New to you Feb 11 => Best new game you played this month and why
What new games did you play in Feb 2011? Share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.
Please add your own entry to the list, even if someone has already used the game that you picked as New To You... This helps with generating the statistics for the list.
New To You Metalist 2011
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Other Great Monthly Lists
Your Most Played Game (and more): February 2011
New to Your Kids February 2011 - Best new game you played with your kid(s) and why
New To You Feb 2011 => Your best new Videogame
Your best gaming experience of the month and why Feb 11
New to you a year ago Feb 11 => Has it stood the test of time?
Constantinopolis - 1 play -
I managed to get a game of this at our weekly game group, while others were playing Homesteaders or Imperial 2030, and I really rather enjoyed it. It ended up being a 5 player game, which I think made the game more interesting than it would have been with fewer people.
Constantinopolis is an economic engine eurogame, where you buy factories to produce resources, then convert those to victory points in various ways: Buying ships and sending them out on contracts; buying buildings to convert the resources locally into money/points; paying resources as tribute to earn points; buying walls to get special actions and victory points at the end of the game; or buying buildings purely for points.
In some ways it reminded me a little of Grand Cru (the wine production game), but on reflection I think I enjoyed Constantinopolis more and I think I'd play it again over GC. It did also remind me a quite a bit of Cuba, but I'd say it's even more multi-player solitaire than that, as the only real interaction is in the buying of buildings, which are of limited quantities. There is also a turn-order auction each round, but it's unusual in that each slot has a different benefit, so you tend to want to bid for a particular benefit and take the turn order position that gives you.
It's also a game of trust, as quite a bit of the turn can be dealt with simultaneously (otherwise the game would really drag), so you have to trust that your opponents are doing their resource allocation/conversion etc. correctly.
Definitely a game I'd play again, and it's also tentatively on my wishlist.
Garden Gnomes - 1 play -
We played this with 6 players after a game of roborally, and although it seemed like a pretty light card game with an amusing theme (garden gnomes breeding!), it just seemed overly complicated and messy for what it was.
Each round players tended to request a gnome for breeding from the other players, and secretly bid the maximum they would be prepared to pay... then all the other players with remaining gnomes would bid how much they wanted for their gnome... the cheapest (or best) gnome was then generally accepted and the price paid. Of course everyone wanted to have their gnomes occupied in some way, in order to pay for their own upkeep... but you could send gnomes off to competitions, or have them work in the garden instead. It was also very much a luck of the draw game, because when your gnomes bred you drew a random coloured gnome from one of several decks (based on the best colour of gnome that was breeding) to see what new gnome you got. We ended up abandoning the game as we were running late, but most people were a little unimpressed by the game.
no new expansions played this month, despite purchasing two new ones:
- Battlestar Exodus
- Cosmic Conflict
Hopefully I will get to play these next month
Two by Two - yucata.de -
This is a fun set collection game in which players sail into an island to rescue animals in pairs. There's some strategy to the game too, as you can rescue 1 local (next to your boat) and 1 remote (anywhere on the island) animal to make a pair, so you can steal animals from under the noses of your opponents.
Brass - orderofthehammer.com -
Despite living in Martin Wallace's back yard, where this game is set.. I have never played it... Part of that is because a number of the people in our game group playtested the prototype, and I would get crushed, but when the opportunity came to learn the game online with some of my geekbuddies (thanks to JohnBandettini) I thought I'd give it a try... I think the game really suits this method of play, as it gives me almost unlimited time to think about my turns and I can read and re-read the rules; FAQ etc. Despite that I still found myself making impetuous, ill-thought-out moves, that I would regret later, but I am really enjoying my (still ongiong) first play.. and I keep thinking about the game when I am not making my moves, which is always a sign of a good game.
There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
Busy time for me these days so I didn't have time to do the fancy pics etc, box covers will have to do
All in all it was a good month for new games.
I was particularly happy with the diversity of themes in this batch of new games, all felt very fresh and engaging.
Best New Game:
Got one play of this in, and fell in love with it. Echoes of chess and the C&C system, with wonderful replayability: tons of terrain and 8 different armies. I dug up some old posts by the designer describing his historical research in creating the armies, which is pretty cool and enhances the gameplay. This game strikes a perfect balance between abstraction and theme, and also strategy and tactics, that just clicked with me.
Got 2 plays of this in: mixes of area control and worker placement, but put together in a creative and engaging way with all kinds of spatial dynamics going on. VERY original theme (how many games can you "meditate" in?). The timing mechanism is brilliant, as it is controlled by the players: 4 cumulative meditations and the round's over. This leads to a lot of games of chicken and bluffing. Be prepared for the first play to be somewhat overwhelming w/the number of possible actions; believe me, it will all "click" in the 2nd play!
Key Market 8/10
Medieval farming and economic game. Nicely designed, lots of interworking parts and strategies and opportunities for replayability. One of the best-produced games I've ever seen: veggimeeples & animeeples, intricate medieval art that is unique not only for each player but even down to each player's little worker chit; each of the ~40 small worker pieces in the game is entirely unique! Designer notes on box sides. Clearly a labor of love. I very much like but don't love economic games, but if I was more into them this would be an easy 10/10. I hope larger publishers offer to reprint this game so more than 1000 owners (and their friends of course!) can enjoy this gem.
Great New Game
Nice use of the rondel as a fluctuating market device. Lots of ways to get points, lots of strategies to try. Each player has their own creation they're working on in their play area. The last game I played like that was Glen More, but this game felt more interactive, less solo fiddling to do, and you're not penalized for using more tiles than other people, which I prefer.
Good New Games
American Megafauna 6/10
I have mixed feelings about this game. It's almost more simulation than game (you can't accuse the publisher of false advertising though as they state up front they are makers of historical and conflict-simulation games). Most of our decisions were pretty obvious. But, I love the game's ability to tell an epic memorable story, and its replayablity, with a tiny subset of the game's epoch cards being used in any given game. I like the biological accuracy and educational value, and that it also has a sense of humor woven throughout (feathered turtles?!). Worst rulebook I've ever read, make sure if you play this the owner has downloaded the living rules and has a firm grip on them, and you should have a good time. I could see myself wanting to play this once or twice a year.
Pleasant little card game, unusual and praise-worthy theme. Had me thinking about potential strategies in future games, which is always a good sign from a game. 6/10 just b/c I'm not a huge card-game fan. World's smallest font in the 1-page rule sheet (they should've included a magnifying glass). Luckily there are some good rule summary files for this on the Geek that are less painful on the eyes. If you like Traders of Carthage there's a good chance you'll like this one; it's by the same designer, and, while TOC is a notch up in complexity, there are still some neat little interworking dynamics in R-Eco.
Creative game involving nonverbal caveman communication and clubs bashing you on the head. Can play a lot of people (we had 10). Good for if you're in a silly mood.
Not My Cup of Tea
Jungle Smart 2/10
(Crazy Circus on BGG)
The goal is to change the vertical configuration of 3 animals that are on one of 2 different stumps, using any combination of 4 or 5 defined moves. We played with a computer science major and he won 18 of the first 20 cards. We conceded the game once there was no mathematical chance of him losing.
Cute 3-D pieces, nice production values, and I can see it being a fun "simultaneous puzzle" game for those whose minds work well that way. Mine sure doesn't. :-) So, not a bad game, and it wasn't a miserable experience, but, I wouldn't play it again.
Best New Expansion
Hansa Teutonica: East Expansion
Hansa Teutonica is my #3 all-time favorite game, so I was beyond psyched to get this played. It delivered big-time. They've modified the oft-criticized Action city by combining it with Bags upgrade, adding a third route in, and preventing early squatters by making it a non-kontor city. This changes the dynamics in an interesting way. The new shipping networks and "permanent" bonus markers are pretty cool too and overall there seems more of a premium placed on merchants on this board. For anyone who enjoyed HT, and/or anyone who was frustrated by the "scripted" opening in the base game, I highly encourage giving this a try. I can only hope that the name implies we will someday get a "West" expansion!
Runner-Up New Expansion
This was a wonderful expansion as well. I had been intrigued by the steampunkesque Dixit: Odyssey and thought of just jumping straight to that one when it came out, but playing with this deck caused me to immediately add Dixit 2 to my wishlist as well. Another artistic tour-de-force and well-worth a purchase.
Board Game: Taluva
[Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:332]
Love the world.
(image credit: hiub)
This game has a Carc-like core. You draw one tile (each a triangle of three adjoined hexes) place it on a developing landscape, and then put down different kinds of meeples. You aren't scoring points, but rather trying to be the first to exhaust two of your three meeple types. If you can't legally play a meeple, you immediately lose. If the tiles are exhausted first, then the winner is the player with the majority of temples. If tied, then majority of towers. If still tied, majority of huts.
The main distinguishing feature is that the tiles can be stacked, making a three dimensional landscape. Elevation matters, because it takes more huts to expand your settlements uphill. Also towers can only be built on level three or higher.
The stacking rules are pretty simple, but produce some interesting geometrical constraints. It's taken several games to get our heads around the spatial logic, but it was fun even when we were learning the ropes.
I'm not a fan of the box art, but the game components are excellent. The colors are well-chosen. The sculpts on the wooden meeples are easily distinguished, but subtle and very handsome. The whole package is very striking and elegant looking in play. Top notch!
This is an excellent after dinner game for two. Great looking; interesting decisions without being brain burning; and plays in 45 minutes or less.
(image credit: ralfchr)
An older game (#200 in the BGG database!), which I recently traded for and tried out. My wife and I have played a handful of two player games and had a pretty good time with it so far.
At its core, Entdecker is an area influence game. The twist is that the areas ("islands") are built by the players, through a process of drawing and placing Carcassonne-like tiles. Once an island is completed, the island is scored. Who ever has the most influence on that island gets the full allotment of VPs for it. Second place gets half the full score, etc. The VP value of an island is based on its size, plus the value (1-4, iirc) on a "discovery" disk that is awarded to the person with the most influence.
At the beginning of a round of turns, all players get the same amount of money, which is determined by a spinner (I haven't played a game with a spinner in ages).
On a turn, a player places the exploration shipeeple on a discovered space that is adjacent to undiscovered space(s). The player then decides how many tile draw opportunities to buy (paying 1 coin for each). Tiles are drawn and must be placed if they can be placed. If they can't, they're discarded. After placing a tile, the player must decide whether to build an influence marker on the discovered tile's land. Influence markers come in three strengths. They must be paid for, with the price matching their strength. Once an influence marker is built, the turn is over, even if the player paid for more tile draws. They're forfeited.
Game ends when the board is filled in.
There is a little more chrome (e.g., special event tiles), but that's basically it. It's quite a bit like Carc, in that you are building a landscape from randomly drawn square tiles, and using limited meeples to lay claim to valuable features of the landscape as it develops. But the money management aspect adds a fun element, as you need to be sure you'll have the funds necessary to exert area influence when you need to. And you also need to watch your opponent's money supply to gauge what they will do on their turns.
Solid, fun, medium-light, and shortish (45 mins?). I'm interested in seeing how it plays with more, where I expect it won't be as chess-like.
Arena: Roma II
(image credit: EndersGame)
This is an attractive, clever, two-player game with a very high level of interaction. On your turn, you roll three dice and assign them to perform actions. You can assign your dice to earn money or draw cards equal to the number showing on the dice. Or, you can place them on a "slot" corresponding to the number of pips showing (e.g., you would place a die showing 4 pips on the 4 slot). When placed into a numbered slot, you can activate the special power of a card you've assigned to that slot.
How do cards get assigned to numbered slots? Well, you start the game with five that you can place as you wish. After that, when it is your turn, you can use money you've collected to play a card from your hand, to any slot. The slot may be empty or already occupied (in which case the new card replaces the existing card). There is also a "bribery" slot, which acts as a kind of wildcard. You can assign any dice to that slot and then pay money equal to the pips on the dice to activate the card assigned to the slot.
The cards have an interesting range of powers, including the ability to attack your opponent's cards or otherwise mess with them.
Importantly, at the beginning of each of your turns, you need to pay a VP for each empty card slot in your tableau. This makes attacking your opponents cards a viable strategy, as you will deny them special powers and bleed their VPs.
Game ends if either player runs out of VP or if the general supply of VP is exhausted. At that point, the player with the most VP is the victor.
Unfortunately, I have to give this a mixed review.
I mostly liked it. You need to be smart about laying out your tableau and managing the luck of the dice and card draw. The special card powers create multiple paths to victory (you can win through a few different VP generating combos, or by attacking your opponent's cards). It's fairly quick (30-45 minutes) and offers a lot of choices and strong direct interaction, without being too heavy. Also, the components and artwork are top-notch. A very nice production.
My wife mostly disliked it.
What accounted for our varying degrees of dislike? We've had a few games that were extremely one-sided, with one player either establishing a strong VP engine or a strong card killing engine and the other player trying to stave off defeat long enough to get a card into play that can break the engine. This can be exacerbated by a lucky or unlucky run of dice rolls and card draws. Fortunately, such games are over pretty quickly, but they can be frusrating for the person being steam-rolled.
Mines of Zavandor
(image credit: Vangelder)
Only one play, with two, so I really don't have much basis to judge this yet.
It's an engine building, VP-buying, auction game, with a whimsical fantasy motif.
Each turn is divided into four phases: Income, Trading, Auction, and Upgrade.
For income, you draw gem cards from one of four "mines." Each card provides one gem, in one of four colors. The four mines produce the different gems in different ratios, so you have some control over the randomness of card draws.
During trading, you can make any trades you like with other players, or you can trade gems 2:1 with the bank.
The auctions are blind. Each player conceals a number of gem cards, then all reveal simultaneously. There is a separate auction for each color of gems, resolved in a fixed order. Whoever bid the most gems of each color wins for that color. Victory yields VPs and/or cards that give you special powers. The special powers may increase your card draw, let one color gem serve as a wild card in auctions, award VPs for achieving certain conditions, etc.
During the upgrade phase, players pay gems to improve the abilities of their special powers.
There's a little more complexity and color than that, but that's the core of it.
The first play was intriguing and moderately pleasant, but felt a little thin. I suspect it will improve with more players and with greater familiarity with the cards.
I had two games that I was eager to play this month and they got the two top spots. Unusually for me both of them are two-player games.
Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! – Kursk 1943
Even though I generally prefer war games on grander scale it does feel rewarding to play Storms of Steel, my first contact with the CoH series. The rules of the game is pretty straight forward and streamlined, while easy to understand still has enough depth to be enjoyable for me with some really tough decisions. It’s fun and it plays fast.
It’s very hard to rate this game after just one play, since it is a type of game that rewards repeated plays. I was very disappointed with 1960 mainly because it does seem like an endless tug-o-war. This game looks like it have more decisions and it isn’t as contested in one area of the board. There are still a lot of cards in the game which takes require a few plays to digest, but other than that it is a really enjoyable card driven game.
Flicking discs around a board is fun, but I don’t feel it will hold to repeated plays.
There seems to be a lot of luck of the draw in this game of playing cards for sequences on the board. Not bad, but not memorable either.
A fairly harmless card game.
Battlestar Galactica: Exodus Expansion
As a whole, I think this is a better expansion than Pegasus because every element of it seems to be very well thought out and I am willing to use. The game is not very newbie friendly any more though. I like Battlestar Galactica, but other in my game group likes it even more and I feel like I am over exposed with the game.
Conflicted loyalties: It certainly adds complexity to the game, but the good sort of complexity. It makes the game less one dimensional.
The Cylon fleet: A much needed addition giving more options to Cylon players and more choices for the human. It’s brilliant.
Ionian nebula: I haven’t played with this option yet. New Caprica was a disappointment (it didn’t add much time, but it felt kind of pointless), but I am looking forward to this.
Descent: The Altar of Despair
This is the last of the add more monsters and stuff kind of expansion that I have played. More variety is nice.
Thanks to Felkor, Filippo Chiari, arnaudel and fubar awol for the pictures.
Same old Lions!
Maybe this new Star Wars movie won't let me down as much as my NFL team of choice has for 30+ years.
Woo hoo! February 2011 was my first time attending Mittencon, a convention that is right down the road from my house. This will definitely not be the last time I attend because I had an absolute blast, and I’m really excited for next year. To be honest it's not even really a convention, so much as it is just a great gaming weekend. People bring games, pile them around the room, and we all just start playing games for hours and hours on end. I got to learn a lot of new stuff there, so this entry will take me quite awhile to put together. However, the selection of what game gets the top spot will take no time at all, because it really shined head-and-shoulders above the competition...
= Ad Astra - This is a delightful game of space exploration, colony building, and resource gathering. I was absolutely amazed at how easy it was to catch on to the rules, yet every decision was difficult. I struggled to know what order to place my cards, which planets to land on, and even which resources were the most vital. Of course it didn't hurt my opinion of the game that I played really well and won by a lot. However, what made the game awesome was that another player was 1 point away from stealing my win (he had 41 points and the alien artifact that allows you to win with 42.) It seemed like every single time a card was flipped the player who placed it had a tough decision, and we all were totally engaged even though it wasn't "our turn." I'm anxious to try this game again at another game day, it was pure awesomeness in space!
= BITS - Because of the box art and the title, this game is just begging to be compared to FITS, but I really hate to do that. The thought process required in the 2 games feels very different. BITS seems more tactical rather than strategic, not that this is a bad thing, just different. I still found myself rooting for a particular piece to be drawn and struggling to decide whether to work for positive points or just to avoid negatives. Concentrating on all the different ways you can score points is not easy, but the game has a nice progression that steps you up one round at a time (and I see no reason to consider the fourth round "advanced," unless you're playing with very young kids.) We probably won't be playing BITS as much as FITS, and I don't know if it will ever crack my Top 10, but it's still a quality sequel.
= R-Eco - Seldom do I find filler games with this much strategic depth. It seems every single turn is a challenge because you want to grab the right point tokens, but you also want to grab useful cards, but you also want to avoid overloading your hand. All these considerations in a game that takes only a half hour or less to play is just awesome. I lost badly to my in-laws yet I found myself itching to play again to try some different strategies. That is always a good sign, when you are looking to explore a game further, and it's kind of rare in such a fast/light game. The only drawback I can see is that it sometimes locks people up in analysis-paralysis as they consider all the possible plays they have on their turn. It's not too bad, but if someone is already prone to having AP this might not be the filler game for them.
= 7 Wonders - I've always been a big fan of Fairy Tale, so a new game that centers around the idea of drafting seems like a winner. I like that the game is fast and relatively easy to teach. But the thing that has me still planning to get my own copy of the game is the fact that it can be played with up to 7 players without increasing the play time. The downside I see is that it feels virtually impossible for a new player to have any real concept of what is going on, or what is a valid strategy. I also don't like the fact that you can't really track whether a player is legitimately allowed to play the card they choose. You're just kind of taking it on faith that players are being honest and that they understand how all the cards work. These aren't huge problems, but they have tempered my enthusiasm slightly. I'll still get a copy, but I'm not quite as excited now.
= Kingsburg - After round 1 of this game I had a sneaking suspicion that it would take the #1 spot on my New to You entry. Unfortunately the worst-case scenario hit. I literally rolled between 7 and 10 every single time we rolled the dice. I never had a good quality roll, and basically had to ignore the top 2 rows of nobles the entire game. As a result I discovered that a player with bad luck, like mine, would be incapable of even coming close to competing against the other players. I like the idea of the game a great deal, but it did get a little repetitive, and I didn't like how strongly luck affected who would win/lose the game. If the game was shorter it would be perfect, but at its current length it is just OK. I'd be happy to play again, it's simply not a game that is at the top of my wishlist any more.
= Merkator - If you say "utterly themeless cube-pushing," I'll usually run the other direction. Yet there was a saving grace in this game. Thanks to the idea of joining other players on their journeys you remained engaged even when it was not your turn. It seems that there is more than one path to victory, thanks to the building cards, and I always appreciate that. But, when all is said and done, it is still completely themeless and bland. Some people will be able to overlook this aspect, and I think Merkator could be a real winner for them. But if you are like me and you want to have some recognizable theme when you play a game, this will fall flat. I would be OK playing the game again, but it's just one of those average games that I wouldn't suggest at any point and time.
= Giants - Really spectacular components certainly make this game stand out when it hits the table. I was surprised at just how hefty the little statues were, and how beautiful all the other components were as well. However, there's just something about this game that didn't excite me. I found myself just kind of going through the motions. There is one negative I can clearly articulate, and that is the fact that the game is much too long for what it is. Otherwise it's kind of ineffable why I didn't love this game. I can say that, for some reason, it annoyed me that you often had to leave statues just sitting there between turns. Who knows why this bothered me, maybe my OCD just requires me to finish a journey all at once to be satisfied. You can add it to the list of games I would play again, but would never suggest.
= Glen More - This game came remarkably close to getting the bottom spot on my New to You entry. I was ready to just bash on it mercilessly, but now that I've had some time to cool off and look back on the experience I gave it a break. Looking back I have to admit that part of what I hated about this game experience was simply the fact that I got my tail kicked by the player who clearly had experience playing this game dozens and dozens of times. The mechanisms are easy to understand, and I like the idea of circling around the board and having the freedom to take almost any tile. Plus the strategic tile placement is something I would normally relish. I just couldn't get past the themeless nature of this game. Perhaps if I had played this one before Merkator their spots in this list would be flip-flopped, but by the time we were playing this I was just bored with resource cubes and all that jazz. It's not a horrible game, but it might take a bit more arm twisting for me to try this one again.
= Candy Land - I honestly don't know whether I played this as a child, so I'm considering this new-to-me. I sat down with my friend's daughter (who calls me "Uncle Ben") and played her Candy Land Deluxe game. Deluxe just means that you have little plastic figures instead of cardboard stand-ups I guess, and the rules are still mindless. Yet I couldn't help loving the smile on her face, and how we laughed together. The game, apparently, has taught her to wait for her turn and that cheating is wrong. We even played with the pieces after the game ended. I'll admit this is a horrible game design and I would never, ever ask adults to play. But if that little girl wants to play with her Uncle Ben, I'm going to say yes!
= Fabula - There's just too little structure to this game. It's so free-form that the storytellers really don't know what to say. Yet there's a strange boundary to the story that seems to halt the players/characters from using their full imagination. So you're caught in this middle ground where you have limited freedom, but you don't know what the limits are until the rest of the story is read. The concept is silly fun, but the execution is just horrible. I had fun laughing and hearing my friends' creativity, but that was in spite of the game not because of it. Perhaps I'll like it better when I get a chance to be a player/character instead of the moderator/judge, but for now I'm really not anxious to see this game hit the table again.
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
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This was a pretty slim month of gaming for me, for a variety of reasons, not least of which was that Valentine's Day fell on a Monday this year. I only recorded 7 plays, and 3 of those were expansions, so I really only played 6 games in February. Anyway, here's the short list of games that were new to me, with the "winner" being the one that happened by default because no other game ran against it.
Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
So, here's the deal. Are y'all paying attention? Because this is important. There are two things to remember when playing a cooperative dungeon crawler:
1. Keep the game moving. This should be a fast-paced game of discovery, fighting, and looting. We've all read Order of the Stick, and know what it's all about. Even those of us who haven't played role-playing games recognize that a game like this shouldn't slow down to a crawl because all the players are trying to determine the optimum plan based on their own personal actions.
2. Roleplay, goddammit. If you draw an encounter card that forces everyone to lose one hit point, the proper way to convey this information is not saying "Everyone loses a hit point," and then burying the card beneath the deck. And if someone asks why and what happened, the proper response is not, "It doesn't matter. We all lose one hit point." In fact, if you're not reading the flavor text on the cards at all times, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you're missing the point of the game.
I seem to be over the cooperative game trend, so this isn't going to score highly with me, regardless, but if the game experience is a good one, that will be enough to elevate the game above its mechanisms. Finding the right group for that, I think, is essential.
7 Wonders: Manneken Pis
I still like 7 Wonders, but I'm not really wild about the expansion. It's too dependent on what the other players next to you get (in my game, if the players had drawn their wonders the opposite way, I would have been set for a ton of points), and even then, it's not always the most beneficial thing to you to use their extra things. The flip side might be useful, if you're enforcing the beer rule, but it's an expensive thing to build, and it doesn't give you as much stuff as if you built a standard wonder. Plus, you'll pretty much lock yourself out of using any of the cards that give you a bonus for wonder levels using that side.
So far, I haven't decided if it will remain in the mix for future games, but it's not looking that promising. It just doesn't afford the kind of variety that I would like for an expansion of this type.
Location: 3' from my actual position.
A friend who introduced us to this game made a comparison to werewolf. And it is kind of similar, except Shadow Hunters is fun, a lot of fun. With Hunters vs Shadows I think it would have been merely alright but by sticking the nuetrals in there with their own special agendas really gives it that extra dimension. Great game and I look forward to picking it up soon.
Inca Empire is another Zman hit. I never got to play its predecessor Tahuantinsuyu but I imagine this is a much better production of it anyway. I enjoy the sprawling of the empire and taking my unfair share of the works of others.
While the games that precede Safranito on this list were more fun this one had us laughing a lot more. We are really bad at tossing chips its embarrassing.
Junkyard Races delivers just what you'd expect. It's a silly dicey race game. Keep the races short because it's going to get old after about 3 laps at most.
Olympus (3 plays)
Worker placement with a bit of a Puerto Rico feel to it, where choosing an action allows other players to choose a similar but lesser action. You'd like to perform actions in a certain order, but you need to adjust your plan as actions get chosen in a different order. The equivalent of PR's "shipping when you don't want it" is military & the plague, with the military being directed at chosen players (generally, the militarily weaker and goods-rich). Really enjoyed my first plays.
Bargain Hunter (4 plays)
Phew: finally! Schnäppchen Jagd was a game that sat on my wishlist for years, then when re-released (as Bargain Hunter) I bought as soon as I saw it. It then sat on my shelf for 4 months until I finally managed to get it played. Fortunately, it was worth the wait.
Trump taking, where the cards you win are divided into good & bad, but the bad cards can later be turned into good cards. Simple, yet tricky.
Roads & Boats (1 play)
Phew: finally (again)! After years of hogging a ridiculous amount of shelf space, we finally got this played, as a gentle learning game. Mechanically simple, yet as the game progresses there feels like more & more balls to keep in the air. My first experiment at using a plastic sheet over hexes, and I learned which sticky tape not to use because it takes off the pine table's varnish.
Saboteur 2 (expansion-only editions) (1 play)
The original Saboteur had been a little hit & miss for me. This new version adds elements and refines the game quite a bit. First play great fun. Hope to play again soon.
Level X (1 play)
Filler dice game. Nicely presented. In the same sort of vein as Can't Stop, but sufficiently different to stand on its own merits. Nice balance of exploiting your advantages versus positioning yourself to prevent opponents scoring too much.
Loopin' Louie (1 play)
Time your interventions to make the rotating flying dude miss your chickens and fly into someone else's. In my only game (championship rules) my chickens behaved like airplane magnets, and my dexterity wasn't enough to save them. It's fun. A little fiddly to set up, and I'm told it was a little slow because the batteries were running a bit flat, but a very enjoyable little diversion.
Puzzle Strike (3 plays)
Dominion done different (again). Added interaction & elimination. On thick cardboard discs rather than cards. Not sure that was a good move. Better than Thunderstaone, though. The vile velvet bags make my flesh crawl.
Kolejka (1 play)
2-player learning game. Suspect it'll be better with more players
By staying true to its Soviet-era Polish shopping theme it demands players cope with frustrations, disappointments and the quirks of the system. You queue, but you don't really know if or when deliveries will arrive. You can use your influence, your privileges or your elbows to manipulate the queues, but everyone is doing that, and maybe the other players have more influence than you today. Of course, tomorrow may be your day, but then tomorrow may be the day when deliveries go astray. Bartering with the Speculators at the street market may be more productive (though more expensive) than queuing at the official state-run shops.
I like the artwork and overall style. Excellent, thick-papered rulebook with historical background essay (& photos). Even a DVD. But currently only in Polish. English translation available on bgg, and playable with a small cribsheet (translation of 10 cards)
Zombie in my Pocket (1 play)
Not bad short negotiation / back-stabbing game. Zombies do absolutely nothing for me, but the second guessing is fun. Probably a "more the merrier" kind of game - I certainly couldn't imagine playing it solo.
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_.
Six new games for me this month, plus an expansion on a technicality. As usual, I'll list 'em in roughly decreasing order of enthusiasm. The first three games are (at least at present) very close in enthusiasm - so I'm sorting them by games begun. (Games finished would have been a naively more reasonable sort; but the lack of finishing wasn't remotely the fault of the title.)
Wagon Trader -- (1 full play; 2 partials) A
This one could easily win a bunch of awards: Best re-use of parts from Antike; Best prototype I've played (if not ever - and it might be - then at least since 'Ohana Proa) (that one is less imposing than it sounds; I've had the amusement of playing not more than a half dozen prototypes in my life.); Most currencies in play. Only the last of those is snarky: I'm falling down on the job.
Wagon Trader is a logistics game of shipping goods from Dodge City to points westward. In order to transport the goods westward, one needs wagons (naturally, to carry the goods), horses (to pull the wagons), and hired guns (to scare off the omnipresent bandits that line the route.) Horses require feeding, so one eventually needs to either acquire farms to produce food, or buy the food from the general store. There is a limited collection of goods available in Dodge City, and so one's turn is composed of a mix of acquiring resources (by whatever means possible), recruiting Employees to help the team, and sending loads of goods westward when possible.
The game has seen quite a lot of play amongst the designer and his friends, and so there's good balance to the proceedings: does one invest in infrastructure, or just go with the relatively safe short deliveries? Does one build up a large stock of wagons in order to make a huge delivery, or be content with a smaller set? And which of the Employees will provide one the most help?
Son #1 and I enjoyed our play quite a lot. I hope Christopher finds a publisher - 'cause I'd love to have a "real" copy. Bottom line: 7.7 with the possibility of improvement when I try a 3-4 player game. (The 2p game isn't yet quite as well tuned!)
High Frontier -- (2 plays) A
(images by Taibi & DaMilli)
This one obviously wins Most Real Science jammed into a "game". Or was that the Isn't that a game peeking out? award.
It's insane. It makes me want to encode the map, and write code to calculate things for me. "If I have a ship of mass 7 and a 3-1 thruster, can I get to Mars? If so, how much fuel must be loaded? Is it possible to save a year of flight time by loading excess fuel?" (The answers, to the best of my back-of-the-envelope figuring are "Yes, as long as one aerobrakes down to Arsia Mons or Hellas Basin", "Yes, 2 tanks of water suffice", and (in the basic game, at least) "Nope; it's gonna take two years regardless of how you tweak it." I just spent way longer on that example than I really wanted to - and playing the game is worse. One is constantly tweaking variables and recomputing flight paths. Sure, one also gets better at it: but I'm a tool user; I'd much rather convince my laptop to do such grunt-work for me.
It's also strangely compelling. And I say that as the player who has come dead last in both of his games. My first game, I ended up with a respectable score by accident: I'd managed to plant a factory colony on Comet Encke by virtue of a fortuitous 1/6-chance survey roll. And as none of my opponents had also created a V-type factory by the end of the game, my single colony there was worth 12 points (8 for the lone V factory; 2 more for the science icon on the comet; one more each for the colony marker and the claim.) In my second game, I attempted something completely stupid, and - adding insult to injury - executed that foolish plan sub-optimally. And yet I've ordered a copy, and want to play more.
Bottom line: 7.7 with distinct possibility of improvement. Particularly if I get some traction with playing reasonably.
Porto Carthago -- (1 play) A
(images by bloodeisen & toob)
This one wins Worst Pre-play expectations for all the games I played this month.
Yes, worse even than 221B Baker Street. I'd read a couple early reviews from the Essen attenders that had slagged Porto Carthago as being mechanical, unintuitive and unappealing. (Those same Essen attenders loved 7 Wonders - which is just OK by my standards, so perhaps a bit more dubiousness on my part would have been well placed. I may learn one of these years.)
After the one play, though, I'm quite enthusiastic. It's a cute, thematically sensible, perhaps slightly over-long with the full complement of players game. The production isn't quite as lovely as its Irongames predecessor Peloponnes: the Chinese printer provided thin cards and thinner money (Peloponnes has some perfectly adequate tiles.) Similarly, the board has an astonishingly anachronistic American Valley. What's more (sorry to pile on like this, Bernd) the pawns have a disturbing tendency to fall over and roll away: it's possible that a more traditional pawn shape might have been a better choice. The physical element aside, there are interesting choices, and evidence of some significant tuning.
In retrospect, it's not terribly surprising that it might fare badly in the context of a convention or trade show. Our rules explanation took quite a while - a substantial fraction of the time expended on the game. (There's a family gene firing there: I find Peloponnes takes about a third as long to explain as to play!) There are a fair number of rules to assimilate before play, and while it's an easy ruleset to retain once the explanation is done (the graphic design of the board is entirely acceptable, and provides several rules reminders) it's quite possible that some of the early reviewers had misapprehended some facet of the game, too.
Bottom line: 7.7, but soft. I'd like to see a few more strategic paths in the next few games for it to retain the rating. If the next couple games play out very similarly to this one, the rating will drop. Nonetheless, thanks to John, Raphael, Karl and Richard for the opportunity to get it to the table.
Kaigan -- (1 play) A-
(images by Scott Tepper & cymric)
This one wins Most original theme. Hands down. I hadn't imagined playing a game about surveying Japan's coast prior to hearing about the game.
It was an interesting experience: I found myself attempting (and periodically failing) to apply the language of the theme to the proceedings. Some moments I found myself saying "If I place a cube there, I'll move up on that first track" and others "A surveyor placed there might grant me more honour than elsewhere." Whether that schizophrenia is my own or something assumed from either the game system or the presentation of the game system that I enjoyed is hard to say at this juncture. I'm looking forward to reading the rules to see if I can learn more about what was attempted.
Bottom line: beginning at a 7.3, with chance of improvement. Glad my copy is on its way here. Many thanks to Richard for the introduction.
Union vs. Central -- ( play) B
(images by cleonhard & Original_CorPse)
I guess this one needs to win Longest "short" game I've played in a while. Probably the longest such since a short scenario of Here I Stand.
If you're unfamiliar with the game, it's a fiddly logistics game with a one-dimensional spatial element. A lot of play is the manipulation of some tiny dice (in some older editions) or tiny counters (in my copy) that represent units of the 6 resources the game wants to manipulate. Morgan's suggestion of using 6 colours of poker chips is a really good one: it would make the game manipulations a bit easier. (It'd also speed the game up fractionally - but not so much as to change its essential quality as a long, slow, almost-lazy game.)
I was modestly amused. It's a nice puzzle. The take-that elements are thematically sound, and are real choices: a card that will hurt an opponent as an event, could provide several resources if played for oneself. It's charming, in a elephantine kind of way.
Bottom line: I don't know who wants to play this with me. It's really long, with a take-that subsystem. A 6.7 for the moment, but that may drop if it's long without a reprise.
221B Baker Street: The Master Detective Game -- ( play) C
(images by EndersGame & belial1134)
This one wins Least "Deduction" required in a Deduction Game.
While the Sherlock Holmes deduction theme is fun, the game itself becomes a question of who can roll the best in order to hit the five or six randomly placed clues that will lead one to solve the crime in question. So: are you good at rolling dice? Chasing pedestrian inferences in text clues? Guessing where on the board the "real" clues are as opposed to the red herring? Then this is the game for you.
Entirely parenthetically, I was amused by one of the clues in the scenario daughter #1 and I played. It hinged on the phrase (spoiler!)
Said lovely daughter - a Sunday School attender since her earliest youth - was unfamiliar with the Isaiah 2:4 or Micah 3:4 quotes. Now, the phrase has passed into popular usage long since - so the biblical background shouldn't be necessary. But I'm still amused that she'd not heard it. So I wondered: if she'd seen that passage what might it have said? While The Message exists in our house - and it speaks instead of "shovels"! - we have other copies of the Bible, too; I suspect the fault is mine.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
swords into plowshares.
Bottom line: 5.5, but I've over-rated it modestly because of daughter #1's enthusiasm for the theme. She's really enjoying all deduction games right now - even the relatively poor ones.
Finally, the expansion. Son #2 and I tried a game of Duel of Ages. It wasn't a success: the game is a bit too bland in realization for the 8 year old (he likes his American-style games bigger and plastickier.) But we did include the Field of Honor expansion...
Duel of Ages Set 6: Field of Honor -- (1 play) B+
(images by Firepigeon & Mulan)
Harmless addition to a system that amuses me a lot. I was initially quite dubious when Tom Vasel claimed it as one of his favourite games. I was even more dubious when I first saw it in play. But after trying it, I must admit there's a lot of appeal.
Bottom line: I rate Duel of Ages as a whole a 7. The expansions entertain, but enhance (additional cards & options) and detract (more rules to remember) roughly in equal measure.
In the end, thanks to my youngsters; the Friday Lunch folk; the I've been diced gang; and the BAP attenders for some great games.
Unlike last month, I haven't played any real hits this month. Cargo Noir is the best of the crop this month.
Cargo Noir, 1 play
Cargo Noir has been on my radar but still I was pleasantly surprised by the lighthearted fun it provided. It's a set-collection game at heart, with a fun simultaneous auction mechanic that drives the game. Each player is a smuggler, trying to get a hold of nine different types of goods, collecting sets of either different goods or the same goods. The bigger the set, the higher the value. Sets of the same goods are worth more than sets of different goods. Unfortunately you can only keep six goods in your ship in bewteeen rounds, so setting yourself up to get sets of up to nine goods requires careful planning. To get these goods you make a bid at one or more of the harbours, each holding 1 through 4 random goods. If your bid is still the highest bid when it's your next turn, you get to buy these goods. If someone did outbid you, you can opt to raise your bid, hopefully winning the right to buy the goods your next turn. Or you can take back you bid and use your money to make a bid in a different harbour. The money you use to make these bids is really scarce, with only two ways to get more money. It's definitely easier spent than earned and I really liked this bit of resource management. It's an auction game so there's plenty of player interaction. As these auctions are turn-based and not real-time, there is a bit of downtime, though. It's not the game with the most depth and complex interactions, but it's just a lot of fun to play. There's some bluffing, some screwing, a lot of laughs, easy to digest rules and a lot of appeal to casual gamers. I'd seriously consider adding it to my collection when it's finally released next month. I rate Cargo Noir a 7.
El Grande, 1 play
El Grande is often called the grandfather of modern area control/area majority games and that's probably true. It's the oldest game I've played for quite a while and it sure has aged very well. It's a good game. I particularly liked how the turn order cards decided how many cabalerros are added to the personal supply from the general supply and how the action selection decided how many cabalerros can be placed on the board from the personal supply. I also really liked the secret deployment of cabalerros from El Castillo. Yet, we all agreed that newer games do some things better because of advancing insight. On the most basic level there is the horrible scoretrack that isn't numbered or even colourcoded at certain intervals of 5/10 points. At one point during the game one of the scoremarkers was knocked over and there is really no way to correct that. You don't know you've got 64 points, you're just somewhere along the scoretrack. The artwork is particularly bad, with a horrible front cover and too much yellow on the rest of the artwork. Fortunately, nowadays most games have much higher standards for artwork. Gameplay-wise, some of my biggest gripes are the memory aspect of El Castillo and which turn order cards everybody has played, the luck of the draw with the action cards and the lack of end-game scoring mechanisms. As a rule, I hate memory mechanisms, even while I have quite a good memory. It creates an imbalance between players not based on strategic skills. While El Grande is a very strategic game with area control/area majority and resource management aspects, there is a large amount of luck in the order of which the action selection cards turn up. After the last scoring round the scores are final. I like it when games have some sort of end-game scoring mechanisms, to prevent knowing half-way through the game who is going to win.
Incidentally, my favorite new game of last month was Tammany Hall, a game that's closely related to El Grande. It takes the best part of El Grande - the secret deployment of cabalerros - and multiplies it by 10. It has a wonderful blind bidding mechanic with different 'currencies' where you get your secret deployment fix with each area in every scoring round. On top of that, it has almost none of the issues I have with El Grande.
Despite it's flaws, I did enjoy the game. Even while we played a three player game and I suspect it's probably at its best with the full compliment of five players. A friend of mine borrowed his copy, so hopefully we get a chance to try it with five. For now, I rate El Grande a 7.
Steam Barons, 1 play
Steam is one of my highest esteemed games even though I really haven't played it enough. A while back a friend bought the Steam Barons expansion, so when it was just the two of us, we decided to give it a try. My experiences with games that feature a stock market is limited. I've played Chicago Express once and I really liked that game. It's short, so it doesn't matter to play a couple of learning games where mistakes will be made. I've also played Imperial 2030 once and I really didn't like that game. Where Chicago Express forced the game somehow to end after about 60 minutes even when we were playing suboptimally, Imperial 2030 just seemed to drag and quite frankly I got bored pretty quickly. Apperently we played the game wrong, but I still think it's bad game design when it doesn't account for that to happen. So what did I think of Steam Barons? I really liked how the route building is much more prominent than in Chicago Express. I really like this with Steam, as well. But, the stock market element is still very opaque for me. It has a built in timer like Chicago Express so it doesn't drag, but the game still takes too long to try these types of stock market games. I would like to play Chicago Express a lot more to understand these new mechanisms better and then come back to try Steam Barons again. I'm a bit disappointed that the artwork isn't on par with the Steam base game. Hopefully the newly announced expansion maps will get that right. For now, I rate Steam Barons a 7.
Biblios, 1 play
Biblios is the re-theming of Scripts and Scribes, a highly esteemed small print-run card game. The theme is entirely pasted on, though. It's another card game where players try to collect sets of numbered cards. Numbered cards are one of my gaming pet peeves. I don't necessarily think they're bad games -I like games like Balloon Cup or Keltis, for example- but they tend to have the worst pasted on themes. I don't even mind a well done pasted on theme, but I just don't care for a game where it's really, really obvious it's just pasted on. In this game you're a priest trying to build a better library than your opponents. With numbered cards in five colours. Sigh...
The game underneath this theme is a lot better. In the first half of each turn you draw a number of cards: one for yourself, one to put up for auction in the second half of the game and one for each of your opponents. You draw them one at a time, deciding for each card what you're gonna do with it. This introduces a really nice push-your-luck mechanic to an otherwise kiind of bland card game. There are also some cards that manipulate how much points each set of cards score, but there are too few of these, in my humble opinion. In the end, I enjoyed playing the game, but it's not a game that rocks my world. A friend of mine did buy it however, so I'll gladly play it a couple more times. I rate Biblios a 6.
Zombies!!!, 1 play
We had a lot of fun playing Zombies!!!, but it is really a bad game! I'm glad Í gave it a try, but I don't have to play it again! The game has some serious flaws! What's the point of entering a building highly risking losing life points and bullets only to gain some life points and bullets?! Most of the action cards are highly situational and most never got played due to not meeting the requirements! The end game is flawed as well! Why does the person avoiding the zombies the most get to place the helipad?! As a thematic game, there are some serious thematic issues as well! When a zombie enters your space it only attacks when it gets your turn again! It's possible that a zombie leaves you space before that happens! Yeah, right...!!! I rate Zombies!!! a 5!
A very short month with very little gaming... Still I started to learn Martin Wallace games; I want to learn many of them this year. (As usual, pictures by myself.)
I played Automobile in the beginning of February and then I decided I want to learn many Wallace games soon. It's a smooth, elegant design. It has no unnecessary complexity, lots of extra rules added just for 'gamer fun', it's simply a middleweight game with interesting decisions and a very little bluffing. I like the theme, I like the way everything works, and while it's true that you might be doing lots of math in your head during the game, I don't have a problem with that when the game is so good. I just had to realise I really envy
who is one of the most known Reiner Knizia playtesters BGG-wide and whose name I can find in the end of the rules of Automobile and London as well... I want to be a Knizia/Wallace playtester too! 7.8
SoRCon 8 27 Feb - 1 Mar 2015 Basildon UK http://www.sorcon.co.uk Essex Games 27 Jul '15
In some ways it felt like a "7 Wonders for gamers" game to me, as you have 3 decks of cards following each other and being different (in 7W you won't find resources in the third deck; here you need to get your money from the first two decks); you are forced to give away cards knowing that the next player can pick up and you can experience with different strategies as there are obviously several ways to collect points and win. London also reminds me of Oltre Mare and Condottiere in that while it has a board, the board has only a secondary role in the game that feels more like a card game. I wouldn't say London feels as elegant as Automobile does but it's actually quite fun, especially after you start to know the cards. But luckily it's a good game even before that (I was afraid it's going to be an experience like Race for the Galaxy which is said to be fun after your 5-10th play when you start to learn the cards - I don't want to play 4 to 9 times with a game I don't enjoy, hoping I would enjoy it afterwards). So, all in all, I like it and want to explore it more. 7.3
I don't know what to say: it's a civilization game with surprisingly few rules or a very simple card game with a surprising amount of theme added. Armorica is a simple filler game where you attract Gauls and Romans to Bretagne, collect different resources, food, money, feed your people each year (and if you can't feed some then they die), and all this in a game with about 5 sentences of rules and a 20-minute playing time. Actually as for the mechanism, it's nothing special and even during play you don't feel it's special but it works and I have no objection to playing it anytime between two heavier games.6.7
Tal der Abenteuer: Die Schatzsuche im Himalaja 1x
The board game adaptation (doing the Lost Cities routine) of Honeybears/Bucket Brigade is a fine adventure game for kids who go to elementary school. It's a bit too light and luck-dependent for adults but I'm happy to own it and am willing to play it a lot with my children when they become the right age group for this. As a game for adults I wouldn't rate it too high (maybe 6.5ish) but as a game for its intended age group it's really fine (7.5ish). Too bad the rulebook (at least in the Hungarian edition) was totally messed up by the publisher.
+1: Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game 0.3x
After a "half" game, I like it (we spent a night learning the rules and playing the "learning game" which ends when a player has built its third city). It seems to be a really good adaptation of the PC game. The problem might be that the PC game is already too complex and too long, a bit monotonous for its own good; I'm not sure it's going to be good to play it for 5 hours and spend lots of time waiting for others.
Right now I like it (7.5ish) but if it proves to be too repetitive and long I'm going to rate it lower (and let you know in Grimwold's geeklist).
St. Dogbert on the playing field.
I played five games for the first time in February. All the games I played in the month are discussed on my BGG Blog: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/847/games-played-in-fe...
My favorite of the new games which just beat out the second game. I like the way Vlad the Repeater has integrated multiple auctions of different types in this game.
I might have rated this higher if the rules were a little clearer. So far we’ve been having fun.
Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game
My friend Mike bought this because his wife said she would like to try it out. We play Arkham Horror quite a bit and this fits into that genre. I didn’t think I would like it, but there are just enough decisions and the randomness is thematic enough and not too extreme.
Commands & Colors: Napoleonics
I was really disappointed in this and might be trading my copy away.
I have to hold my opinion on this because we missed the rule about discarding your attackers after each attack. I am looking forward to trying it again, though it looks like I’ll have to wait a month before that happens.
When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
I played 10 new to me games this month (thats a lot for me). A friend has us over and brought the this out. We played two games and by the end of the second game my wife and both daughters were asking me to buy a copy of my own. This one has the potential to be a 10 rating.
I also played Railways of the World (technically new-to-me as I have previously played Railroad Tycoon, solid 9), Ticket to Ride:Nordic Countries (8 to 9 rating), Frag (8 rating), Mississippi Queen (6 rating), Imperial(6 rating), Aargh!tect (5 or 6), Pow Wow (5 or 6), Zombie In My Pocket (4 rating), and Tomb:Cryptmaster (4 rating).
A nice, relatively light (for a Wallace) game which I enjoyed playing at the inaugral Edinburgh Sunday night gaming gathering. The timing mechanism, whereby taking the 'best' action means you may be waiting a while for your next turn, is particularly neat. Due to sheer luck (selling my stuff when the price happened to have peaked) meant I even won!
On the same evening I also enjoyed Mosaix, a neat little abstract in which you roll dice to generate shapes which you draw on yoru board, aiming to make groups of the same shape - but you can only put them on in the same configuration as the person whose turn it is. In theory this could lead to deliberate blocking plays, in practice I think we were all too busy trying to score ourselves to attempt to get at anyone else!
Both fun games which I would be happy to play again at some point.
♫ Eric Herman ♫
I like elephants. I like how they swing through trees.
Mousquetaires du Roy is a very solid semi-cooperative game, with elements similar to Ghost Stories, Lord of the Rings and Shadows Over Camelot, but also original. I was quite surprised with this one. There's dice combat, character upgrades, quests, miniatures and a lot of nice thematic detail throughout. This is from Ystari, btw, not FFG.
Not bad, but nothing earth-shatteringly awesome, either. Doesn't live up to the hype for me, though I did enjoy it and will look forward to playing it again.
D&D: Wrath of Ashardalon
Quite good for what it is. Simple but fun dungeon crawling.
Conquest of Planet Earth
I only tried the solo/cooperative version, and it might very well be amusing in the competitive multiplayer version, but it seems very repetitive and just doesn't grab me at all.
Rory's Story Cubes
Not sure I'd call this a game so much as a creativity exercise, but my girls and I have been having fun with this.
An old Wolfgang Kramer cooperative game. Very reminiscent of Max, and quite difficult.
Eugene van der Pijll
Best new game:
Imperial 2030. The operational part of the game is similar to that in Antike, and is therefore quite interesting. The stock market is reminiscent of an 18xx, except that the increasing sizes of the stock certificates guarantee that the possession of the countries will move amongst the players. I enjoyed this, even though it was not clear at first sight what the best strategies in this game are.
Other new games:
The Great Fire of London 1666. Good game. Feels a little bit like a cooperative game, but at the same time it's very nasty. We played with public player colours; I suspect that hidden colours would make this game more chaotic.
Memo Street. Combines the best parts of Yahtzee and Memory. That's not enough to make it a good game though. It seemed like you never had to remember more than two or three tiles, because the otehr ones would be gone before your turn, and luck was therefore more important than a good memory.
Clash of the Gladiators. Dicefest, with a high level of randomness. If you're the first one to lose a couple of gladiators, you're too week to defeat your opponents, and so you're out of the game soon. This happened to me, and I hated the rest of the game. The setup could have been interesting, if we had any idea what we were doing. Perhaps in a second game, this would be more interesting, but this is one game I'll never play again.
Hi Ho! Cherry-O. A friend of mine recently discovered this game from her youth, so at her request I took this with me to a game night. (I owned this as a child, but I don't recall ever playing it.) The daughter of another friend (about 8 years old) said that she liked Diamant (another game we played that night) better. She's right, of course: this is an awful game.
Glad I got to play this neat, fun filler this weekend so I didn't have to pick a game I didn't really enjoy as my "Best new game" by default.
Cheeky Monkey is fast, portable and has great interactive moments like all good push-your-luck games. Added to my Wishlist.
My other new game this month? The one I was hoping I wouldn't have to post? I assume I'm going to get flamed for this, but it's Yomi. Guess I outgrew my arcade beat em up phase, and despite interesting seeming mechanics, I found this one more than a little fiddly. If I'm playing a RPS fighting game, I'll stick with the simple (if symmetrical) print and play game Punch!, thanks.
Also, I finally added Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 for the first time. This is the kind of expansion I like - simple upgrades and additions which do not overly alter a game I'm already enjoying. Good stuff.
Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
Solid game. I have not played a lot of CDG but I can tell this one is special. Seems fairly balanced, although I feel the cards favor Carthage. But that may just have been my one play and looking at it through (what is the opposite of rose) colored glasses.
The game is tight; but there can be wild swings in fate. Many of the events are extremely situational, but if the situation exists, they can be hugely powerful. So these events are really hit or miss. Then there is the fate of the dice, where there are situations where you roll for losses (attrition, retreat, crossing the alps) and the one die roll will result in you losing from 0%-50% of your army. A bad roll here can cripple your ability to wage war.
I thought this was a wargame; until I played it. It is a Euro with conflict pure and simple. The cube tower is awesome; by simply dropping cubes in the tower battles are won and lost, casualties are assessed, and the tower is seeded for future endeavors. Te "fairness" of the system becomes evident as poor performance in one battle is often rewarded later. Kudos to the designer on that one. The rest of the game is a funny little exercise in balancing production of food and gold evenly to prevent uprisings. The area control mechanic encourages aggression but the Euro shows its colors by awarding VP's based on control of temples, theatres and castles that players can build. A solid game I would readily play and recommend.
Mansions of Madness
Co-op with Gamemaster horror game. It uses an "overlord" similar to Descent to run the baddies and the plot. The other player characters play the role of adventurers taken from FFG's Arkham Horror game. Players explore a modular mansion to find clues on how to stop....something. As they explore, stuff happens and the adventurers get more and more freaked out as measured by sanity tokens. They will most likely also be taking wounds as maniac or zombies or some other horror gnaws/claws/chops/bites the heroes. The heroes can move, and then get an action which can be run, explore, use and item or attack. The "overlord" can then act, moving attacking and other stuff. I don't know what the other stuff is as I only played a hero while someone else ran the overlord.
Unlike both Arkham Horror and Descent, this one can be played in 2 hours. It has ample replayability by building in a random set-up element in addition to the modular board. The combat is largely diceless although there is ample D10 based skill checks. These skill checks can range from attacking to entering a burning room. The game played quickly, was immersive and had an interesting story. I can see this game gathering a following similar to Arkham Horror.
Age of Industry
Age of Industry was met with much anticipation by many and disdain by a few. It is significantly more approachable than Brass but lacks the fire of its predecessor. Martin Wallace tried to distill the greatness of Brass into a package that everyone could enjoy, but it is like taking a marvelous Bordeaux and turning it into a wine cooler. Fresh and enjoyable; but inevitably pedestrian.
Yomi! Fun little card game. Too much text on the special cards for casual play and not deep enough for extended play. The ten decks do offer much diversity so I suppose if you got hooked it could get immersive enough so the text becomes second nature. I need to play this more in order to firm up my opinion of it.
Interesting tile laying game. Like many Euros it is glorified solitaire with the player interactions limited to scoring, using the market, and tile selection. The tile selection mechanic is interesting. But planning is limited to hoping another player doesn't take the tile you are interested in. It is interesting and unique and deserves more play, but not something I am excited about.
Silly little filler card game. It's all about capturing merchant ships full of gold with pirate ships. All of these are represented by cards It's a kind of gamble, push your luck-ish card game. Works as a filler.
Two new games to me this month: one I've owned for ages, and one I got from my latest Secret Santa. The place of pride has to go to Here I Stand. Cracking game, bloody long but well worth it. Had to travel to London for it, and have had it for about 4 or 5 years without it being played. But my gods, it's good. I really have to get some people locally excited about it.
The other one was from my Secret Santa, and I'm very happy with it:
Chaos in the Old World
First game tonight, and it was a very close run thing. We were on the last turn, three of us reached dial victories, and the Tzeentch player won on points (made it to 49). I can see how this game it likely to be coming back a lot and getting played more, especially as I'd really like to play the other powers and see how they work.
Board Game: Troyes
[Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:51]
This months pick is pretty much a 'by default' result as the only new to me game this month is Troyes
To be fair I enjoyed the game and it may well have been a worthy winner even with competition. I find myself liking the dice-as-workers brand of worker placement games (Alien Frontiers is king there for me) and Troyes is no exception. I like the fact that it's very different than the other games that utilise the mechanic and, whilst rolling high is good, there are ways to mitigate the luck of the dice. The game hangs together well and I'd be more than happy to play it again.
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
Lately my tastes have been moving more and more towards interaction and away from logistics and optimisation. I want to play the players, not the game, and so I'm always keeping an eye out for games that are noted as particularly interactive. Tammany Hall was one such game, but seemed difficult to get hold of in the UK at a sensible price. Fortunately, the UK maths trade came to my rescue, and I obtained a copy of TH for Chicago Express (a game I still like and respect, but don't play because it needs a committed group of experience players to get the most out of it).
I've brought it to the table once so far, at London on Board with a full complement of five players. And it was everything I hoped it would be and more! In essence, it's a double-level area control game, like another favourite of mine, King of Siam. There are two types of pieces on the board - player pieces ('ward bosses') and ethnic factions (Irish, English, German and Italian), which the players can gain and exert control over.
The rules are pretty simple - there are four terms, each of which consists of four rounds of placing bosses and immigrants, followed by an 'election'. Each ward is resolved in turn, with bosses counting as a certain vote, supplemented by blind bids of influence corresponding to the types of immigrants present in the ward. The two levels of influence are tied together because each player counts the number of immigrant cubes in the wards they won, and the majority of each type is rewarded with more influence over that group for future elections.
For us, the game started quite gently - we each seemed to be focusing mainly one one immigrant community (leaving one player squeezed out) and many of the wards were uncontested. But after that things started getting savage. The player who wins most wards each term becomes the Mayor: a blessing and a curse, because it comes with 3VP (out of winning scores of around 20), but he must give each of the other players a significant special power. These powers allow areas to be locked down (like the King in El Grande) and immigrants to be turfed out or relocated, changing who can access wards. And then there's also the 'slander' action which allows bosses to be booted out too. You have to be constantly thinking about the other players and what they're going to do, and making sure you don't let anyone get away with too easy a ride.
I'm not always a fan of blind bidding, but here it works really well. It's an all-pay auction, and the influence chips are valuable, so you can't afford to just chuck a load in. There's a lot of bluffing and doublethink, and one player showed great guts by bidding an empty hand twice running and getting away with it. In the last election, things become more calculable, and the game slows down a bit, but I still felt tense all the way through. It's a gorgeous looking map (2nd edition) and the theme and mechanics are very well integrated. I can't wait to play again! 8
I'm not sure it makes sense to rate High Frontier on the same scale as other games; it's certainly not interested in conventional criteria like elegance and balance. I was a bit wary of giving up my Sunday gaming to it as I tend to zone out of multi-hour games, esepcially ones where no one quite has a firm grip on the rules. But we followed advice on the 'geek to stick with the fast-start basic game and all diligently studied the rules and walkthrough. And it turned out to not only be shorter than I'd feared (about 3 hours) but also hugely immersive and engaging.
I've never encountered a game where at the start it seems so damn difficult to do anything, let alone explore the outer reaches of the solar system. At times it felt more like a support group than a competition, each of us helping out with tips for the others. But all this difficulty means that when you do finally put a successful mission together it's immensely satisfying. If you were rating it like just another Euro, there are all kinds of things that could be criticised - the insanely powerful Zubrin rocket I ended up with by chance, the single dice roll that crashed and burned a mission that had been hours in the planning. But this is anything but just another Euro, as you can see from the enthralling forum replies where Phil Eklund answers rules queries *by reference to the actual astrophysics*. If I have to give a number, it's a 7, but honestly, this is so much at odds to most games I've played it's more like an i.
Lords of Vegas has been criticised for having too much luck, which seems a bit like criticising Agricola for having too many sheep. I really enjoyed the probability management puzzles it poses. It uses its many dice very well, and being able to gamble for the one extra dollar you need is delightful. Definite elements of Acquire, and while it isn't as polished as that timeless classic, it's an interactive, amusing way to spend an hour or so. 7
Next come two alea games, both of which revolve around psychology and second-guessing. Edel, Stein & Reich has a clever action selection system where each player has the same three choices to pick from simultaneously. If you're the only one picking an action, you get to do it, but if two of you choose the same one a bidding war starts. Special cards and a majority scoring system are used to give the players different incentives, which allows you to try to predict what the others are going to do. The system for resolving the bids is neat too, with players alternating escalating bids until someone accepts. 7
Witch's Brew also features secret role selection, this time with players picking five from their (identical) sets of twelve actions at the start of a round. There's a push-your-luck element, as once a player has led a role that you've also selected, you can settle for an inferior version of the role or try for the full version at the risk of someone further round the table doing the same to you. The theme's a bit uninspiring and we didn't get to finish the game, but I'd like to try it again soon. Provisional 7
The main reason I bought Rage was that a deck of 0-10 in six suits can be used for lots of other games, but it turns out the game itself is decent too. It's actually very similar to a standard-deck game I used to play with university friends, which we knew as "Blob" but I now realise is a version of Oh Hell. I'm a big fan of trick taking games and while I thought the special cards would add irritating amounts of chaos, they're actually rare and interesting enough to work fine. 6
The Resistance is the latest hidden identity/deduction game and all the rage at London on Board at the moment. I think it's a smart design and a sensible length, but I'm just so bad at it that I can't really enjoy it. 6
Finally, Survive: Escape from Atlantis! is a beautifully produced but fairly shallow game that many people seem to remember fondly from their childhood. I'd play again, but I wouldn't seek it out. 6
And a late breaking update, from tonight's London on Board. Before the Wind was my other acquisition in the maths trade (for my 2008 Acquire that I've replaced with a superior 70s version). It suffered from following two raucous games of Cosmic Encounter and didn't go down well. The action selection is interesting but very counterintuitive (you offered me 5 to buy my action? Nope, that other guy offered 3 so I'll pay him and keep it) but the main problem was that the game ran much too long. At 45-60 mins it would have been a fine, fairly interactive auction card game. At 2 hours (including rules explanation) it was a grind, and we actually called it after three rounds even though no one had quite reached 50 points (49 and 47 were the top scores). Would like to try again before I write it off though, there were some good ideas. 6 for now.
Board Game: Luna
[Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:295]
Stefan Feld first caught my attention with 2007 hit Notre Dame, only to wipe-out big-time with In the Year of the Dragon and Macao. I was prepared to pass over Luna altogether, but my curiosity got the better of me as I read about the incredibly oddball theme.
Luna speaks to me in a lot of ways, at least during the initial encounter. The menu of available actions is wide open. Constraints are fairly low; possibilities appear extensive. The premise is fresh and charming, as players maneuver their religious order to be next in line for the title of "moon priestess." There's even a character who prowls the board much like Severus Snape, scattering dutiful novices before him. Luna stands out because the concept behind it is actually original. It's neither historical in nature nor composed of lifeless fantasy cliches. As a result it can be a bit disorienting, but I found myself increasingly immersed in the idea of a strange, mystical people who lived on and in the water, worshiping the moon. That's not really the kind of thing I've come to expect from contemporary strategy games.
Purely as a game, Luna boils down to action efficiency. There are a lot of different ways to do things, and each of these ways can be upgraded so that the cost to do them is halved (which nicely contrasts with many games where the effect itself is boosted). My one reservation here is that the standard for measuring one set of actions against another seems a bit too straightforward. The game's initial vastness shrinks down alarmingly quickly during that first play. However, Luna also includes an expert setup that lets players determine their starting positions on the board, and that might be just enough to give it legs.
I enjoyed Luna. It seems like a big risk for Feld and Hall Games. On the surface there is no question that it's my sort of game. Time will tell if the imperative for efficiency ends up radically oversimplifying the whole thing.
Much like Stefan Feld, Mac Gerdts is another accomplished designer whose games have rarely become personal favorites of mine. I enjoy the black sheep of his Rondel series, The Princes of Machu Picchu, and avoid the rest.
So once again, I was all set to give Navegador a pass. Some of my friends thought it seemed like my sort of thing, though, so I gave it a try. To my surprise, the game features a superb double-sided market that fosters a wonderful player-driven economy. Some players drive prices up, some down, and everyone attends closely to the currents around the table and tries to be in the most exploitable position. In that sense, Navegador shares something in common with Container.
After two plays, though, I'm not sure I like anything else about the game. As usual, the rondel functions simply to enforce counter-intuitive / arbitrary sequencing on player actions. As usual, the "spin-cycle" style of play emerges, with players doing roughly the same things in roughly the same order, over and over and over. I'm also dubious of how the game is won. Players simply divide up a pie, placing each other under scrutiny and trying to make sure their slice is a teensy bit larger than everyone else's. The winning strategy in Navegador is always the underrepresented strategy. Let one player get too much of something too cheaply, and it's game over. I think that's supposed to create delicious tension and fascinating push-pull, but in practice it bores me.
I enjoy finding my place in the economy. I'm underwhelmed by the laser-cutting of the game's VP-pie. I do think this is a better fit for me than Hamburgum or Imperial.
A lot of people played this growing up, but prior to BGG I'd never heard of it. I actually played an original copy, not the recent reprint displayed here.
Survive is a light-hearted romp of a game. It defines the phrase "ahead of its time," with real decisions worked into a style of game that often had none. Players begin with a bunch of their people scrambling to get off a sinking island, and as they row toward safety, sharks, serpents, and even whales all threaten their survival. There's a mean-streak to the game, as players often send each other's people to a watery grave. That part isn't heavy handed, though, and makes for lots of laughter at the table. There's also an unwelcome memory element to the game, but fortunately it doesn't crowd out the fun.
Ultimately it's a great family game where things are constantly going wrong in an outrageous situation, but good choices matter. I'd be glad to play it again sometime.
Nottingham is essentially a no-trading version of the Rosenberg's more well-known title Bohnanza.
Both games are about card-flow. In this one players are trying to collect sets and keep their hand size at or below a minimum that shifts every time someone scores. Traps can be set for other players, potentially delaying their attempt to score, and each of the game's suits is associated with a special action. Some suits allow you to auction off cards, some allow you to steal cards, etc.
A simple but well-designed 30 minute card game. Not in the same league as Cat5 or For Sale, but not too far off, either.
1024x768 works just fine - Don't Wide the Site!
The Back Alley gets no respect.
Turned out that almost everything I played this month was either new to me or, in one case, new because I was playing it the right way (ie, not 2-player mode). Here are the new entries
Jump Gate 4 plays
This is GAMES Magazine's game of the year and its not bad. It's a "strategy game" in that it's way, way, way beyond the average world citizen in terms of difficulty and interest level. But for BGGers, it's pretty tame. Go around the universe snaring stuff off planets until there's nothing left to take. Tally points. See who wins. Certainly short and pleasant enough to play pretty much any time. Not sure that it has long term strategic interest (ie, do you really have that much control?). But I give it a
Where in the World? 3 plays
Played this (or read the rules) years ago and picked it up at a thrift store. Kids like it and we learn geography. Win win. I like maps. Therefore, I enjoy this game. However, it's more an exercise than a game, in the same sense that Trivial Pursuit is an exercise in knowledge displays.
Ballot Bots 1 play
Stephen Glenn gave me this game years ago and I read the rules and wanted to play. I finally got a chance when I went to PrezCon last weekend. It's short and you can play semi-mindlessly and still do well. I like that in a game. Oh, I did win.
Cyrano 1 play
I've wanted to play this since I first put it on my wishlist. Well, I got to this weekend. I liked it, but it's surely not for everyone. You're job is to write four-line rhymes (some call them poems) using rhyming words (ending is dictated by cards) which no one else uses. Then you all vote on the most enchanting poem. I think it probably works best with fewer players, though it was certainly fun with six or seven or whatever we had playing. Drew some interest from the grognards at PrezCon who had never seen such.
Fictionaire 1 play
I had high hopes for this game, but it just doesn't make it (can't we say that about all Days of Wonder games except for the Ticket to Ride series?). It's semi-Balderdashy, but one person must read the answer off the card and everyone else must make something up. No paper involved, so that's good. But if someone is having "writer's block," they can pass and that sends the round to hell in a handbasket.
Finger Baseball 1 play
This game is just like Crokinole or Spinball or any other massive dexterity game. You enjoy it while you play, but would never bring it out regularly. Just too big for its own good. I learned the game at the PrezCon tournament, played once (won 4-0 in something like 18 minutes) and left. That was enough. Plenty fun, but not something to spend time with.
Last Word 1 play
This is a more traditional party game than I usually play. By that, I mean that most non-gamers would love this to death and ask where they can get a copy. For gamer party gamers, it's less impressive. That's due to the fact that players scream out answers of dubious merit and keep moving against a very short random clock. So there's no real time to reflect on the answers and tell people when they're full of crap. Too little time for that. I think you could do that sort of thing better with just 3 or 4 players, and then it might be even better (but less fun to non-gamers).
Merv Griffin's Crosswords 1 play
Oh, dreadful. It's just a crossword that you do in turns, and your opponent(s) can steal your money if you miss and they figure out the right answer. Doing a joint crossword is plenty fun. Turning it into a boxed game is not.
The Origin Of Expressions 1 play
This is nothing more than Wish & Otherwise (Balderdash) with a category of cliche origins. To me, that makes it exactly the same as W&O. Others think otherwise. Anyway, nothing bad and nothing extra special.
Prolix 1 play
I played this 2-player once before, but that's a mistake. Not a good 2-player game. Now I've played with 5 and I liked it, but it's a bit frantic and fiddly. It reads like a great game, and it's fun to play at a leisurely pace via BGG forum or GeekList. But at the table, with true interrupts and stress and such, it's a bit much. I had hoped it would be better.
In the end, it comes down to a close call between Cyrano (based largely on further potential) and Jump Gate (based four plays that were fun). Tossing bones and salt and looking to the planetary alignments, I will have to go with potential over above-average experiences and say Cyrano is my best new game of the month.
A month of playing old classics for the first time for me.
1. Top spot goes to You're Bluffing!. When you read the rules it sounds like there isn't much to the game, but this game is great fun! It's one of those games that after the first time you play you say "Okay, now I know what I should have done" because the strategies are subtle.
Plays: 2 Rating: 8 (out of 10)
2. Ticket to Ride: Märklin took the #2 spot for me. The addition of the passengers creates a bit of an incentive to not hoard cards at the beginning of the game, like vanilla TtR, which helps the early game not seem so boring. (It's still boring, just not as much as vanilla TtR)
Plays: 1 Rating: 8 (out of 10)
3. My third favorite new game of the month was Colosseum. I'm not sure how this would hold up after repeated plays but I really enjoyed my one play.
Plays: 1 Rating: 7 (out of 10)
4. Aquaretto came in 4th for me. I've been long familiar with this family of games, having watched them being played many times, but this was the first time I played for myself. We played with 3 players, and I think this is probably not the optimum number of players for this game. One of the players happened to end up collecting an animal uncontested and won handily.
Plays: 1 Rating: 7
Board Game: Tikal
[Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:163]
Got in quite a few new games this month. The best was:
Tikal: What a great game. I've only gotten in one play, towards the end of this month, but I really want to get it out again. It's really everything that a good Euro should be: Relatively easy to learn and simple rules that come together in a nice-looking, lightly-themed, fairly interactive, and deeply strategic package.
Bananagrams: After seeing this one just about everywhere for a year or so now, I finally gave it a shot with my tween-aged nieces. We played about 8 games in a row, which means it was a lot of fun. I really like word games, and this is fast and frantic, just like I like 'em. Fits right in with my love for Prolix and Scrabble Slam!.
Take the Cake: After Go Away Monster! was a huge hit with my 20-month old, I wanted to try out another game. She'll probably grow into this one, but I pushed it too soon. She can usually get the idea of matching sprinkles with cupcakes, but she gets frustrated with it after a few turns and starts throwing pieces on the floor.
Anomia My wife got me this party game for my birthday. It's fun. Basic idea: Each player, by turn, draws a card and places it in front of them. Each card has a category (e.g. "vegetable" or "toothpaste brand") and a symbol. As soon as two players have cards with matching symbols in front of them, it's a race between them to name something from the category on the other player's card. Then they take that card, revealing the card under, possibly leading to another faceoff. It's frantic fun.
Ratuki: The theme this month seems to be light, fast, and fun. Ratuki fits right in. It's real time game like Scrabble SLAM, but not a word game. Instead, you lay down numbered cards in forward or backward sequential order. As soon as somebody puts down a 5 or a wild Ratuki card, they get the pile. Your score at the end of the round is your score pile cards minus the number of cards left in your draw pile. Simple, stupid, fun.
Haggis: Here's another that's got some more meat to it. Haggis is an enjoyably infuriating climbing game. I've only played one game, but it was enough to make me want to bring it out again.