New to you Jul 09 => Best new game you played this month and why
What's the best new game you played this month (July 09) and why? Share your experiences of the new games you've played this month.
It would be helpful, if you could add an entry to the list even if you pick the same game as someone else.. since I use the geeklist entries to compile the summaries. Thanks
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Most Played Game - http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/44812
A convention at the beginning of the month meant I racked up 11 new games this month (12 if you count Dominion:Intrigue as a game instead of an expansion)...
Im Reich der Wüstensöhne
Having made the decision to list Dominion : Intrigue as an expansion, I have chosen this tile-laying, set-collection, exploration game from Klaus Teuber as the best new game this month... I played this at stabcon with SteveK2 and Rplea, and I really enjoyed it... It has definite elements of Entdecker, which this series of games is based on, but it has enough differences to make it interesting... and I think I'd rather play Wustensohne. I particularly liked that you could play a tile from another players 'hand' (which was open) instead of drawing a random one... and I really liked the auction-like mechanism for control of the oases... It was also nice that only the winner of the auction had to pay water.. so if you wanted first choice of the rewards you had to pay... but if you didn't care too much, coming in 2nd was often a good bet... the unique bidding markers were great too... all different heights, so there was never a tie.
This is an older game, but one I would definitely recommend if you don't mind the slightly dated look. It's a bidding and area control game, with each player trying to gain control of star systems to earn points... the unusual thing here is that when any of the 12 star systems is scored, first and second earn a fixed number of points, but then first place has to pay out to 3rd and 4th place 1 point per piece... so it really can be beneficial to finish second. Each player has an identical set of bidding pieces, which includes a couple of multipliers and a black hole, which absorbs the bidding markers next to it... or destroys itself and other black hole(s) around it.
Another game I played at Stabcon, this time with Rplea explaining the game... We played the advanced rules with the windmill, although there was some confusion amongst us new players how/when one could place pieces onto the windmill... We joked that Richard kept changing the rules about it to suit himeslf. The game is a pretty interesting area control game, where you have to take advantage of other players moves to score you points. there are some neat little tricks you can do, particularly to get multiple areas to score at the same time.
When this was nominated for this years Spiel des Jahers award, I'd never even heard of it, and looking at the description, and pictures, I was not all that fussed about it... It looked like a cross between Tetris and bingo... neither of which are particularly interesting.... however I got the chance to play it with SteveK2 at stabcon at the beginning of the month and I was actually quite impressed. It's pretty much a solitaire game.. but the fact that you are all sat around quietly (or even loudly) groaning when you get a piece you can't fit properly, does give the game a bit of atmosphere. I thought the random start piece was a great idea too.. so that players were all working from a slightly different starting point. Probably not a game I will get myself, but happy to play it if someone else suggests it.
Don't let the small size of the box fool you into thinking this is a light card game... as it's is actually quite a brain burner... with a unique way of determing player order. There are 7 different action cards in each of the player colours, plus 1 neutral colour.. the next player is determined by the colour of the action card played by the current player.. neutral colour means the player chooses out of the players with the fewest cards in their display... winner is the first player to get 6 unique cards in play... however if a player is unable to play a unique card, he goes bust and all other players score instead. It took me a few rounds to get the hang of it, and I actually appreciate the game more because of it. If it was a shorter game, it would probably work quite well as a lunchtime game, but playing till one player gets 5 points makes the game last rather a long time.
For something that looks like a kids game, this was quite a surprise... A card driven race game, with an interesting blind auction mechanism for acquiring cards, or playing actions instead. Each player has an identical set of bid cards, which can only be used once until all the bid cards have been played. The auction winner each round is the one who played the highest unique card (duplicates cancel), while everyone who played an action instead of a bid card gets to perform the action... either moving their guy up the tower, or forcing other players to fall.. And there's definitely a fair amount of screwage and get the leader.
Null & Nichtig
I recieved this off a Chain of Generosity a few months ago, and I finally got the chance to play it this month. I do quite like trick taking games (having grown up on a diet of whist variants, and invented my own with some high-school friends), but I don't play them so much these days... That said I was quite impressed... There are 5 suits, but unlike many trick-taking games, the suits are irrelevant for determining the trick winner, only the highest value counts, and ties are broken chronologically. The suits are however important for scoring, as you pile up your winnings by colour and only the top card (most recently won) counts at the end of the round. You also place 3 cards into your score pile at the start of the game. With score piles "open" there is definitely scope for screwage, as you can dump low value cards on an opponents winning trick, to cover up his high scoring cards. Play is simple, but there is definitely more to the strategy than meets the eye. Highly recommended if you like TTGs.
A light and fun hand management card game about recycling... The theme could have been anything really, but recycling works ok... Still finding it hard to develop a winning strategy... I've tried not dumping, which has worked sometimes and others not so much.... then I've tried dumping lots to get the big payouts, which has worked sometimes too... but not with enough regularity. Good fun, and I managed to get the guys at work to play it a few times too... I've already posted a Lunchtime Gaming Review.
Piece o' Cake
A light filler based on the "I cut; You choose" mechanism. Quite good fun, and I did pretty well if I recall , because everyone else was eating their chocolate, so I kept a couple and took the majority. Good fun, but don't know if it has legs.
This wasn't necessarily a bad game, and it had an interesting use of a rondel mechanism, with Cartagena style movement around it (distance and resources dependent on the number of guys on the space you're moving from and to), however I just felt like I had no control over what I was doing. I couldnt' plan my moves in advance, and it seemed to come down to luck which fruit orders I could fulfill in the village. I almost had to play this a second time, but was saved by playing a game of FITS instead.
Berserker Halflings from the Dungeon of Dragons
This started out as an interesting and fun card game based on every movie cliche ever... Fun for about 5 or 10 minutes, but it soon degenerated into a ceaseless, fluxx-esque game, that we were all praying would end. I'm not even sure who won the game... Apparently there are lots of different editions and each one is probably intersting until you've read the cards.
Arkham Horror: Innsmouth Horror Expansion
Another excellent Big Box expansion with tons of stuff... New GOOs.. new characters... a whole new board depicting the town of Innsmouth, and some cool new mechanisms such as the Deep One Rising and Federal Raid progress... the boat movement... and being arrested in Innsmouth. I think this is going to be my extra town of choice for playing Arkham.
I was torn between listing this as my actual best new game of the month, and listing it as an expansion instead... I've chosen to put it as an expansion, because while I think it is a pretty good stand alone game, it really shines when combined with the base Dominion set. The new cards and ideas are really good (particularly the combined action/victory and money/victory cards).. but I think playing with too much of the new stuff makes the game a bit messy.
What the heck?
In Shadow Hunters you assume the guise of a Hunter, a Shadow, or someone caught in the middle. You need to figure out who's who and then scramble to strike down your enemies. An arsenal of crazy equipment streams into the game, with some players smiting each other with cursed swords and cleavers while others put their backs to the wall and blaze away with .45s. You will survive longer if you can conceal your identity, but if you reveal yourself, you may sate your vampire's thirst, or bloody your werewolf's claws, or...
Now I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking, "I've played this game with a different theme, and it sucked." Don't let that discourage you. The mechanics here defy precedent by actually working. The deduction, the movement, the locations, the equipment, the combat: it works. None of this "I was eliminated before my first turn" nonsense.
The clincher is that you need 6-8 players for Shadow Hunters to shine (I suspect 6 is best). Bean-trading and path-finding are fun and all, but a heavy dose of unrestrained fantasy violence can't hurt, right?
Lord of the Rings
If there's a phrase that inspires terror in my heart, it is "Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings." But you know what? This is a solid cooperative game, and it is the closest Herr Doktor comes to a living, breathing theme. It's still like entering the Knizia echo chamber, in which Frodo, Sam, Gandalf and company faintly call out from the clockwork depths of hand-management, resource management (yep) and generic, catch-all story choices. But if you listen, you can hear them.
In 2009, LOTR occupies a good middle ground for pure co-op games: longer than most recent titles, but a good deal shorter than Arkham Horror. The pacing matches Pandemic, but the game runs twice as long, broken up into a handful of tightly packed scenarios: Moria, Helm's Deep, Shelob's Lair, and Mordor. Each scenario thrives off of the same tension: let's get the heck out of here (Giant Spider, run!), or let's strengthen the bonds of the fellowship. Nothing stops the group from blitzing Moria with un-hobbit-like abandon, avoiding all of the plot-crises that may arise. But a power-mad rush plays to the ring, leading the pure of heart deeper into Sauron's corruption.
Play is simple. On your turn you draw a tile from a bag, which may trigger a story-threat to the fellowship. You keep drawing until a harmless tile comes up, and then make your move. There's some ability to play to the odds here, but unlike the controlled epidemic-distribution in Pandemic, nothing prevents drawing every bad tile in a row. I've seen this happen once in five games, and sure enough, we lost that game, though Sam and Pippen were near the summit of Mt. Doom at Sauron's moment of ultimate triumph. The possibility for such total disaster feels a bit out of place, but we certainly got a cliffhanger out of it. The scenarios themselves differ in their priorities, but I worry that the same set of goals will hurt the game's long-term replayability. It seems to me that you're encouraged to take your time (to the extent the tiles allow you) in Moria and Helm's deep, and to rush Shelob's lair and Mordor with all the saved-up ferocity you can muster. At least, that's won it for us 4/5 times. Overall though, this is a must-play for co-op fans, outshining every peer except Pandemic and Space Alert.
You'll never guess who designed this one.
In Amun-re, players preside over two generations of development in different regions of ancient Egypt. Provinces are auctioned off, and from there, it's a matter of turning arable land to advantage (building income) and building pyramids. You are rewarded for complete sets of pyramids, having the most pyramids on one side of the Nile, settling only on one side of the Nile, or settling all in the north or all in the south. That's all well and good, but the bit of genius tucked away in Amun-re is that each player can affect the income of his or her opponents. The turn ends with a "sacrifice" in which all players simultaneously reveal any amount of tribute. If they pay in enough as a group, harvests are good (high income). If they are stingy or even steal from the tribute (yes, you can steal from the tribute), harvests are poor. This works because not all provinces are equally productive, so some players have a higher potential income but a higher incentive to worship Amun-re as well. Very cool.
So it's a good game, maybe a great one. But to quote a fellow BGGer:
Playing a Knizia game to me is like making love to a sexy android. Sure, it gets me there, but there's no passion when I look in its eyes.
Worth a Look
Mall of Horror
Clearly, Dawn of the Dead: the Game.
This is a light, atmospheric game in which the goal is to be the last person standing after all of your opponents' characters have been eaten by Zombies. You each have the same set of three characters: Bat Guy, Gun Guy, and a Screaming Blond Woman. Or, as we called them: Bat, Gun, and Screamer. At the heart of the game, you're moving simultaneously between a few areas of the mall. You choose secretly, with two goals: first, you want majority "vote" in the new location, and second, you don't want to be locked out of the location because it's already full. Whenever the zombies break into a location, the players there vote and throw someone to their death in order to escape themselves. While all of this is going on, there is another layer to the game as players battle over control of the parking lot and keep and eye on the security chief. The player who controls the parking lot receives useful equipment (single-use). The player who controls the security cameras knows which areas the zombies will attack next. When these players get too much of an advantage, the votes usually go against them... unless they've been feeding you equipment!
On the whole I prefer meaty games but I always admire and enjoy light games that hit their target dead on. This one does; check it out.
After the Flood
After the Flood is one of those rare games that blends disparate, well-known styles into a distinctive game. Whole civilizations ebb and flow during this game, so thematically you've got the settling of vast regions, a value-chain of goods rooted in basics like grain and textiles, and devastating armed conflict in which entire cities are razed. Mechanically you draft actions to trade up resources or begin an empire destined for conquest. It's a very strange mix.
I enjoy games with several resources that factor into your plans in numerous potential ways. After the Flood would appear to have that sort of complex resource management, with grain, textiles, wood, metal, tools, oil, gold, and lapis lazuli all on the table. But ultimately what you do with the resources seems over-simplified. You need sets (ugh, sets) of resources to "complete" a city, which is the major scoring path. I understand that a city awash in the finest materials of the age must be a beacon of civilization, but representing this with basic sets rubs me the wrong way. You can also use resources to bump up an army's "equipment rating." Anything goes, so if you want your army to carve up your enemies with Lapis Lazuli, feel free. Stronger armies win attacks by rolling a 5 or better with two dice. Weaker armies win on a 7. That's it. The combat is on the same level as something like Small World or Imperial. I think it actually needs to be more complex to satisfy in this context.
There are other wrinkles here, and the one I'm most intrigued with is the idea that you cannot collect any further materials once a round begins. Instead, you receive some grain and textiles, and then it's up to you to trade it up. But of course that makes your initial allotment insanely important, and unfortunately this influx is determined by an area majority contest with the other players in two spaces. What is such a blunt mechanic doing in the middle of this meaty Wallace game?
The whole draw of After the Flood is the union of invasions and resource management, but I'm not sure how well it comes off. I'd play again, but the risks of the design seem to have slightly outpaced the execution.
Dominion was clearly conceived as an expandable system, so here's your scheduled fix from RGG: variations on old themes with some zaniness thrown in. Thankfully, some decisions have cropped up on your turn to match the original ones about your deck's composition, but it's not enough to rekindle my enthusiasm for the game. Back in October I said I was already looking forward to meatier games that integrate Dominion's deck-building-on-the-fly. Still waiting.
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
I am pretty speechless about the number of new games/expansions I've played this month. I have to say that it does become exhausting constantly learning new games, but there is a goal behind it all. That goal is simply to play every game I own. By doing that I can weed out what I consider to be lesser games, which you can see from my number of previously owned games, that I have no problem doing this. Eventually when I have played all my games and new ones are only trickling in, I will be able to play the games I like more often and see how well they stand the test of time. July has been a great month towards this goal and I hope to see the trend continue.
Stephenson's Rocket was the best that I've played and makes me question whether I actually need to play other train games that involve stocks such as: Steel Driver, Union Pacific, etc.
Games with an 8 Rating
There is a high amount of depth to this game despite the simplicity of what you can do in a round. As with some other Knizia titles, the scoring is a lot more complex than your actual turn actions. There are few other games that make me feel so limited in what I can do compared to what I want to do. Part of this is from the game itself and part of it is due to other player's being able to veto some of your actions. Not only is it a great game, but I don't feel this fact would change regardless of whether you have 2, 3, or 4 players. I wonder how this game will compare with other stock/route building games such as Chicago Express, Steel Driver and others.
Once I understood the rules I could immediately tell it was my sort of game. There seems to be a number of different strategies to pursue but you have to keep a careful eye on what other people are doing. The hidden information keeps things tense, in it's relatively short time frame (only 4 rounds long). I feel that the cards aren't balanced but in the end it doesn't matter since everyone has an equal chance at getting a specific one. There is also tough decisions on the balance of using your limited values towards turn order/tie breakers vs. influencing market value of commodities/areas that provide choice of gems, cards and victory points.
Games with a 7 Rating
This is an interesting tile laying game. The shrimples are awesome! I really like how it scales well regardless of the number of players. Strategy is tough because you have to be tactical on the board and manage your resources which are: tiles in front of your screen, tiles behind your screen, and cubes. Most of these resources have dual functions as well. On the board you will be trying to make clumps of similar polyp tiles and protect them with your shrimp. The polyp tiles have a hierarchy of which colored polyp tiles are dominant over another type. Things get tricky as you can change the hierarchy and also lock aspects of the hierarchy in place which helps with end game scoring. It's a very thoughtful but easy for players to lose themselves in analysis paralysis.
My rating for Blue Moon is for the system as a whole rather than what comes in this box alone. The reason I say this is that I feel that there could have been better people deck choices for a little more even match up in the base game. Maybe that's my inexperience speaking though. Blue Moon is great if you invest in Blue Moon. I say that because the more Blue Moon you buy, the more variety you get in the end. Thankfully it's not as much of a money pit as CCG's or even LCG's. Though it is similar to LCG's if Knizia had continued releasing more decks. If you purchase it all, you get a great variety of match ups using just the pre-constructed decks as is or alternatively you can delve into the realm of deck construction. It somewhat scratches a CCG itch (moreso than Dominion) and for less of a price (though not as cheap as Dominion). Definitely a good experience for the cost if you're willing to invest. I can only see ratings going up with more plays.
Blue Moon: Buka Invasion
I like this expansion deck because it introduces 2 completely new mechanisms to the Blue Moon universe. It's also better than the typical people's deck because you can break this deck down into 6 mini-decks which you and your opponent can add one to a regular people's deck for even more variety. This makes me want to rate this one higher than a normal people's deck but unfortunately it doesn't interact with the Emissaries from the Blessings and Allies expansions the way that the other people's deck can.
Blue Moon: Emissaries & Inquisitors – Allies & Blue Moon: Emissaries & Inquisitors – Blessings
The Allies and Blessings expansion decks are only good when used with one another. This fact is so apparent that it feels like one expansion that was broken down into part 1 & 2. I dislike when companies do this and thus will not rate the individual decks a 9, they way they would if they had been released in one package. The reason this deck is so great is that it has something for everyone: people who just like using the preconstructed people's decks as they are can add the Emissaries to increase the number of different match-ups exponentially. If you like deck creation the Inquisitors add another layer of depth which will keep Blue Moons replayability high. If you own Blue Moon, Blessings and Allies are essential expansions if purchased together.
Blue Moon: The Aqua
This deck has a fair number of cards which you're allowed to play for free. One of it's claims to fame is the ability to shuffle their discard pile back into their deck which can be quite powerful. It's not as hard to use as some of the other decks which some would appreciate but still fun in the end.
Blue Moon: The Flit
This is a really fun deck to use but it's also one of the more tricky decks to use due to almost all of the characters having the retrieve icon. You really want to have a wide variety of characters by retrieving them so they can deal with the situations that can arise, but doing so will clog your hand and not allow you to draw the pairing boosters that you will need to win.
Blue Moon: The Khind
This people's deck is a double edged sword. It's usually really fun to be playing as them because their gang mechanism is very powerful if you draw the right cards. It's not so fun playing against them and if you don't draw the right cards. I think this is one of the strongest people's deck of the limited experience I have with the game. It's also tricky to use compared to most of the other decks.
Blue Moon: The Mimix
This deck has a lot of paired characters and a fee free cards as well. If find that if you can manage to find the proper pairs, this deck can be a nightmare to play against. In the end I think this one will be balanced in it's win percentage but the individual games can be monumentally bad or good. For better or worse, this deck definitely has the most controvertial artwork.
Blue Moon: The Pillar
This seems to be my least favorite of the people's deck. They have a lot of boosters that don't have any numerical value and affects your opponent adversely typically making them discard cards. They also have the ability to make opponents disclose the contents of their hand which makes things interesting. They're a nice addition because more variety is a good thing but they are my least favorite.
Blue Moon: The Terrah
This is probably the easiest deck to use. The deck heavily focuses on Earth so you'll want to try and keep the fights that way if you can unless you have a mutant. Not weak but kind of dull.
The fist thing to say about the game is that it's extremely attractive. I like the simplicity of the wooden components and the board. Secondly this is a really easy to learn abstract with no setup whatsoever. Abstract strategy games are not my favorite but this one is quick enough that I would consider playing this one a few times in a row if people wanted me to.
Games with a 6 Rating
Tales of the Arabian Nights
I like Arkham Horror because it tells an interesting story and winning is not the primary goal of the game, however I wanted something that doesn't take as long to play and set up. Along comes Tales of the Arabian Nights. The game offers a rich story, however I find the rich story (Matrix N and Places of Power) will only happen if you or one of the other players randomly happens to have the correct skill relating to your encounter paragraph(s) or when a player randomly gain a treasure. There is very little game play and it's so random that playing to win is very pointless, but this is pretty much expected from a choose-your-own-adventure game. I think this would be a good gateway game for people too shy to play a pen & paper RPG. That being said, if you want a good story you would probably be better served reading a book or playing an RPG. If you want a game with story elements Arkham Horror would probably be a better choice than this since there is much more game play and strategy involved.
The components really left something to be desired when it came to functionality. The primary example would be a full flat worth of tokens to set your secret goal of Destiny and Story points. It's suggested you place them under your mat which is kind of silly, when pen & paper is quicker and more convenient.
The extra flat could have been used for more skill chits because some of the skills only have 3 chits but the game plays up to six. I don't think it would be unrealistic to have 6 players get Piety throughout the game which means that multiple players would need to record this on a sheet of paper. I guess it's not a huge issue because I would never play this game with six but you still could run into this issue with less than 6. This same issue exists with having only 4 of any given status.
As for the Book of Tales, it has great stories in it, but why God, why did Z-Man choose a coiled spine?! After three plays the book is already showing some minor damage due to this spine. I also think the Encounter Charts in the beginning of the Book of Tales should have been separated into it's own chart reference like the Reaction Matrix. If they had decided to do it this way, it would allow 4 people to do something every round.
As mentioned earlier, I find the Places of Power and Matrix N encounters (if a character has the proper skill, so they can read up to about 5 or 6 paragraphs in a row) to be the most entertaining aspect of the game. The unfortunate thing is that these Place of Power encounters don't happen nearly enough in a given game and if they did, they may become old. People will be given Matrix N encounters more frequently than Places of Power, but usually will not have the proper skills to get multiple story paragraphs in a row.
Overall, this is a fairly enjoyable experience. Initially, I had great fun at the variety of the encounters and laughing at other people's misfortune with their negative statuses, but eventually it got a little old. I think this will be an amazing game for the right individual, but for me it's an average game with some poor component choices.
Ticket to Ride: Switzerland
This is another nice 2-3 player Ticket to Ride game. It uses the tunnels of Nordic/Europe but lacks the ferries. In place of ferries we get an interesting mechanism of trying to connect cites to countries or countries to countries. If you get this expansion, be sure to get your replacement deck of cards from the Days of Wonder website because the cards are thicker and come with the route length/point value reference cards since it wasn't printed on the map itself. As with most TTR games, it usually turns into : "I'll draw some cards please" x 10000000000
This is an interesting little card game that focuses on set collection and drafting. The game is easy enough that I would consider it a good gateway game to use before more complex card games. Unless you're in the realm of CCG's, I tend to find card games artwork lacking, but that certainly isn't the case regarding this one if you look past the cover. There are a bunch of cards games that I would rather play than this, but there are definitely some redeeming factors which makes it worth a spot in most people's collections.
After reading the rules of this game, I immediately thought of Puerto Rico but with a bit more complexity. After playing it I still can't help comparing it to Puerto Rico. Associating your actions with player order and votes for new bills was definitely clever, but I prefer the role selection of Puerto Rico. The one thing I prefer about Cuba over Puerto Rico is that it probably has a more variety. Even though I prefer PR, you definitely owe it to yourself to try this and see what you prefer. The artwork alone will make it worthwhile.
Arkham Horror: The King in Yellow Expansion
This small box expansion is good for increasing Arkhams difficulty and without adding gate bursts which I enjoy. There is a bit of a catch 22 however: If you play will all of the KiY cards on top of the others it does increase the difficult a nice bit but then you have multiple people running around with similar equipment due to the duplicate items ontop of the respective decks. If you shuffle everything in with one another you get a nice flavor of the KiY but the difficulty is definitely reduced. Overall it's a decent expansion for Arkham fanatics.
Games with a 5 Rating
The Stars Are Right
Most games with a Cthulhu theme have me interested. The artwork is great and I would describe it as a Euro/Puzzle hybrid card game. Why? You really have to puzzle the layout of the stars and how to change it to play your cards. This becomes less important as the game goes on as you will have an engine built up to allow you to influence the stars more. It feels a bit like a Euro because you're getting victory points but there are a few cards that allow direct interaction with your opponents. The most disappointing aspect of the game is the randomness of the cards combined with the chaos of the stars can give people lucky breaks and a possible runaway leader syndrome.
This game shares a lot of similarities to The Settlers of Catan Card Game. Here are some of the differences: I prefer the components of Starship as they tend to take up less space and the cards can be sleeved. You only need to get 10 VP instead of Settlers 12 which I think translates into a quicker game which is appreciated. I find there is more player interaction in Settlers and more of a memory element in Starship. I prefer the theme and the player interaction of Settlers but overall I would give this game the nod due to being less fiddly, having better components, and being quicker. Overall, there are better two player games to be played.
Cold War: CIA vs KGB
The Mystery Rummy games are an interesting spin on the traditional Rummy card game. Cold War is an interesting spin on the traditional Blackjack card game. Mystery Rummy is a better variant than Cold War is when you look at their respective games. There is a fair amount of deductive element when it comes to picking your Agent X, but the Blackjack game play of recruiting your people and using their abilities are rather drab and luck based. This had a lot of potential but feel flat for me. Your mileage may vary.
Games with a 4 Rating
This is a racing game with secret roles where you can and at some points will be required to move other player's pieces. I typically love secret roles in a game but this game was rather dull and random, but at least it's quick and easy. I think there are better gateway games, but you could use this as one. I think the game could be better if landing a character on their proper space would enact a unique character ability rather than just allow you to discard cards. It would be easy enough to homebrew but probably not worth the effort in the end. The art in this game is definitely lacking for a FFG game.
Hex based tactical warfare. Sounds good but I would rather play Maelstrom/Vortex. With only 30 tiles available in the game (and only a little more than half of them are able to attack), the luck of the draw seems to have a large effect on the outcome. Example: Let's say in my first 3 - 4 turns I draw two combat units whereas my opponent draws about 4 - 5, that puts me at a major disadvantage because my units will likely die in the first battle and it's possible that none of my opponents would if he had a chance to lay some of those five units after I placed my two. In future rounds, I would now have all of those units to deal with and only limited/suicidal spaces to lay my own units. This happened to me on my first game. It was annoying to lose in this manner and even if it happened to my opponent, I would feel no accomplishment in winning.
Catan Card Game
This is a decent card game with somewhat of a CCG feel to it with it's resource management and interaction with your opponent. The reason why this decent card game is rated low is that it takes up a tremendous amount of table space. In addition to that the game is very long for a card game. The bottom line is that it may be a decent card game, but there are many better options than this. In fact you could probably play a number of these better games in the time it would take you to finish one play of this.
Lord of the Rings: The Search
I didn't really like this tile placing/collecting game. I think the thing I dislike the most about it was the generic land scape and how Mount Doom could pop up in one area and then appear in another. Normally being part of LotR franchise would make a game more appealing but in this games case I felt that it actually made me like the game less. Had it been themed differently I still doubt I would have enjoyed it much. The one positive thing in this game is John Howe's artwork.
Games with a 3 Rating
Lord of the Rings: The Duel
This card game feels horribly random to me. With the exception of the few cards with special actions, I feel like I could play my cards completely randomly and be no better or worse for it. We counted the number of icons for Balrog and Gandalf. The Balrog has more icons to be able to hit Gandalf but Gandalf has one extra special ability. I'm not sure that the extra special ability makes up for this fact. The only redeeming quality for my was John Howe's artwork.
Drôles de Zèbres
This is a two player area control that to me felt pretty boring. I didn't really like the artwork and the variable powers of the tiles didn't even really excite me. There is a low amount of luck, so I could see it being a decent title for some people and normally low luck is good for me, but it almost felt more like an abstract strategy game than an area majority which probably what turned me off of this game.
Board Game: FITS
[Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:981]
Not my favorite thing to see hero against hero...
...but until Marvel makes a big mistake I'm going to trust them.
= FITS - I lucked into finding a copy of this game at a local toy store that normally only has kids games and word games. Boy do I love FITS! I've always enjoyed puzzles myself and, like every other person in my generation, I've played a bundle of Tetris. So this is just a great game for my gaming taste. It amazes me how you can use the same board (and often the same starting piece) and yet each game feels different. This one was also a big hit with every person I've played with, and has drawn in crowds of onlookers.
= Margin for Error - The designer of this game saw that I enjoy trick-taking games so he sent me a complimentary copy, and I'm really grateful. The strategy takes a few hands to comprehend, but there is a great strategic depth that I didn't suspect upon reading the rules. There are tough decisions on almost every trick and working well with your partner is crucial. I never thought I could get that worked up over the attempt at winning or losing the lead. This is definitely a game that will stay in my collection because it has the trick-taking that I love, and adds a unique twist that I enjoy.
= eBay Electronic Talking Auction Game - Recently a geekbuddy (who shall remain nameless, unless he wants to out himself) mentioned that he doesn't usually rate a game after one play. It wasn't until I tried this game that I really understood his point of view and how it makes sense. After we played this game the first time, I thought it was completely luck-based and utterly pointless. However it was the only game I had with me on that day, so we played again, and that's when it all began to make sense. I really like the rise and fall of the bids and the strategy in bidding to block opponents vs. bidding to complete a collection. This is one that will find its way to our game table frequently because it's simple yet has just enough strategic depth to maintain its replayability.
= Score Four - Apparently this is a classic for my wife's family, but when my mother-in-law challenged me to a game I told her I've never heard of it. So, basically, it's like Connect Four in 3-D. It's a decent concept, but not a game that I'm going to seek out myself. I just don't like the fact that most of the time the best way to score is to catch your opponent not paying attention. I never really felt like I was scoring because of my superior play, but because my opponent just failed to notice I was about to score. And I see a huge risk of analysis-paralysis in this game too.
= Lifeboat - I wanted to like this game, I really did. The hidden agendas and simple gameplay sounded like a perfect fit for our group. But this was a disaster. First of all the game took too long, and 2 of the players were dead within the first 4 turns. But even worse than people sitting waiting for the game to end...there were several major rules issues that I didn't feel were addressed properly. And by luck of the draw a couple players were in huge trouble early on. The only reason I haven't raced this game to my trade pile is the fact that our youth might really enjoy it (if I can get some clarification on the rules.)
= The Bob Evans Restaurant Family Game! - LCR except more fiddly. I only played it after reading the rules in order to give it a rating and comment, so that others won't make the same mistake. Perhaps the worst $7 I've spent in my entire life (but at least I got some geekgold out of it.)
Board Game: Steam
[Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:70]
The winner goes to steam. I fall in the "base game camp". I find I much prefer it to the fluff and chrome of RRT. In fact, anyone want a big ol' copy of RRT with Rails of Europe?
FITS - I like it more than Ubongo. Seems to be more skill based. Still has simultaneous play. Ted's expansions really up the variety too.
The Princes of Machu Picchu - Much better than Antike and Hamburgum. Very fluid and not so systemy. So interlocking it's hard to explain though. Was a tough first couple outings. I worry there aren't that many strategic paths though. You will always need some incas down and will always need some priests/virgins. Doesn't leave much room for uniqueness.
Soo, not a big month. But I really liked all 3 new stuff.
Next month... GenCon!
The sad thing is my game night is tonight and I'll probably play something more incredible
Terakh: A Creative Strategy Game: an amazing abstract strategy game. Two genres I typically dislike, but this game did it right. Fantastic components and interesting game play. Not a must buy, but definitely a must play! (the game in the picture has two boards too many out)
Hurry'Cup!: an intriguing racing game with a dexterity element. I really like this game, but I can see how parts of it are just too imbalanced to make it a fair game. Enjoyable for parties and social gatherings, maybe not so much with serious gamers.
Klondike: an interesting dexterity about panning for gold. Very thematic, but tedious watching other people take their turn (especially if they take too long). Fair game, but needs some rule tweaks.
Get Bit!: did not live up to Vasel's hype. It's a cute game and a good conversation starter, but the game just isn't in the box. Buying a lego shark to put in the game is pretty much mandatory.
Pecking Order: mehlicious. It was okay, but not exciting
Bermuda Triangle: gimmicky, and semi interesting game play. collecting known value cards...boring. I think if it was modified to pick up AND DELIVER, it would be a much better game.
Bunker Poker: Interesting diversion, but mediocre game. It's like four player Mastermind. with dice.
The *hitList (or, don't play it, "It's a TRAP!":
Huggermugger the wife wanted a copy...it's a word game...yuck
Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix one lap was more than I needed to hate this game
Sword & Skull Talisman super extra lite...with pirates.
Admiral Ackbar "It's a TRAP!" GAME I can't believe someone designed this
Dubious a freebie with get bit. The game is self descriptive.
Board Game: Valdora
[Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:897]
You want to know something? I don't think Mozart's going to help at all.
15 new games this month. That’s quite a bit for me! Some very good games, but one stood above the pack for me...
Valdora: The rules seemed fairly daunting for such a simple game, but you know, this played VERY smoothly. The turns were quick and plentiful. I really felt like it was building towards something, and it’s just a pick-up-and-deliver game! Michael Schacht makes another game that I just adore.
THE REST (most liked first)
Dominion: Intrigue: The new expansion is rife with goodness, but it’s also quite a bit more difficult. And some cards can make the game drag. Don’t teach this to newbies. Don’t get me wrong…I still love you, Dominion!
Jambo: Better than I expected...it’s quite a great game, actually. I dig the economics, but the overabundance of action cards kinda turn me off. If I can play it a bunch more, I probably won’t have to stop the game cold to read a paragraph every turn.
Pyramid: Bought from Scott Nicholson’s video review, I was not disappointed at all. Its gimmicks work toward an entertaining whole, where co-op meets competitive in new and interesting ways. Good family game.
Tsuro: This was the game I hoped Metro to be (I’m a big Metro hater). Sleek and fun, you should be able to teach this to young children and still have fun with hardcore gamers. Thanks for the copy, Matt!
Einauge sei wachsam!: Thought this would be a dud family game, but you know, it had more depth than I expected. It plays very quickly and has very little luck with some real, agonizing decisions. Nice work, K&K!
Duell: Sat on my shelf for years, but when I dragged it out, I was surprised just how elegant and simple it was. Probably the closest I’ll come to fencing…it was a hoot!
Villa Paletti: I thought the game was a decent dex game, but since I played it (twice), I haven’t stopped thinking about it. (Always a good sign.) Now I have to pick it up…
Archaeology: The Card Game: A very pleasant surprise! There are some subtle strategies in this simple card game. Good tension, short playing time…and the box size can’t be beat!
The Trial of Socrates: My second Dr. Finn game, after Scripts and Scribes. A neat little 2-player majority game in a small box. Great components for self-publishing. Good tug-of-war game.
Head-to-Head Poker: Another Schotten-Totten variant…this one using a real deck of cards! Good 2-player game, but I went and made my own, as the box size is outrageous. My first real DIY game!
Livingstone: Apart from the excellent art and production values, a fairly middle-of-the-road Euro. You won’t find anything new here. It’s so Rio-Grande-y, it even has some unplayable English rules! (I kid, Jay.)
Maori: A dumbed-down Vikings, it’s not bad, but it’s hard to justify owning both games. At least it plays pretty quickly!
Andromeda: The rules baffled me for years; another one of those read the rules, don’t get it, put it away for a year, repeat. I finally GOT IT this time and taught the game. There’s some pretty neat mechanics here, but for a Euro, it felt like it dragged. Not a bad game by any means, but I’m not sure I’ll pull it out again.
Batavia: Not as good as I hoped, but still not bad. Several majorities to balance here, but I just didn’t find it fun. I’d play it again, but I probably won’t own it.
Only one new game this month, and it was the game that I had had for the longest time without playing. Good game,
Board Game: 1856
[Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:609]
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
In what turned out to be a banner month for new games (after the no new games month of June), 1856 stood out to me the most. Its richness and depth really grabbed me in a way that many games don’t, with multiple interlocking systems that work well together and provide an experience not quite like any other. Playing this game really firmed up my opinion that 18XX games are largely underrated by the economic gamers of BGG. Every economic gamer owes it to himself to give an 18XX a try. Even if it is not 1856, which runs a bit long, there are a number of excellent options out there, including a number of them produced by DeepThought Games. I rate it a 9.
Race For the Galaxy: Rebel vs. Imperium
Another new expansion for Race for the Galaxy that adds 44 cards, most of them new, a brand new takeover mechanic, and some more goals. While I am indifferent to takeovers and goals, the cards are pure gold and add additional nuance to the base game. This is a great expansion to a great game, and I can’t wait for the next one (though the deck is getting a bit big....) I rate it a 9.
Steam Over Holland
My introduction to 18XX games, Steam Over Holland was quickly tossed aside by the more impressive 1856. Despite this, I think this is an excellent gateway to 18XX that still has the potential to entertain more experienced 18XX players. It train rush can be brutal for more experienced players, and it can be similarly tough for individual players to recover from their mistakes if everyone is playing their A game. The only thing that bothers me about the game is how priority is determined in the stock rounds. The variable priority of other 18XX games seems so dramatically better that I am tempted to use it the next time we play instead of the way suggested in Steam Over Holland’s rule book.
The Scepter of Zavandor
An economic snowball game built around the idea of using energy (money) to purchase gemstones that ramp up your energy production until you can purchase the late game sentinels that provide you with the majority of your victory points. A number of interesting mechanical wrinkles are present: auctioned off artifacts that both provide you with new strategic options as well as provide discounts for later artifacts; a turn order mechanism that both rewards and punishes the leader at the same time, and variable player powers that provide different avenues to victory each time you play the game. All this adds up to is a fun and surprisingly smooth experience that is fairly easy to teach, and when learned is engaging and fast enough (turns don’t tend to be very long) that it is easy to get through. A solid 8 that I am glad to have in my collection.
Martin Wallace's Automobile is a game about managing market demand and the forced obsolescence caused by technological advancement in such a way that you can turn your initial supply of cash into a much larger pile of cash at the end of the game.
Despite this very narrow focus, there are very few games quite like it on the market. The 18XX series also has some focus on managing obsolescence, but the obsolescence is married with a very different focus than 18XX. 18XX games tend to combine their obsolescence management with concerns about operational impact and its effect on a company as a whole; it is harsh and brutal and mismanaging the impact of obsolescence can bankrupt an individual player and push him out of the game. It is less harsh in Automobile, but it still is impactful. In Automobile you can still run with obsolete factories, you just have to find a way to deal with the inefficiencies (represented in loss cubes) that come with running those factories.
Automobile’s distinct set of mechanics and engaging gameplay make a game that definitely deserves to be in the collection of most anyone interested in heavy, meaty economic games. I rate it an 8.
Warriors of God
A decent, approachable war game, Warriors of God’s biggest downside is its length. It is more of a 3-4 hour game than Twilight Struggles 2.5 hours and Command & Colors: Ancient’s 45 minutes - hour. Because of that length it will be difficult for me to get it on the table with my girlfriend, who is my most frequent war game partner. (I realize how amusing that statement is.) Despite that difficulty, I really like the unique combination of mechanics that this game brings to the table, particularly how much the game focuses on risk management and dealing with the potential negative impact that random leader death can have on your board position. If you likes C&C: Ancients and Twilight Struggle, and are interested in another approachable, if a bit long, war game, I can highly recommend Warriors of God. I rate it an 8.
Neuland, which I tried out with the superior 1st edition rules, is a pure logistics game that focuses on managing time and critical points in logistical in order to build increasingly complex chains that allow you to claim advanced buildings for victory points. While the game claims to have a civilization theme it is one of the most pasted-on examples of such in existence. The game isn’t about the theme, it is about the interesting mechanics and states that emerge through play. I rate it a 7.
Caylus is the action drafting progenitor of both Agricola and Le Havre, which I played long before even thinking about trying out Caylus. How does it compare? Well, but I still think I strongly prefer both of Uwe Rosenberg’s creations. I have not yet played Caylus enough to describe what I feel is lacking about Caylus compared to the alternatives, but it just seems to come up short both in tension and depth of gameplay. I still think it has a place in my collection, however, because of its relative ease in teaching and because my girlfriend prefers it to either of the alternatives. I rate it a 7.
So as you can see I had a great month in games. Every single game was a winner, to varying degrees and I am definitely willing to play any of them, despite that, I think 1856 is the true winner this month, and it has increased my interest in 18XX games tenfold. I suspect that in the following months, they will be the most frequent addition to my collection and may get the most play time too.
I started graduate school this month, but I played a few new games:
Small World was the big hit of the month. It took me forever to find this game. (Though it wouldn't let me add it as a Geeklist item.. hmm..)
There is enough luck in the game to satisfy most of the people I play with, but not too much luck to annoy me.
Win, Place & Show
WP&S had been hiding in my boss's attic. I made him dig it out, and we had a play. I found it surprisingly fun.
And then he taught me how to play Sevens.... yeah. I could do without playing this again. I appreciate him teaching me, but there are just so many better card games out there.
But it was much better than my biggest disappointment and waste of money...
Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
Ugh, what a waste. Reviews had lead me to believe that the game had ways to mitigate the luck.
Sure, if you roll well enough to get access to them.
After the first roll of my second game, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like this game. I would rather play Sevens.
Maybe I will give it another chance some day...
I played 3 new to me games this month – 2 were great and 1 was OK. I could really have picked either of the 2 great games as my best game of the month but in the end I picked –
Dice Town - FUN!!! That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this game. I can’t remember the last game I played that was just so exciting and fun. I had Dice Town for a little over a month but had yet to play it. A few weeks ago I watched Tom Vasel’s video review of the game and the excitement and enthusiasm Tom had in his review got me to try it in the next few days. I really like some dice games (Pickomino, 6 Cubes) but don’t like some other popular ones ( I *hate* To Court a King and found Airships to be bland and boring). Dice Town though is one of the top few dice games I have ever played. Players roll poker dice to get the most of one “card” or the best poker hand. If you are the best in the category (say most Jacks) you get a reward. The various rewards either give you points or advantages in playing the game. I’ve played both 3 and 4 player games and I thought it played great with both numbers. My girlfriend and I played one 2 player game and it will probably be our last. It does technically play with 2, but not very well and with little of the excitement of a 3 or 4 player game. I rate this game a strong 8 and it may very well go up to a 9. A few things that really add to the game.
the art. Piero did a *great* job with all of the art in this game. It is beautiful to look at, cartoony, and perfectly compliments the game. I hope Piero illustrates many more games in the future!
the gold nuggets. They could have easily just used yellow cubes as the nuggets, but instead used plastic, nugget shaped pieces with irregular shapes. It is such a little touch, but little touches often add so much to a game.
the audience for the game. I consider myself a gamer and just love Dice Town. At the same time, Dice Town makes a great family game or a game for non-gamers. The mix of dice, poker, cards, etc. I believe make this very appealing for people who do not play games often. We tried it out with my sister and brother-in-law and they both really liked it.
Lost Cities: The Board Game is in an almost virtual tie with Dice Town. I almost did not end up buying this game. First, when Keltis came out last year so many people either did not like it or only felt it was OK. Second, when LC:BG came out I read that it was worse than Keltis, had bad art, etc. Thankfully though my girlfriend got me to buy a copy and boy am I glad she did! I know there are those who prefer Keltis, but I am so glad Jay published it with the LC theme. I myself like the art and it really makes it feel like you are playing an offshoot of LC. It does a great job of feeling somewhat similar to LC, while at the same time it does not feel like a carbon copy of the original card game. I am very happy owning *both* LC and LC:BG The randomness of the event tiles makes each time you play feel fresh. I have played one 2 player game that was OK, but I think this game really shines with 3 players. As with Dice Town, this is currently a strong 8 and could go up to a 9.
The Trial of Socrates is the third game. This is the latest self published game by Dr. Finn. The theme is not very strong, but it is OK. It is basically a 2 player area control game. For being a self published game the components are nice. I have not really gotten a good feel for the game yet. I enjoy it while I play it, but am not sure if the enjoyment will lessen after many more plays, or if I will enjoy it more if I can figure out how to play better and have a halfway decent strategy. For now I rate it a 6.
So if you play a lot of 3 player games, I strongly suggest both Dice Town and Lost Cities: the Board Game. They quickly have become games we play on a very frequent basis and I think they will stay that way.
Well, probably in reality it is LeHarve but I figure that will make this list so I'm giving it up for another game I had fun with and looking forward to playing again, Thinking Man's Golf. For a "lucky dice" game, we had fun lining up our shots, picking our clubs. The four of us who played all golf (me badly).
Le Harve is a good one as well. I don't necessarily understand where the thought comes into play that if you have Le Harve, you don't need Agricola. I found I really enjoy both and they both 'feel' very different to me. Le Harve is a long one and from my two playings with two, I wonder if this will be any fun with four.
Those two were the only new to me games this month.
In the Year of the Dragon 2
Le Havre 2
Bermuda Triangle 1
Formula Dé Mini 1
Lord of the Rings 1
Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld 1
Odin's Ravens 1
Outdoor Survival 1
Puerto Rico 1
Saint Petersburg 1
San Juan 1
Thinking Man's Golf 1
Very cool abstract style game with a great theme and high quality components. Could be a bit of a brain burner, but we haven't really played it like that, and it usually goes pretty quick. I've found it to be fairly balanced as to whether or not Jack will escape with a slight advantage to the inspector, but it always comes down to the wire.
Liked this game even more than I thought I would. This one burns the brain more thank Mr Jack for me, but even the best laid plans are usually fruitless as you get screwed over time and time again. This game's known for it's top notch components and art work (by fellow canadian Josh Cappel) and it really is a pleasure to play. Once big downside is the useless insert and the somewhat lengthy set up time.
I don't really think one play is enough to settle on this game. I recieved it, and played it just last night. We played it with 2 and it was enjoyable enough. Looking forward to playing with more people. Definitely the best looking game I own.
Carcassonne: The City
Having played the base carc this was quite a step up in depth. The wall building aspect was very interesting and added a second thought to every tile that was laid. Wonderful high quality wood pieces, and awesome artwork on the cardboard. Cloth bag for storage and a somewhat sturdy wooden box.
Catan Dice Game
An only ok yahtzee spending type game that is simple and luck feuled. It's small, portable and quick to play, which makes it good to take on the road or to play while waiting for something. Having said that there are an avalanche of better games that fit the above profile.
Mr. Jack Extension
Played with this the last time we played and will probably not play without it. Adds lots of great features like new characters, character drafting and random placement. These things probably should have been a part of the base game, but what can ya do.
Played a few new games this month...
Automobile is #1. It was a very fun game, and I can't wait till I can play it again, and get my own copy. Another fun Wallace game! Plus my wife and son enjoyed it too.
Finca- Bought this one last weekend. Went over very well with the family. Even the 7 yr old was able to play. It's quick, and uses the rondell in a clever way. Will enjoy this one for awhile.
Bridge Troll- An ok game. I'd play it again if asked, but I was not impressed.
Revolution!- A fun game. I enjoyed the one play, and it didn't seem to outlast it's welcome. It played surprisingly quick. It also helped that I may have score more points than the other 3 players combined .
Space Alert- Played the first training scenario with only 2 players. Wow did we get creamed. Should have taken the rules advice and had 4. But I see this will be fun.
The Stars Are Right- The Stars are Right is an ok game. I could take it or leave it. Kind of reminded me of Wasabi, but more chaotic.
I spent a good part of this month 2+ weeks camping in the Sierra Nevada range here in California. I took along a bunch of my favorite cards games and small foot print games.... and this one Monopoly Deal Card Game.
I read the rules one night and gave it a shot a day later. The game went over very well and we played with quite a few times. It was easy enough that my father, kids and I could all play at the same time. They even played several times without me.
While the game is not too deep or strategic there is some fun to be had here. Being in the mountains with the ones you love and breaking out a new card game we all can play and enjoy was a pleasant surprise.
If you get a chance, I think the game is work the 20 minutes it takes to play.
Board Game: Oregon
[Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:778]
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This was almost a month where the only new games I played were underwhelming. I couldn't decide what was going to be the best new game, and I was expecting to have to declare July the MEH month. And then I finally stumbled across a game that I never would have expected to like.
If Oregon were just a game of tile/meeple placement, it might draw a lot of criticism that it was just a Carcassonne clone. The different buildings, though, and what they can do, make this a little bit more than a typical tile-laying game. Add into that fact that the placement of the tiles is determined by the card draw, and a further limitation that the buildings be placed on a particular land type, and it becomes something far different than a tile-laying game. And if the designers had stopped here, then it would have been a card-driven tile-laying game with some nice twists, but nothing special. It's the use of the joker and the extra turn tile that elevate this game into something fun and interesting. Players can chain a series of turns using the buildings that reset their extra turn and joker tiles, making for some clever plays on the board. The cards, at first, seem limiting, but the joker, and its possibly endless use, mitigates a lot of that luck. Given the way that the board develops, it's probably good with 3, and best with 2, but even with the full-on chaos of 4 players, it was pretty fun.
Shadows over Camelot
This was one of those games that has never pinged my radar, but that was before I had played cooperative games. After a few games of Arkham Horror, Pandemic, and Battlestar Galactica, though, I've warmed up to the idea of the game, if not necessarily playing it. When it was suggested at a recent game day, I was lukewarm about it. I did enjoy the experience, but at the same time, while we were playing, I realized that the cooperative games have a very similar feel. The game reminded me a lot of Arkham Horror by the way the bad cards came out each round, and of Battlestar Galactica because of the traitor element. I guess that's just symptomatic of cooperative games in general (it has to have a bunch of bad stuff coming at you to keep everyone working together), and I think this is a fine game, and it seems a shame to rate it based on other, better games that came out afterward. It does play in much less time, though, so I'm sure I would play it again.
And, that, everyone, is a great example of the phrase "Damning with faint praise"!
When I first heard that this game was considered part of the Web of Power family, I knew I had to play it; Web of Power is one of only three games I rate a 10. I can see the similarities (you play one card from a hand of three, and add pieces to corresponding regions on your cards to add to your control of that region), but the game is very different in the way that it plays out. For one, there are no pieces representing advisers, and for another, the scoring is much more straightforward than that in Web of Power. It's also much twistier, since it takes a lot of thinking to figure out how to play a card to a region so that you take a card that will give you a benefit on a later turn. I like it, and I'm interested in playing again, but it didn't grab me like Web of Power did the first time I played it.
Like a lot of abstract games (or Colovini designs), Masons is a game that is easily taught and easily learned, but not so easily mastered. The rules can be summarized in about a minute (the cards a few minutes more), and then the placements begin. Big cities? Small cities? Lots of scoring? Just a few scoring rounds? It's really up to the way the players decide to approach the game. I think all strategies are valid, and though I at first thought that drawing too many "outside of completed cities" cards were a detriment, but now I realize that I could have built differently to ensure that I could score those cards properly. I think this game has a lot of legs, since players can try different approaches, but I do think this is better as a 2- or 3-player game. I'm definitely intrigued.
Archaeology: The Card Game
So, I know this game has won some awards, and I know that a lot of people really like it. Shoot, it's in the top 1000 (not bad for an independently produced card game), and it's rated higer than the board game it's based on, so it must be doing something right. I'm just not sure that I get it at this point. On the one hand, I like the card-cycling mechanism. It reminded me a bit of R-Eco, if only slightly. The problems seem to be with everything else in the game. Consider that my points came mostly from digging in the pyramids and getting fortuitous draws; whenever I tried to collect cards from the marketplace, I would get hit by a thief or a sandstorm (and jiminy cricket, there are a lot of those in the deck), and drawing only one card at a time (mostly 1s) meant that the game got to be more frustrating than anything else. It's a short game, so I plan on giving it another try to see if there was something I missed, or if this was just a fluke on my part, but it doesn't impress me at first sight. I've only played the game once, and I did come in third behind two other players who seemed to be working the marketplace correctly, but there was only a 4-point difference between first and third in the game.
Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium
Do you like Race for the Galaxy? Did you like the cards in the first expansion? If so, then this one's for you. No, REALLY; this expansion is for YOU. The extra cards add more cards to an already big stock o' cards, and they do a lot of the same things that the original cards did. This is a good thing, if you liked the game. Not only that, but the game also gives you a few extra "first" and "most" bonus tiles, and a few extra things to add to the mix of the solitaire game. More goodness, right? Right! Unfortunately, it also allows the game to go up to 6 players, which I probably will never do. Why? Because you still only have six (five, really) roles to choose from, and if you can read your opponents correctly, then you can potentially do ALL actions on every round. Where's the tension there? I had that issue with the 5-player game, and I don't expect it improves much with 6. Luckily, this means my four-player games give the players more colors to choose from.
I haven't played with the rebel-takeover rules yet. In fact, I haven't even READ the rules yet to understand them. That might be what makes this an essential expansion, or just a little bit more of the same. But yes, yes; I did like it.
Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age
A print-and-play expansion of a dice game I've played about 20 times, and have thoroughly enjoyed? SIGN ME UP! I like the extra things that this ruleset gives the players, especially the ships. They seem like they could be possibly overpowering, but hey, I've only played it once. I'll give it time to see how it goes. The different prices for the older developments is a bit of a curveball to thinking of your tactics, but it just makes the game play a bit differently from the base game. So far, I like it, but honestly, I haven't played this variant TOO differently from the way I play the standard game. We'll see if the differences are strong enough to keep the game interesting.
What I like the most about this expansion is that it's a set of cards you can mix into the base game without having to worry about sill or chaotic changes to the game. I've resisted playing with the Z- and L- decks because of their inherent silliness, and my one play of the X-deck was marred by the chaos of the risk-reward characteristic of the deck. The Ö deck is nice because the cards are actually strategic, but I don't know if they're any better or worse for the overall game. As it is, though, the cards are new things that you can add to the game without changing the overall feel and flow of it. That's not a bad thing to have in an expansion.
Shadows over Camelot: Merlin's Company
While I did enjoy the base game, as you can see above, I played it with this expansion, so I wasn't originally sure what was a part of which game. It turns out that the extra characters and the extra cards for the white and black decks were interesting, as were the additional quests, but that travel deck ... UGH. The game requires a certain amount of planning and anticipating, and getting hit with another random element was just too frustrating. I suppose it would be easy enough to remove it and play the game with the rest of the expansion, but I wonder if it would create some imbalance. Ah, well.
D a v i d B u r k e y
A mole a day keeps the chemist away...
Not a lot of game plays this month, but I did managed to play five new games:
Dice Town (2 Plays)
This was best new game of the month in my household, an entertaining dice game with a wonderful mechanic for selecting your dice and a fun western theme. Each round, you roll five dice with card symbols from 9 to ace—you can save one die for free, but must pay $1 for each additional dice (or spend $1 to re-roll them all). Saved dice are then used to win rewards for each denomination and for the best poker hand. The more the merrier with this game, but a 2-player game I played with the Wife was still very enjoyable. Overall, Dice Town is another great dice game for our collection.
Other new games this month:
Ubongo (1 Play)
I got to try this game at my 40th birthday party—what a great little brain burner of a game. We played with the easier 3 piece puzzles, and I still had one I didn't solve and several that went down to the wire. My chances of winning the game disappeared when another player and I both tried to monopolize purple gems, but it was still fun to finish all of the puzzles. The only hang-up is that the Wife would NOT like to play this one, which will make it harder for me to justify purchasing it.
Aton (2 Plays)
As I had expected, I really liked this two-player area control game. The multiple victory conditions really adds to the tension during play. I played two games with the Wife, who was a little less enthusiastic about the gameplay.
Great Wall of China (1 Play)
Another new game that the Wife and I were able to try out that was well received. The Wife cruised to victory when I wasted too many special cards on rows with lower point tokens early. Needing to use an action to draw cards from your deck nicely adds to the decision making in the game. I really would like to try this one with more players.
Shadow Hunters (1 Play)
We were able to play a 6-player game of this at my 40th birthday party, with only mixed results. Some initial confusion over victory conditions and the attacking rules slowed the game down early on. The game play picked up towards the end, especially once characters starting revealing themselves and attacking with more frequency, but overall the jury is still out on this one. Hopefully, we will get another chance to try it again soon.
♫ Eric Herman ♫
I like elephants. I like how they swing through trees.
The cat-and-mouse element of games like Fury of Dracula (second edition) and Garibaldi: The Escape was what I liked the most about those games, so I figured I might particularly like the grandfather of those kind of games, Scotland Yard, which is pretty much all about the cat-and-mouse/hide-and-seek thing. I did enjoy this quite a lot and look forward to playing it more. It's also a game I could see my kids playing along with either me and my wife, with the other of us as Mr. X. They may not grasp some of the deduction involved, but will probably have a lot of fun trying to guess where Daddy is hiding and moving.
Other new games played include:
Runebound (Second Edition)
I started playing a solo game of this but lost interest pretty quickly. It seemed kind of tedious with the movement and the little card text and combat details. I still may give it another go at some point, but it's currently up for sale or trade.
Return of the Heroes
By comparison to Runebound, I liked Return of the Heroes quite a lot. It has some of the same adventure style elements with a pick-up-and-deliver focus, but more streamlined and with more of a narrative sense to it. Runebound is probably the game with more long-term depth to it, but ROTH was a lot more agreeable to play out of the box and I look forward to playing it again, whereas I just couldn't get enthused about Runebound.
I think the success of Dominion may have created a problem, in that it was so addicting for a while there that I kind of burned out on it. I mean, 150+ plays is pretty significant, regardless, so it was certainly worth its weight in replayability. But at this point, I'm just not all that excited to play or buy Intrigue. And though there are some interesting new card effects with more interaction and involvement between players, some of it seems like a bit much for the simple and brilliant system that makes Dominion great. I've played once in person using just Intrigue cards, and a few times on BSW with a mix, and it's enjoyable and I'll surely play some more, but I'm just not as excited about it as I thought I might have been.
The new game I've played the most this month is not a BGG game, but an online dice game called Expedition, which is at this link: http://www.history.com/expedition/game/ I really like the goal based challenge of that game, where you're trying to get to the end of an expedition with as much money, food and porters as you can. But even getting to the end can be hard, as you end your journey if you ever run out of porters or food, which can be easy to do if you're not careful. I'm a fan of dice games, and especially dice games that have some character to them, so this has been a lot of fun to play. I might try to make a "hard copy" version of this at some point.
Delve: The Dice Game
In a similar vein as the Expedition dice game above, this is a cool free print-and-play dice game with some character to it. I like it.
Delve the Card Game
Not really any game here... just a pure solitaire card flip kind of thing. Delve the Dice Game is much better, with some actual decisions. Still, I applaud the effort and perhaps this could be worked into something that plays better.
Arkham Horror: The King in Yellow Expansion
Arkham Horror was my "new game of the month" for June (and probably so far for the year), and I already picked up a couple expansions, this and Innsmouth. I haven't played with Innsmouth yet, but I did try a game of King in Yellow, using the "touring performance" format, which totally kicked my butt. The rules weren't kidding when they said that version should only be played by experts. From now on, the King in Yellow cards will be mixed in with everything else, and not featured alone.
I also finished my first play-by-forum game of Battlestar Galactica. Certainly not a new game for me, but new in that format (I had hosted a PBF BSG game before, but hadn't played in one). I was Helo and a Cylon and ended up revealing right off the bat to try to take advantage of some chaos in the first round. I'm happy to report that when my Cylon brother Baltar eventually revealed, we were able to finish off the pesky humans with a combination of my Massive Attack Super Crisis, some other Cylon Attack cards, and Baltar's Cylon fleet mobilization (pictured above).
Played a bunch o' new ones this month. Curiously, I played two very different duels on successive days.
Nearly all 2 player games are a duel, obviously, but this one surprised me as a very direct pushme-pullme duel. Very tricky ideas to get your head around to start with, very asymmetrical pawns and actions. But it all works out nicely and I'm looking forward to coaching this one and getting my own copy.
By contrast, this is themed as a duel between two wizards, and does exactly what it says on the tin. We played this twice in a row, or second game informed by our first choices. I won handily both times, but it was a very interesting, quick, fun game of bluffing. the action cards are pretty simply, and we liked the way they inter-acted. If you can tolerate naked aggression, then this is a neat game.
The next hit for me was Valdora. YOU ONLY GET ONE ACTION EACH TURN! You move as far as you like down one track, and then take one action from simple choices. This makes the game extremely fast and just as frustrating as games where you have three or four actions. It's just an efficient pick up and deliver game, but there's enough here to make me come back again. Already coached this at Garforth Tabletop gamers too.
Disappointed by this, but mainly because as a 3p game, I got picked on and bullied, and couldn't work my way back in once behind. may try again with more players.
Likewise, we made the mistake of playing this with only 3 riders, and it don't work with too few riders. Will play again with 6 people.
Dominion: Intrigue Played it, liked it, bought it.
Tulipmania 1637 Played it, didn't like it, won't buy it. Probably.
July was a great gaming month for me, both in general and as far as new games go. Out of the 11 games I learned, only 3 of them were rated below 7 for me. Here goes!
Automobile was the best game I learned this month. I'm pretty new to heavier economic games, and after Age of Steam was just kind of okay for me, I wasn't looking that forward to Automobile. But my expectations were exceeded - the theme and mechanics worked great together, the money situation was less oppressive, and I just generally had a lot more fun. Two plays into it, I'm happy giving it a 9.
I had heard some buzz about an old word game from the 1950s, Bali, and how it blew Scrabble and friends out of the water. This month I received my ArtsCow copy of Bali, and got to try it out a couple times. Good stuff! If you're unfamiliar, it's sort of like the card game Solitaire, but instead of standard playing cards you have a letter on each card, with a roughly Scrabble-divided-by-two-rounded-down point value on it. On a turn you can take any complete columns of any players and add them to the end of one of your own columns - for instance you can take an "I", a "GE", and an "R" on top of your "T" to build "TIGER". All columns are replenished with a single card from the deck after being emptied, and you must take entire columns. Alternately, you can spend your turn to score a word, gaining (length of words x sum of printed points) points. It's quite challenging, especially since the 108 letter cards don't seem nearly enough to build the words you want. In all my games so far I've been left with huge word fragments I couldn't score, like INCOATS and NOXIOU. The simple ruleset and challenging play, plus its rewarding strategy as well as a good lexicon of longer words, earns it a solid 8 in my book. I've played it with 2 and 3 players, and it works well either way. It does, however, lend itself easily to slow turns, depending on the players.
Was sticht? continues my lunch gaming group's trend of trick taking games. At the beginning of the game, goals like "win 2 tricks" or "take the final trick of a hand" are drafted, and then each round the players will try to fulfill one of their goals. One neat aspect is the card drafting that takes place before each hand. The dealer - but only the dealer - learns the trump suit and number (if any). Then each player will take one card from the row and the dealer will say who would've won if those cards were played that round, giving the game a bit of a cool little deduction element (although it usually doesn't take too many draft rounds to figure it out). The goals, drafting, and deduction work together nicely to make this an 8 for me. (See below for Azteken Schatz, a game that didn't do this quite so well.)
Another fairly unique trick-taking game is Origin of Failing Water. This Japanese card game has you play the tricks backwards. There will be 6 tricks in a hand, and each trick awards its winner some number of red or blue points - your actual score for the round will be the absolute difference between the two. The 24 cards in 3 suits are dealt among the players (no trump) and players play cards for the sixth and final trick first. The players then work their way playing for the fifth, fourth, etc. tricks, all without knowing who was going to lead. This also had an element of deduction/puzzle solving, in that you could figure out something like, "Okay, either Tom or Luke will win round 4, which means that one of them will lead round 5, which either leads to Luke or Benton winning that, which means..." The actual card resolution is lightning-fast, and the way the cards get laid out, a nice waterfall effect (loosely tying into the theme) occurs. It's nice and quick with simple rules, makes you think a bit, and turns trick-taking on its head. We also played with the "Thinking" card, that once a game lets you pass on placing a card and acts as a placeholder for whatever card is left over in your hand at the end. Altogether, this game deserves an 8 after one play.
On one of the days we played Automobile, we played Brass as well. This popular economic game didn't do quite as much for me - the mechanics seemed a little more contrived and abstracted, even when I had the rules all set - but it still offered a fun challenge. After Automobile I was averse to taking loans, but this cramped my considerable style, leaving me to position near the end. Either way, Brass gets a solid 8.
At a July 4th game night I played N.Y. Chase for the first time, after having played Scotland Yard several times during college against a masterful Mr. X. NY Chase makes it considerably easier for the detectives, both by limiting Mr. X (used tiles no longer go to him, for example) and by helping out the detectives (they get "roadblocks" and a small number of Helicopter tokens that let them go anywhere at the cost of 2 turns). The detectives won this game, despite Mr. X's classy visor so we couldn't see his eyes. (Said my college Mr. X, that eliminates the "advanced strategy" of looking where you aren't moving.) Still, a 7 is fair for this solid re-implementation.
Also solid was Hattrick, a trick-taking game that has two tricks happening at once, sort of; the highest number played of each suit takes it, but no more than 2 different suits can be represented in a trick. You're trying to collect one suit but avoid the others. The game had a couple flaws, most bigly the chance of getting dealt a completely junky hand, but a couple cool enhancements are there, like not playing all the cards in your hand (one card will just be left over and not counted) and the option to sit out of a trick for a small penalty. 7 seems fair for this.
Nyet! is a changing-partnerships trick-taking game. Before each round, players will decide on a couple features like trump color, partnerships, and points earned per trick by vetoing an option each time until only one option remains for each. For instance, a player may put a chip on the "1" space on the "points per trick" row, making the available options 2 through 4 only. Then a player may think he has a bad hand, and so will eliminate the "4" space, or perhaps eliminate one of the trump colors he doesn't have many cards in. There's some neat stuff going on, even though it's not groundbreaking, so 7 it gets.
Azteken Schatz shares a lot in common with Was Sticht? (mentioned above), just done worse. There are still goals and cards drafted, but a clunky bidding system is included that doesn't seem to have good values attached to it - you start with 100 points and need to get 200, and so usually it's best to bid only a little, and then the auctions get weird. It's not terrible, so it still gets a 6, but I can't imagine wanting to play this if Was Sticht? is around unless time is a factor (and even then there's probably something else to pull out).
On a different front, there's Tumblin-Dice. This dexterity/party? game was okay, but I felt too little control and not enough fun to make up for it. This all makes for a 5 rating from me.
Finally on the list is the Battleship Card Game. My one play of this game made me rate it a 4 due to its too-hidden information and over-reliance on good draws. I think I'd actually just prefer Battleship.
Other games I logged my first plays in but have played before are Password (a great classic word game for people who can take under 5 minutes to give a clue... those people are rarer than you'd think) and Bingo (played at the campgrounds we were staying at as some ~50-person matches for small amounts of money).
This overtext is a blatant example of frivolous geek gold spending.
I spent 100 geek gold and all I got was this lousy overtext.
I played two new games this month.
The Downfall of Pompeii is just plain fun. My only complaint with the game would be the contortions you go through to set up the draw deck, which is only used for half the game anyway. But that's pretty minor when you consider how fun it is once that chore is out of the way. And don't forget to make screaming sounds when you drop people into the volcano.
Snow Tails is the other new game I played in July. It's pretty fun, but slightly more luck dependent than I tend to prefer in a race game. Still, it's enjoyable enough to rate at least one , even when you come in last because you had nothing in your hand that could get you through the last sharp corner without slowing to a crawl.
I forgot one: I also played Guillotine for the first time in July. It's a fun filler with an un-PC theme. I'm guessing that the same game with a different theme would not appeal to me.