiles, forcing those players to bid more with only a minimal effect on the bidding player, as they will lose earlier access to the available tiles without losing the action itself. I am not quite sure how relevant this will end up being, but the interaction itself looks like it has the potential to be entertaining.

Resource Management
The tiles themselves do the sort of things you would expect in a resource conversion game: give you new workers, give you skill tokens, give you resources, or give you victory points. Workers are the primary currency of the game, with skill tokens used either to help get additional workers or resources, and resources used to upgrade tiles, making them more effective, or to get victory points at the end of the game. As far as resource management games go there seems to be relatively little conversion and fairly short logistic chains. While it is helpful to get complimentary tiles, it appears that the important decisions will be mostly in the form of how you use your workers.

Spatial Reasoning
Individual tiles have roads and rivers on them to indicate how they can connect with each other. These are important both because you are required to place like on like, Carcassonne style, but also because it determines how far you need to transport goods in order to get them to the tile you want. This is relevant for tiles that need goods for an upgrade or the tiles you can collect in game that score bonus points for you at the end of the based on the number of goods on those tiles.

Predictions
Keyflower looks like it is going to be a fairly average “good” game rather than anything particularly excellent or awful. For these sorts of games a lot depends on how effective and tension-inducing the interactions are, and that can be difficult to identify based on just the rules. It does look like there will be some interesting things happening in the game, but I suspect it will not be quite good enough. The main thing I will be looking for as I play is if the game is interesting enough, if what it is doing is distinctive and entertaining enough to make it worthwhile in the face of all the other resource conversion worker placement games out there. Right now I am not cancelling my pre-order, but I think it has a reasonable chance of not maintaining its status in my collection for an extended period of time.
Twitter Facebook
38 Comments
Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:22 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
83 
 Thumb up
1.25
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions: Terra Mystica

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Introduction
Terra Mystica, published by Feuerland Spiele and designed by Helge Ostertag (designer of Kaivai), Jens Droegemueller (designer of The Scepter of Zavandor), and Uwe Rosenberg (designer of Bohnanza), is one of the games scheduled to be released at Essen that I was most excited about. This was partially due to the pedigree of the designers. I greatly enjoy the uniqueness of Kaivai, and find The Scepter of Zavandor to be among the better economic snowball games I have played. Similarly Uwe Rosenberg has produced a few games that I enjoy. However, looking at both the details provided with the game images was enough to drive my interest even further. I found both the game’s artwork and format to be attractive, and the hint of a large number of different factions, with associated player powers was also attractive.

As part of my preparation for Essen coverage I e-mailed a number of different publishers asking for reviews copies of their games. One of these publishers was Feuerland Spiele. At first they politely said they would consider my request and get back to me, but eventually I was contacted about proofreading the rulebook in exchange for a copy. I agreed, which enabled me to not only get a copy for review, but also to get a preview of the rulebook. What I saw impressed me.



A Game of Majorities and Tech Trees
The game is essentially one of majorities and tech trees. At the most basic level players will be spending their turns terraforming terrain, using workers to twist an adjacent hexagon from its current terrain to the one that matches the player’s faction’s preferred type and building basic structures. These structures serve both to provide players with income in one of the game’s currencies (workers), and serve as the basis for construction of all of the other buildings in the game.

Advanced structures are upgraded from the basic, dwelling structure, and provide additional income of one or two of the game’s currencies, as well as access to special favor tiles that provide some combination of advancement on the cult track and special powers. Each faction also has a special bonus that they gain when building their “Stronghold”, typically either a new action that only they can take, a large onetime bonus, or a permanent bonus that makes their unique ability better. I like the variety this adds to the game, as it looks like each of the factions will be very different to play, creating both additional variety in how you player your side and in how each faction interacts with the others.

The game’s two tech trees provide the means for players to make the construction of basic structures more effective, by making the costs for terraforming cheaper or by making it so that they can use river tiles to build at greater distances. Advancing on either of these trees, also provides victory points, making it so it is much less costly to do so instead of advancing your board position through construction.

A War Over the World
The focus on terraforming is probably the thing that intrigues me most about the game. The idea of rival groups seeking to use magic to shape the very world to suit their own particular needs is very evocative, as is the conflicts that are engendered by this transformation. A particularly terrain’s type is only locked down after a player places a settlement on to it. Until then another player has free reign in changing any terrain shifted by another player in another, more helpful, direction. I suspect this will result in players only transforming tiles that they can build on immediately or ones that no other player can access, however there are enough awkward transformation opportunities and faction powers that improve the range of terraforming that this will not always be possible, thus incentivizing players to build away from each other.



Luckily there are also strong incentives to build next to other players too. The first of these is the opportunity to take transformation opportunities from other players. The other is the potential for symbiotic interactions. One of the things I liked about Kaivai was how it forced you into a symbiotic relationship, as if you wanted to advance your own position, and you did of course, you had to sell your fish to other player’s huts, allowing them to turn those fish into victory points. Terra Mystica also has some level of symbiosis, but I am not sure whether it will end up being something that is nice to have or something that is required if you want to be successful. Essentially, whenever another plays constructs something adjacent to you, you are able to gain power, one of the currencies of the game, based on the structures you have adjacent to their constructed structure. However, this bonus comes with a victory point cost, so players will need to make decisions about when the trade off is worth it.

Currencies and Cults
The game has three primary currencies: workers, coins, and priests, and one secondary currency: power. Coins and workers are used for the bulk of your building needs, while a combination of coins, workers, and priests are used for tech advancements. Priests are also used in order to advance on the four cult tracks, which provide advancement bonuses every round as well as bonus points at the end of the game. Power is used primarily to allow you to purchase additional amounts of the other currencies, but also enables you to take power actions which generally supply you with these same currencies but at an improved rate. There is a bit of resource conversion and management in the game, so players who are not a fan of this will probably not enjoy Terra Mystica. For those who do, valuations for the various resources are changed significantly enough based on a player’s faction that there should be plenty of replay value in just playing new factions. When you combine that with how the game’s 14 different factions interact with each other, the amount of replay goes through the roof. With how much I like to play my favorite games, I consider this to be a strong positive.



The cult tracks provides an additional opportunity for resource income, as they give an income bonus at the end of every round if you have advanced far enough on the track, and an opportunity for competition, as players score bonus victory points based on relative positions in each cult at the end of the game. The primary way to advance on a track is to place a priest in one of the empty spaces at the bottom of a track. Unfortunately, this leaves players with one less priest available for the rest of the game, which could decrease their maximum income if they invest too heavily into the cult tracks. Going into these tracks also presents some opportunity cost. Spending priests for cult advancement early is more valuable than doing so later in the game, but comes with some opportunity cost, as an early priest placement will also restrict the ability of a player to use that same priest for either tech advancement or some other bonus that will provide dividends throughout the rest of the game. It looks like this will introduce some tough, interesting resource management decisions.


Conclusion
My excitement over Terra Mystica has only increased with reading the rulebook. It was previously a game I was highly anticipating from Essen 2012 and now it is contending with CO2 and Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar as my most anticipated game. Its potential replayability, strong spatial component, and symbiotic game play are all things I enjoy greatly. I suspect that this game will really only appeal to players who can appreciate eurogames, but for those who do I think it is definitely worth checking out. I am glad I am getting a copy and plan to thoroughly explore it.
Twitter Facebook
11 Comments
Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:59 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
69 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions: Suburbia

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Suburbia, by Ted Aslpach, is a new game being released by Bezier Games and Lookout Games at this year’s Essen Game Fair. It is a tile placement game, where players are each involved in the construction of the suburbs of a town that is growing into a metropolis. Players purchase acquire tiles and place them on their board, granting some combination of immediate and long-term pay offs based on how they interact both with adjacent tiles and those located elsewhere on the board. Ted was kind enough to send me a pre-finalized version of the rules which allows me to bring you a pre-release prediction of the game now, rather than later.



The game that Suburbia reminds me most of is Glen More, to the point that most of my thoughts about the game are directly intertwined with my reaction to that one. Both of them feature a draft to gain new tiles, though Glen More’s draft felt significantly more innovative to me, as it featured players spending potential turns as their currency rather than the more straightforward financial costs of the Suburbia draft. Both feature a simple select a tile, place the tile, trigger related tiles turn structure but how they go about this differs. Glen More featured “chieftains” that limited where you were able to place tiles, and most tiles triggered based on another tile being placed adjacent to it. Suburbia has a less constrained purchase and place mechanism, but how placed tiles interact with other tiles is more complex, due to the fact that tiles can interact with adjacent tiles, tiles that you have elsewhere on your board, and tiles that other plays have on their boards. The complexity of these interactions is such that I see much more long term potential with Suburbia then I ever saw with Glen More. I became bored with Glen More after 10 plays, while I suspect that Suburbia has more long-term potential.

Even beyond the tile interactions, there are a number of interesting dimensions to the Suburbia rule set that will increase its long-term exploration potential. Perhaps the biggest one is the three investment tokens the player gets. Each of these requires the player to give up a tile draw and spend an existing tile’s purchase price again to place it. In exchange that player gets to double the effectiveness of that tile. It looks like it is possible that a player may be able to ride an early investment token placement to victory, but only if attentive players do not hate draft in response, taking tiles that would allow the investing player the biggest benefit. It is a credit to the game that it is possible to perform this denial without hurting your position, as it is possible to purchase certain tiles or place an investment token while also removing an unrelated tile from the draft. Taking a tile to use as a lake, which is one of the ways that this removal can occur, looks particularly fun as it serves to provide an immediate cash infusion, forcing players to make hard decisions about whether it is more valuable for them to get the instant money that the mostly free lake provides or to actually spend money and get the potentially greater long term benefits of a particular, unique building.



Unfortunately beyond the intrigue provided by the combos and denial strategies, the game looks like a pretty standard economic snowball game. Victory points are represented by population, which can be acquired either through one-time direct infusions, mostly from residential tiles, and through income per turn provided by reputation. The reputation income is restrained by passing over certain “red lines” on the population board; each line decreases the income by one serving to slow down victory point income leaders. Money income also has a snowball quality to it, as you accumulate money that allows you to buy tiles that allow you to accumulate more money or victory points. I am sure that there are going to be trade-offs between money and victory point income as well as from the one time victory point infusions and the victory point income, but I have seen these sorts of tradeoffs enough that I am kind of bored with them. It does not take that long to figure them out, so the real question is whether the interactions provided by the combos and denial is sufficient to maintain my interest in the game beyond the initial phase of learning and exploration.

One thing that points to some long-term potential for the game life is the goal tiles. Each of them provides bonus points at the end of the game if you get the “most” or “fewest” of one of the games conditions, and I like how these provide the potential for a player to pursue strategies that do not neatly fit into a more traditional economic engine arc. Things like the Miscreant, which gives you 20 bonus points for having the lowest reputation at the end of the game, or the Harbormaster, which gives you bonus points for having the most contiguous lakes, both seem to support the ability to build fairly unique suburbs and perhaps break out of the “optimal engine” mold. In a given game, there will be a number of public shared goals equal to the number of players as well as a single goal, picked from two, that the player has secretly for themselves. There is some potential for players to get rather large bonuses for synergies between their secret tiles and public ones, such as those given for having the biggest income and most money, or those given by having the most lakes and most contiguous lakes, but I think that this is something that I am going to have to see in play before I determine how problematic it actually is; it is quite possible that simple knowledge of the goal tile manifest will allow players to interfere with each other’s ability to score for these synergies.

On the whole I am looking forward to trying out Suburbia. While I do not think it will end up being my favorite game ever, if it is able to effectively strike the right balance between the combos and interactions between the tiles and the economic snowball trade-offs then I can see this game having a lot of potential. Bezier Games will be sending me a review copy of the game, and this is the main thing I will be focusing on when playing the game for this review. Hopefully it succeeds for me in a way that Glen More does not, Glen More was close, but it did not quite meet my standards. Having a cool, dynamic tile-laying game would be great and hopefully Suburbia will end up being the game I hope it is.
Twitter Facebook
18 Comments
Sat Jul 28, 2012 7:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
55 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions - Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant is a new board game by Martin Wallace being released by Mayfair at Gen Con (with an official street date of August 23rd). The game is centered on the development of the initial airplane industry, as player’s represent commercial airlines in Europe as they expand throughout the Continent and into Africa, Asia, and beyond.



The game takes place over three eras, effectively game rounds, with five different actions available on a player’s turn: Buy An Airplane, Place Airport Tiles, Claim One Passenger Tile, Buy Advantage Tiles, or Collect A Subsidy. Buying an airplane gives you airports to place and capacity to transport passengers, to claim passenger tiles you need both airplane capacity and airports at the appropriate destinations, advantage tiles serve to enhance your ability to take the take the place airport tiles and claim passenger tiles actions, while the collect subsidy action provides money and serves as a round timer. At the end of the round, and the game, two types of scoring occur. End of each round scoring is based on majorities in the game’s three regions and used airport capacity. At the end of the game you score points based on your collected passenger tiles and airplanes.

All of these actions are largely interwoven, but Buy An Airplane, Place Airport Tiles, and Claim One Passenger Tile appear to be the most prominent due to their relationship to scoring and the amount of decisions associated with them. Even with their relative prominence compared to Buy Advantage Tiles and Collect a Subsidy, Buy An Airplane and Claim One Passenger Tile are largely methods to fuel decision making in the Place Airport Tiles action. Placing airport tiles is mostly what the game is about, while every other part of the game serves to support or provide context as to where and how you are going to place these tiles.

This is not a bad thing in of itself. If how you placed airport tiles was interesting, then the supporting structure would be quite effective. Martin Wallace was able to implement an effective tile placement system in the past with the innovative and fun hand management aspects of Brass, but I think that in Aeroplanes he fails to live up to the standards he has established for himself in the past. In Aeroplanes, players are given a number of airport tiles based on the airplane they purchase. In order to place an airport tile in any but the most accommodating circumstances, a die roll is required. If you want to place an airport tile multiple tiles away multiple successful rolls are required. If you fail a roll, then you have the option of either accepting the failure, and thus end your turn, or to use money or an advantage tile to pay the difference and continue rolling. So rather than having the very involved and interesting level of decision making of something like Brass or Age of Steam, it ends up coming down to a die roll and a decision as to whether to expend the resources to mitigate the roll or to bring your turn to an end.

I do not have a problem with dice. I like both dice rolls then decisions and then decisions then die rolls. I even like lighter dice games like King of Tokyo. However, the dice need to be used in a way that is effective and appropriate for the design and the niche the game is going to fill; otherwise it loses effectiveness and reduces the quality of the game as a result. With Aeroplanes we have what is described as a two hour investment game where whether or not you are able to establish the core part of your overall infrastructure is determined by chance. Of course, it is quite possible to spend money or use one of the advantage tiles in order to make up for any shortfalls between your die roll and the target number, and this implies two things, neither of which are items I particularly appreciate. If money is tight in the game then the game really will be determined by randomness, as those who are able to successfully roll well will have to spend less money and thus will ultimately do better. If money is loose, as I suspect it is, then that does reduce the importance of the individual die rolls but also loosens the game in general, reducing the tension level of any individual decision to the point where the game is significantly lighter than its overall two hour time frame implies. The options for advantage tiles support the latter theory, as you are able to either buy one for a dollar or spend the same amount to roll twice and get the two (or less if any of the tiles are already purchased) tiles that correspond with the die rolls.

Even if I was okay with it being a light two hour game, and I am not, I would have a problem with how they handle engine failures. One of the six dice faces has an engine failure symbol, which forces you to accumulate an engine failure token for that plane. Once you accumulate enough engine failure tokens your turn ends and you lose the airport tile you were trying to place. The problem is that this engine failure mechanic hurts players who are already failing. Each of these icons adds nothing to your die roll, so not only are you having to spend more money in order to make up for your shortfall but you also have to deal with potentially losing an airport too. Why would anyone think it is a good idea to include a mechanic that kicks players in the teeth who are already doing poorly? “Well, it sucks that you did not make your risk roll, let me punch you in the face a few times! I am sure that would make everything better!”

Due to its apparent lightness vs. length ratio, I kind of wonder what the expected audience is for this game. Light games are not going to like it due to its length, heavier gamers are not going to like it due to either it looseness or randomness, leaving perhaps only dyed in the wool Martin Wallace fans. Either that or, for Martin Wallace games at least, I am out of touch with what gamers are interested in. I have not liked a Martin Wallace game since 2007’s Brass and have met his subsequent releases with a mixture of skepticism and indifference, despite some of them doing quite well on BGG, and presumably in the market in general. A Few Acres of Snow was the most promising of these, and we all know how that turned out. I was genuinely hoping that Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant would be a return to form for him, but I think it is about time that I accept that he just is not designing games that I am interested in any more.
Twitter Facebook
35 Comments
Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:19 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
107 
 Thumb up
7.55
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions: CO2

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Last year I released a series of articles leading up to Essen where I read and analyzed the rulebooks of games that I thought fell under the title “Gamer’s Games.” They were reasonably popular, and I enjoyed doing them, and I think that I will do them again this year unless there is a general disinterest in the enterprise. In addition to talking about the sort of game the rules present, and my particular reaction to the rules, I will also be talking about my perception of the eventual popularity of the game, both based on the qualities I see in the rules, but also how effectively its marketing is being managed. Since the rules for CO2 were released this week, I will be starting with it.



Disclosure
I will be receiving a review copy of CO2. I chat with Vital Lacerda, the designer, regularly.

Predicted Popularity
CO2 is one of the games that I think will probably end up doing very well, both in sales and in ratings. There are a few reasons that I think this:

1) Vital’s previous game, Vinhos, was generally well received and is sitting in the BGG Top 200, which while not amazing, is still very good particularly, for a new designer.

2) I am convinced that one of the ways that a game can stay in the public spotlight, particularly on BGG, is through periodic releases of component pictures, especially if the game is visually striking and differentiated. CO2 is both, with a pleasing style that is very much out of the bounds of what is normally seen in board games. We have seen weekly releases of CO2 art, and the game has climbed up the hot list every time a new bit has been released. So this part of the marketing campaign has been very effective.

3) It covers a topic that is both rarely covered by board gaming and is somewhat controversial, but does not do so in an overtly political way. This alone would probably bring some attention to the game, but when combined with options 1) and 2) it leads to a potential for this game to be a hit.

4) In the US it is being published by Stronghold Games, which is a publisher that currently has a very good reputation, largely by producing previously released grail games, and a generally effective focus on customer relations. This will increase the number of people interested in trying it, and thus potentially liking it.

Now, even with those four factors, that game would not be successful if the game is bad. And while, I cannot claim with any definitive knowledge whether CO2 is a good game or not, the rule book is promising enough, that I feel that there is a good chance that the game will do well, and has a strong chance of being one of the top 5 best rated Essen releases of 2012, though I am slightly less confident of its success then I am of either Mayan Age or Clash of Cultures.

Rulebook Analysis
As can be expect, it is difficult to get a full measure of your enjoyment of a game from reading a rulebook. Still it is useful to read them simply because it gives you an idea of whether you will like a game or not, that is based on something else beyond the game’s marketing and various testimonials. CO2 is one of the games that I was most excited about coming into 2012, and I am quite pleased that they have released the rulebook to the game this early on as it will give people plenty of time to mull over the hints of the game it reveals inside.

CO2 particularly intrigues me because its theme is so far outside of the norm for the sort of themes that we typically see in board games. I actually find myself hoping that it is good, and successful, simply because it might serve as a trend setter in that area. It also helps that the game is thematically well integrated, as I doubt I would care if the game was so abstract that it was difficult to connect it to green energy. Everything fits within the larger green energy perspective being presented by the game, and the game has players doing the sorts of things that you would expect a company involved in green energy to do.

Players have a fixed number of round actions during the game, with the number of total actions depending on the number of players and game length, with only three action possibilities available. Layered on top of these three available actions, are a number of additional options that define both how players relate to the board and each other, creating a much fuller tapestry limited of the three actions would imply.

Essentially the primary focus of the game is the development and completion of projects to place sources of green energy. There are five different types of projects (forestation, solar, cold fusion, biomass, and recycling) each with their own specific characteristics. Each project has three different stages, with each stage providing an increased benefit but also increased costs; only the final stage provides victory points. One of the primary methods of player interaction is through taking advantage of other player’s completion of stages, as there is nothing that can actively prevent you from implementing or completing a project that another player has started.


On top of the three primary action options are a trio of free actions that can be taken that either allow you to either hinder other players efforts to continue a project, purchase or sell one of the primary resources of the game (Carbon Emission Permits or CEP), or take advantage of the benefits of either their initial hand of lobby cards or some of the face up UN goal cards. Each of these actions, and how they relate both to each other and the three primary actions provide additional layers of depth and nuance to the game. Moving scientists can be used as both an offensive or defensive action, allowing players to extend their own expertise in a particular type of green energy while also reducing that of their opponents. CEPs are one of the primary resources in the game, and the ability to buy or sell them allows you to directly impact how other players get access to this resource. And by taking advantage of lobbying, a player can get a surprise bonus resource, thus adding some mystery to the game and preventing other players from having a complete picture of your capabilities while completing a UN goal card is primarily a way to get victory points.

Even with these layers, there is very little in the game that appears to be particularly innovative or new. However, the vast majority of games, including many I like, are not innovative and new. So this in of itself is not a problem. What could be a problem is if the experience that the game provides is not significantly differentiated from that of other games that I have already owned and experienced. I think the game’s thematic impressiveness will help here. While I am certainly not a theme-first gamer, a tightly themed game does help in a game’s differentiation and I suspect that that, plus a few of the more mechanically interesting parts of the game will provide enough distinction to allow this game a chance for a permanent place in my collection.

What I am less certain about is CO2’s interplay variability. Vinhos, Vital Lacerda’s previous game, ultimately failed to find a permanent place in my collection because of this. While there were certain parts of the games that I felt were rather mechanically interesting, after I absorbed the game, individual plays felt a little bit too similar to quite fulfill my needs. So this particular bit of history is sufficient that interplay variability, would be a concern of mine regardless of what the rules indicated. Happily there is more evidence that this is a break from Vinhos then a continuation. For one, where Vinhos only had a limited amount of structural variability (the order of the wine experts and the weather tiles), the structural variability in CO2 is both larger and more impactful. For one, the initial game state is more varied, with CO2 levels, available UN cards, and your hand of lobbying cards all creating variations in a player’s decision process. Additionally, the game appears to be more interactive then Vinhos. Rather than building little vineyards on a player’s individual board, with most interaction being based on how in-synch they are with other player’s action selections, CO2 allows you to send your scientists to interfere with other player’s ability to complete projects and to engage in direct competition over majorities in both green energy expertise and in quantity of power plants in different regions. The benefit of each of these forms of interactions is significant and thus raises the stakes involved. All of these things are positive signs, but I still suspect that this is the place where the game has the greatest chance to fail to meet my expectations.

CO2 remains one of my most anticipated games of Essen 2012. Part of my anticipation is perhaps because I want the game to succeed. Its success could potentially pave the way for an increasing number of games that serve both as effective games as well as a statement from the designer, and even if I disagree with the statement being expressed this is preferable to another game about trading in the Mediterranean, band of heroes bashing in the skulls of orcs, or fighting naval battles in space. I do have some concerns but they are definitely surmountable, and I look forward to seeing if CO2 will both have an interesting theme and be effective as a game.
Twitter Facebook
33 Comments
Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:11 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
81 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

Kickstarter Considerations and Gamer's Games of Essen 2012

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Ground Floor
While I greatly enjoyed Homesteaders until I realized I was no longer interested in economic snowball games, and played it to the limits of my interest regardless of my overall appreciation for that style of game, most of the other games Tasty Minstrel have produced since then have either been completely outside of my area of interest or mild disappointments. Thus my interest in Ground Floor was initially pretty low. However, despite my poor brand association with Tasty Minstrel, there was enough factors indicated that this game might be one that I would potentially like that I finally say down and read the rules today. While I am still not completely certain that Ground Floor will work for me in the long run it was sufficient to cause me to back it with its Kickstarter campaign.

Ground Floor is thematically about the building of a business up from the implied ground floor up, with actual success being represented by expanding, and upgrading floor space. The mechanics seem to follow this theme pretty effectively, and I felt myself appreciating some of the cleverness involved in this thematic binding while reading through the rules. I also appreciated the cleverness of the mechanics themselves, there are quite a few clever little ways that the game forces the players to make trade-offs, and its methods of competition and ways you are incentivized to help your competitors. Beyond that the game is largely about managing the game’s five main currencies (time, money, information, popularity, and materials) in order to generate victory points. I do not consider this a bad thing per se, as some of my favorite games are about currency management, but there is not particular distinct about this aspect of the game beyond some interesting ways the currencies interact.

This lack of distinction in the currency interaction is perhaps my biggest long-term concern about the game. I tend to prefer my currency conversion games to be extremely expansive and the slightly smaller scale of Ground Floor compared to something like Ora et Labora or Agricola is something that might hurt its long term potential for me. Of course I am not hugely concerned with it, otherwise I would not be backing it, but that is probably going to be the main thing I keep an eye out for when I eventually play it in preparation for my inevitable review.

If you like medium to heavy euros that are focused largely on currency conversions, this game is worth checking out. If not, then stay far, far away. There is nothing for you here.

Road to Enlightenment
The other Kickstarter game I am considering, though I think I have talked myself out of supporting, is Road to Enlightenment. Road to Enlightenment despite its large expansive map of Europe appears to be well within the Special Power Card Game (SPCG) genre as the board merely provides a context for the card play that drives the game. Each card provides bonuses in a number of different categories, each of which is used to either resolve a particular type of contest or as an action resolution system. I do enjoy multi-function card games and the tension between deciding whether to use a card as part of an invasion, to generate income, or for its special power looks like it will be rather enjoyable.

In a given round, players are typically only able to choose between three actions: war, diplomacy, and deck management. The rules state that some cards provide additional action options but, the samples of these sorts of actions are unfortunately a bit thin right now, so it is difficult to accurately analyze how the deck composition will affect how the game plays. Battles are resolved by comparing the values of players combined war card values, applied money, and “enhancements” with the attacker using the difference between their value and the defenders to determine the number of dice rolled to allow for capture of a location. Diplomacy requires the use of political points and allows you to spend your cards in order to support other players in resolving battles. Deck management allows you to trim cards out of your deck permanently and added new cards to your deck. This is vaguely reminiscent of the sort of deck management seen in deck building games, but the only resource you spend is an action, and you do not know the specific cards that you will be adding to your deck, only the type.

There are two main reasons I am currently hesitant about kickstarting the game, and may wait until I get an opportunity to try the game out (probably at the WBC) before I make a purchase decision. The first is a vague level of unease about the two levels of randomness involved in the conquest of locations. First you have this costly contest to determine how many dice you will have an opportunity to roll, and then you have to make a successful and seemingly low odds, unless you bring overwhelming force, check in order to see if you actually take over the location. This does not seem wrong per se, I am sure there are very good balance reasons, but it seems to take away from the overall cleanness of the design to have to make a successful challenge in order to have a chance to make a check.

The second reason is the lack of an apparent arc. Based on the mechanical structure it appears that the sort of decisions you will be making will stay a bit constant over the course of the game, and while this may not be a problem for me in a SPCG that takes an hour, it is more problematic in a game that looks like it will take 3 hours. Now it is likely that this will be neatly resolved by the sort of politicking and direct interaction supported by the game, but my group has shown a disinclination to be involved in the heavy politicking that would be required to make this sort of thing work. Either the game fails spectacularly for us it just ends up being fairly mediocre as it just lacks the sort of spark that would be required for the game to be successful.

Neither of these items is enough for me to completely reject Road to Enlightenment. I am still quite curious about it, but it is sufficient that I think I am going to hold off from backing off the project. If your group is prone to games that encourage heavy negotiation, and particularly if you are interested in SPCGs, then this one is probably worth investigating.

Gamer’s Games of Essen 2012
Some of the first Essen 2012 lists are starting to appear, and with them are a number of games that are suitable for my Gamer’s Games of Essen 2012 list. I am tightening up my requirements for the list this year; if the last year has taught me anything it is that there are very few games in the under 90 minute mark that I have the patience for, so I am pushing it up from >60 minutes to >=90 minutes. I will probably also do some coverage of SPCGs and tactical miniature games, but will probably examine those primarily through my blog rather than from that Geeklist. I will continue to ignore team and cooperative games, but will attempt to play, if not, buy every single game on this list. I will be providing my thoughts on them as I read their rulebooks and play them, with blog entries and, if I play them enough, reviews.

These are my current thoughts, on these games, though most of them are pretty vague at this point, due to the lack of available rule books. Are there any Essen 2012 releases that fit the above criterion that I am missing from this list?

Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Interest Level: High
Play Time: Unknown (Predict it will be at least 90 minutes based on previous games)
Categorization: Worker Placement; Resource Conversion
Uwe Rosenberg has proven himself to be excellent at implementing older ideas in new and interesting ways, and I have high hopes that Agricola: The Cave Farmers will be another example of this skill. At the very least I am interested in seeing how he implements questing, but I expect there will be a lot here to like.
5/22/12: This one will not be making Essen 2012.


Archipelago
Interest Level: High
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization: Negotiation, Secret Objectives, Exploration
The designer has earned a bit of goodwill from me after the excellent job he did on Earth Reborn, but I admit I am uncertain how well the heavy negotiation element will work for my group. Hopefully the designer’s tendency to provide highly innovative games will make up for that.

Belgium 1831
Interest Level: Medium
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization: Area Control
The description implies that it might end up being another “Generic engine building game #1231234123” but once again there is enough possibility for them to do something interesting, depending on how much they use the foundation of a country to create a distinct mechanics and dynamics. The fact that I am travelling to Belgium in 2013 is also sharpening my interest to, and hopefully this will prove an effective means to create a richly thematic look at an interesting point in history.

Clash of Cultures
Interest Level: Low
Play Time: 180 minutes
Categorization: Civilization
I am not sure this is going to be sufficiently different from other civilization games I have played to actually overcome my general disappointment with the genre. That being said, it is in my primary area of interest, and I think I have played enough civilization games at this point that I should be able to talk about it intelligently, so I will try it out for sure even if my expectations are low.

CO₂
Interest Level: High
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization: Area Control
My appreciation for Vinhos has only grown as I have played an increasingly large number of “Let’s Put On A Show!” games, and what I have heard, and seen, of the rules of this game has left me very intrigued. My only real question is whether I will pay to get an early copy imported from Europe or if I will wait for the inevitable US release.

Dominare
Interest Level: Medium
Play Time: 120 Minutes
Categorization: Hand Management
I do not have a great deal of faith in AEG, though I have enjoyed Thunderstone Advance, and I do not understand the need to create a fantasy setting to make games that could easily have been sent in Renaissance Europe. However, the idea of being a puppet master in a conspiracy is appealing, and based on the general description there is some potential for this to be very interesting. Hopefully this shows the same level of polish seen in Thunderstone Advance, and this ends up be a brutal and effective game. It seems likely that the rules for this one will be up soon, and I expect to be diving into them pretty soon afterwards.

The Great Zimbabwe
Interest Level: Very High
Play Time: 150 minutes
Categorization: Economic
The description alone would almost certainly catch my attention, but the fact that it is a Splotter game, its theme, and the rather striking pictures of the prototype are all enough that this is my most anticipated game of 2012. As soon as it becomes available for order, I will be doing so.

Keyflower
Interest Level: High
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization: Worker Placement
After both my enjoyment of Key Market, and how much money I made when I sold it, there was little chance I was going to skip Keyflower. Early reports from gamers who are familiar with my tastes have indicated that this is a game that I would likely enjoy quite a bit. The combination of these things is enough to seal the deal, and I have pre-ordered this game.

Madeira
Interest Level: Medium
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization: Dice Rolling
While the fundamental concept looks pretty basic, there appears to be enough moving parts that I am intrigued by its potential. The game appears to be pretty expansive, and I suspect that my final impression of it will be based on a combination of how much this suggestion of expansiveness proves to be correct and the effectiveness of its mechanisms. I am concerned that the 90 minute play time will result in something that is excessively abstracted, but that will remain uncertain until we get the rulebook.

Massilia
Interest Level: Medium
Play Time: 90 Minutes
Categorization: Dice Rolling
Alain Epron’s Vanuatu was one of the best traditional “euros” released in 2011 which is enough for me to be interested in trying out Massilia. The actual description of the game looks pretty unexceptional, but I am hoping that there is something that distinguishes it.

The New Science
Interest Level: Medium
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization: Worker Placement
While the setting is not unique the theme is, and the designer’s other upcoming game, Road to Enlightenment, is interesting enough that this one definitely has my attention.


Sky Traders
Interest Level: Low
Play Time: 180 minutes
Categorization: Pick-up and deliver
I do not have any strong impressions of this one and have not really examined it extensively. It might be released prior to Essen 2012 (it may even be a Gen Con release), so it may be a game I examine in the time leading up to Essen 2012.

Suburbia
Interest Level: Low
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization: Tile Laying
Very little is known about this one, but I can see some potential for the tile laying aspect to be interesting. It could just as easily prove to be as uninteresting as I have found most other Bezier Games releases, but the involvement of Lookout is promising. Hopefully it is a sign that there is something special about the design.

Western Town
Interest Level: Medium
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization:
I am a backer of this one, mostly because it is in my area of interest and a local gentleman wanted a partner to reduce shipping costs. I have not looked at it much beyond that though, mostly because there is no need for me to make a decision about it. I am getting a copy, so further research is not currently necessary. This will change as Essen gets closer, and I add it to the games that I am providing covering.

Yedo
Interest Level: Low
Play Time: 120 minutes
Categorization: Unknown
The description of this one makes it sound like it is pretty firmly in the indirect interaction optimization game box, but I am an optimist and I hope that either I am wrong or that there is enough interesting things going on with the indirect interaction optimization to make it worth exploring.

Added on 5/22/12
Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant
Interest Level: Low
Play Time: 120 minutes
Categorization: Economic
Wallace has not produced a game that I was truly impressed by since 2007 (A Few Acres of Snow impressed me briefly before it crashed and burned), and Aeroplane has not given me any indication that it will be different. That being said, it does look like he is breaking into new territory with this one and the cool ideas in AFAOS may be an indication that this one might be interesting. So I will check it out.

Added on 5/25/12
Terra Mystica
Interest Level: High
Play Time: 100 minutes
Categorization: Area Control
The designers have an interesting pedigree, and the concept sounds really cool. I really like the idea of a constantly changing board structure, and how it seems that these changes are going to have a big impact on player capabilities and how they win. It sounds pretty ambitious and I am looking forward to seeing what they do with it.

Titans of Industry
Interest Level: None
Play Time: 90 minutes
Categorization: Worker Placement
I was completely unimpressed with my rules read of this one. While I do not demand extreme innovation in every game I play, I do insist on at least some incrimentalism or an interesting reimplementation. Unfortunately, Titans of Industry has none of that, and is essentially a bare bones resource conversion euro of the sort that are frequently decried by critics of the eurogame genre. I like resource conversion euros and I can not see very many situations where I would see this as worth purchasing an owning over the large number of other interesting resource conversion euros out there. It is overwhelming in its apparent blandness.
Twitter Facebook
22 Comments
Sat May 19, 2012 9:29 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
28 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions: Upon A Salty Ocean

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Upon A Salty Ocean, by Marco Pranzo, is an economic game centered on fishing. In it players are city merchants who are investing in ships and buildings in order to turn a profit, with the player who has the most money in the end being the winner. I don’t have any particular opinions of either the publisher or the designer as I have not encountered them in the past. The theme itself also does not particularly appeal to me, and it seems to be simply another means of delivering a game centered on the generation of profit.

Upon A Salty Ocean has four primary actions: City, Harbor, Market, and Navigation. Each of these actions has a number of subactions related to it, any one of which can be selected when you pick one of the four primaries. At the beginning of a round, any taken action costs nothing, but each consecutive time an action is selected results in an increase in the cost of that action by $1 for all players. Thus the majority of the game ends up being about analyzing the costs, both opportunity and financial, in taking a particular action, determining when it is worth the additional costs of going into debt, and identifying at which point it is no longer worthwhile to continue selecting actions and to instead pass until the round ends. The fact that players that are later in the turn order are likely to be forced into taking more expensive actions is accounted for by an increased amount of starting cash, with each player after the first starting with an additional $2. I am slightly concerned that this additional money will end up being too much. With four available actions and four players, it is likely that each player will be able to take actions for a relatively equal cost. It is possible that this additional money is meant to make up for the strategic advantage that the first player will likely achieve from an early fish sale, however.



The game appears to have the potential for tactical variety centered on the competition to gain big fish pay-offs. For a total of four actions, players may transport salt on the player’s boats from the port of Rouen, convert it into fish, and return the fish to Rouen where it can be sold at the market for a potentially large, but consecutively diminishing, profit. However, that is not the only way to make money. Since it is possible to see how the market is going to change from round to round, it is possible to buy and sell the two types of fish and salt between rounds for a profit. Additionally, various buildings can provide money both during the game and at the very end, with construction of the cathedral providing the largest potential end of game profits. However, none of these items, with the exception of perhaps the building of the cathedral, really compare to how much you can make from fishing and then selling the fish on the market, thus making it unlikely that a player will specialize in one of these secondary areas. The exact combination of fishing, market manipulation, and building purchases that occur will likely vary between plays, as the effects of the event tiles and player decisions on the profitability of particular actions is potentially large, and will thus have a similarly large impact on how the game plays out.

This does not change my central concern, which is how much interplay variability will Upon A Salty Ocean really have? It seems that with particularly advanced players, that there will be scripted openings depending on your particular player position and the first tile. While this is not inherently a problem, it could point to a low level of interplay variability even with the impact that an individual player’s decisions have on the game.

Upon A Salty Ocean remains a game that I am greatly intrigued about despite my concerns. I expect I will try it at BGG.Con, and if it does not end up being a game that I am able to immediately dismiss, I will get it to explore further. The action selection mechanism is interesting, and there is a lot of potential for this one to be the economic game of Essen 2011. The only question is whether it lives up to that potential.
Twitter Facebook
6 Comments
Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:49 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
48 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions: Dungeon Petz

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Vlaada Chavtil is another game designer whose games I have mixed feelings about. I greatly enjoyed Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization when I first got it, but my interest declined over time, and now I rate it a 6. Dungeon Lords was innovative, but I felt that there were not enough interesting decisions for the amount of time the game took. It seemed that a lot more time was spent on upkeep than the game itself, and ultimately it felt unsatisfying. The rest of his games have each had something about them that turned me off from checking them out in the first place; usually they were either too light or did not meet my stylistic preferences. This year, his game is Dungeon Petz which is thematically similar to Dungeon Lords, but really has the most in common with Drum Roll and Pret-a-Porter as, like them, it is also about putting on a show, with different “shows” whose requirements need to be fulfilled and different “attractions” that you are trying to maximize.

Mechanically, Dungeon Petz is a worker placement game, with its own little unique spin on the genre. Rather than performing the normal iterative placement of workers, with each player placing a single worker sequentially, players instead perform a pre-placement step where they create groups of workers (imps, with a minimum of one in a group), and gold, with the size of these groups determining the actual order of placement. This is done secretly, creating a bit of a blind-bidding element, only players are not bidding on particular lots or bonuses, but instead player order. Each player has a minimum of 10 imps (and a variable amount of gold), so there are lots of possible combinations of worker allotments in the 14 worker locations. A player who is not able to assign all of their workers to action spaces is able to use any leftover imps to clean out cages, removing manure cubes and thus increase the value of the pets during future exhibitions and sales, or to simply gather gold, increasing the likelihood that the player will get the action(s) they want in future rounds. I find this overall mechanic to be a rather fresh spin on the worker placement genre, and it definitely makes this game a bit more attractive to me.



Dungeon Petz’s other particularly attractive feature is how it implements preparation of your “attractions” for “shows”. Drum Roll, Pret-a-Porter, and Dungeon Petz all have you collecting various items to maximize the value of the item you are presenting at shows. For Drum Roll and Pret-a-Porter this collection is fairly simple, in both you are collecting materials in order to meet the requirements for your particular performer or design. Pret-a-Porter adds an additional layer to this by also making it so you are competing using secondary characteristics, but it is still is essentially straightforward; there is very little competition between your overall goals. In contrasts Dungeon Petz does have this competition, creating two levels of extra tension. The first level of tension is between seeking to accommodate dungeon lord buyers and trying to win exhibitions with your chosen need cards. While there will probably be certain situations where the exhibitions and dungeon lord purchasers synch up in some areas, it will frequently be impossible to please both the buyer and the exhibition requirements simultaneously. The second level of tension is choosing between need cards you can most effectively fulfill and those that you are less likely to be able to fulfill but will more effectively allow you to win competitions. These points of tension should add an extra level of fun to the worker placement parts of the game, and with the variable order in which dungeon lord buyers and exhibitions come out they also add a lot of interplay variability to the game.

While the particular theme of a game is not hugely important to me, I do appreciate games that have their theme tightly integrated into their mechanics, and Dungeon Petz is an example of a game where that is the case. Every decision makes logical sense within the world presented by the game, and each action is something you could see sending out your imps to perform; there are no actions that make you scratch your head and go “huh”? There are also a number of fun little flourishes, with pets that are sent out to a “big farm with lots of fields” turning into extra meat, and the option to go to the hospital to both get a potion card to meet a pet’s needs (by putting it to sleep) and to recover imps that are relaxing after having been hurt in helping to prevent a pet’s escape. The game is humorous, but it is a humor that enhances the game play rather than getting in the way of it.

In total, I am looking forward to Dungeon Petz. The game looks mechanically interesting with enough replay value that I could see exploring it a lot over a long period of time, particularly with the addition of one or more expansions. This is a bit of a surprise, as I was expecting to find it to be ultimately flawed after my indifferent reactions to most of Vlaada’s other games. As it stands, if you were to ask me to recommend you one of Essen 2011’s “Put on A Show” games I would probably recommend Dungeon Petz. It appears to be both more innovative and deeper than the competition, and is the one that I am most likely to add to my collection.
Twitter Facebook
33 Comments
Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:20 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions: Village

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Village, by Inka and Markus Brand, is one of eggertspiele’s releases for 2011. I found it’s description to be interesting enough, as the pool of games that are focused on the lifespan of individuals are limited, and there is a lot of interesting things you can do with that as both MIL (1049) and In the Shadow of the Emperor show. I have not played any of the Brand's precious releases and the one I am most familiar with, A Castle For All Seasons, did not look interesting enough to try out. Designers have surprised me before, however, and I was hoping that this would be an example of that. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case and there is little to the Village that recommends it.

At its heart, Village is a simple action drafting game. There are a number of locations in the village you can use to generate resources or to convert these resources into victory points. A lot of actions you take will cost you time, and all of them force you to take an influence or plague cube, which can be spent or, in the case of the plague cube, push you farther along on the time track. If you pass a certain point on the time track one of your family members dies and you must place them into the “village chronicle” based on their current location. If there is no appropriate spot in the chronicle they instead go into an anonymous grave, with the game ending once the “village chronicle” is filled. This management of the flow of workers into and out of the game could potentially add an interesting twist on worker placement, as most games simply add workers rather than also subtracting them. Unfortunately, the rest of this game looks so straightforward and boring that I can’t imagine that managing the tempo of this worker flow could make playing the game entertaining.

To give you more of an idea of the things you do in this game, I am going to go over each of the available actions briefly:
1) Grain harvest. This allows you to harvest grain. You can get more grain if you have a plow and something to pull it.
2) Family. This action lets you bring a new family member into the game or return an available family member from its current location.
3) Crafts. Lets you get goods by either paying for them with time for locations where you have a worker in the building or lets you purchase it with a combination of influence cubes or with bags of grain depending on the good.
4) Market. Lets you fulfill market contracts with goods and bags of grain. Each player gets to do this, but further players must spend influence and time. Completed contracts provide victory points at the end of the game.
5) Travel. Lets you move a worker between nearby cities using influence, wagons, and time. You place a token at each city. The number of different cities you visit determines how many victory points you get at the end of the game.
6) Council Chamber. Move family members up the stages, getting bonuses for each stage and spending influence and time. You get a bonus for each stage you hit.
7) Church. Add a family member to the “black bag” which increases their odds of getting placed in the church. You get victory points at the end of the round after four workers are drawn from the bag if you have a majority in the church.

That is it. There are a few subtleties I did not mention, but none of them moves the game beyond that utter blandness. I am sure there is a market for a game like this out there, otherwise eggertespiele would probably not bother making it, but I see nothing in this game that would ever make me interested in playing it. This isn’t even a case like Belfort where I suspect that the interactions in the game itself might push it beyond the uninspiring mechanics. The interactions in this one are so minimal and uninteresting that I can’t in good conscious recommend it to anyone who is likely to follow this blog. Go play Agricola, Le Havre, Dominant Species or any of the other action drafting games out there that have a modicum of tension or interesting decisions. If you want a newer action drafting game then check out MIL (1049) or Vanuatu. Do not play this.
Twitter Facebook
24 Comments
Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:58 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
51 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Pre-Release Predictions: Ora & Labora

Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
flag msg tools
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
mbmbmb
Ora & Labora is the Essen 2011 release by Uwe Rosenberg, a designer who needs no real introduction. I was first introduced to him with his 2007 design Agricola. I first played it in August 2008 and tried Le Havre in November 2008, and had favorable reactions to both. Agricola was my favorite of the two, but I definitely enjoyed Le Havre, as my 40 plays since then can attest. At the Gates of Loyang and Merkator were disappointing. While neither was a bad game, they also were not to my taste and left me a bit disappointed. While I do appreciate designer’s attempts to broaden their game design horizons, it seemed that Rosenberg was stepping away from the deep meaty masterpieces that I had loved in the past for lighter, less interesting fare. With Ora & Labora it looks like Rosenberg has finally returned to form with another meaty title that will fit will with the titans of his past.

Ora & Labora is obviously inspired by Uwe Rosenberg’s previous designs, and those who described it as “Le Havre on Steroids” were only exaggerating slightly. The fundamental structure of the game is fairly similar to Le Havre; play progress continually around the table with individual players taking a single action from a small menu of options. Variability is provided by buildings that are constructed by players over time, and it is possible to use other player’s buildings for a price. It shares similarities to Agricola: Farmers of the Moor in that you have a basic board in which you can clear moors and forests for resources and to make room to build things. It is nice to see that Rosenberg is willing to take some of his best ideas from previous designs and combine them with newer innovations. It creates a definite “brand” that you can easily identify, and I have no doubt that if I sat a fan of Agricola or Le Havre down to play this game they could easily identify the designer.



Ora & Labora features several particularly interesting little design flourishes that make me excited to play it particularly considering my slowly diminishing enthusiasm for Le Havre. The most obvious innovation is the resource wheel, which reduces the amount of work required to manage the game’s numerous resource tokens. Unlike Agricola or Le Havre, where you have three resource allocation steps, Ora & Labora only has two steps, with a minor amount of maintenance on the resource wheel that is effectively negligible. They also recommend just leaving all the resources in a big pile, and to fish them out as needed, which is sure to drive particularly organized players a little bit crazy. The resource wheel ends up being the entirety of the central board as well, as it indicates not only how many resources are available but also when events that depend on the passage of time occur; it tells you things like when new cards are flipped over and when a settlement round occurs. Unlike many games this central board is a game management tool, rather than a center of action. Instead the center of action is found on the player’s boards.

Each player’s board serves as their own, personal monastery. At the beginning of the game, each board has some simple, straightforward resource acquisition buildings as well as a bit of moor and forest, which as noted previously can be removed to get wood or peat. As the game progresses players add buildings to the board and can also expand the board itself through the purchase of limited availability landscape tiles that can add scenic coasts and mountains to the space the monastery controls. The type of terrain, and the location buildings are placed, matters too; there are buildings that may only be built on certain terrain, may only be built adjacent to a specific other type of building, or give bonus victory points at the end of the game if placed adjacent to specific cards called settlements.

Access to the monastery’s buildings is not limited to an individual player. When talking the
“Use a Building” action, a player may pay another player to use one of that player’s three workers to activate that player’s buildings. This is in fact, one of the main ways to interfere with a player in the game; by taking away their ability to access one of their buildings you have the potential to thwart their plans. If you use up the last of their three workers than not only do you take away their ability to use their buildings, until the next round, but you also make it so they can no longer the bonus action provided by the prior for purchasing a new building. So the timing of building is crucial, and if you find yourself constructing a lot of buildings that other people want to use, you may find yourself unable to use your own buildings or use one of the most potent bonuses available in the game.

Despite all of those interesting features, I do have a couple of concerns that I will be watching out for when I first play the game. The first is that, with all the required focus on individual player boards that it may be difficult to identify what they have built, resulting in the game being consumed a series of “What is that building that you have right there?” sort of questions. The second is that the game will not have enough interplay variability, as there is no random factors to provide variety in the set-up of the game. Even Puerto Rico (plantations) and Caylus (initial building order) have slightly random factors that can to the overall diversity of the play, and I fear that without even though Ora & Labora will end up feeling a bit too similar after a couple of dozen plays, even with the differences between the French vs. Irish building cards.

So on the whole, I think Ora & Labora looks very promising. The game appears almost like another game in the “Le Havre” family. It has the same general structure of play, but with the addition of a spatial element and a number of other innovations it will definitely be its own game. My pre-rules skepticism has given way to excitement, as it appears that Rosenberg has returned to the style that first attracted me to his games. I do have my concerns, but hopefully they will fade away with play, and I can add this one to the catalog of “Great Uwe Rosenberg Games” rather than just being another pretender.
Twitter Facebook
13 Comments
Fri Oct 7, 2011 9:28 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

1 , 2  Next »  

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.