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Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Is it better? Comparative pictorial review rss

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Laszlo Molnar
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Foreword

I like Keltis. I did like it even before it got the Game of the Year award, I did and do think it should have a higher rating (even if it has climbed higher since). It simply has everything that makes it deserve the award: it’s family-friendly, and even while it has quite a high luck factor it also has interesting decisions and fun – and while not all gamers I know did like it I haven’t found any non-gamers who didn’t want revenge after the first game. So it’s addictive for non-gamers – what else could you ask from a gateway game?
I’m even in the minority (maybe because the majority of BGGers come from the USA, the country Ameritrash got its name from) who like Keltis more than Lost Cities: The Board Game. I have no problem with its lack of a theme and I appreciate its Blackjack-ish board design more than the more confusing LCtBG board. (Interesting tidbit: the Keltis Board artwork is by the great Claus Stephan, the artist of the gorgeous cards of Lost Cities – while the less quality LCTBG is by someone else). Also I think while the ’only ascending’ rule works with Lost Cities it’s just too much for the board game where the numbers on the cards don’t bring you points – some say it’s good as it makes the game heavier; I say it makes the game heavier for those who are unlucky with their cards – so it just increases the luck factor.

So, Keltis expansion. I can’t say I didn’t have high hopes for this game. The games that win the Game of the Year award are usually good but simple games and sometimes their expansions (see Elfengold) or second versions (see Ticket to Ride: Europe or Aquaretto) are meatier, heavier and in my opinion, better games, even if the original ones might be better for beginners (in my experience TtR:E and Aquaretto are still very good and easy-to-learn for beginners while they are also better than the award-winning original). So I was curious if Keltis – New Ways, New Aims can do the same.
Even if I saw the BGG numbers I couldn’t be sure it is better than the original. Expansions are usually tried by those who weren’t turned off by the original so they tend to be rated higher than how they would be rated if everyone tried them (I guess that’s the reason why expansions aren’t included in the rating lists). When I’m writing this article the expansion has 40 votes with the rating 7.74 which is almost one point higher than the 6.75 of Keltis (which has decreased from 6.83 since its entry was separated from LCTBG – I told you I’m in the minority with my opinion). So what you can do is compare the ratings of those who played both to have more accurate results. Those 31 users who have rated both gave an average rating of 7.26 for Keltis (a rating I could easily agree with) and 7.83 for the expansion (if you are statistics-geek, 16 percent of them rated the expansion lower than the original ad 61 percent higher). So even with their higher ratings for Keltis (most of) those who have tried the expansion have agreed: it’s as good or better than the original.


Contents of the Game

Let’s open the box. As it’s stated elsewhere this box is more appropriately sized than the original; actually if you take the insert out you can put the original game AND the expansion in the expansion box. Looking at the content of the box the first thing you can notice is the new board with the roads crossing and changing color.

Later you realize all the thoughts and care put in the details. While the artwork tries to keep most elements from the original it helps you see which stone is which color by coloring the borders of the stones – this way it’s easier to use. It also simplifies the design as it would be a bit too chaotic if it kept the nice motifs from the background of the original (so it’s gone now)

You also have smaller tokens now – for the same reason: they won’t hide the color of the stone they are on.

Also you have a larger starting stone (its artwork is partly a mirror of the original) which is good because the space for all the pawns in a 4-player game was a bit small in the original.

But what seems intriguing even before reading the rules: even if you play with the same set of cards as in the original, your path to the end consists of 10 steps (stones/fields) instead of 9, and not only the paths aren’t linear anymore but the points that you can win by them are also not only increasing with your steps – sometimes you play a card, move your pawn and it is at a smaller point value than before.

When you set up the game you can see there are much more places to place your tokens (of which you also have more). There are some fixed points – you place 5 stones of a given color to these –

and many others where, just like in the original, you place all the rest randomly. So you place clover leaves, number tokens (no ‘1’s, only ‘2’s and ‘3’s – so there are less ‘weaker paths’), one more stone of every color and some tokens showing ‘cards’ (more on that later).

I guess it’s time to play the game.


Game Play


Many say it’s not really an expansion but a completely different game. Even if the core mechanism (playing the same cards in ascending or descending order and moving your pawns accordingly) is the same, just like the end conditions (5 pawns crossing that line or the drawing deck is exhausted) and also some tokens have just the same function (clover leaf and numbered cards) this game really feels different.
First, you have these crossing paths. They seem to be a simple and funny modification. In fact they change the game overall. For example, it can happen that you start two different colored columns then your pawns meet at a crossing. Therefore the original rule of ‘only one pawn for every color/path’ is gone.

Also gone is the rule about reaching the final stone and still having some cards of the same color and moving other pawns elsewhere this way – you can still have a use for those extra cards on another parts of the board with your other pawns.

Having multicolored routes means the game gets heavier. In Keltis you looked at your hand and your columns and you had an idea how far your pawns can get on the paths. Now it’s not so easy: you know that you need, say, three blue, then two green, then two brown, one pink and two yellow cards to make it to 10, or you might need completely different cards if some of these are missing and you have to go another way. Planning is very different from the one in Keltis. If you got used to the tactics of the original then in your first games with the expansion you might get in a situation where in the second half of the game you look at your hand, you can see 4 cards of a color and 4 cards of another, each of them are good cards for your columns – but you can’t use them as at the moment none of your pawns needs this color! What’s more, it’s even possible that your 3 other colors have already ended (you have placed the 10s or 0s etc.) and you are stuck because you just can’t reach the colors you have good cards for. So planning is harder and more important than in the very linear original. Also there are some stones that have no color: you can play any color to reach them, which makes the role of luck smaller, the importance of planning bigger.

Then there are the new tokens. In Keltis the collectible stones just added a bit of a race element to the game. Now it’s different. You have stones of five color and two different ways of scoring them in the end, which also makes the role of luck smaller: it’s really more about hand management and tactics now. You have to decide what the best way is to get lots of VPs because of the collectible stones. If you have a varied hand you can go for as many different stones as you can get: the scoring for the number of different colors is just the same as the number of VPs you got for stones in the original.

Even with 4 players it’s possible to score 10: now you have a total of 30 stones on the board (you always take only the topmost one from the same-colored piles so you leave some for the other players too) instead of the 9 of the original so it’s less of a race now. But still there might be some kind of race for the 5 single collectible stones. It’s because of the other scoring:

You get 10 points if you collect at least 3 stones of the same color. You can do it if you go the same way 3 times (especially in case of the blue, yellow and brown stones – you need lots of cards of this color in order to achieve this) or if you go the same way 2 times and also collect the single stone of the same color. So maybe you’ll rush to get that single stone and your opponent will also rush there to get it before you get it (thus stopping you collecting 10 extra points) but maybe they will have other plans.

You also have a new special token: the ‘card discard’ token.

Note: the BGG rules’ translation has some error at this part. When you are at this type of token you can discard a card from your hand or from any of your columns. This token is a ‘typical’ good expansion rule addition. I’m sure the reason why it was born is that even in the original game sometimes you had to place cards with huge gaps (e.g. a 2 on an 8) and quite usually you drew a 3 of the same color just after that. So this token provides solution for these cases – but at the same time it provides some very special tactic possibilities.

For example, they can be combined with the clover leafs to great effects (you step on a clover leaf using a card that leaves quite a large gap in you column then move another pawn because of the leaf effect to a stone which allows you discard that very card that you placed). These discard tokens are also the reason for the longer paths: you might even get your discarded card back in the end of your next turn and re-use it later.


Some further ‘improvements’ on some ‘broken’ rules of Keltis


I’ve read many complaints about the original game where players were complaining (usually Lost Cities players – note when a variation of your favourite game is published somehow many players want just the same experience, same tactics, may I say same rules from the new game as from the old one – see e.g. the case with Medici and Strozzi) that in Keltis there is no use of discards even in 2-player games because of the ascending/descending rule. While I don’t find that a problem still the new board provides ‘solution’ for that. In the second half of an expansion game quite often even if a card would fit in a player’s column they just can’t use that color anymore (their pawns are on paths that can’t reach that color anymore or that color is too far from them) so it’s a lot easier to discard some cards in the end. Unlike in basic Keltis in a 2-player game quite probably you’ll have 4 or 5 discard piles in the end. (And the tactic possibilities provided by the discard tokens even urge you to discard more often).

Another “problem” of the original: even if there was the rule about two possible endings of the game (5 pawns crossing that line or the discard pile being exhausted) it was almost always about the 5th pawn. Now things are different. Points that can be earned come in waves instead of the linear scoring of the original – and there is such a ‘high-number point’ just before the line. You have already earned 8 points; do you continue and risk getting less points (7, even 6 - which means 4 points less with the large pawn) in order to reach the last stone, playing 3 extra cards,

or do you stop there? The decision is not easy. The high-number points have no tokens on them but all other stones have tokens that can be very useful. For example, you might say ‘I go from 8 to 7 to get that ‘point 2’ token or to be able to discard a card and make my other pawn able to move again’. Still it’s not sure you will want to cross that line so by the end of the game there are some pawns waiting there… and in the games I’ve played the game ended either with the draw pile being exhausted – by that time 4 pawns have crossed the line – or only a few cards remaining when the 5th pawn did the same; it’s very balanced this way.



Final valuation

It’s no wonder why the first game had 30 min.s playing time while the expansion has 40 written on the box, even with the same number of cards and pawns. There is just a lot more to think about; luckily it means the role of luck is less at the same time. We have seen some examples for ‘gamer’ versions of Spiel des Jahres-winning light games before like Ticket to Ride: Märklin or Carcassonne: The City. They are fine (and beautiful) games but still I don’t really like them. They overcomplicate the rules while the luck factor stays the same: they are too complex for beginners and too luck-dependent for gamers. That’s where Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele is different (even the rules aren't so much more complicated - it's the decisions and planning that are harder) and that’s why I rate it higher than the original which I also like.
I won’t say from now I leave the original Keltis in the box because the expansion is undoubtedly better. Yes it is. Still I think I will play the original one more often as a gateway game with my family or ‘very new to board games’ friends and when I play with my wife or some friends whom I have already infected with my love for board games I will play the expansion.
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Laszlo Molnar
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An off-topic addition: I like playing at home with my wife. Nowadays it became a bit harder as we have a very mobile son who also needs our attention in every minute. So that's why you could see a cardholder on the pic above: you can play the game, see your cards and still have your son in your hand...
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Joel Schuster
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Thanks for a great review.
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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Thanks for the great review. I think this one has just moved from the "maybe" list to the "buy" list.
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Eugene
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lacxox wrote:
That’s where Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele is different (even the rules aren't so much more complicated - it's the decisions and planning that are harder) and that’s why I rate it higher than the original which I also like.


My feelings as well. This expansion transforms Keltis from light filler to real game.
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Doug Adams
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Good review. My son's not that mobile yet, but I do have the card holders ready


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Laszlo Molnar
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It seems Keltis - Neue Wege, Neue Ziele is really a good game for parents of small children.
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Doug Adams
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lacxox wrote:
It seems Keltis - Neue Wege, Neue Ziele is really a good game for parents of small children.

Igen!
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Robert
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I must say I am quite dissapointed that this game and its parent are not more readily available in the states... I cannot stand the look of Lost Cities TBG and have no desire to play it, but the more I read about Keltis and its expansions, the more I feel that I want to own them.
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Laszlo Molnar
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So it's not available at FLGs? (I guess you can order them on-line and I guess they cost a lot). Maybe Keltis: Das Orakel can make its way to the States as it's a really different next step in the series?
 
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Robert
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I have since corrected the problem by ordering them from over seas. And I have an order placed for the Kartenspiel and the little stone game as well. I think Keltis may have replaced GIPF as my favorite abstract family. cool

I should point out that it was a fellow BGGer who provided me with my copies of Das Orakel and NWNZ. Thanks again Bruce!

-Robert
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Laszlo Molnar
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Now you can check my 'follow-up' to this article: the comparative pictorial review of Keltis: Das Orakel.
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