New To You July 2012 => Best new boardgame
What new board and card games did you play in July 2012? Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.
In order to assist with collecting Statistics from these lists, please post an entry with your chosen game of the month, and if possible please use the "insert board game" feature to add other games you mention in your entry.
New To You Metalist 2012
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Other Great Monthly Lists
Videogames New To You July 2012
New to you a year ago Jul 12 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in July 2012
Out of the Dust, July 2012
Your Most Played Game (and more): July 2012
New to Your Kids July 2012 - best new games you've played with your kids and why
Unfortunately, due to a wedding and our babysitter situation I missed the big game convention that I normally attend in July.. which means my list of new games is well down this month on previous years... I did get to try a couple of new things though...
== NEW GAMES ==
Lords of Waterdeep - 1 play -
I'd heard a lot of good things about this Dungeons and Dragons themed Euro cube-shuffler, so was pleased to finally get the chance to try it at a gaming session for my birthday... I had a bit of a bad experience with the game, but I can see that it is a decent worker placement game and I would really like to give it another chance.
One thing I did find frustrating is that building seemed to be the no brain choice each round and unless you took start player, you would never get chance to build. I think I ended up with 1 or maybe 2 buildings in play, and the person who won really monopolised the buildings.
Di Renjie - 1 play -
A gaming buddy of ours, Dr Chooi, picked this up from a kickstarter project, and brought it along to my birthday game session. It is a deduction card game with a lot of similarities to clue and Mystery express... multiple copies of each traits and cards are asked for and passed on your turn... the big difference is that if you can, you place a set of identical cards in front of you each turn and then on the next turn flip the top card over to reveal the contents of the stack... however there are some wild cards, which can be used to muddy the water when playing stacks.
Overall It played pretty well and although I didn't manage to guess all traits by the end of the game, I was pretty close. My wife managed to get it 100% correct, but it seems to me that the winner will not always get it 100% correct given the amount of time/turns you have. The rules in fact do state that if as a group we fail to identify all the traits then everyone loses.
Board Game: Village
[Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:86]
Love the world.
[One quick word on where I'm coming from: I play most of my games with my wife, and secondarily with friends from my local game group. So for me, a great game is one that plays best or very well with two, but also plays well with more than two.]
(image credit: marshduck)
Village is a well-structured medium weight worker-placement/action-drafting game, with multiple paths to victory points.
The thing that sets Village apart from other games of the genre is that your worker meeples "age" and eventually "die," and one of the paths to end-game VP is having your meeples die "well" (i.e., by being among the first to die in each of the various action areas of the game). Many actions require that you pay "time," advancing your personal clock, which determines when one of your meeples must die. The management of that clock and the timing of your meeple deaths is interesting and is important to your success in the game. (E.g., do I choose something time consuming now, so that I can kill off my wainwright and grab that last spot in the crafting portion of the village chronicle? Or should I keep that guy alive a little longer in order to build wagons for my meeple who is traveling the countryside?)
(Pedantic side note: Although the meeple death mechanism is fairly novel, it reminded me a little of the meeple "retirement" mechanism from Key Market. Village's permanent assignment of workers to certain careers (at least until they die) also reminded me of the guild assignments from Key Market.)
Village is a well-designed and smooth-playing game. Its worker management mechanics reinforce the theme pretty well, creating something of a story arc for your little villagers, some of whom get to travel the world or become important religious or civic leaders, while others shovel manure their whole lives and end up in an unmarked grave. That said, other mechanisms felt a little flat. In particular, there is a whole subsystem involving colored cubes that felt entirely abstract to me.
Despite the obvious merits of Village, I was a little underwhelmed. I suspect that this is more a matter of my expectations being too high than any fault in the game itself. I've enjoyed my handful of plays, but there wasn't anything about Village that really excited me or left me wanting to play again right away.
If I was one of my meeples in the game, I'd probably buy myself a wagon, squirrel away a couple of brown cubes, and then hit the road out of town. (Hopefully, I'd wind up in Troyes, where things are a bit more exciting. Maybe I'm just not cut out for Village life.)
(image credit: giochinscatola)
This is a weird little co-op card game, where you can't see your own cards, but can see everyone else's (players hold their hands so that the cards face outward).
On your turn you can (1) give a clue to another player about the color or number of the cards in their hand (which costs one of a limited number of clue tokens), (2) discard a card from your hand and out of the game (which returns a clue token to the general supply), or (3) attempt to play a card to the table.
Cards must be played to the table in ascending numerical order (from 1 to 5) in each of the colored suits. So, e.g., a blue 1 must be played before the blue 2 can be played. If there's a blue 1 on the table, a blue 3-5 can NOT yet be played. If you guess wrong and attempt to play a card that cannot yet be played, you get one of three "strike" chips.
If the group succeeds in building all of the numerical stacks before the cards run out (and before accumulating three strikes), you collectively win.
The trick is to manage the information so that players know when to play or discard a particular card from their hand.
It's difficult to win and there is a great temptation to subtly cheat (e.g., with facial expressions or kibitzing beyond what is strictly permitted). I'm glad to have played it a few times, but don't really care if I play again.
After several slow month, this one got a little better. While there are many so-so games, there are some really good too. I'm lucky to have played my most anticipated game too. I got tired of the first edition after playing the Sea of Blood campaign and I am glad that they have sorted up the mess that game became.
Descent:Journeys in the dark 2nd edition
It would be a bummer if the second edition was worse than the first one. Luckily this is an improvement in many regards. Right now, I just want to try out the campaign for the game.
Easier, but not dumbed down
The game has in many ways been streamlined. Some has to do with better graphic design; like that there are not a ton of referencing the rule book for special abilities and reduced clutter on the board. There is also less bookkeeping and counting up in the game, with fewer dice, changed surge rules and easier overlord threat and deck management. All
changes considered this makes the game not only easier to pick up for new players, but also more fast-paced with experienced ones.
Shorter missions and slower progression
Missions are parted in usually two encounters where the first one is staging up how hard the second one is. The game is not just about killing the adventurers or the end boss anymore which is really refreshing. Some encounters are over in three turns which I find too short as they can be over before one of sides can really react, but you can’t longer go from newbie to superhero in one mission either. I don’t find it excusable that they don’t seem to be balanced with all number of players. This makes me believe that this game is mainly for campaign play.
Combines elements from both deck-building games (like Dominion) and tableau-building games (like Race for the Galaxy) and creates something that is not very unique, but still works very well.
The key to this is that the game avoids some of the common problems present in many cardgames in general and deck-building games in particular. In a game with many cards and a good amount of synergies to explore and takes several plays to learn the cards. Some cards will not show up, but you know that all the core worlds will and you can therefore plan for the end game. Instead the foci lies in hand and deck management. Since new and better cards will show up during the game you have a sense of progression.
Time will tell how I feel about the game. There are two main concerns I have. The first game felt a little slow and I hope it will speed up with further plays. I am also wondering how replayable it is as I can see that similar tactics can be used from game to game.
1830: Railways & Robber Barons
While I like economic games in general, stock market manipulation is not what I consider as fun. I was therefore a little bit surprised that I liked 1830, but in hindsight I think there are a few reasons behind it. I have been longing to play more historical games. During the game, I did many mistakes, but I also realized after the game what mistakes I did and will play better the next time. I felt the end game to be a little long though.
I need a few plays to see if my theory is correct, but basically I think that the game is overly balanced. It is part an efficiency game and part an area influence game. The area influence game is really basic, but the real problem I think is that it is symmetrical since every region on the board is the same. The economic part is also really balanced where I think with a few basic principles it should be easy to make decisions, especially if you play without the interactive guilds. And while I think the interactive guilds are needed, do you really want this kind of screwage in this kind of game? I am concerned about the game, but also interested and intrigued about it. As I said, I will need a few games to make my final judgment.
It is a light bluffing game with great bits. It’s a filler – take it or leave it.
The Downfall of Pompeii
I have played the game on Yucata in the Yucathatlon, a competition against the podcasters Si and Mike on Into the gamescape. That meant in practice that we played it as a team game, which I think is a little less chaotic. I found it a little dull to be honest, but I think I would like it more with physical components and smack talk. It is certainly a “take that” kind of game.
Ruby Gloom: The Game
The game reminds me a lot of Rat-a-Tat Cat, but slightly more complex, slightly more interesting decisions and a lot cuter theme. Still, it is an uninteresting filler game.
We Didn't Playtest This At All
Doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should you. As a way to determine a start player or as a drinking game it should be fine. Just remember that there is more strategy in Fluxx.
Save Doctor Lucky
The game is essentially Kill Doctor Lucky in reverse, where you now want to be seen. It works slightly better since it is a little bit easier to save than to kill and there is more decision on risk and reward, but it is still repetitive and dull.
Belfort: Guild Promo Pack #1
Contrary to many other promos, this one will extend replayability.
Only one new game for me this month, so 'Best new game' can only go to...
Ora et Labora
I was really looking forward to playing this one as I'm a fan of Agricola. But whether it was an incredibly slow player in the game, or the game itself, this experience was much like pulling my own teeth out of my face. That said, I'm still rating it 7.5 after the one play.
On the plus side, the two guys who'd played before were clearly loving it and seem to like the same kinds of games as me. Everything seemed to work logically enough, the wheel used to control how many resources were available was ingenious, while there always seemed to be tricky decisions to be made.
However, just how many times can you change chits into different kinds of chits and still be having a good time? On first play, Ora et Labora has taken it a step (or two) too far - I went from being intrigued at the start to losing the will to live at two-thirds of the way through. But how much of that was down to knowing I was hopelessly out of my depth by then remains to be seen on another play or two.
I discovered that Tigris & Euphrates isn't a good game to try and learn online here, despite it seeming relatively straightforward in the rules department. I look forward to playing 'properly' in the near future.
I've been really enjoying The Boss over at Boite a Jeux, while I also had a good time with Shazamm! - both of which I'll look to find cheap at Essen.
I downloaded Summoner Wars for my iPod, but it really doesn't play well on the tiny screen. I bet it's great on an iPad, but I'm not paying money to squint at it - there are far more enjoyable iPod Touch experiences out there.
Finally, I've learnt to play Finito! thanks to Happy Meeple (which is on Facebook) - not the greatest game on earth, but certainly better than the majority of FB time wasters.
Related Geek links
Memory lapse: Pithy reports on every game I play
My Five and Dimes 2012 (as it happened)
Board Game: Among the Stars
[Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:304]
[Average Rating:7.28 Unranked]
Among the Stars
This set of first impressions is based on the PnP copy available to indiegogo backers, the artwork that has been released so far and the mostly finished rule book. In short, what I write here may or may not be an accurate reflection of the final published version of the game will be like.
At the time I write this all of the stretch goals have been reached which means that there are lots of goodies included and there are 10 hours left on the funding campaign. As a disclaimer I have no affiliation with the makers of the game, I just really enjoyed my PnP copy this past month and I am excited to get the real thing.
1. Nice artwork
2. Simple, mostly intuitive, game play if you have played card drafting games (7 wonders etc.) before
3. Lots of extras if you were in on the indiegogo campaign
4. Nice twist on drafting/tableau building because the actual spatial arrangement of the cards matters in this game
5. Plays well with 3p.
6. Excellent 2 player game, just along as you don't use the rules in the rulebook and you ditch the 2 dummy players.
7. Lots of special locations that can be added to the deck to increase the variety in the game.
8. A set of goals that are somewhat similar to what one finds in Race for the Galaxy.
9. Conflict cards that turn up the player interaction
10.Lots of alien races with variable player powers.
In general, I would say that the rules need some adjusting so that the game scales better with different numbers of players.
1. 2 player rules are clunky because they include 2 dummy players
1. Expanding on Strength 5 above (2 player game) the rules in the book basically set up 2 dummy players who randomly discard a card between drafts by the 2 players. I guess the intention is that it will simulate the 4p game which doesn't really work because you are just randomly discarding cards for those other 2 players. Over in the Among the Stars forums I will soon post the details for what my game group thinks is a better method for the 2p game. Our own 2p variant ditches the 2 dummy players and enhances a players chances for forming longer term strategies. With this variant we really enjoyed the 2p game.
1. Excellent components
2. Interesting game play with a strong deduction element (putting the maps together) mixed with a bit of a "game of chicken." The 'chicken' reference is based on the numerous times that my wife and I stared at each other as we were claiming treasures and trying to guess if they were going to take that particular treasure if I pass on it or not? Or are they going to pass on this treasure with their first couple of compass roses and try to take it with a later one?
1. The rulebook is a bit weak. The numerous questions posed on the Tobago page speak to some of situations that can arise during game play and whose solutions are covered in a somewhat ambiguous way in the rules.
It is a fun game for a gamer family. This would definitely be a good game for kids to try out their deduction skills.
1. Game play is pretty straightforward.
2. Works well as a solo game or as a co-op (I like this about Pandemic, Forbidden Island and Defenders of the Realm as well). I found the solo game to be pretty challenging.
1. I have only played a couple of games but I am a bit worried about re-playability.
1. So I have not tried the Wizards Tower expansion yet, but it seems like it might address the re-playability issue.
In order of preference
A good number of new games this month and many that I view as great. I can't say that I played any games I disliked this month, so it was tough to pick a favorite. But right now my favorite game of the month has to be King of Tokyo. The design is simple and elegant, but it's just such a fun game to play. It's mostly a dicefest, but what separates it from other dice games I've played are the powers on the cards. They add variety and strategy while still keep the game quick and light.
The game plays so quickly (most games last about 20 minutes) and yet it packs such a great amount of fun into such a short time. It's quite impressive. There are certainly deeper games, but the theme and design make this one really shine. I've already played it over a dozen times this month and I don't see myself tiring of it any time soon.
Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
Literally any other month this game would be my hands down favorite, but King of Tokyo is just so fun, it barely edges out Through the Ages. I'm surprised as anyone at this.
I played my first full game of Through The Ages this month. I had played the advanced game a few times, but I was really itching to play the full game. The advanced game is still a rich strategic experience, but it does feel like it ends a bit abruptly. The full game takes a good deal longer (the two-player game we played lasted about 4 hours), but it's very rewarding and worth the time investment. I've always loved Sid Meier's Civ PC games and this absolutely scratches that itch, but you get to play with others. I would love to play this more. The long play time is the only limiting factor preventing this. I view the long playing time as both a benefit and a curse in this instance.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
Strangely enough, Descent has never really been on my radar. I'm not a huge fan of the idea of a dungeon crawler. So when a co-worker picked up a copy of the second edition, I was interested in playing but not necessarily enthusiastic despite the hype. Well, turns out the hype was quite justified in this instance. We played a 5-player game on a Saturday afternoon and it was one of the best board game experiences I've had. The battle system is very straightforward, the general gameplay is easy to pick up and the scenarios kept everyone engaged while setting some unique goals to make it something other than a straight hack-and-slash ordeal.
This one is definitely on my radar as something to pick up sometime in the near future. I'm now really interested to try a larger campaign where you can level your characters up over the course of a few sessions. Thankfully, we have a pretty regular game group at work, so this may happen.
Commands & Colors: Napoleonics
Commands & Colors: Napoleonics had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. After spending the better part of a week affixing all the stickers to the wooden blocks, I was determined to try this game but could never find the time with a willing opponent. It's a relief to know that all that sticker application was not in vain! This is my first game in the Commands & Colors system and I'm truly impressed. I'm not much of a wargamer usually, but this system is quick, relatively intuitive and most of all incredibly thematic. I really got a strong sense of the abilities of each unit and they differ greatly without making the game overly complicated.
My only complaint on this one would be the length of the setup. Figuring out where to place all the terrain tiles and then having to search for missing terrain on the backs of other tiles I had already laid out on the map was a bit of a pain. The good news is that it's all worthwhile, because it's a really fun and thematic game experience.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
When this 2-player Agricola variant was announced, I was extremely excited. My fiancee and I both love the game, so it was nice to see a faster playing two-player version released. It's pretty much as advertised. It's the animal husbandry portion of Agricola without the feeding. You certainly lose some depth, but it has a good amount of strategy for the playing time. It's not going to replace Agricola, but it's nice to have something that you could theoretically break out on a weeknight.
Carcassonne: The City
I've actually only ever played Carcassonne as a video game implementation of the board game, either on Xbox Live or iPad. Carcassonne: The City was my first time playing an actual board game version of Carcassonne. I've always balked at playing Carcassonne because of the hassle of the farm scoring. Yes, I know it isn't that bad, but it's still a deterrent.
I'd also read that The City version plays great with 2, which is really important to me. Sure enough, this plays great with 2 and also has the bonus of working pretty well with 3. I'd be a bit worried that the wall building in the game might get a bit too chaotic and hard to control with 4, though. Overally, I really enjoyed this variant and the city you've built with the wooden pieces around all the tiles at the end of the game is just gorgeous to look at. I'm a bit of a sucker for the eye candy.
The Rivals for Catan
I'm a huge fan of the Catan Card Game, but I never picked up a copy. I think I may even enjoy the card game more than the board game. I finally got around to getting Rivals for Catan, the reworking of the Catan card game. The core mechanics are more or less the same, but the addition of themed decks for events and some buildings is absolutely brilliant and adds a little more strategy and theme to the game. It also ensures that additional plays will have a great deal of variety. I've only played the basic game and the first themed deck, so we still have a couple more to go. Definitely a great game to pick up and the price is really good for the amount of game you're getting.
Found a really cheap copy of Artus at a local game store. I hadn't necessarily been anxious to pick it up, but the idea did intrigue me, so when I saw it I decided to give it a go. The game itself is extremely abstract. There's barely any theme here. That being said, it's a very unique and interesting game that requires a good amount of thought and yet plays relatively quickly.
You play cards to either score knights or move them around the table. The core of the game is simple, but the strategy can be quite hard to get your head around. The "scoring cards" in the game usually give you as many negative points as positive, so they can be quite punishing if you don't plan around them early. It's definitely more of a tactical game rather than a strategic one, as the position of pieces on the table can change pretty drastically from turn to turn. This slows the game down a bit, as there isn't as much planning ahead. All that being said, it's a really fun game that can be quite thinky, but is very rewarding for the relatively short play time.
Omen: A Reign of War
I picked up Omen after hearing a lot of good word about how good a two-player game it was. It's a very solid game where you basically play cards to locations to boost their strength towards your side. It's a basic tug-of-war structure, but the card powers add the complexity to the game. The amount of text on the cards does slow the game down a bit, but it's not too bad. There's some nice balance between using the powers from the rewards you gain or keeping the rewards cards for more points at the end of the game. I've played a few times and I feel like I've only really scratched the surface with regards to the strategy of the game.
The basic structure of Hemloch bears some similarities to Omen and at first glance they may appear too similar. However, Hemloch is a bit simpler while still having some of the interesting potential combos you see in Omen. I actually see the simplicity as a benefit in this case, as the game is quicker to play and easier to teach as a result. I also have to note that the art in Hemloch (as well as Omen) is just gorgeous. It's very stylized and thematic.
I backed D-Day Dice on Kickstarter (along with hundreds of others), so I was really excited to receive my package this month. First off, I need to just mention how impressive the package was. All of the goodies were of a really high quality and the passion for the product really shows. The game itself is quite fun to play as well. I've only played a solo training session so far, so there's still a way to go in terms of passing judgement. But the core mechanics are really fun and the game plays really quickly. Looking forward to some more sessions of this one.
Dominant Species: The Card Game
Calling this a Dominant Species game might be a bit of a stretch. The art is certainly similar, but the rest of the game barely resembles the board game. All that being said, I really enjoy this game. There's a good amount of tension and the hand management in the game is absolutely crucial. It's a pretty unforgiving game as there isn't much in the way of a catch-up mechanism to the game. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that a player that isn't doing well probably won't be enjoying the latter stages of the game. All in all, though, a really solid and enjoyable card game.
Coloretto is simple, it's fast and it's a great deal of fun to play. There's not much to be said beyond that. It's a pretty pure set collection game and it's a lot of fun to play. It's not the most color-blind friendly game. A member of our game group had a lot of trouble discerning between some of the colors and the similar textures in the backgrounds didn't help too much. But I guess with a name like Coloretto, you can't expect it to be the most color-blind friendly game in the world.
Another quick filler that's fun to play. The game takes about 10 minutes to play and is deceptively simple. You place one of your cards on the table in what you hope is chronological order relative to the other already placed cards. It starts relatively easy, but as more cards show up the granularity can make the gaps in the timeline tiny. I can see this working really well with a larger group too. Great fun.
Proud Balmain Board Gamer
1 Play both with 3p, 1 play with 4p
Excellent connection and shares game related to Chicago Express from Games on the Brain. Without defined starting positions/destination for the companies the game appears to offer many more options than its mass-market brother.
Following the success of Paris Connection with my family, I thought I would bring this out as the next step in railroad shares game and it was very well received. Tactics learned from the former game - ie deliberately placing railroad in expensive/unprofitable areas had to be applied a little more judiciously here, but nevertheless the direct interaction offered still want down very well. A surprisingly simple ruleset, yet quite deep gameplay and finished in 90minutes.
Both games played were very close - 2 points in 150 for the four player game, with all players quickly getting the variable value of the various companies in shares/stock.
The board/card art is simply gorgeous and, although the components are a little plain, [unmounted board in two pieces, supply your own money or poker chips] they are perfectly serviceable and it certainly didn't detract from the enjoyment. It also made postage affordable from the US.
We will certainly be playing it again. Wish this game could see a wider distribution.
Current rating: 8/10
3 two-player games.
Resisted playing this for a long time. I thought it might just be too light for me, while acknowledging is might go down well with some members of my reluctant game playing household.
I was right on both counts.
There is no doubt that the simplicity hides a degree of deeper gameplay but I just felt that were similar abstracts with painted on theme (thabstracts?) that offered me more options Through the Desert, Clans.
However, gotta hand it to Kingdom Builder as one of the few games that my spouse has suggested we play.
Current rating: 7.5/10
Swing States 2012
I enjoy election games [fond memories of playing Election as a teenager] - just something about counting seats on election night. Following a couple of good reviews on the geek, I purchased this from VP games.
This is a brutal solitaire game. I have not yet made it past the first few turns without being wiped out. Perhaps I need to switch sides? [Currently playing as the Democrats]. With choice of party and those of the Presidential ticket, it appears to offer a lot of replayability, but in my first few games I feel it may be a little scripted - although I may reading the wrong script.
Much better component quality from (cards/tokens) from VP games this time.
Current rating: 7/10
Played this gem of a game one time in July, and I'm going to try to track down a copy. It's a simple, tight, fun family game that should be getting more attention. Another point for Kramer.
The only other new to me game I played in July was Lancaster which had some really neat ideas, but I didn't feel they were taken nearly as far as they could have been. I'd consider playing it again.
Board Game: Goa
[Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:73]
No, this was not the new edition, but my first time to play a complete game of the first edition. I had played up to the end of the A side on two occasions, but never finished.
I actually was able to play three wonderful games. The first was an epic game between me and my two gamer friends
Rod and Shana who have played each other in spouse Goa many times. I was basically along for the ride though I finished a respectable 3 points out of first, but the best part of the game was watching them play each other through me. Shana took the win with her money lead. The second game highlight was that it was a two player with my wife who does not like games but felt sorry for her husband. The highlight was that my wife admitted that the game wasn't too bad, and she would play it again. The final game was with Rod again and my daughter Brittany. In her first game she made some amazing bids that confounded both Rod and I. She had only a money grab for her last action as point scorer which gave me the victory.
Nice blend of tension (which I can really take or leave) and development with multiple paths (which I heartily enjoy). Certainly, tough decisions each round with the one-time bid and the need to develop for the future but be competitive in the present. As well, the flag pathway through the tiles assures replayability. It has moved up into my #2 slot.
Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin
I also played three games of this--two with some of Rod's children and one with Rod and Brittany.
Bad guys to kill! So, definitely more people among my game options(mostly kids) want to play this than the Euros that I prefer.
Set up takes up more time than I want to spend on a game of this nature. As deck builders go, I would rather play Dominion. Thunderstone seems a little long for what it is. My interest in the decisions does not surpass those I find in Dominion, but it plays in a longer time frame.
While I would not choose to play it, I definitely would play with anyone who wants to play around my house.
Not my favorite thing to see hero against hero...
...but until Marvel makes a big mistake I'm going to trust them.
July was great for new games. I got a couple games off my unplayed list that were sitting on there for more than a year. As a result I'm creeping closer to my 2012 resolution, which I'm very excited about. And the choice of which one was best? Well, that was a piece of cake...
= Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 1 – Team Asia & Legendary Asia - If this map was just the Legendary Asia map I'd rate it around a 6, maybe a 7. It's not that the Legendary Map was bad, it was just not all that unique. The couple of twists they added weren't enough to make it feel like a new game. However flip that board over and you transformed Ticket to Ride into something new, exciting, and spectacular. The basic rules are still there, so it's pretty easy to teach. Partnering up players is so intriguing, because the players are forced to try and communicate in such unusual ways with one another. Yes you can show a few destination cards, but the primary method of communication is more subtle. "OK, I claimed that route, hopefully my partner sees what I'm trying to do." Or "I'll draw red, perhaps she will see where I want her to go." This back and forth is absolutely fascinating to me, and is something I've never really seen outside of partnership trick-taking games. I absolutely cannot wait until I can play this again, and I'd love to try it with a full complement of 6 players.
= Colossal Arena - What I love about Knizia's designs is the fact that he does a brilliant job of simplifying without removing strategy. The simple play-a-card-draw-a-card mechanism of this game is ridiculously easy to teach. However the special abilities that players can use add just enough interesting decisions that I find the game really intriguing. I like the way that the players control the length of each round, and the game of chicken that starts when almost all the characters have an attack card. Our game dragged out perhaps a bit long because people seemed reluctant to end each round. We also didn't see any reason not to discard and draw as many cards as possible. This depleted the deck very quickly, so it might go a little differently in the future with more experience. If I were to make one complaint it would be the art and theme. It's fairly dark and serves as a pretty tough barrier to entry for non-geeks. I just can't picture pulling this game out with my parents or in-laws. However with the right crowd I think this could be an amazing game that I'd love to play any time.
= Um Reifenbreite - This is a Spiel des Jahres winner that I expected to enjoy. I actually like roll-and-move games when there is a twist that adds some strategy. Plus I had a lot of friends who talked about how enjoyable the game is. While I do like this game's simplicity and how it throws some interesting wrinkles into a basic mechanism, I don't love it. The drafting decisions seem quite obvious, and that takes away most of the strategy. Perhaps it's just the simple beginners course we used, or the confusing German-to-English translation of the rules, but I'm still missing the wow. At least the theme is relatively unique and there's a lot of variability offered simply with the one board. Never fear, I'm not giving up on the game yet. Hopefully with more play (and trying the advanced rules) I will find the exciting stuff that others enjoy in this game. Plus I have to play with my brother in order to complete our mission to play all the SdJ winners.
= Double Double Dominoes - In the never-ending adventures of Rikki and Ben buying games we've never heard of at the FLGS we now come to this odd twist on classic dominoes. Seemed like a good idea at the time, because we have a lot of family who enjoy dominoes and this has to be more tolerable than Mexican Train. Well, there are positives and negatives here. The big positive is the fact they added a twist where points are scored based on where your opponents sit on the score track. This forces players to really think twice before they play any domino. The negative is that this can lead to a lot of analysis-paralysis because you don't know what will score for your opponents until your turn rolls around. In the long run the slower pace is more annoying than the scoring mechanism is interesting. There are a few exciting moments, like when you've got a good double score, but overall the game just feels kind of blah. The components are also a little disappointing because the dominos are marked up and the score pieces cover too much of the track. I'll probably try again to see if it improves with more games, but I'm really glad I didn't pay much for it.
= Tumblin' Monkeys - This barely counts as a New to Me game. It is almost exactly the same as Kerplunk which I've played a number of times in the past. The only difference is that instead of marbles the tube is loaded with monkeys whose tails can catch on the sticks. It's a silly game and doesn't really have strategy, but my friends' five-year-old asked me to play so I couldn't say no. They lost the rulebook so I'm not sure if there are rules about where to draw sticks from, but there should be. The game seems broken if people aren't forced to pull from the top early since all the monkeys bunch up there. Either way it's just a silly game that masquerades as a dexterity game, but really requires no manual dexterity at all. It's a relatively innocuous kids game that I'd willingly play again if the little one asks. After all, you risk losing the title "Uncle Ben" if you say no.
Number of games remaining to complete my New Year's Resolution (play all unplayed games I already owned on 1/1/2012): 7
Board Game: Eclipse
[Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:15]
Living rent-free in your head!
It's entirely possible that I have you plonked.
Eclipse is a miracle of a game. It's got action-selection, resource management, tech-development, exploration, dice-driven combat, with a side-order of special powers (if you like) in a nifty sci-fi setting, . . . and if you think "too many notes!" then prepare to be surprised at how it all meshes together so perfectly that you look at it and think "Of course this game exists! Of course it does." Eclipse is practically the manifestation of the ideal Platonic conception of "hobby game." How could it not exist? It existed in the realm of dreams! It existed in the imagination of children! It lived in the ether before it was finally bound to these earthly forms of cardboard and wood and plastic (plastic?!) and placed in a box and given to us as a gift from our Lord and kissed by angels!
I mean it.
As a winning recipient in the Z-Man/BGG Africana giveaway, it is my bounden duty to report back with my thoughts about this game. I've only played two-player, so keep that in mind. In Africana, you move around a map of Africa via cards, completing "expeditions" for points. The expeditions are sort of like Ticket to Ride's "tickets" except there are always five of them open, and all players race to complete them. So it's sort of like five ongoing races at once, although any one player can only be involved in four. There are also cards that you buy that you alone work to complete, and these are part of a set-collection mechanism. Scoring is for cards and sets and some other extras and penalties, and . . . that's it. It's a slight step up from Ticket to Ride, but basically occupies the same space in a game collection. In fact, I didn't know this was a Michael Schacht joint, I would have assumed it was Alan Moon.
It's not a bad game, but there's nothing particularly new or exciting about it either. It does, however, make me want to track down a copy of Valdora. The "book of adventures" gimmick is pretty cool, but I'm certain a better game could be built around it.
Walk the Dogs
I found this at a thrift store just last week, brought it home, read the rules, and talked my seven-year-old into giving it a try. She seemed reluctant until I dumped the 63 little plastic dogs onto the table. Wish I'd had a camera to capture that look. I mean, seriously? LITTLE PLASTIC DOGS! OH FER CUTE!
It's a kid-simple game. Play a card, collect dogs, line 'em up. She understood instantly. She also beat the snot outta me. We played it again the next day with the reluctant 8-year-old . . . who beat us both. This is going to be a family hit, I can tell. Anyone with little kids should track down this game.
Speaking of simple games, this one is about as simple as tic-tac-toe. In fact, tic-tac-toe may be more complex. Drop the odd-shaped bits into the frame, first person whose piece sticks over the top loses. It takes about one minute to play. Possibly less than a minute. So the seven-year-old and I have played this several times already. (And I've lost several times, too. I don't quite know how.) It's barely a game, but it does look nice on the coffee table.
Big surprise: the designer is Kris Burm. Huh.
Board Game: Maori
[Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1295]
Difficult to choose this month, but I've opted for Maori. It's basically a filler, coming in at under half an hour, a tile placement game set in the south sea. It works well across the 2-5 players range, is easy to explain, simple enough to play fast, but enough to think about to keep it interesting. I enjoyed my first play so much that I bought the game and have played it four more times since. (7.5)
The other game that was in contention this month is The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. I have only played it solo, and only with the basic set-- no expansions-- so I'm not really in a position to judge yet. It's my first deck-building "Living Card Game". I enjoyed my eight solo plays using the starting decks and starting to put together my own decks, and I've enjoyed the challenge of starting to figure the game out. The question really is, am I motivated enough to get some expansion packs and spend a lot of time deck-building and fine-tuning my decks? I'm not sure yet-- not sure how much time I want to spend on deck-building. And if I don't I can't see this game really having the legs for me. (7 for now)
Nefarious has a great "mad scientist" theme, some good ideas, and I like the variety in the Twist cards. But seems far too random for me: you only draw one blueprint in the research action-- no choice to be made-- and these are the cards that give you score. So if you draw some high-scoring cards you are likely to get to 20pts before anyone else. There really needs to be more to the "getting blueprints" part of the game, without that, I can't see myself wanting to play again. (5)
Board Game: Morels
[Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:448]
Morels is a great little 2-player set-collecting card game. Each turn, you either collect cards or play a set from your hand. Just enough going on to require real decisions, without getting bogged down in details. A great first attempt from a new designer / publisher. Extra bonus points for putting this 2-player game in the same size box as the Kosmos 2-player series. I now have a copy winging its way to me thanks to a geekbuddy.
Infiltration - Felt like Diamant meets Hoity Toity. In space! Social fun, but few real decisions.
Cthulhu Dice & Zombie Dice. Played back to back. I can't remember which was worse.
Maharani - Lovely build quality & artwork. Quite engaging tile placement game.
Lords of Scotland - enjoyable card game. Memorably crappy artwork.
Richelieu - perhaps an interesting bidding / influence game but the artwork is rather drab
Sky Traders - 4th most attractive artwork of the month (after Maharani, Morels, Infiltration). There. I finally managed to find something nice to say about Sky Traders.
When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
I asked my friend
to teach me this early in July. Then I came home and taught it to my wife. It has become her favorite game of all time. We played it 15 more times after that.
I also played the Cheapass game Spree! (I liked it quite a bit) and the Kickstarter game Divided Republic (which I enjoyed but I didn't like the end).
HYPERBOLE! It's like the greatest thing ever!!!
Because of busy convention season we only got to try one new board game, but it was a good one.
The Castles of Burgundy
I have been a huge Stefan Feld fan ever since I got to try ItYoD, and same holds true for my GF Ruth. So far none of his titles have disappointed us. I made a blind buy for this game, not even reading the rules or any of the reviews; it's a Feld game AND its highly rated. How could I go wrong?
This past Thursday our order arrived and I was stoked to read the rules and figure out how it worked so that we could get to playing. Despite a few initial misunderstandings in my reading, I was more and more excited with each section that I comprehended. It just looked like so much fun.
By Friday I had a pretty good idea how to play (though not necessarily how to win). So I set up the board for an initial run-through and we hit the ground running. Three plays later we were still talking about all its intricasies and the different ways there are to play.
About the game: Although it's a Feld, there are no punishment factors. Also, the interactions are limited, akin to Macao or Notre Dame. You are trying to build up your play area, but to do that you first need to acquire choice pieces to place there. However, your tableau is limited, so you need to balance getting stuff and placing it. As far as the dice go, this is probably the least luck-dependent game using dice that I've yet encountered, as there are a number of workarounds to get what you want. It is a game about making hard choices and then realizing, a la Trajan, that the only one who put you in your current position is you through your choices.
I highly recommend this to anyone who likes low-interactive Euros and likes to feel like they're building something as the game progresses. We've found it awesome.
Every Man a (K-State) Wildcat!
"Just get that sucka to the designated place at the designated time and I will gladly designate his ass...for dismemberment!" - Sho Nuff.
Another game using the Hammer of the Scots combat system. This is a great game. The treachery rules are wonderfully devious (bwahahaha!) This one is a lot more bloody than the others, since combat units have higher hit values and you cannot add strength to a block. Short playing time (3 turns, 7 cards per turn) is a big plus.
This is like a medieval version of Victory: The Blocks of War, except using the simpler Hammer of the Scots combat system. Great pieces and enough chrome (in this case, special rules for wizards casting spells) to differentiate the theme from the other block games. The units have a lot of variability due to building costs, special terrain benefits and total combat value and "to hit" values, and varying geomorphic maps ensure that no two games will play the same. An improved initiative procedure would bump this one up to a 9, as it is the game's only real weakness (just like Victory). Overall, another excellent offering in the Columbia lineup.
Corps Command: Totensonntag
A light wargame with a clever activation and combat system. You roll a die for initiative: high roll goes first. However, the bigger your die, the less units you can activate, but the greater their movement. It is a bit "gamey", but I like it.
In some ways, it feels like a cousin to Tank on Tank, especially the combat system. Low counter density and wide open spaces keep it moving.
Initial rating. I think I would like this one better face to face than solitaire. Problem is that it is too long for face to face and it has no VASSAL module.
It has Euro-ish elements in it in the abstracted command system and it's emphasis is more on balance than simulation creating somewhat of a "pasted on" theme. There is a lot to like here, but not having the VASSAL module is a killer.
Gettysburg: 125th Anniversary Edition
This one is ideally suited as a gateway into wargaming. It has 2 pages of rules and plays in under an hour. The combat system is easy, but also tends to create wild swings. Probably not the greatest game on the subject, but it is ideal for a specific audience.
Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game
I played 2 scenarios of this: the one involving getting escaping by pickup truck and the one about defending the manor.
This has a lot of similarities to A Touch of Evil, especially in the production values.
What I liked: the high quality of the cards. The short game play. The plastic. Some of the card text (notably teenage angst and the card that gave the game its name).
What I didn't like: It seemed imbalanced in favor of the zombies.
I think if the heroes beat the zombie with only 1 die, they fought them off, but if they win with 2 dice, they kill the zombie. In two games, I never saw a zombie die by rolling doubles. It's just too difficult.
Also, theme and rules didn't intersect at one point. As the zombie player, I played "locked door" on two of his characters and locked them into the gym. My zombies would burst in and attack, but after killing the zombies, the heroes could not leave. Huh? You can't walk through that big hole in the wall or floor? That play was a game changer.
Overall, though, I think there it was a good game. The combat system might need a little tweaking to bring balance, or maybe I just didn't play enough games. It was a good enough game that I would like to play it again, and if I do, I will revise comments and ratings accordingly.
Panzer Grenadier: Eastern Front
Nice looking game with a clear rulebook and plenty of scenarios. Problem is, I can't get a face-to-face game and AVP is anti-VASSAL with this game. So I'm left playing short scenarios solitaire, and that's a bit dull. Way to go, AVP.
This was a fairly slow month for me. I guess as I'm becoming more familiar with this wonderful hobby there are fewer New to Me's
D-Day Dice is the only large Kickstarter game that I've backed so far. It's a great production of a PnP game produced by Valley Games. I don't normally enjoy co-operative games, or solo games. However, this game is really alot of fun. So far I've played the Tiger Beach training mission and Omaha Beach solo. I'm really enjoying the game and am looking forward to trying it out with some of my friends. I've even got the D-Day Dice: Atlantikwall expansion, so we can play some head-to-head goodness.
I've had Genoa in my collection for many months now and have wanted to play it. I finally got a chance to play a riend's copy with 4 others. This is a really fun negotiation game where you play as businessmen in Genoa and have to negotiate with the other players in order to accumulate the most wealth. The beauty of the game is that almost everything is negotiable but there are only certain circumstances where those contracts are binding. In the game we played, I lost horribly but learned a few valuable lessons. Sharing profits might be painful but if it makes you more wealthy it may be a necessary evil.
I had played Imperial about 3 years ago but didn't remember much of the experience, other than my brain was fried by the end of it. It was definitely time to give this game another shot. The key thing for me to remember about this game is that it's similar to Chicago Express in that you own shares of financial entities, but don't own the entities themselves. In the beginning of our 5 player game, I started with control of Austria and Germany. I tried a strategy whereby I expanded both countries holdings slightly in order to make them attractive to other investors, then willingly gave up control of the countries to the other players. At that point I became an independent investor and could invest more often than the rest of the players. I ended up a close second. This session was much better than my initial experience and I'm not going to wait another 3 years to play it again.
The first of my 2 fillers this month was Pit. This is a fun game if you enjoy blind negotiating, and ringing bells. In it, you trade commodities with other traders. There's a fair amount of mayhem in this seemingly simple card game. I played a 5 player game and enjoyed it but screwed up a number of rounds by ringing the bell too soon. Those Bull and Bear cards confused me, along with the odd number of cards we were dealt. Did I need 9 commodities or 10? What about if I have the Bull card? Aaargghhh! Truly a chaotic game.
My second filler was No Thanks!. Wow! Who would have thought that such a small card game could have so much strategy. This card game is driven by one choice. Do I accept the card in front of me, or do I pass and give up a point? The key to the game seems to be understanding when to pass on cards and when to accept them. In our 5 player game I placed fairly well, but I saw some serious screwage happening. Again, lots of fun. If I had to choose, I would probably say that I enjoyed this game more than Pit.
After having played a 6 player game of 1830: Railways & Robber Barons a few months ago and becoming enamoured by Chicago Express, I was looking for a game that would take less time to play than an 18xx and require fewer committed players. Looking through the available Print-and-Play games, I stumbled across Open Rails Origins. It plays 1-3 players and promises a play time of up to 90 minutes! I spent a few days taking my time to put this game together. Then came the task of learning the game. Unfortunately, the original rulebook seemed to be written for players who have extensive 18xx experience. Luckily, a BGGer took the time to rewrite the rules into something a bit more coherent for us 18xx newbs. I played a solo game to get the hang of it and I can see potential in this game. Next up, I'm going to invite 2 friends over and we'll try a full game to see how this plays.
Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
This month, I've only played five new games - and, again surprisingly, no new expansions. As usual, I'll list the games in decreasing order of enthusiasm: something that happens pretty cleanly with this set of games.
Starship Merchants -- (1 play) _7.7_
(both images by toyvaultinc)
I found this one quite charming: clearly winning the Most time pondering "What might have happened if" after the game was over award this month. It was a bit more random in play than I'd expected - though the game provided mechanisms for surviving and manipulating that randomness; a bit longer; a bit more subtle, too.
It's an abstracted pickup-and-deliver game: one buys ships, outfits them, cruises the belt to mine various ores, then delivers the spoils to destinations - hopefully making a profit along the way. Each "turn" is pretty short; so the game has the potential to flow nicely once everyone has a bit of practice with the system. Along the way, it asks interesting question about relative advantage, timing, and opportunity cost.
All told, I found it quite fascinating and would be delighted to return to the experience.
Charon Inc. -- (2 plays) _7.3_
(images by darkmind & lacxox)
Very happy to have played this a second time today. It cemented the Better when played by the correct rules award. (That's not necessarily a tautology: there are a few games that I prefer to play by "incorrect" rules.) It's quite clever: the combination of resource acquisition and action selection (or denial) is nice; the card constraints are pretty reasonable.
While my first game against daughter #1 was delightful, the second game better demonstrated some of the opportunities for very clever play. I'm intrigued by how it might play with four or five.
Vinhos -- (1 play) _7_
(images by newrev & lacxox)
I think this one needs to win the Emperor Josef II memorial "Too Many Rules" award. (Yes, yes; I completely understand the scene in Amadeus was intended to demonstrate the artistic bankruptcy of the Emperor, and not begin to imply that Mozart was actually producing music with too many notes. I only mention this because the Net.Pedant contingent on BGG is more active than I would prefer. Phttt.)
In my case, I'm not clear that we got all the rules right in my first play. And that's not at all to say that I didn't understand the rules (I misapprehended some of them, and was set straight - but that's not the same thing.) But I'm not convinced (for example) that we always added a cube to a region when we should (nor, indeed, got all the modifiers right in all cases.) My whine is simply that there are sufficiently many little rules with rather little affect on the game that one might always have the nagging worry while playing that something may have been missed. And I don't find that particularly desirable.
For my part, I also played very poorly. I'd be happy to give it another shot, but I doubt it'll be a game I'll consider buying.
Waldschattenspiel -- (1 play) _6.3_
(images by autumnweave & Chrysophylax)
I admit that the superficial presentation of this game lends one to worry about the sanity of presenting a children's game that employs an open flame. But it's quite explicitly a game for an adult (I substituted in this case) to play with a set of children (my Mom joined a gaggle of her grandchildren.) The adult manipulates the flame, while the other players try to stay out of reach of the light: in practice, it seems quite reasonable. Perhaps a Much less dangerous than suggested by overreacting North Americans award might be appropriate.
The game isn't particularly subtle or difficult: it's a game for little ones, and one that presents a lovely and compelling small-child-creepy ambience. As the adult player, one has the role of making things interesting: and that seemed reasonably possible in our attempt. In the end, my little nephews had fun; my mom enjoyed playing with them; my kids enjoyed themselves, and I was amused by the reaction of my "opponents": it won all 'round. I just wish I'd bought a copy when my kids were 5 or 6; they'd have enjoyed it even more then, I think, than they do now at 10, 12 and 17.
Zombie Fluxx -- (2 plays) _5_
(images by jimmcmahon & zombiegod)
This wins the Oh, look! There are things that can be improved by adding Zombies award. (While I was amused by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I cannot claim it was an improvement on the original with a clear conscience.)
I'm not a fan of Fluxx. Yet son #2 loves it: it's one of the vectors by which he honed his reading skills. So this was a present for him on the occasion of his 10th birthday: instead of a game that his dad thought he might like, one that he'd explicitly requested.
I was quite surprised, then, to discover that the additional Zombie mechanisms added to my enjoyment of the experience. They seemed appropriate together.
Thanks again to my youngsters and extended family, the BAP attenders, the no-longer-on-Friday Lunch folk, and the I've been Diced! gang for some great game experiences.
I wanted to add a racing game to our collection and I’m glad I choose Snow Tails. I like the theme and the game play. The rules are pretty straightforward and didn’t require much explanation. The limited amount of control you have over your sled fits the theme really well. The built in catch-up mechanic around the balanced sled helped lessen luck gained from the card draw. It’s also short enough (even quicker than I expected) that falling behind didn’t ruin an entire night. The variability of the tracks should keep it fresh over time. Overall a nice set of mechanics well integrated with the theme.
Other new games:
Tobago – Tobago has a good theme and really nice components. It’s a pretty light game and I’m not certain how meaningful the decisions in the game are. It seems like you try to position your vehicle where you can narrow where the treasure is and then use an amulet to make a second move to recover it. The game play itself with adding rules to the treasure to narrow its location was something new to me which I enjoyed. The rules have a few fiddly details that we had to reference a few times. Despite my concerns, it was still fun and should fit in well at game nights.
Zombie Fluxx – The new rules add some complexity diminishing one of Fluxx’s virtues, simplicity. It’s still accessible with rules building as you go and if you like Fluxx and desire some variety or you like Zombies you might enjoy it.
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
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The premise of Cheeky Monkey is pretty straightforward, and should be familiar to anyone who's played a Knizia push-your-luck game, like Pickomino or Sushizock. You draw chips from the bag instead of rolling dice, but you set aside the chips you take until you decide to bank them in a stack, and if you pick something that matches something you've already taken, then you bust and put everything back in the bag. You can also take opponent's chips if you draw a matching tile, or swap from the top of an opponent's stack if you draw a monkey, but otherwise the gameplay is pretty much the same.
Cheeky Monkey changes things by having bonus points scored for any majorities of animals you manage to collect (there are eight different animals, ranging from 3 to 10 bonus points, with that many of each chip in the bag), and you can also choose to bank tiles on the bottom of your stack if you take animals of just one type, so keeping up with how many of any chips have been taken is important. Knowing that isn't just good in calculating the odds of drawing a matching tile; it also helps determine where you have majority.
Like the other two games, I find Cheeky Monkey to be a decently compelling little game. It should be easy enough for kids to play, and it has enough going on to give adults something to think about when playing with the kids. The luck of the draw helps even out the skill levels of the gamers, and that makes it a pretty perfect family game, while also being a good way to start your game night (it will accommodate up to six players). Plus, it doesn't hurt to pick it up for 90% off at an FLGS sale.
I like Taj Mahal. I like the tension of playing cards out in an attempt to get certain rewards, while going head-to-head with other players and seeing who can outlast the others. I also like Havoc which has a similar mechanism, but I'm just not that enamored with Dominant Species: The Card Game, despite it having the same kind of mechanism. It doesn't have the same kind of rewarding tension, for a number of different reasons.
First of all, the action cards are a cheap way of increasing player interaction in the game. Nearly all of them are "Hurt Another Player" cards, and even though they're not interrupt cards (because if you've been paying attention, then you know how I feel about them), they're cards that break up other players' plans just because you have them, and there's nothing they can do to respond to them. It sucks to be leading in the competition only to see it disappear because someone else played a card you don't have.
Second of all, Taj Mahal has a mechanism where you can win a reward if you're leading when you drop out of the competition. It's a clever little addition to the main idea, and it works very well, so that you can pass and not have to worry about losing your lead in a particular area, since you take your reward at that time. In DS:TCG, you can pass with the lead in one or more areas, and then see it disappear before the end of the round because someone else plays a suppression, and then an action card, and then another action card, and all those cards you played are worthless. I give credit to DS:TCG for having multiple incentives for driving the decisions, but it doesn't feel as well-implemented as it does in Taj Mahal.
Lastly, DS:TCG has what I feel is an arbitrary -5/+5 point reward at the end of the game for the players who are lowest/highest on the survival track. You progress on the track by winning the food chain battles, which also reward you with points, and the threat/promise of those points can drive you to win earlier hands that are worth fewer points. This is a fine idea, but your location on the survival track also rewards you with that many bonus cards before the last round, so the points seem like an unnecessary incentive, especially when they effectively reward the player who's already in the lead, and hurt the player who's already losing.
There are aspects of the game I like, but those parts can be found better implemented in other games, and the parts I don't like about the game far outweigh them. I can see that other gamers might like these characteristics, but I just don't think I'm the right audience for it. It crosses too far over the line that divides confrontation from aggression.
I got into the Pandemic fad back when it was first released, and enjoyed the game well enough to play it a few times. Each time, though, I got a sense of not feeling as satisfied with the game as I expected to be. It wasn't that there wasn't any appreciable tension in the game -- there was one game where we were literally one card away from victory, and the anticipation as we got to our make-or-break turn was thick in the air -- it just didn't feel the same kind of satisfaction I would get when I finished a competitive game. I tired a few more cooperative games, but none of them really resonated with me.
Flash Point, unfortunately, didn't change my mind about the genre. Fans of Pandemic will find some similarities between it and Flash Point. The game creates tension by ramping up the challenge exponentially each turn and giving you limited actions to use to complete your conflicting objectives. Your incentives change based on the state of the game, and the variety of the roles and the randomness of the placement of the hazards make the game different each time, even if you play on the same board. That's the Pandemic formula right there, and Flash Point uses it to create a familiar but different game, as it changes the vectors that create the variety from cards to dice, but it's otherwise a pretty faithful variation on the theme.
So, this is a good thing for fans of cooperative games, it's just not enough to make me change my mind about the genre overall. It has tension and shifting incentives, but even when we won the game, I felt like I hadn't really played a game at all. I'll give the designer credit for themeing the game with firefighters instead of something more grand -- rescuing individuals feels less abstract and more immediately gratifying than curing diseases on a global scale -- but I'm just not a fan of cooperative games. What it does it does well enough, but it just doesn't do much for me.
If one were looking for a pure stock-market game, he might not look much further than Black Friday. It's a game with a fragile system, in that if you make one tiny mistake in the rules, then you're going to break the game, but that seems to be the case with the real stock market, so it just might be the best approximation of the stock market in a game. Maybe. I don't play the market in real life, so it's hard to say definitively.
Anyway, Hab & Gut is a stock market game with little chrome. On a turn, you can buy or sell stocks, and you can donate a stock to charity. Once everyone's taken a round of buying/selling, each player picks cards from racks to manipulate the market. There's a rack of cards that sits between every two players, so that each player can see two racks. The cards can affect the market positively or negatively, and you pick one card to count at full cost, and one to count at half cost, but they have to come from different racks. Play two rounds, count up your money, and the player with the most money wins.
Well ... almost. See, if you donated the least amount of money to charity, you lose automatically. It's a rule straight out of High Society, but it's trickier to manage here since you have to take into account how much a stock will be worth at the end of the two rounds. Plus, you don't have to donate more than anyone else to place in the game; you just have to spend more than at least one person. It's a tricky little mechanism, and adds a little something extra to the game. Without that rule, the game would be fine enough, but with it, the game takes on an extra level of fine.
To be honest, I'm not sure if this is a game that will have a lot of staying power. The game will play very similarly every time, with the differences coming in from the way the market cards get distributed. The semi-known information adds a nice tension to the game, which will help carry it, but I just wonder if this is as much as I was hoping it would be. I definitely want to play it again (it's about a 60-minute game, once everyone knows how to play), but I'm just not sure how much longer I'll wind up playing it. I'm definitely curious now, though.
I've found that just about any abstract game will present a nice enough challenge with just the right amount of tension and choices to make to make them satisfactory games for me. Few of them stand out above the rest (save for Hive or Yinsh), and to be honest, most of them fall into the "I'll play them if someone wants to play them, but I won't be asking to play them or buy them myself" category.
Pylos is another one of these abstract games, which I think is clever enough for its type of game, which is one where you're trying to arrange the state of the game so that you force your opponent to make a move that will help you. Here, though, you're working in three dimensions, trying to be the one to place the last piece on the board, so the game is a lot about conserving your pieces. Making certain moves allow you to remove pieces from the board, which can be good for you. If you have more pieces than your opponent, then you'll definitely win the game.
The game is pretty, and anyone who's collecting the Gigamic wooden games will want to add it to their collection (or put it on display on a coffee table), but it's just not something that's going to wow a whole bunch of folks. It's entertaining and challenging, yes, but you can say that about a lot of mediocre games. The fact is, there are better, more challenging abstracts out there for fans of the genre.
Six is a pretty simple game, with about as straightforward a gameplay as you'll find in an abstract: Take turns placing hexagonal pieces on a table until one player forms one of the three winning shapes. You're trying to build a circle, straight line, or pyramid out of six pieces (hence the name). Pretty simple, eh?
Players start with 20 pieces, and once those are placed, you then start taking pieces that have already been placed and place them elsewhere. In the simpler version of the game, you're not allowed to move a piece that would break the board into two pieces, but in the advanced game, you can do so, and the pieces that comprise the smaller set of pieces is removed from the game. This is important, because now a player can win by reducing his opponent down to 5 pieces and win the game that way, since the opponent won't be able to form a winning shape. I thought this would be the better way to play the game, but now I'm not so sure.
See, in two of the games I played this month, the game came down to one player having one row of four and one of five in his color, and as the other player went to block the play of the sixth piece, that player just removed his own piece, discarding his opponent's piece, and played it to the other row of four. It created this downward spiral that guaranteed him the win, and it seemed a little useless to finish out the game at that point.
Now, the strange thing is that the basic game feels more tense, more satisfying, and more rewarding than the advanced game. Once you enter into the second phase of the game, it feels like there are two stages to your turn. First, you have to find a piece that you can remove that doesn't put you in a bad position, and then you have to figure out how to play that piece to help yourself. It's still not going to make the game stand out above other abstracts, but I find it odd that the basic game feels more finished and elegant than the advanced game.
The game isn't that bad (most abstracts have the right kind of tension and interest to keep me engaged), but either way, it lacks the depth that exists in games like Yinsh and Hive. In fact, when I was doing research into the game, some of my Geekbuddies had good things to say about it, almost all of them calling it "Hive Lite." I'm not sure if I would go that far, but I feel like if I put the game on low heat and let it simmer for another 20 minutes or so, I might wind up with Hive. And since I really like Hive, I'm just not sure if this is a game I'd want to play all that often over it.
I have to say, the changes and updates that the designer and publisher added to the original Skull & Roses raises this game from a fun, tense game of outbluffing your opponents to an elegant art form. The bidding rules for start player, the VP chips, and the area control mechanisms of the game come together to form an incredible, original game. It makes me think of the best elements of Age of Steam and Container mixed with the subtle interplay of Fluxx and I Drank What?. If this isn't the gamers' best game of 2011/2012, then there's a serious disservice happening in this community.
Oh, I'm just shitting you guys. This is the same game as the original Skull & Roses, just with additional pieces to add more players. So if you liked that, you'll like this, too (though I'll admit to some surprise at seeing this game ranked lower than the original one).
New-to-Me Mini Expansions*
Alien Frontiers: Space Crane
Dominant Species: The Card Game Promos
Troyes: Bonus Cards
*I've come to realize that most mini-expansions just add new variety to existing games, and are just there to give someone an incentive to buy a game under special circumstances. Very few of them add any real change or value to a game, and I rarely have much to say about them other than to say, "Add it or don't; it probably won't make that much of a difference in the game otherwise," so I'm only going to list the new mini-expansions from this point forward, unless they make enough of a change to be addressed.
Solomon M. Green
24 distinct games for the month, 12 of them new to me. One of the features of our gaming groups is that invariably each game is a teaching game as there is always someone learning that game for the first time.
Upon a Salty Ocean (2011)
Aqua Romana (2005)
Lost Cities (1999)
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (2011)
Alien Frontiers (2010)
O Zoo le Mio (2002)
Upon a Salty Ocean (2011)
Set in a 16th century French merchant fishing village subject to weather and sea variations as well as possible piracy involvement. It requires thinking across multiple levels with money doubling as victory points. Unusual for a Euro Game is that is possible to be effectively eliminated for playing so poorly that your level of indebtedness prevents you from continuing in the game.
Actions are worker placement across four categories: Building, Ship Movements, Trade and In Port activities. Costs are reset at the start of each of 5 turns, increasing each time an action is selected by a player during the turn. Market prices are adjusted at start of round and drop for each bundle of 8 commodities traded. Building names are french though in smaller print making initial following of the rules challenging at best. Turn ends when all players pass up their actions with players able to jump back in after passing if other players have not all passed, effectively this means so long as you are prepared to pay the ever increasing cost, your actions are only limited by money or debt.
Before this gets monotonous with my glorification of Reiner Knizia, let me put this simply, this is an excellent game which scales well for 2, 3 or 4 players. It works well for colour blind players by augmenting colours with common shapes. It fully deserved it's SDJ win (2004 Spiel der Spiele Game of the Year Winner). The principle objective is to be better about placing your tiles than your opponents scoring in 6 different colour groupings, gaining a bonus turn when you score the "Ingenious" cap of 18 in any colour grouping. We chose to play this as individuals rather than the team variant for 4 players. It gets brutal towards the end with the blocking when you are trying make certain that your opponents cannot outshine your game achievements. This was the first time I had played this IRL having played it hundreds of time online at BrettSpielWelt. Quick to learn, brutal to master, which is what makes Knitzia games so good.
Aqua Romana (2005)
Not a hugely complex game to learn or teach and plays within 30 minutes. Simple, yet complete. Challenging and competitive. Initially as stone masons, we go around the board placing specialised water channel tiles: straights, crossovers, curves or curves left and right. One of each mason type set aside for later in the game. Each player is assigned a starting tile from which their water will flow, object is to lay water channels with the total length of all your channels being points. The one with the most points wins.
On your turn you select a mason which corresponds to a row or column that your meeple is in, using that mason to legally lay a tile which continues a channel for you, extending the channels of all meeples affected by the new tile. Channels may not meet channels which others are in. If your channel runs off the board or into a deadend, the meeple scores the next available points space corresponding to the length of the channel (or lesser if space is taken). The person scoring is also awarded a mason which they can freely place on the board. If on your turn you have no legal move affecting your meeples, then you can choose another mason to draft into action and hopefully crash someone else out of the game. Game ends when no legal moves exist. Meeples not already scored have their channel lengths added to meeples already scored.
I always will try games by Reiner Knizia because there is always some twist with the mechanics that makes his games so appealing. This game is no different except it is more than tile placement, it has this element of trying to get in before your opponents without being shafted by them later. On your turn, you have one of three possible actions, place one of your scoring castles on the board (6 x 6), place a random tile on the board at a location of your choosing or lastly placing a secret tile (one only) that you have seen on the board. Placement continues untill all places are filled. Scoring takes into account row and column totals for each piece placed which can also be blocked by mountains and modified by dragons, Gold Mines and Wizards, tile values from -6 thru -1 and +1 thru +6. Despite being handsomely beaten it was an enjoyable experience. It can suffer from king maker moves with some runaway luck. You have to time when you use your best scoring castles hoping not to be shafted by your opposition.
Lost Cities (1999)
This was a first play in real life, so for me qualifies as "New to Me". Learnt on BSW it was always fun so when I got the chance to acquire it recently through a Card Game trade exchange I was always going to be happy. It's light enough to teach new people and challenging enough to hold interest for say three rounds over 20-30 mins. Yet another Reiner Knizia game, (are you seeing a theme here ?), its mechanic is one which is later borrowed by him for Keltis and implemented in a different way. A bit of push your luck, two player game, how brave are you to start an expedition, how brave are you to invest in an expedition.
There are treasures to recover (value 2-10) in five types (colours) with three bonus investments which can be started prior to any exploration. An expedition is commenced by making an investment or revealing a treasure for a particular type, by doing so you start with a cost of 20 points with additional investments multiplying both the costs and the rewards. Any discoveries you make along the way must always be of greater value in the same type than the previous you have shown, you cant go back. Any investments can only be made before any discoveries. Each person starts with 8 cards. On your turn, play one card either to a treasure type or to discard pile for that treasure type, complete your turn by picking up either a discarded card from one of the other treasure types or a new undiscovered card from the unused deck. Game ends when last undiscovered card has been picked up. Scoring for treasures uncovered in each expedition type you started or invested in, less 20 points, multiplied by each of the additional investments. If your expedition has 8 or more cards in your pile, then a further 20 point bonus is added after the proceeds of the expedition have been added and multiplied by investments.
This was a first play in real life, so for me qualifies as another "New to Me". Learnt the mechanics on BSW though never really understood the scoring till now. Players have a selection of pieces for skyscrapers of varying height 4, 3, 2 & 1 high (3, 4, 6, 11 respectively) and select 6 pieces of 24 to play in each of the four rounds. Placement is in any of 6 cities, and then on a 3 x 3 grid according to one of four cards in their hand. On placement, player selects card, chooses city to play and place piece on top of skyscraper in the chosen city. To add to the skyscraper you add more levels to the existing building so long as inclusive of your new levels, the number of levels you have would be the same or more than any other player for that building. Placement can be on top of an existing building or by starting a new building in the city.
3 Points for the biggest skyscraper in the game at the end of each of 4 rounds where scoring tales place, boy was it big, falling over 3 times. 2 Points for each of 6 areas to player that has absolutely majority. 1 Point for each tower capped in your colour. Winner has the most points.
Somehow you are trying to set yourself up for area control whilst also being the owner of the existing buildings, so with 4 players, it can be a stretch to keep yourself in front. In the end, the backmarker won as all the focus had been on the two leaders. It probably works better as a two player game than 4 player.
Bizarre form of area control, we played the basic game, 9 cards to choose from, one in each of 8 rounds. Everyone starts with the same cards, shuffled, 3 in hand, play one, draw back up to 3. Cards represent a character type which can take control of fields, roads and cities in the surrounding area based on adjacency. Some in cross form, some in a general surrounding area. With 4 players, each takes turns to place their piece as indicated by the card ranging from most powerful to least powerful. Person from the round placing the least powerful character becomes the "Heir Apparent" in the following round. Placement of pieces is on a grid requiring that placement be on a different row/column from that already occupied by the player. Only One player can place in any single location, some pieces give powers to move other peices, place loyalty marker or conflict marker. Conflict markers along with mountains become obstacles to gaining of territory.
Upon completion of 8 rounds, players place loyalty markers according to surrounding rules for the peices they have placed on locations not already with peices or loyalty markers, cities claimed gaining two loyalty markers. Tally up the loyalty markers and you have yourself the winner with the most. I spend more time writing this than I would to rushing out to play the game again. It's mechanics might be different, just not that appealing.
Note for colour blind people: Whilst pieces are augmented with some different line based decals, they are small in printing and difficult to distinguish if that was required to overcome colour blindness.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (2011) Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
Any game by Martin Wallace is worth a try so on reputation alone I was drawn to give it a try. I've played many of his more involved and complex euro style games and through them earnt respect for well crafted design. For entry level gamers it's ideal though balance for the game is probably questionable. The game can be won on victory points or by success in a secret mission. The game ends very quickly after starting so not much room exists to develop much of an engine to help with your character development. I might be tempted to give it another try, though for the moment, I'm not itching to play it again.
Alien Frontiers (2010)
Essentially a resource and worker placement game using dice. No great victory point spread in the game which is by design, though one of the less desirable features. I'm not generally a fan of space themed games and this is no exception. Game can get bogged down by "Analysis Paralysis" in that not much of your turn can be planned untill you have rolled the dice. Much of what you want to do or can do given the dice may need to be adapted at turn time.
Novel concept, killing nobles in the French Revolution. Quick to play, more of a card game filler in three rounds. Each player in turn plays influence on those nobles presented before Madame Guillotine before executing the one whose head is at the front of the queue. The one who has executed the most valuable nobles over the course of the three rounds, wins.
O Zoo le Mio (2002)
As a Zoo keeper, you want to have the biggest of five different attraction types. You strive to place your attractions next to those next to others of the same type and must always continue pathways. If your zoo has the most trees then you also get bonuses. Any time you can loop a pathway, you get a park bench to place on your tableaux. played in 5 rounds, it's tile placement with a zoo theme, with scoring increasing each round, attraction bonuses multiplied by round number. Biggest attraction of a type two points, next most biggest or most recent in a tie is one point.
What makes this different is that everyone starts with 8 coins in a closed economy and secretly bids for the 5 tiles on offer each round with coins available. Replacement coins at start of round based on number of tiles in tableaux. Winner determined on total points over 5 rounds.
Egads, I know that I was at a party games afternoon, though what posessed me to agree to something so not fun. I just did not get enthralled by it and so lacked energy for something without gameskill or real thought. The win was only because I wanted to get it over as quickly as possible. The game depends on a die roll to move along a track and select one of five possible challenge type, some are read aloud, some become group challenges, others are confidential, some impose either individual or group rules. Failure means you move further back along the track and the game takes longer. As a gaming geek, this was never going to be me and agreeing to it was something I really should have known better than to try.
As usual, July brought many possibilities for gaming and many very good games to play (and a few silly low-rated Knizia dice rollers). Pictures to be added later
Rune Age 2x
It’s a 'thematic' (fantasy) deck-building game that actually works. It was fun, it felt the system was well thought-out, it was more interesting in less than an hour than Mage Knight in two or three, and it was short enough not to overstay its welcome. We enjoyed the competitive scenario so much that we asked for a replay; now we played the cooperative version - and failed miserably. I want to play it more!
Rune Age is a nice game. It has a story (well, several stories) but even without looking at the scenarios there are interesting things happening. You resolve events, attack (later also protect) cities that give you more influence, combine your race's powers to interesting effects, attack others' headquarters and so on; it feels a lot more than a deck-building card game. It also has a nice and interesting deck-building system with 3 different resources (strength, influence, gold) building on each other nicely. And the deck-building is not the most important part; what you do with your cards is more important. And as you have different races you can make really nice combos out of the abilities of the cards of your race. And it plays in 60 minutes which is just the perfect length for these "stories". 7.7
I've heard Hansa should be played 2-player before and although I can only imagine playing it with more people I'm sure it's best with 2. After one play I can say Hansa sits next to China and Coloretto as one of my three favorite Michael Schacht designs. I loved the interactions of the three currencies/scoring items: money (moving the ships, buying wares, limiting the number of possible actions), trade booths (providing the possibility to sell, gaining money with majority in a city, scoring points for each city they are present in in the end) and wares (setting up booths, controlling the end condition, scoring in the end). It's a very nice system (Tower of Babel's three-component system comes to my mind but it's a bit more enjoyable) that provided an engaging game flow. 7.5
Cornerstone Essential (Turmbauer) 1x
Thurmbauer is fun. It has Rumis-like construction of 3D Tetris pieces requiring quite a bit of spatial thinking, it has strategy for your meeple climbing, it has the luck of dice rolls and it even has some Jenga-like dexterity element that adds some fun tension to the game. Of course lots of fun elements don't automatically make a game good, but this one manages to be fully enjoyable. 7.5
I can see why non-Knizia fan gamers state this game replaced Lost Cities as the 2-player game to play with their SO as it strikes more or less similar chords although I still wouldn’t say this game is very Knizian – it lacks the tension created by simple rules even in mediocre Knizias. Still I liked the game for other reasons: it’s well-developed, fine, fast, looks nice and the camel herd (the soul of the game) is an interesting and finely used tool to make your decisions anything but obvious for such a light filler. 7.4
Québec is a very good game. Maybe it’s not as much fun as the games above but it’s a very strong design. It's a complex Eurogame with no luck factor (it has a random set-up in the beginning and it does have some multiplayer chaos that makes it more tactical, but it has no luck element during game). Trying to spice up worker placement, adding area majority to the mix is an interesting way in 2011 (see Lancaster above), just like it's quite trendy to use modular boards as a randomizer (Kingdom Builder, Hawaii). But the mix feels quite fresh here, even if very unforgiving. Maybe I would have appreciated a little bit more connection to any theme but still, it's a very good game that is not very well-known here but I suggest trying it for any Eurogamer. 7.4
Gonzaga is most like a confrontative mix of Blokus (with hexagonal shapes) and Ticket to Ride: Europe (placing stuff on the Map of Europe, scoring for the cities and harbors reached, scoring for hidden aims – cities – and largest network in the end, even with kind of 'stations' added to make the game a bit more forgiving) driven by simultaneous action selection. I don't even know why this one didn't became a bigger success and more known, although, strangely, my Blokus- and Ticket to Ride-loving wife didn’t really fall in love with this one. 7.1
Hemloch is a 2-player (mostly) card game from the designer of Omen: A Reign of War - these share some aspects, including the fun level: obviously the game has some 'take that' factor because of the cards but luck is still quite controlled; these games feel a bit more like the FFG Knizia games with a bit smaller tension but better developed feel. Even if they are not my favorite, these are both really good games. 7
Ingenious Challenges 6x
This small FFG box (it’s so small that actually it’s quite hard to put everything back in the end) is a travel 3-game compendium of 3 Ingenious-related fillers (I know, you might say Ingenious – one of the favorite games of my wife – is already a filler but these are really fillers without any doubt). I played each game 2 times.
The tile challenge (previously published as Einfach Genial: Wer zu viel riskiert, verliert!) is the tile-drawing version with a very strong push your luck element. It’s the Keltis: Der Weg der Steine of Ingenious if you like, only it’s not as good. Actually it’s quite silly. It’s push your luck in a Can’t Stop/Pickomino-style but even though there is a little bit more in the game than meets the eye (I demanded a second play to decide), you are still playing mostly in automatic mode without even really thinking.
The card challenge (previously published asEinfach Genial: Das Kartenspiel) is a lot better – it is really like a card game adaptation of Ingenious which means it does not have the spatial aspect but everything else. It also has – for limitations that are necessary to make the game work) some added limitations on the scorepad: you can’t score more than 3 in any color until each one of your colors are moved from 0 amd can’t score more than 6 until each are moved to 4 at least (and you shout Ingenious at 10). It works as a middle-ground Knizia filler.
The dice challenge (later – this year – published as Einfach Genial: Das Würfelspiel with only a small rule change) is most like a dice game version of the card game as many of the card game’s rules (including the score board and scoring for the symbols at your opponents) are kept here (while some of the original game’s rules are out, like 6 tiles in hand or discarding if you don’t have anything in the lowest color). With 2 players I think this is the best game of the three while with four I guess the card game works better. In a 2-player game you have 4 dice (and 2 rerolls with any player number) which provides some combination possibilities that are a lot more interesting than in the 4-player game as with 4 dice you can use a pair of 2 similar symbols or 3 or 4 similar symbols rolled as combinations of wild rolls and their face values. With 2 it was interesting and fun.
I’m a happy owner of the FFG box: I would probably rate the three games lower than the three games in one box. Now I say it’s a 7.
Wiz-War (eighth edition) 3x
For a thematic game based on “take that” moments where wizards are running in a dungeon labyrinth to steal each other's stuff, constantly attacking and blocking each other, 30 minutes playing time is really fine. That’s what a 3-player game provides here and while it’s silly fun I thought it was enjoyable. On the other hand, playing the game 4-player, suddenly it became twice as long, and when Wiz-War lasts 60 minutes I find that's just too much. 6.8
Clash of the Gladiators 1x
This fun dice-based combat game by Reiner Knizia (quite unusual for the designer) might be called his Risk (well, I haven’t played Risk Express yet). When I read the rules I could already see "it would be good for my kids when they get adolescent" and during the game I found it's really a (good) game for 8-14-year-old boys. When we played it we were 2 men and 2 women playing. Women hated it from the beginning; men found it silly but fun. And as usual with Knizias it started to show some hidden merits during game (no, it's still not 'deep' by any means). Even though the luck of the dice is way too strong, all your decisions do matter from the beginning (setting up your gladiator teams), the middle (deciding whom to attack, when to reroll, which gladiator to give up, how to make it possible to move, where to move) to the endgame (controlling animals against others). By the end of the game even women enjoyed it (and stated it would be really good for their kids) and we had fun even if we still thought it's silly. 6.7
Code Cracker 3x
As I wrote above I haven’t played Risk Express yet but from its look I’d guess that one shares some mechanism with Code Cracker. It is a typical little Knizian push your luck dice game (with some visual gimmick for kids) that also has solo rules variant included – actually I have played the game 2 times solo and once with dumbed-down rules with my son; I’ve yet to play it with the actual multiplayer rules. Right now it’s 6.5
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I played 10 games in July that were new to me:
Ora et Labora- my rating: 9.5/10
I was very excited to try Ora et Labora as Le Havre is in my list of top 10 games, and I heard that this might even be better. Now that I’ve played this “upgrade”, I’m not sure if I’d call it better, but it’s certainly right up there. I like having 3 workers to place instead of just the one, and the goods selection wheel is genius. I also appreciate the addition of the spatial element that the village cards bring, and the idea of having to pay extra to get enough room to play certain types of cards. There are a lot of cards to get familiar with, and many, many ways to score points – so much so that it’s almost overwhelming to try and figure out how all of the various resources work together. But once a player is able to map out many of the potential routes to victory, it does work together very well. I can hardly wait to bring this gem to the table again!
Eclipse - my rating: 8.5/10
I finally took the plunge and bought the new hotness that is Eclipse this month. I had very high hopes going in and can say that those hopes were pretty much met – I was only very slightly disappointed. Eclipse is a very elegant design: one gets the feeling that in the hands of most designers, there would have been twice the rules to produce the same effect. The rules are simpler and there is actually less going on that I had expected going in. I love the multiple paths to victory, and that while some defensive strength is almost always necessary, going on the offense against other players is not absolutely required. One can see elements of Through the Ages and Hansa Teutonica in the design, but the heart of this game is all about customizing ships, exploring new worlds, and doing battle. It’s an amazing mix of Euro-style economics and action-selection, and good-old fashioned American combat. The only reasons I don't rate it higher are that it may be a little longer than it should be, and there is a little more luck in the balance than exists in my very favorite games.
Infiltration - my rating: 8/10
I’ve been a fan of all of Donald X’s games so far. I rate Dominion a 9, Kingdom Builder an 8, and Nefarious a 7.5. I’m a sucker for taking a game with basic rules and adding enough ways to change up each session with variable cards and ways to score that each game seems different from the last. Infiltration continues that streak brilliantly. It could be considered a gamer's version of Incan Gold, with a lot more going on, a strong theme, and variable map each time it's played. It’s essentially a dungeon crawl that trades fantasy for a futuristic sci-fi theme, which is a huge plus for me. Apart from Eclipse, it’s my kids’ new favorite game after 3 plays this month. I think it pushes the limit for how heavy a pure “push-your-luck” game can be without getting bogged down under its own weight, but it doesn’t actually cross the line. It’s very entertaining, providing a number of ways to increase tension and suspense. More good stuff from Donald X!
Beat the Buzzard / Raj - my rating: 7/10
I got this simple card game in a Math Trade and was very pleasantly surprised. It’s basically a stripped down pre-cursor to For Sale, in which players do blind-bidding to acquire or avoid acquiring various cards worth different points, one card at a time. It’s a great little filler that plays even quicker than For Sale and for fans of blind-bidding, you can’t get much simpler or purer than this.
Jaipur - my rating: 6.5/10
Another game I got in a math trade this month. It’s a cute little card game that strikes me as being in the same vein as Traders of Carthage or R-Eco. It’s a bit more bland than I was hoping for, and many of the decisions do seem obvious after a while, but it’s still an enjoyable experience for 1 or 2 rounds. It’s when it goes to a 3rd round (assuming each player won one of the first two) that I feel like it’s gone on long enough and I start itching to do something else..
Queen of the Cupcakes / King of the Beasts - my rating: 6/10
Another simple mathy game from Dr.Knizia that I didn’t know anything about before getting it in a math trade along with the above two items. It’s basically a stripped down stock market game in which players play cards to increase the value of one of 6 different items on the “board” while trying to accumulate or keep more of those same cards which function as stocks in these same items. It plays in about 15 minutes and will be an interesting diversion to bring out occasionally.
Jungle Treasure - my rating: 6/10
Jungle Treasure is one of the best new-to-me children’s games I’ve played in a while. It’s a great, fun way to teach children (and adults) to perform tasks under pressure, especially when played by the rule that states that the active player can’t see the timer while it’s running out. The 5 different actions that each player may need to do on their turn keep things interesting including some Jungle Speed reach-for-the-totem, throw-a-bead-in-the-air-and-catch-it, memory, and tower-building mechanics. It will be hard for young kids to beat their parents, but parents can have fun playing it on their own too if in the mood for some light dexterous fun.
Walk the Dogs - my rating: 5/10
Walk the Dogs is a pretty decent push-your-luck set collection game that comes with a ton of nice plastic puppies. I’ll be bringing it out a lot with my 4-10 year-olds, although there are too many better games that do the same thing for the older ones.
Secrets of the Pyramids - my rating: 5/10
Secrets of the Pyramids is one of those “3 similar rule-sets for 3 different games in one box” types of games. They all share the theme of looking under the 9 plastic pyramids that are the main components of the game to find tiles of various types underneath, involving memory and some basic puzzle-like piece movement. Not a bad game to play with the kids, but nothing special.
duck! duck! Go! - my rating: 4.5/10
Duck! Duck! Go! feels like a much simpler, more constrained, and less fun version of Robo Rally. The components are great and certainly appealed to my young kids, and they enjoyed the game alright. But it can almost feel harder to get to one’s destination when the movement cards often take each duck several spaces down a constrained path that may not get me any closer to my goal. I don’t see myself bringing this out very often except to get out the duckies when my toddler wants some extra fun in the bathtub. I was hoping this would be more of a family game, but I think for my family it will be just for the little kiddies.
July was a month with a lot of work stress, but I did fit in a few game days. The emphasis this month was really on dusting off games we hadn't played, so I was afraid I'd have nothing to contribute here. And then my wonderful partner came home from our FLGS and said he "had an accident" which means he bought two new games! We got them played over the weekend, so I'm set at the 11th hour with a lot of dice. Here are the new-to-me games for the month, in descending order of preference.
To Court the King
The best way I can describe this is as a "ladder dice game." Players start with just 3 dice, but by rolling Yahtzee-like sets, they can acquire cards allowing them to add and manipulate dice in future turns. The ultimate goal is to have 7 dice in play, all with the same value. This triggers a final round where everyone tries to make the best roll possible.
While this takes a little bit of explanation in teaching, once play begins it's surprising how easily everyone catches on. Yes, lots of luck is involved, but clever planning is a major factor in doing well. And while the theme is thin, the cards are sturdy, richly illustrated, and the dice even looks nice. All of which is wrapped up in a size-appropriate box!
I quite enjoyed this, and am confident we'll play it on a semi-regular basis. A minor quibble is that the number of players can really increase the length of the game, so this may be ideal with 2 or 3 players for what it is. Will it get repetitive and dull with time? That remains to be seen.
On its surface, Carnival is just a light set-collection game, where you try to "build rides" in your carnival. But the twist here is that you can't just do anything - you roll dice which give you options of what actions can be taken. Not happy with it? Then trade in one of your very limited tickets to roll over again.
This is also a game with a light dose of nastiness - you're practically required to trade and steal cards from other players in order to get the ones you need. Set your feelings aside and just dive in, but here those tickets come in handy again - they can block another player's action. And those tickets aren't easy to get - you only pick one up when you complete a natural set (no wild cards).
Very simple fun - with 2 players I thought it was fine, but am really curious to see if it ramps up in tough decisions with more players. That being said, the artwork is nice, the box and tickets are of superior quality, and again - it's all size-appropriate. For the price, this is a winner as a light filler.