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New to you Mar 11 => Best new game you played this month and why
Andy
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Stockport
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What new board and card games did you play in Mar 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): March 2011
New to Your Kids March 2011 - Best New Games You've Played with Kids and Why
New To You Mar 2011 => Your best new Videogame
Your best gaming experience of the month and why March 11
New to you a year ago Mar 11 => Has it stood the test of time?
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76. Board Game: Mansions of Madness [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:149]
Brandon
United States
Christiansburg
Virginia
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The best in messing-with-people's-minds boardgaming.
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77. Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:173]
Mark crane
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Provo
Utah
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I played this with one of my kids, the eleven-year-old, and my wife. It's not horribly complex, and there are some choices to make, but I look forward to the viciousness that my 14-year-old will bring to the game.
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78. Board Game: The Speicherstadt [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:396]
Steve Duff
Canada
Ottawa
Ontario
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Made a concentrated effort to get some new games in late.

And the winner is...

The Speicherstadt
Plays: 2
Preliminary rating: 7.5


Bidding game, where you bid on contracts, and ships of random goods, in an attempt to fulfill those contracts and earn points. Other cards allow you to turn goods into cash if they don't fit your contracts, or provide other ways to earn points.

Very interesting bidding system where the price of a card is based on the number of meeples placed in the queue to purchase it. So, if there are 4 meeples waiting, the price is 4 bucks to the first meeple in line. If the player that owns that meeple can't afford it, or doesn't want to pay that much, they can remove their guy and walk away. This means there's now 3 remaining, so the 2nd meeple in line now has the opportunity to buy the card for 3 bucks. If he walks away, price is 2 bucks to third in line, and so on.

This can lead to some sneaky play, for example if player A currently has a meeple on a card, player B can come along and place a meeple behind him to raise the price. In fact, he could do this three times, raising the price to 4 bucks. If A should walk away, then B can walk away twice, and buy the card with his third meeple for 1 buck.

Money is extremely tight, as income per round per player is just 1 buck. Since you rarely win anything for that low, most players only ever seem to have 1 or 2 bucks on hand. If you don't win any cards in a round, you are compensated by getting income of 2 bucks instead of 1. Woohoo.

This is another excellent Stefan Feld design. It's lighter than Macao and Luna, but I like it a lot.

Venture
Plays: 2
Preliminary rating: 6.5


Old Sid Sackson set collection card game, where you buy cards and try and arrange them into sets. The trick is that the cheaper the card, the less flexible it is. The cheapest card has a single letter on it, A, B, C etc, and can only be grouped with other cards that share the same letter. The most expensive cards have 5 letters, allowing them to be grouped with almost anything. It's also possible (but expensive) to completely re-arrange your cards, should later acquisitions make better groupings available, or you wish to hide a card at the bottom of a pile from an opponent. Because...

There's some real "take that" as many of the cards in the money deck allow you to simply purchase a card from an opponent's stacks, and put it on yours. And they receive nothing for this, as you put the money in the discard pile, rather than give it to the person you stole from! The first time it happens to you, it's "WHAT?!" angry

Venture has many of the typical "Sacksonisms", as money and scoring climb when grouped. For example, a set of 3 cards with the same letter is 1 point, 4 cards is 3 points, 5 cards 8 points, and 6 cards 20 points. Similarly, the money also groups, if you can get the right cards. A 1 and 3 combine to be 16 instead of 4, if they have the same symbol. Add a 5, and they combine to 32 instead of 9. This leads to tense decisions as you have to worry about spending the cash you have, vs drawing the right cards that could make the money you have worth a lot more than it is now.

Mykerinos
Plays: 1
Preliminary rating: 6


Double area control game, where you place markers on plots of land. The most markers on the land cards wins them, or allows the player to place a marker on a multiplier in the museum, which makes your cards worth more. The plots of land also serve as special characters, which allows you certain abilities when placing markers on plots in later rounds, such as placing more markers than usual, placing in normally unavailable areas, etc.

Decent game, but nothing super special. In general, these kind of abstract-y area control games aren't my favourites.

caravan caravan caravan

Cargo Noir
Preliminary rating: 5.5


This is a re-visit of last month's entry, because we played it incorrectly.

Simple bidding, set collection game. You have a limited number of actions, where you either bid, raise, or drop out of an area which contains a random set of goods. Other actions allow you to get more cash, to exchange one good for another to help make sets, or randomly grab goods from the bag.

Correcting our rules error definitely fixes the problem of repeatedly going to the black market, randomly drawing from the bag, and handing in easy sets of miscellaneous 9. However, my feelings really haven't changed much about the game. It's better than it was, but it's still just an average game. Preliminary Rating raised half a point.
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79. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:49]
Jonathan Er
Singapore
Singapore
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wow, its been a month already ? that's fast
time really does fly when you're having fun ( playing games ! )

got to play a few new old games. if that makes sense

best of the lot would be Stone Age
i liked the dice rolling and the sometimes tough decisions on what to do. played a full 4 player game ( came out 1st ! )
would actually consider added it to my collection if not for the fact that there are alot of other 4 player games i also want to get. shake



another game that almost overtook stone age for 1st was Affentennis ! i really enjoyed it but i felt that your opponent must really be on the same par as you to both fully enjoy the game ( kinda like tennis really, wow ! it simulates that as well ! )

i got it from my Secret Santa 2010 and had 2 plays this month. would like to table it again


also got to play Steam. i'm not really a big fan of big train games ( TTR does not count ). but i kinda did like steam somewhat. it wasnt as complicated as i thought but i felt that the player that goes last has quite a disadvantage on the cities that he can connect to. most of the short good central connections are gone by then. we played 5 players.


just to sum up the rest, managed to also play Coloretto, Shark, Ticket to Ride: Alvin & Dexter, and Telestrations

my friends and i we loved telestrations. great party game for 8 and i will take it out again when i have that many people

i found shark and coloretto to be OK.

as for Alvin & Dexter, i totally played it with the wrong crowd. my friends were non direct conflict people. and kept sending them away from where everyone was. keeping everyone safe. really ?

"thats no fun. let me bring it somewhere crowded, like you know, Berlin or something."
cue dirty evil looks from everyone else

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80. Board Game: Lifeboats [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:891]
Luke Morris
England
Faversham
Kent
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My only new game this month was Lifeboats.
We played it pretty late at night (finished about 12:30/1am maybe?)

Five of us played, my mate Greg was being particularly sneaky and I was accusing him of being like the little devil sitting on someone's shoulder. He was smart though, getting people to help him out and teamed up with Tina who helped him move his boat closer to the island as well as sink a boat with two of my guys in....and then BOOM! He double crossed her and her swimmer couldn't get into another boat so drowned, then the boat she left (which still had two of her sailors) then sank because of leaks so because of Greg's choice she lost three guys in about ten seconds!

Last turn it was between Greg and my wife for the victory and I jumped a guy onto Greg's powerful boat and the two of us voted it forwards and I got my guys onto the island....and somehow WON, which I didn't expect at all. I got 26, Greg 24, Dustin 20, the mrs 18 and Tina got 6.



Dustin immediately wanted to play it again (I vetoed because of the time and the possibility of stress kicking in late at night for people) and the wife said she didn't like it the next morning....then said that she wanted to play it again a bit later in the day. laugh
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81. Board Game: Das letzte Paradies [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:8292]
William Bussick
United States
Reno
Nevada
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5 new games this month...another sparse month, but that's okay.

BEST

Das letzte Paradies: This silly, little, forgotten Knizia game was pretty damn entertaining. The Vickrey auctions are fun. The game is a terrific length and has great rules. It has a ridiculously large and misshapen box, but that's the worst part of it. I tracked down my own copy already!

THE REST (most liked first)

Mord im Arosa: Really innovative. It's unlike anything I've played. Well, perhaps Igloo Pop is closest. The game wasn't as much fun as the mechanic, so I'm not sure what the replay value would be.

Cargo Noir: Not as exciting as I hoped. The production quality is nothing short of fantastic, but the game is kinda boring. Nothing to do between turns, and there is some downtime.

The Great Fire of London 1666: Slow game that didn't seem that much fun. Destruction is always entertaining, but having your men oversee the fire brigade is dull. I'd rather play two games of Downfall of Pompeii instead of this.

Akaba: I like how they use two dice as a timer, but real-time games with memory aren't my bag. Don't see too many "blowing" games around, so it has that going for it. My daughter liked it well enough, though.
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82. Board Game: Princes of the Dragon Throne [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:5848]
 
Randall Bart
United States
Winnetka
California
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I had some days I didn't play because my car was in the shop. I had some days I was being a news junky watching Japan news. And I had days when I was introducing Aquädukt to people. At the end of the month I discover I played one new game.

Princes of the Dragon Thronethumbsupthumbsup (prototype)
This is a coming Clever Mojo release, but if it sucked I would say so. In fact this game evolved from Dragon Frenzy, which sucked. This game has virtually nothing to do with Dragon Frenzy, except it has a dragon. This is a deck building game where you all play a Dragon Princes, and you are trying to fill your deck with mean dragons and other nasty effects so that you can defeat the dragon king (your father). It's a multi dimension economy with gold (to pay villagers and bribe dragons), sheep (to feed dragons), and dragons (to fight other dragons and eventually fight the king). As soon as they fix the final battle this will be a very good little card game.
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83. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:9]
Steve Kearon
United Kingdom
Cardiff
Wales
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The Castles of Burgundy (8 plays) thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup

I'm starting to wonder if Stefan Brück of alea has a photo of me on his wall. Over the last 5 years, he's developed one game after another that is spot on for my taste in games - resource juggling, prioritising choices, denying your opponents opportunities. Competitive building. Just do it. Better, faster, bigger, fewer screw-ups. Of course, many of these games have been designed by Stefan Feld, but not all of them.

With the Castles of Burgundy, alea takes their SteveK2 fixation to a new, unexpected, level: alea now publishes multilingual games (or at least DE,EN,FR). No need for a 9-month wait for a sometimes dubious translation! No need for translation cribsheets!

So how's the game? Brilliant. Typical alea. I want to do this, this & this. Unfortunately, I can only do that. A quick look up. I'd best take that now because it probably won't be there next turn.

Not a cube shuffler (no cubes!). It's a tile laying game. You gather tiles, you store them, you place them. Restrictions & constraints everywhere.

Timing matters. Sometimes you want turn-order position, sometimes you want to grab goods. Sometimes you want to complete an area to earn a bonus tile.

Cash matters - with cashflow, you could obtain another tile every round.

Storage matters: you have a 3-tile store - all tiles have to go through that store before being placed.

Workers matter - your two actions per turn are partially dictated by dice. Workers allow you to tweak die values (including 6/1 rollover).

A great small-footprint game where the combined central board plus four A4 player boards fit conveniently on a table.

Vernissage (2 plays) thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup

A (relatively) forgotten old Teuber game that has that gaudy cartoon feel of 90s German games, but feels quite unusual. Essentially, a stock-market game based on artists & their works, you’re aiming to get artworks, make "your" artists more valuable and decrease the value of other artists. Bluff, negotiation, dicey-fighting, cashflow management, a little memory - everyone is involved all the time. Great fun.

Airlines Europe (3 plays) thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup

Union Pacific Revisited. Slicker. Quicker. Smoother. Great improvements that work really well. Two litle niggles: the red & orange pieces are a bit too similar for comfort. How come 1930s airlines are using 21st Century currency?!?

Maria (1 play) thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup

Three newbies playing the introductory game. None of us had even played Friedrich. We enjoyed it, despite (because?) making a bunch of dumb mistakes we’ve learned not to make next time. Hoping to play the full game in April.

Vinhos (1 play) thumbsup thumbsup

Heavy euro: economic engine, and VP production. Many inter-related components; many paths to victory. Single play so far, but keen to play again. Close to crossing that "more work than fun" line that bedevilled Caylus.

Key West (1 play) thumbsup thumbsup

An interesting & colourful theme for an auction/actions game with a novel auction mechanism and various VP earning options (development, area influence, exploring, set-collection).

Charon Inc. (2 plays) thumbsup thumbsup

The "market bidding" aspect of Hermagor transported to space to mine for gems needed to construct buildings for VP. Add in a (possible) bonus action determined by deselecting available actions, and you have a tense, close game. Our first play was slightly messed up by a mis-timed Synchrotron, and considerably messed up by a really, really, bad misprint in the official rules.

Campos (1 play) thumbsup

Adding coloured tri-hex tiles to a central group, and satisfying your scoring cards (if largest group of colour A > largest group of colour B, then score largest group of colour C). A game of two halves: first we add all tiles to the central group, then we take all the tiles away. A fixed number of opportunities to score in each half, so choose wisely!

Nice Bakelite-like bits.

Plateau X (1 play) thumbsup

Rumis meets The Climbers. Place a brick, maybe move your pawn. Game ends when a player is unable to add a brick. Winner is highest pawn. Simple rules, solid wooden bits. A tricky game requiring 3D spatial awareness.

Defenders of the Realm (1 play) thumbsup thumbsdown

Fun while playing, yet no real desire to play again. Fantasy Pandemic, with plastic minions swarming over the land, and bosses heading for your city. Barely co-operative, except in the sense of sharing out work, then combining to attack bosses. No synchronising / card sharing like Pandemic. Slightly irritating that minion strength isn’t listed on your player mat, only the monster card, so there’s more hunting for "what do I need to roll?" info than there should be. Base game functionality sacrificed to facilitate expansions.
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84. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:1]
Jens KH
Germany
Frankfurt am Main
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Twilight Struggle (1 play) - 8



Twilight Struggle is a tense game. The different winning conditions mean that 'game over' constantly looms on the horizon, and you need to be alert at all times to thwart the plans of the scheming mind on the other side of the iron curtain.

In this struggle luck certainly plays its piece, both in the die rolls and the card draws. With players of different experience levels, however, knowledge of the card deck and how the various events interact is actually a much bigger factor. It is fairly obvious that Twilight Struggle requires repeated plays in order to fully appreciate the complexity and to avoid the most egregious blunders in card play. In this light, the wild swings of fortune might actually be a positive because they are also responsible for much of the interplay variability.

With that out of the way, the game delivers quite beautifully. There is a lot of bluffing and posturing going on in an attempt to outsmart the opposition, and always that nagging fear that everything you do will just play into your adversary's hands. Needless to say, the thematic integration works here.


Louis XIV (1 play) - 7



Louis XIV is a clever area control game that seems a little unusual for the alea small-box series. It isn't really difficult to explain but the amount of rules required for such a small title can be intimidating at first. Once you've gotten past that it still is somewhat fiddly, but in a good way.

All of the favours that can be garnered at the royal court are useful in one way or another, and while the card draws provide a good deal of randomness it never feels game-breaking. There is enough to think about without being overwhelming, and a lot of competition on the field. A compact and compelling little package.


The Bridges of Shangri-La (1 play) - 7



A dry, no-luck abstract, pretty much what you'd expect from Colovini. It is mostly about creating positional advantages and encouraging other players to make the dirty work for you while at the same time protecting your assets. Shangri-La is a vicious game, and mistakes can cost you dearly.

Colovini often creates games based on a single mechanism. Often times they seem like nice enough ideas but barely sufficient to support an entire game on their own. What sets this game apart is that here, the single mechanic actually makes for a worthwhile game.


Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes (1 play) - ?



So if this is a simple wargame that shed most of the rules of its relatives then I think I'm quite happy with staying at this level for the time being. I expect I'll have the rules mostly memorized after a couple of plays but it still has exceptions for a lot of stuff. That the rulebook is terrible doesn't exactly help in this regard, though.

Still, in the long run it's probably the scenarios that need to keep the game afloat. Unfortunately, the events system - while cool at first - looks like a bit of a replay barrier.

In my one play we did misplay a couple of rules that severely impacted the mission balance so I don't have a rating yet. I'd probably put it somewhere between 6 and 7 right now but I'm hopeful that, once you don't need the rulebook any more, it can get better than that.


1837 (1 play) - 6



The opening auctions are lengthy, and with a myriad of minor, major and national companies with sometimes wildly different special powers make this a very opaque game even by 18xx standards.

The game emphasizes track building over stock trading, but most important may be the timing issues related to when to float which company, when to open the nationals, and when to trade in your minors. The train rush on the other hand is comparatively tame.

1837 incorporates many interesting ideas. If only the opening sequence wasn't quite so obnoxious...


Middle-Earth Quest (1 play) - 6



MEQ is a semi-cooperative game where it's everyone against Sauron who breeds his dark plots that threaten to corrupt the world and which the heroes need to interfere with.

While the game is first and foremost an experience game it doesn't solely rely on its theme. There are important and meaningful decisions to be made on both sides, but most especially for the Sauron player. The card-based combat is quite charming, with each character having a personal deck of combat options.

That said, card draws still play a major role, starting with Sauron's plots and random encounters, and (maybe most impacting) ending with the goal cards. Each side is assigned a secret goal. When one side meets its criteria at the end of the game and the other doesn't, that's an auto-win. Otherwise there is a final battle between one hero and the ring wraiths. Some of those goal cards appear to be much easier than others.

MEQ is a long game, and in my eyes a little longer than it should be. In addition, the end game feels unfinished and anti-climactic, the game actually loses tension during the last few turns. The players mostly know whether they reached their goals, and the heroes will often stay put in order to not endanger their position. The game is then decided by the missions or in a final battle, and both feel sufficiently un-epic as to be a turn-off.


Ricochet Robots (1 play) - 6



Ricochet Robots is a spatial multiplayer puzzle. The goal each round is to get a random robot to a random destination on the board in as few steps as possible. Everyone tries to solve it at the same time, and once somebody has offered a solution (ie. the number of steps needed) the other players get another 30 seconds to underbid. After that the player with the lowest number gets to show their solution, and scores a point if it's working.

The game situations sometimes require very careful orchestration of multiple robots. As there is no way to try your solution in advance other than going through it in your mind, the general difficulty level is rather high, and this probably serves to emphasize the effect that some people are clearly better at this kind of activity than others. Here, it's highly unlikely that one simply gets lucky. In a way, Ricochet Robots is the "look, don't touch" of Ubongoland.


Hacienda (1 play) - 6



Hacienda is a fairly generic mix of card drafting, tile laying and area enclosure. Of course, area enclosure isn't all that common a mechanic, and it encourages being mean: keep your opponents' herds away from the lucrative markets, block access to valuable water holes, and quite generally try to be as much of a thorn in the backside as possible.

In spite of that the game is still easy-going. In some ways you could think of it as a less restrictive version of Ticket to Ride.


BasketBoss (1 play) - 6



BasketBoss is a light pure bidding game. You draft players for your team in order to win the championship. Players, of course, have different strengths, and also (deterministically) develop those over time (some get better, others get worse, yet others are just wildly inconsistent). At the end of a season the strongest team wins the cup, and thus victory points.

There is really nothing wrong with the game but the competition as far as light auction games go is rather fierce, and there are better offers on the market for this position.


The Name of the Rose (1 play) - 6



A more elaborate version of the classic SdJ winner Heimlich & Co. where players try to improve their position without giving away their identity.

It can run a bit long but at least it's for a reason: You need a somewhat solid foundation to base your final guess of who is who on at the end of the game. Different events each day help shake things up a little and not get too repetitive.


Railroad Barons (1 play) - 6



Railroad Barons distills the 18xx system into a short (for the system) card game for two. The remaining stock market part manages to mimic the original experience rather better than expected, including all the calculations that entails. The missing track building part, however, changes the dynamics quite a bit.

"Trains" always operate at maximum capacity which makes having more trains generally more desirable, thereby accelerating the train rush. On the other hand, you can always buy new trains out of pocket, and since they collect perfectly predictable revenues that happens rather frequently and shuffling trains between companies becomes rather less important.

I don't think 18xx is at its best with only 2 players, but Railroad Barons is a nice way to get your feet wet without having to spend an entire day.


Twilight Imperium (second edition) (1 play) - 6



Fairly standard multiplayer conflict game, with all that entails, like long playtime and typical bash-the-leader incidents as well as fairly large swings of fortune in a short amount of time. I'm not a huge fan of the genre but as far as those games go TI felt like a good enough contender. It's much less complicated than I expected.


Hamburgum (1 play) - 5



Resource management meets the rondel. Both walk away unimpressed.

In Hamburgum, players trade in various goods in order to donate the profits to the church which earns victory points. What sounds primarily like a resource management game then turns out to be much more of a race. In many ways, it's beneficial if you can get things done just a bit faster than your opponents: Goods can be sold at higher prices before new production buildings are constructed, you can choose the best VP chits when donating to the church, and you can cordon off entire areas of the board if you construct early and often.

Yet despite these factors and the rondel that, of course, makes timing even more crucial and puts a spoke in your wheel at every most inopportune moment, the game lacks tension. The hodgepodge of different ideas begins to feel repetitive very quickly, and you're using the same few rondel spaces all the time. This gets even worse when the endgame approaches, as many of the options have already been exhausted, but players actually earn less money than before drawing it out much longer than necessary.


Im Reich der Wüstensöhne (1 play) - 5



Im Reich der Wüstensöhne is clearly part of Klaus Teuber's Entdecker line of games. The basic premise is still the same: draw a tile, place it if possible, deploy meeples, and score finished areas.

This game adds a few things that the old Im Reich der Wüstensöhne didn't have, however. Scoring oases doesn't immediately grant victory points. Instead players can use action spaces to collect goods which in turn score points at the end of the game. The value of those goods, however, is variable to a small but significant extent and changes through player actions.

The game is less luck-dependent than its predecessor and adds another layer to think about, offering a little more to gamers while still clearly remaining a family title.


Pergamon (1 play) - 5



Players are archaeologists digging for cultural treasures. Excavations cost money, though, so you need to collect grants before you can start.

The excavation area is randomly populated each turn, and each player places a pawn on an action space that decides about turn order, how much money you get, and how deep you're allowed to dig (in general, more precious artifacts can be found in the lower layers). Once you've uncovered some complete artifacts you can send them to the museum for fame (and VPs).

Most of the game is in the action space selection, but even this part feels mostly automatic. If there's an interesting selection of finds on offer you take the first space that provides enough money to get there (without giving an opponent the opportunity to get there first). If you don't have the money, well, you try to get some.

A light, tactical family game for budding archaeologists. For gamers, there is very little meat to the ancient bones.


Famiglia (1 play) - 5



Players take the roles of Mafia kingpins recruiting minions for their gangs. The game is a fairly simple hand management game with rules that are somewhat unintuitive at first. Even though it flows pretty quickly once it has clicked - with occasional bouts of downtime when a player has to think through a particularly involved combo move - it does take a little too long to get going because there inherently is a lot of chaff on the "street" that you have no use for at the beginning of the game.


Shanghaien (2 plays) - 4



A fairly simple dice game that is based on a single mechanism: allocating dice to cards according to the numbers rolled in order to gain majorities. The scoring rules have a nice twist that means you can severely impact your opponent's score but it also means that the one colour you didn't manage to score because of how the dice fell easily makes the difference in final scoring.


Dragonheart (2 plays) - 4



Dragonheart is a rather elaborate game of chicken that is dominated by the luck of the draw. To score points you first have to seed the board with score cards but your opponent then always has the first shot at claiming them. Therefore it comes down to hoping he just doesn't have the right hand at the moment, or guessing he does and trying to lure him into committing early. There is, however, hardly anything to base this decision on.
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85. Board Game: Tribune: Primus Inter Pares [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:299]
I am on a Journey...
Australia
Lavington
New South Wales
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Well look at that - Page 4! meeple

Back to a better month of new games and some nice finds too -

d10-1 Tribune: Primus Inter Pares

Patty had played this at BorderCon of 2010 and had told me numerous times that I would love it. I finally bought it for a crazy cheap price at CanCon in Jan this year and this play confirmed everything she had said.

It is essentially a worker placement game but with variable victory conditions each game and something like 20+ locations to place only 4-5 workers, it offers plenty of options and variability.

Workers can be used to gain cards or fight for control of Factions, but cards must be played to control and take over Factions. Factions then bestow benefits that help earn the various victory conditions.

The main drawback to a game like this is that a player can sneak up on victory very quietly if the players are not paying attention. Indeed if only 1 player is not paying attention it can spell trouble for the others. From that point of view the game is best when the players are of a similar experience level.

Very happy to have this in the collection.

d10-2 Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer



Despite the long winded title I really enjoyed my 4 plays of this one. Ascension is a deck cycling game in the same vein as Dominion and Thunderstone but there is not as much going on in this 1st installment.

For whatever reason, Dominion did not grab me but Ascension has a simplicity and theme that I can really enjoy. With only 3-4 different card types it is not too overwhelming and I really liked the 15 minute game play, which 3-4 games after dinner possible.

I suspect that its simplicity will be a down note after 20-50 plays but expansions should fix that. However I see a game like this as perfect for my young boys. They will be able to manage this (something that they have trouble with for Magic the Gathering as they can't deck build and theme decks get boring after a while) and I think it would be a great stepping stone up to a Thunderstone or Dominion into the future.

I'll be getting this for the 11 year old's birthday.

d10-3 Magical Athlete



This is silly nonsense at its best. Magical Athlete is a racing game of sorts but it is all about character powers and the interaction of those powers.

The game is played in 2 halves. The first half involves an athlete draft, where a roster of 20 (out of 25) athletes appear on a bidding board. Each player only has limited funds but athletes do get cheaper the longer they are left on the board. The bidding round ends when each player has 4 or 5 athletes (depending on the number of players).

Part 2 is the racing element of the game. The game will consist of 4 or 5 races (# of players again) and each player selects 1 of their athletes for each race (secretly). A d6 is used for basic movement but then all the powers kick in. The Centaur can kick another athlete when he passes them. The Pirate can abduct another athlete and Cupid gets benefits when a male and female athlete share a space.

It is all very silly and when combined with the Japanese Artwork, it feels like an insane Japanese Gameshow.

The power combos can make for some amazingly insane outcomes and the game is meant to be fun rather than serious. It all wraps up in around 40 minutes and that is a good thing.

It's a filler that may just stay in my collection.

d10-4 Los Banditos



This can best be described as a Battleline or Schotten Totten clone but it uses dice rather than cards. The players are fighting for control of valuable gems or wads of cash (read VPs) and they must roll dice and add them to one of the locations to create various poker hand combos. The trick is that the dice that are used each turn are also drawn randomly and the colour of each dice can be vital to the quality of a poker hand (flush = all same colour etc).

It's good but it is also another example of a lazy tweak by the Good Doctor to create a game that is not that different from previous designs.

Whilst good for a little dabble - perhaps better to play against your kids with due to the luck factor - I'd prefer to play Battleline instead.

d10-5 The Kids of Carcassonne



This was much better than I had expected. The pieces are much larger than the original, to cater to the smaller audience and the only feature used is that of roads. Each piece shows one or more road segments and these are accompanied by images of the Kids of Carcassonne (in the 4 player colours).

When a road is completed, the player's must add 1 meeple to the road for each coloured kid image (matching of course) that is located on the road. In this way the player's are trying to complete as many roads that feature their matching coloured kid as possible. The 1st player to get all of their meeple onto the board wins.

This is really best for 3-6 year olds and would be a good stepping stone into the full game or other light strategy games.

Expansions

d10-1 Last Night on Earth: All Hallows Eve II: The Ritual

This is another example of a more involved scenario for LNoE and one that requires searching by the Heroes to locate 3 key items. It's also a scenario from Flying Frog that tries to make use of the many tokens they have provided in the base game and Growing Hunger, that up to now, have never had a function.

It is a decent scenario and deceptively tricky. The Heroes feel like they have plenty of equipment to do the job but they can be fooled into not searching regular buildings enough. If they don't get some good Event Cards they will be in serious trouble as the Zombie player(s) can use up to 21 Zombies to overwhelm them and they have access to 6 Zombie Cards...which equates to many a nasty surprise. Braiiiins! zombie

Out of the Dust

d10-1 Manila (3 Years and 5 Months)




This early dice euro is still a fun game but the spectre of luck is certainly greater here than in Stone Age and Kingsburg.

This game pits players as punt runners in South East Asia as they try to get valuable goods to market and take advantage of the ill-fortune of other traders.

Each round 3 punts take their chances on the great river and must negotiate troubled waters and pirates.

The players must allocate their men to the boats, punt docking bays, pilot huts, pirate vessels, insurance agents or the repair docks. Each location comes at a cost but will also pay out if the desired outcome arises.

Behind all this the players must also try to acquire goods cards and the success of those goods making it to market will increase their value and help in the final payout at games end.

I like Manila but I don't love it...not enough control for me.
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86. Board Game: Galaxy Trucker [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:86]
Ed Bradley
United Kingdom
Haverhill
Suffolk
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What's not to like?

If you don't like this you don't like fun
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87. Board Game: Shadows over Camelot [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:254]
Gudjon Torfi Sigurdsson
Iceland
Isafjordur
Isafjardarbaer
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Only two new games to me this month, but four expansions (all of them for Small World)

Boardgames

Shadows over Camelot -

image by martondvn

gets the nod ahead of Runebound as I played it 7 times, 6 of them with three players (and one solo). We lost all of them but the last one, and as ususally is the case in the co-op games we play, when we've beat the game, it's a bit of a let down! We didn't play with the traitor though, which might spice things up a bit. I'm sure I'll try it again, hopefully with more players and then with the traitor as well. I might even try the Monty Python's Holy Grail mockup if I feel like printing it...

SoC seemed a bit complicated the first time we tried to play it, so we put it on the back burner for a week while I scoured BGG to find player aids or quick rules. It made it quite a bit easier when we played it for the first time, although there were one or two rules questions that came up during play. The first plays seemed quite daunting and we lost them badly, siege engines being the biggest trouble for us. We did get better though and as I said in the beginning, we won the last game.

It's a fun game, with a theme that's right up my alley and I'm looking forward to playing it again.

Runebound (Second Edition) -

image by The Expanding Man

was an impulse buy from an auction here on BGG (which included The Frozen Wastes) and prompted me to buy The Sands of Al-Kalim plus six small expansions... sheesh, I blame it on Neil Thomson!

But I played two solo games and one with a friend. The two player game we didn't finish, but it looked promising, while I did leave out the rule of player vs. player to keep it simpler. It's actually a rather simple game though, but the cards (items, NPC's etc.) make it a bit harder to keep track of everything as you can forget a modifier so easily. I guess that more frequent plays will help with that one. My first game led me to think that I was unbeatable. The second solo cured me of that! Fun fantasy game that I'll play when I have the time but not any opponents.


Expansions

Small World: Be Not Afraid... -
Small World: Grand Dames of Small World -
Small World: Cursed! -

The new races and special powers add more variety to the game, highly recommended.

Small World: Tales and Legends -
This deck of cards hasn't been used as much as the other expansions, but that's mostly due to new players being introduced to the game. I wouldn't recommend using it except for veterans as it makes the game a bit more complicated and chaotic. But that's actually the best part of it, as it can throw you off your stride and force you to make changes to you plans. Really fun and a nice twist to the regular game.


p.s. I noticed I just broke the 1000 games played (since January 1st, 2009) in March! Yay!
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88. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:1]
Russell D
United Kingdom
Ewell
Surrey
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Lots of new games played this month for some reason. They are arranged roughly in order of how highly I rated them, best to worst.

Three very good games particularly appealed to me this month, but Twilight Struggle just edges ahead as my favourite because I think it has potential to be a long-running favourite. I like as an almost-as-good Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage, but my wife enjoys Twilight, which is a big plus. Really engaging, deep, one I can see myself returning to again and again.

Olympus hadn't been on my radar, but I really enjoyed one play of this worker placement game. I liked the alpha/beta spaces and the theme, and would love to play this more.

I really like Tinner's Trail, which I've managed to play three times since getting hold of a copy in a sale this month. It's a simpler and streamlined Martin Wallace economic game, and fits a lot into a a fairly swift play, so I'm really glad to have it in my collection. I will wait and see what the long-term replay value is, but it's a really good game.

The Thief of Baghdad is not that highly rated on BGG, but I had a very good play of this game. There is a lot of strategy and a lot of clever moves possible in a fairly simple game.

A lot of Egizia is played at Epsom Games Club, but I've only played once so far. I thought it was a good, solid Euro, and one I'll happily play many more times and I'm sure I'll enjoy exploring the strategy.

I've enjoyed first plays of For Sale, High Society, and Coloretto, all of which are good quick fillers which I look forward to playing more of.

The End of the Triumvirate appealed as a game designed specifically for three players. It get's quite a bit of political/war game into its short playing time, but I'm not sure there's enough there for this to be a game which will rack up lots of plays.

Shogun was good fun, though a little more chaos for the length than I'd ideally like.

Medici is a solid Knizia auction game. Cash-a-Catch is another auction game, but one that requires quick reactions as to bid you have to ring a bell before anyone else.

Powerboats is a perfectly good race game, but I generally find these kind of games work best with lots of players, but then they tend to go on too long. It's fine, but I wouldn't want to play too often.

Just one play of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, I wasn't really sure what was going on... would play again, but it's probably a game you'd have to really get into and study to understand it.

Perhaps I was a bit harsh in rating Perikles a 6. I felt that there was lots of good stuff in it, but there was then an uncomfortable gear change to lots of dice-rolling. I would play again, and could see my rating change.

We almost certainly played ASAKUSA: The Game wrong. There were some good ideas in this, but I wouldn't seek it out again.

I'm the Boss! is very popular at London on Board, but I didn't really take to it in two plays of it. I can see there's skill in deciding when to hold or play yours cards, but it all seemed just too chaotic for me.

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89. Board Game: Mord im Arosa [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1263]
Felix Rodriguez
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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Kind of a disappointing month for new games. I played a bunch of them but most fell flat to me...

Great Games

Mord im Arosa is a pretty light game, but I loved it. Essentially you build a big tower in the middle of the table, throw cubes into it and guess what floor they land on by using sound cues. There's some more rules to make it kind of a deduction theme but really that's it. Lots of fun. I'm certainly getting a copy.


Good Games

Neue Spiele im alten Rom is a fantastic collection of games. I've played some of them, but Circus Maximus was new to me. And you know, I was quite happy with it. It's essentially a simpler version of Fast Flowing Forest Fellers and like that one it works well as long as you pile on the people (We played 6 players). I believe this is one of the 3 games in this collection that was reprinted by GMT.

Mediocre Games

Nautilus - Acquired via a math trade mainly because of the theme, Nautilus wasn't nearly as long as some people make it out to be. Our first game was 90 minutes. Apart from the theme tho, there's nothing special about this. Not bad, but it's an area majority, set collection, tech tree game.. Nothing new, but the theme is cool enough that I don't regret the trade.

Fresco - As generic a worker placement game as it gets. I like the fact that the colored cubes represent colors but all in all, I've got enough games like this.

Asara - An area majority game that tries to hide what it is by changing the areas to colored towers. The game is pretty but again, I've played too many area majority games and this doesn't have any twist big enough to make it stand out.

Black Friday - There seem to be a lot of new stock games. And they all seem to have the same problem -> much of the stock movement is determined by a random algorithm. Compare this to, say Planet Steam where all of the stock manipulation is determined by the player actions and this just falls short.

Bad Games

Capitol - A few years ago I would have placed this game at mediocre. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just like every other area majority game I've played. But the fact is, I've played too many, and this classic drops.

WildLife - I hear this is better with 6 than with 4, but with 4 I felt this game was broken right from the start. One player had a creature that could take over two areas no one else could touch... and the game broke down from there. Not that it matters because this is a pretty standard area majority game.
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90. Board Game: Loopin' Louie [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:424]
Manchuwok
Canada
Mission
BC
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Right now I'm torn about whether I should be mocking everyone for preparing so far before the end of the month.... or making sure that I'm ready nice and early next time.


#1 Loopin' Louie - (140 Plays)
This was my top game of the month. I introduced this game to over 20 people and all of them loved it. A few wrote it off as a kids game... until they tried it. One of the first times I played I actually laughed so hard that I was crying. There is a great deal of skill involved in this game - no random hammering at the paddles here. And the lingo seems to come with the territory. We now have named moves such as "The Skill Shot", "The Piledriver", "The Tomahawk", "The Tag-team" and"The Backdoor". This game will be a staple from now on. Really looking forward to playing this with my kids when they're old enough.

#2 China - (14 Plays)
On a Loopin' Louieless month this would have likely been a top pick. It has the most "game" packed into 30 minutes of any game I've played recently, possibly ever. Schacht has proven himself to be quite a master at depth/rules complexity ratios in light-middle weight Euros. This game forces you to make the most of every placement or you'll just be handing points away to your opponents. I also love how the game lends itself to players attempting to set up X good options where X = # of opponents + 1. In other words if you set up three good opportunities and have only two opponents, they can't block them all by the time it's your turn again. Of course you often don't even need that many good options when you take into account your opponents' best interests as well. Exploiting your opponents is a key to winning this game. The best part is when all of you are trying to do this at the same time. Just delicious. I managed to print 'n play China: Grenzstreitigkeiten for 5 of these plays and felt that the border towns added even more fun. The verdict is still out on whether China: Das Duell is worth the effort. I played it once and I'm leaning towards just playing other stuff with only two players.

#3 Hanabi & Ikebana - (1 Play)
Wow. I was blown away by this game (Hanabi). It's a fascinating cooperative game of reasoning and deduction with a bunch of psychology thrown in. And it's TENSE! The other players are counting on you, and your available options are tight. Every clue needs to contain the maximum amount of information possible. I've only played once and we didn't make an amazing sore, but I was left eager to play again. I'm looking forward to developing some conventions and refining them until we've cracked the game. However, I think that really is the game. Once we've learned how to maximize our score I'm not sure that there will be any replayability. Getting there should provide a lot of fun though.

#4 Verflixxt! - (5 Plays)
What!!??!! A Kramer in fourth place? That just goes to show the quality of the games above. This is the most I've enjoyed roll and move since Heimlich & Co. So simple, but some surprising depth. It's not just about hanging back to get the good luck tiles or going straight for the green tiles. There are actually a variety of paths to victory. Still, it's a bit fluffy, but that's often very welcome for the end of a games night. Kramer does not disappoint. I'm definitely going to have to try to get a hold of those expansions.

#5 Neuroshima Hex! - (1 Play)
This was quite an intriguing little game. My one play was with four players and took longer than it should have. With that many players it was also a little hard to figure out exactly what was going to happen in the battles. But it was still very enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to trying this out with two players. If the playing time is short enough with two players I can see this getting to the table quite a bit.

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91. Board Game: Ad Astra [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:607]
Zack Stackurski
United States
Mankato
Minnesota
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I love almost all games, play Boardgames with my wife, have three kids, generally enjoy cats and understand and like those bumper stickers with the little fishies sprouting legs.
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Rating: 7 after 1 play

I have been keeping an eye on Ad Astra since it was announced and finally had a chance to play on a friend's copy at my last game night. I really like some of the concepts in this game... particularly the multiple uses of the cards and the choosing when to score. My first play felt pretty random but I can already see where more plays would yield a better understanding of how to make the most of other people's action cards. I could see this rating improving and perhaps even putting this on my wishlist after a few more plays.



Leaping Lemmings - Rating 7 after 1 play

This could have been my choice of the month... but I've been thinking about playing Ad Astra again a lot more than this one. I love the presentation of Lemmings thought. Little named lemmings, a chance to swoop in and chow down with eagles, the basic wargaming concepts masked in such a light romp. In the end the strategy is pretty light, but there are enough decisions to make on your turn and good fun. I can see where playing with the AP prone would quickly suck all the fun out of this though...



Mini FITS - Rating 6 after 2 plays

Quick, portable and fun. I haven't had a chance to play the big version and am not sure I need to after playing Mini. Perhaps not a filler I'll reach for a lot, but with the expansion boards that have been loaded on the geek there are a decent number of puzzles to try.



Gold Mine - Rating 6 after 1 play

The spatial reasoning of a Carcassonne coupled with a roll and move race to pick up gold pieces makes for a pretty good kids game that adults can enjoy too. Some house rules seem necessary to keep the game from running too long for short attention spans though (collect less gold... make the shortcut tunnels less frustrating...). played as written I think my rating wouldn't be above a 5.



We Didn't Playtest This At All - Rating 4 after 1 play

Err... did someone roll out of bed thinking "I feel like there is too much decision making in Fluxx?" and write a bunch of stuff on cards over breakfast? Yes. It seems they did. Sure the game plays in about 30 seconds to 2 minutes... but I'd rather just have a short conversation between games than break this out.
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92. Board Game: Merchants & Marauders [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:139]
Mary Tomaszewski
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
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Merchants & Marauders


I'm hesitant to put this as the best new-to-me game for the month because I only played it 2-player and there was no combat in the game I played. So I feel that I didn't get the whole experience of the game. Putting that aside, I thought the game was just fun and any pirate game in which you don't have to be a pirate gets a thumbs up in my book. thumbsup

The other new game I played this month is Mr. Jack.



I liked this game, too. It seems very difficult for Jack to win. (Though, I did win as Jack one of the times I played.) Playing Jack is much more nerve-wracking than playing as the Detective for me because there is more bluffing involved. I'm not good at bluffing. thumbsup

These games were very different and in a different month I may have picked Mr. Jack as the best game. Right now, I like pure fun more than thinky fun, so I went with M&M.
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93. Board Game: Middle-Earth Quest [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:265]
Lance Hill
United States
Duluth
MN - Minnesota
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Middle-Earth Quest


3 plays - 8/10

First thing, Middle-earth Quest needs an expansion. More quests, more goals, more Shadow cards, more just about everything. If that happens, Middle-earth Quest could become a top 10 game for me. I have only played as the Shadow side and that is fine by me. One of my favorite games is Fury of Dracula and that is largely because I like setting traps. Killing my opponent's characters is not so much fun, in fact it is kind of a let down. I want to slowly wear them down and make my victims run away while my plan finishes its execution. Middle-earth Quest allows me to do that.

Innovation


3 plays - 7.5/10

My biggest issue with Innovation is that it does not feel elegant. The cards don't seem to all feel cohesive to the game, it more feels that they were just thought up, given some stats and abilities, and tossed into the mix. I really like the combos and different paths to victory. It has a little too much conflict for the wife though, many times her big plans were ruined by one of my actions and that did not go over well. I like the game quite a bit though and hope to play it again soon.

It would also be nice if the game was a little prettier. It feels like I am shuffling World History study cards that my son put his stickers on.

Warhammer: Invasion


1 play - 7/10

Sometimes I really miss playing Magic: The Gathering. Warhammer: Invasion has the potential to, cheaply, fill that gap. It does seem to need more cards put into the mix than just the base game but that doesn't seem to cost much. It does suffer from lots of conflict so it might be difficult to get it to the table again with the wife. What gets me really excited to play this again is the drafting variant that includes special drafting cards. Drafting might be my favorite mechanic but I very rarely get to do it since I mostly play 2-player games. Here's hoping it works well!

Tobago


1 play - 6.75/10

Now this is a pretty game! Too bad it does not do too much for me. Most of the decisions seem obvious and collecting treasure was a let down. I like the idea of passing on treasure and so on but there seems to be too few bad cards, and the ones that are there are too strong. I would have liked it quite a bit if there were minor curses that were included in the treasure instead. Too bad because I really am looking for a good deduction game that could be played with two people.

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94. Board Game: Merchants & Marauders [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:139]
Two of the games I played for the first time this month are "the best", but for different reasons.

Merchants & Marauders (3 plays, with 3 and 4 players)is a great, full-length (90 mins +), game. As such, it will not get on the table as much as mid-length(30-90 mins) and quick games (under 30 mins).

M&M has a great theme, and represents it well. The game has nice looking components, and a reasonably well written/organized rulebook. It also allows a good mix of strategies, interaction options, and variety of play experiences.

Unfortunately, since it is a longer and "more complex" game, not everyone in my gaming group will play, and it won't have as many chances to hit the table.

The other new game I played this month is Nightfall (10+ plays, with 3-5 players).

This is a quick to mid length game, and is very accessible. Not only do members of our boardgaming group want to play, but it also attracts other types of gamers at the store.
The "chaining" mechanism in Nightfall really sets this one apart, making it the antithesis of "multi-player solitaire".
While most players are enjoying it, expansions (including the promos cards) are anxiously awaited, as even after a few plays, people want more card variety.
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95. Board Game: El Caballero [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1364]
David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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Not much in the way of 'new to me' this month, but an old school classic made it to the table and I revisited some games that have not emerged from the game shelf in a looong time. So this will be something like the Antique Game Show.

1. El Caballero (on 1 play)

A friend of mine reacquired this recently through varied and mysterious means. He had played it many moons ago (like, when it was first out) but hadn't owned it and hadn't played it for a long time. He tried to teach us last month at a game day at his house, but he couldn't quite remember it properly and so we put it aside. But he was re-remembered and we played a shortened version, just to get the hang of it.

It is often described as El Grande meets Carcassonne and I get the comparison, though I'd say it was more El Grande than Carc. An interesting mechanic is the placement of the caballeros, which are tiles with either 1-4 or 5-8 on each side. Where the number touches a land (or sea) that is how many caballeros you have in that area and the one with the most in each land area scores the most points (fishing is apparently more congenial and everyone can fish side-by-side). The wrinkle is that if your cababllero tile is touching two land masses, it is kicked off, either back to the court to be played again later or (if you didn't protect them) out to the sticks where you will have to recruit them again. So there is a lot of interaction and also defensive play, trying to prevent bad things happening to you. There is also that down time while the acting player goes through his options. This can be short (especially if they have an obvious good choice or not many really good moves anywhere) but I can see some players taking their sweet time.

image courtesy of GeoMan - I am sure that position is illegal though

So it is interactive, a brain-burner (burn might be overstating, but a little cooked). A first play is hard to judge but it has potential for some interesting game play and also for the exchange of some choice insults after your 8 point caballero got kicked off a big island. I'm giving it a tentative 3.5 stars, a number that could go down or up.


Also on this week's Antique Game Show, I brought from the dust a couple of games I have not played since I was logging games here.

2. The Scepter of Zavandor (on 2 plays)

We played this a while back and had a lot of trouble with the rules, due to their obscure wording. As a consequence, we played a couple of games, but they took way longer than was good for the game - it dragged to the finish. After reading about Phoenicia as a streamlined version, we tried that ... and were underwhelmed. It was neat but once someone got ahead, there was no stopping them - in a 2 player game at least. So Zavandor, with us now understanding the game a bit better, was resurrected and we gave it another try.

The first thing to do is to throw out all the verbiage about enchanting gems and explain it thusly: you buy the gems to give you an improved income for the next turn. It is not about enchanting, it is about economics. Our new forays were thus much more informed and the game progressed much more satisfactorily. The first game, I was behind the whole way and would catch up only for my wife to pull away again. But instead of this becoming an ever-increasing gap, I stayed close and even bought 3 sentinels to her 2, even though I lost it was by only a single point. The other game was perhaps due to inexperience or just that I hit upon an efficient approach, but as the Elf, I built a enchanting juggernaut and my wife conceded the game to me about 2/3 through. My feeling here is that inexperience was the root cause here, though I have no doubt that I won't be the Elf next time we play.

image courtesy of bobborobbo

One thing I am unclear about is why I think Scepter works better than Phoenicia even though they ostensibly do similar things. The greater range of available options with the artifacts in the game and the different levels of gems available may explain it. With a play time of 2 hours tops, it should see some more play though and I am looking forward to them.

3. Lord of the Rings: The Search (1 play)

I am not much of a theme junkie, but I think I'd like this game more if the theme made any sense whatsoever. Frodo and Sam are in competition and oh by the way we don't know where the Ring is and what's more Mount Doom keeps MOVING. It is a head-scratcher.

Aside from the strange theme the game is OK in a quick tile playing explore game. You score points from the treasures/people you find and from the bad guys you survive meeting (no one dies as such, it just takes time). Some of the key items are in water areas and you need a boat to get them, but that is not that hard to get. Once the board is built, Mount Doom is fixed in place and there is a little race to the mountain and bonus points may be scored for getting there with the Ring and/or Gollum.

image courtesy of Toynan

I don't know, it was nothing special and I played it mainly to revisit and reconfirm my earlier impression of it. My wife liked it better than me (but then she won as well!) so she might request it. I think I have a lot more good 2 player games before I would pick it again.

And that is that for this month, I'm expecting to print and play some Free Trader and apart from that, not sure what else will be new.
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96. Board Game: Merkator [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:610]
To be free, one must give up a little part of oneself
Canada
Guelph
Ontario
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Oops, missed last month! Just never got around to it, partly because other than Battlestar Galactica: Exodus Expansion, it was a pretty bland month for new games.

Well, this month is short and not super-exciting, either. But I played all four of my new games one-on-one with a good friend with whom I don't get to game enough, so they all felt like good game experiences, even if the games themselves weren't all stellar.

New to Me Game of the Month



Merkator - I'd been hearing a decent amount of buzz about Merkator (though it seemed to taper off fairly quickly?), so I was curious to play it. My feelings on Rosenberg waffle: I'm not a big Bohnanza fan (negotiation games don't tend to do it for me); Agricola had me for about a dozen plays, but then started to lose its shine quite quickly; Nottingham's an okay filler, but not much else; Le Havre was and is one of my favorite brain-burners and utterly demolishes everything Agricola has going for it by doing it better; At the Gates of Loyang seemed fairly repetitive after Agricola and Le Havre. I've been starting to wonder if Rosenberg might be starting to get a bit stagnant after the Harvest trilogy. Agricola/Le Havre/Loyang all felt like different stabs at the same general design, with one clearly superior to the other two. So I was curious whether Merkator would start to feel like more of the same.

And.. it does and it doesn't? It's definitely Rosenberg. It has a similar "good accumulation until someone breaks down and takes the giant stack of ____ that has built up" mechanism to Agricola and Le Havre, and contract-fulfillment akin to Loyang. Overall, it feels more similar to Le Havre than the other two Harvest trilogy games, which speaks in its favor. It's definitely on the brain-burn side of the fence.

So, upfront: we played with two small-to-medium rules mistakes in my one two-player game of this. We were taking time from the bottom of the time sheet instead of from the top, meaning that goods loss was less frequent toward the end of the game instead of more frequent. More importantly, when people were traveling with the active player, they were discarding their time instead of paying it to the active player. We also played the short game, rather than the long game. I know that I personally find the short game of Le Havre to be enjoyable but not nearly the best way to play the game, and I expect that Merkator is the same. So my judgment may be a bit lower than it might be after I play a long game of it.

I liked Merkator. It's not as good as Le Havre to me after this single play, but it's enjoyable. It has incremental goods filling akin to Le Havre (you only add cubes to a couple locations after each player's turn rather than having to refill everything every turn, as with Agricola), but players are in indirect control of where goods are filling. You need to make a distinct plan to carry out over several turns, as with Le Havre, and there's a bit of that "Make yourself an empire out of nothing" feeling that I enjoy from LH. Again, this would be stronger in the long game, I think, as the short game starts you with a bounty of contracts and cubes. The "travel along" mechanism that allows other people to fulfill contracts and collect goods on your turn is clever and seems to work well, though with 4 players I'd worry about it starting to drag the game a bit with people's AP. And the way you earn higher-up contracts only by fulfilling your current ones is interesting and reminds me of the little bits of Innovation that I found enjoyable.

A lot was vaunted about how Merkator used "Time" as a resource, and let me just say that that is silly. "Time" in Merkator is just a generic entry fee to pay or bonus you get from traveling certain places, or from other players piggybacking on your movement. It's not a clever Time mechanism like that used in, say, Thebes. This isn't a minus against Merkator, just an expression of bafflement that anyone made a big deal about Merkator having a Time resource.

Overall, Merkator is good, from my one play. I'm definitely hyped to play it again sometime, especially if I can talk people into the long game of it.

Oh, one last note: Since Merkator has eight freaking colors of cubes, it's more than a bit colorblind unfriendly. Especially since it once again pits me against my archnemesis, the combination of yellow and orange cubes in the same game. Thankfully, cubes are pretty much entirely segregated: each spot on the board will only hold one color of cube, ever, and when you get cubes, you put them in specific areas of your mat, each of which can only hold one color of cube ever. So as long as a color-sighted person does the cube sorting at the beginning, you should be fine. Still, it's worth noting.

Rating: 7.5
Plays: 1


"Meh"ntions (Games rated 5-7)



Masons - Cute little filler that I find myself hard-pressed to say much of substance about. You have a bunch of secret goal cards (and, okay, I'll admit I'm kind of a sucker for secret goal cards DON'T JUDGE ME) and try to set up walls and little houses to fit the goals. A lot of the AP potential is taken out by having die rolls determine most of your house and tower colors, but that also makes it kind of difficult to tell what you should do in order to maximize your goals. So mostly you just put walls in general areas that might be good and try to press-your-luck on when a good time to play a goal for its points is. Inoffensive fun that doesn't take a whole ton of thought.

Rating: 6
Plays: 1




Cargo Noir - A single 2-player game of this leaves me pretty unimpressed. I love the cute cartoony art style and little kid's-bath-toy reminiscent boats you use for player actions. I feel like I should like it more than I did, since it has features I like, particularly the ability to buy "upgrades" to your economic engine, and kind of an interesting worker-placement/bidding system. But... it fell pretty flat for me. In the end, it just felt like a lot of set collection with little tension or foreplanning. Just didn't grab me. I'd play again with more people, to see if I felt like it was a tighter or more varied game, but currently it looks like a lot of flash with not a lot of game underneath.

Rating: 5.5
Plays: 1


Hall of Shame (Rated less than 5)



Lost Worlds - With a game this gimmicky, there isn't much you can say; indeed, you can't really rate it or discuss it as a "game," no more than I feel like you could objectively do so with a kid's game. It's a nerdy, advanced version of Rock-Scissors-Paper combined with Choose Your Own Adventure page-flipping, where you and an opponent duel by declaring attacks, flipping to the appropriate page in your opponent's book, and laughing at the ridiculous illustration of him dodging your unicorn's "Horn Sweep (High)" or whatever. After 5-10 minutes one of you drops dead. The end! It's short and gets a chuckle, and that's about all you can say about it.

Rating: 4
Plays: 1
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97. Board Game: Hansa Teutonica [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:74]
...sure...
Netherlands
Rijen
Noord Brabant
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Hmm. Don´t know. Needs more play.
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98. Board Game: Puzzle Strike [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:883]
Dea Draper
United States
Boise
Idaho
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Biggest new hit of the month, also the year so far, with my gaming friends. I have had it less than a week and it has seen over a dozen plays.

With a few differences, this is Dominion, a Deck Building Game, with chips instead of cards.

Each player is a character with 3 unique chips which can be used only when drawn. At this time, Resident Evil is the only other deck building game I know of with Characters, but their abilities are present all the time.

This is an attack game and highly interactive. In fact, the whole intent of the game is to better your hand to attack others. Players try to crash their opponents with gems, and when a player can't reduce his gem stack below 10, he loses. One player can create a chain reaction that takes every one else down.

Puzzle Strike is just as fiddly when setting up and putting away as the other deck building games, but it speeds up during play because there is no card shuffling--swish chips in a bags and pull them out. Also, the chips are more durable than cards, and eliminate the expense of card sleeves, if that's the way you go. The game lasts 15-20 minutes.

I like the simplicity of this game, as Dominion used to be before expansions. (In Dominion, there is so much down time when players can string together 20-40+ cards.)

This is a simplistic game--not enough room on the chips to be too complex--and at first glance, the strategy looks one dimensional. However, if you go the obvious route of all purple chips, you will lose to those who develop a deeper method of play.

The game can be deceptive. Just as I think I am in a winning position, somebody crashes me with gems, and I am the first one out! Not an easy game to win.

I do not think this game is fun with two--this is a social game and the attacks are more interesting with three and preferably four.

I do get tired of expansions, but they are expected for this game, and after a lot of plays, probably needed. I just hope the additional chips keep the game simple.

Deck Building Games I own and have played, in order of favorite:
Dominion
Puzzle Strike
Nightfall
Thunderstone
Ascension
Heroes of Graxia (Going to sell)



Tammany Hall

I do indeed like Puzzle Strike, but Tammany Hall is my personal find out of the 31 New Games (with coments) I have played this month.

An exceedingly strong area control game with lots of viciousness, yet beautifully simplistic. Very thematically developed. Has to do with Political Bosses' influence over immigrants in NYC during 1850-1870.

The first term (4 terms, 4 years each) goes very fast, but then the game picks up momentum rapidly in board presence but the game slows down. There is some brain burning and analysis paralysis with the wrong people (I was one of those persons a time or two--but most had their moment so none of us griped. My play is a lot faster now after a few more games.) I didn't go to bed till 5:30 AM and spend the next 5 hours dreaming about the game and alternate strategies. (And proceeded to lose the 2nd game badly.)

After a few more plays, my friend, a Martin Wallace enthusiast, noted this looks and feels like a Martin Wallace Treefrog Game. I said true, but it isn't. My friend snatches the rule book and searches the credits and says, see--and shows me that Martin Wallace shared in the development. Definitely up to Martin Wallace par, plus.

Great looking board with a good informative layout. The brown and the purple Bosses (player pieces) are so close in color, difficult to tell them apart, especially if the lighting is a little poor. Rule sheet short and simple.

So far have played with 5 players, 4, 3 players--three is good but five is so delightfully brutal.

I like this game because of the intense interaction and back stabling.
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99. Board Game: Café International [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:1562]
Bruce Miller
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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Café International

A fine game which won the prize, like a zillion years ago, is the best new game I played this month. It is one of three new ones this month and the competition wasn't exceptional. It is a tile laying game which has a chicken feel towards the end. A bit of luck in the draw and a few choices to play result in a quick lightweight game.
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100. Board Game: Reiner Knizia's Decathlon [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:2390]
Jeff Wolfe
United States
Columbus
Ohio
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Zendo fan, Columbus Blue Jackets fan, Dominion Fan. These are 'permanent microbadges' to free up space on my microbadge row
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For the most part, it seemed like I was disappointed this month by games I thought I might like. Konexi was a pleasant surprise, but not enough for new game of the month. There's not much to Decathlon, but it was still the most fun I had of the six new games in March.

Alien Frontiers - Dice rolling, role selection, resource management game. Seemed like there was a lot of analysis paralysis and a lot of "gang up on the leader." Not for me.

Funglish - Superficially, it's similar to Word Blur, but my ability to clue or guess words seemed to go to zero when I played this game. There are fewer tiles, and the only modifiers are "Definitely," "Kind of," and "Not." Unlike Word Blur, it's not a competition between teams. Everyone but the clue-giver guesses, with a correct guess earning a point for the cluer and a point for the guesser.

Konexi - Scrabble meets Bausack. You add a 3-D letter to the stack already on the table, and make a word out of connected letters (which must include the letter you just placed). It was more fun than I thought it would be, but not something I see myself rushing to play regularly.

Maniac - This is an old electronic game from 1979. It looks vaguely familiar, so it's possible that I played it as a kid and it's not actually new to me. But it's certainly the first time I've logged plays to it, so there you go. There are four games within the larger game, but you can't play them independently as far as I know. They're all really simple, like, "Press the button when the machine stops beeping." Each round, you earn 0-2 points, and the winner is the first to 25. The extraneous beeping and buzzing really got on my nerves after a while, before we had even completed one game, so it's not destined to be a retro favorite.

Power Grid: Factory Manager - Not at all like Power Grid. You're using workers (meeples) and machines (tiles) to build up money. Most money wins. You build up two different resources to generate income, with the lower of the two determining your income level (like Vegas Showdown). Some tiles require workers, which are in limited supply, and others require energy, which reduces your income. Workers also determine how many tiles you can add to your factory on a turn. I wasn't enthused, but I might give it another chance to see if it was a fluke.

Reiner Knizia's Decathlon - A combination of 10 dice games into one larger "Decathlon Event" game. Each individual sub-game is themed after one of the decathlon events, with the scores added together to give you an overall event score. The games are surprisingly thematic for a dice-only game.

Edit: typo
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