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So, I've been thinking and playing a lot of dice games lately. They are so plentiful! I've been trying to determine what it is about some dice games that I enjoy and what I don't to help me determine future game purchases. This little exercise is to help organize my thoughts. If you think you know your dice games you can have a peek at my recent GCL geeklist here for fun.
So first what types of dice games are there?
First there are "push your luck games". These are total luck fests with little strategy except maybe playing the odds. They tend to be fillers. They have to be fun! and fast! Examples of games I enjoy: Can't Stop, Deep Sea Adventure, Lords of Vegas to some extent.
Next, I'm not sure what the proper terminology is but I'll call them "games where you cross stuff off". Yahtzee falls here which I loved playing as a kid but I find much less interesting now. Current games in this category I like include: Qwixx, Rolling Japan. Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age and Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age which are both enjoyable but sometimes feel a touch long to me to be favorites here.
"Rolling dice to get more dice" is my next category. Some of these seem more luck based and others slightly more strategic. Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age might also fit here but it's not a favorite for these kind of games. I'd say To Court the King and Nations: The Dice Game feel a bit too luck based for me. I played Ciúb once and it felt a bit longish but I should try it again. Age of Craft is kind of interesting. Like To Court the King you use dice to buy tiles/cards that let you manipulate or gain dice but it adds a dice draft which adds to the game. Of course Roll for the Galaxy really ups the ante in adding to the basic use dice to get more dice. There is a reasonable amount of strategy and tactics that can go into the game which throws it into the fourth category.
My fourth and last category is dice as workers or dice as a significant portion of a strategic game. I suppose you could put games like Kingsburg and Alien Frontiers here. I found these a bit too dependent on luck for me as well as being a bit tedious. I enjoy The Castles of Burgundy and The Voyages of Marco Polo quite a lot, here the dice roll is plays a part but not as much as the placement. Discoveries is the newest one. It kind of straddles the line between my third and fourth categories. I think you could also put the classic Chase here.
I think I tend towards more strategic dice games and filler. But I think there is room in my collection for more! Now what to pick up at Essen that has dice?
Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:34 am
It's time for nice weather and gardening time here in Oregon. In honor of that I'm writing about Hanamikoji. 21 Flowers is a 2 player card game with a small central board and two tiny player boards. There are 21 cards which represent 7 different flower factions. Some of the factions have varying numbers of cards numbers in the deck. The game is self-published by the designer(I believe) and distributed by Takamagahara.
The goal of the game is control 4 factions or to have 11 points at the end of a round. The point value ranges from 2 to 5. Faction control is determined by the player with the most cards representative of the faction in their tableau at the end of the round. In case of a tie, the position of the faction does not change either it remains neutral or in control of the player who controlled it the previous round.
The interesting part of the game, of course, is how players get cards into their tableau. You start with a hand of cards (1 card is placed out of the round at the beginning. Then the player draws one card and takes one of 4 actions. Each action must be used and each action can only be used once. After you have chosen an action you mark it off on your player board. The order in which the actions are done is up to the player. After each player has done all the actions the round is over.
The actions consist of 1)playing a card face down into their tableau,
2)discarding 2 cards out of the game, 3)choosing 3 cards and placing them face up and the opponent chooses one of those cards for their tableau face up and the active player keeps the other two for their own tableau face up and 4)choose 4 cards and split into 2 piles (a pile must contain at least 1 card) and the opponent chooses a pile for their tableau and places the cards face up with the active player taking the remaing cards to place face up as well.
So this game utilizes the "pie rule" mechanism quite nicely. It's challenging to try and figure out what cards your opponent may want, or forcing them to pick a card you want them to have. Of course when they take the card you want it is so frustrating! The way a round works is more interesting than it sounds. Choosing which action to use when in a round of course may or may not give your opponent helpful information. It's easy to forget the discard action as sometimes you have a card left you wanted to play but then you have to discard it. Once players have control of some of the factions it hen gets even more difficult as you have to choose between maintaining control and trying to gain additional factions.
This game would make a great addition to one of the big publisher's 2 player lines. Play time is about 10-20 minutes for a whole game but it there is enough depth to make it feel longer.
Ok so recently TBD games have piqued my interest. I have picked up Jungle Rumble and Cat Tower from last year which I liked.
I also picked up Flip City which takes deck building to the next level. Design town is a short filler. You have a small deck of 9 starting cards. Your deck is face up so you know the first card you'll play. This is one of the neat things about the game. The cards are double sided with different buildings and functions on each side. You have to be careful not to accidentally flip the cards.
Like it's predecessors you play cards to your tableau and you can use them to purchase more cards and use their special abilities. There are 4 types of cards you can purchase. The new mechanism is that you can also choose to upgrade your cards in the discard pile. This means the card is now flipped to it's other side and has new values and functions.
The goal of the game is to get cards with 8 VP markers
in your tableau in one turn or to play 18 cards. It sounds easy enough but the trick is that some cards have frowny faces. If you play 3 frowny faces to your tableau your turn ends immediately. Yes, you are allowed to see the next card in your deck but some cards must be played and of course they have frowny faces so it adds a nice Can't Stop or push your luck element to the game.
I'm generally not a huge fan of deck builders, but Design Town adds a few more interesting twists to it. After my first play I was kind of "meh" but 5 or 6 plays later I've enjoyed exploring it. I prefer it with 2 players. The cards are very well balanced with the "take that" cards cost just enough to make a player think twice about using them. I've seen wins with 8VP and with 18 cards being played.
Flowering Snail is in the microgame family. It's a 2 player area enclosure game. Each player has 9 cards, snails which have value from 1 to 3 and two flowers. The game comes with a double sided paper board with spaces for card placement. In phase one players place snails and flowers. On each turn a player must place 1 or more snails and may place 1 or 2 flowers. The active player places snails until the sum of the value of the snails placed exceed the opponents. After all snails and flowers have been placed, flowers are awarded to the player whose adjacent snails have the highest value.
In phase two players take turns removing snails. Snails with values less than or equal to adjacent snails are removed. You may remove your own or your opponent's snails. Snails left on the board score their value and flowers score 2 points each.
It's a good 2 player filler that about 10 minutes to play. It's small enough to take and play almost anywhere. While the strategy isn't too hard to figure out, trying taking advantage of it in such a short game is the fun part.
Flatten out Monsters Is another small card game with cute little monsters. You have 3 columns of monsters and a group of 2 weapons under each column of monsters. Your goal is to defeat the monsters and score the most VP.
On the active players turn the swap 2 weapons and flip them over. Yes, the weapons are double sided and have a different weapon with a different value on the other side. If weapons from 2 different columns were swapped you have two fighting groups, if you swapped weapons in the same column only one. Then monsters are checked to see if any are defeated by the active weapon group(s) (the group(s) where the cards were swapped).
Some monsters have special abilities, like discard a monster from another player or can only be attacked by a weapon group in the same column. They also have variable VP on them (stars). If a monster is defeated the player keeps the monster and the next monster in the column slides down for the next turn. It's possible to capture all 3 monsters. The game ends when 2 of 3 columns of monsters are defeated.
This game has an obvious memory component. I had fun playing while not trying too hard to keep all the cards memorized. In fact, it was harder than expected to remember where the cards were. For the length of game and as a filler I think the game works fine and not having a good memory isn't too much of a spoiler. Would be a good Beer and Pretzel game.
Finally some quick thoughts on the little solo games from Homosapiens Lab. I love a challenge and these three little games provide just enough puzzle to make it challenging and yet solvable so I don't feel like a complete idiot.
Flip 9 consists of 9 double sided cards numbered 1 to 9. One side has a nice panoramic countryside and the other a cityscape. You shuffle them up and for the introductory game you place them the same side and try to get them in order. To do this you swap two cards and use the sum value of the cards to determine one of the next cards to be exchanged. The advanced game takes it a step farther where you start with the cards mixed so that both views are face up and then must get them in order and be on the same side at the end.
Flat Cube has only 6 cards. Each card has half a cube on the right and left edge of differing colors. You shuffle and place them so they make 6 slots. There are two "empty" slots on one side. You try and match all the cubes by moving 2 neighboring cards to the empty slots without rearranging them. There can only be the 8 original slots during play. You win if you match the cubes and have no empty slots between them.
Finally there is Flakes of Ice. You have 7 tiles, the central hex is ocean. The surrounding hexes have ice on one side and ocean on the other. The hexes also have differing symbols on each side. The ice or glacier is melting and you must try and end the game on the last ice hex on the sixth turn. You start in the middle. The 6 ice hexes are randomly arranged around the center. Before you move you may rotate a hex 60 degrees or swap two hexes without rotation. Then you move your meeple from one hex to an adjacent hex or the hex directly across from it by matching the symbols. Then you flip the hex you've left o become water. You can't land on water during the game and the game consists of only 6 turns.
So recently TBD games have piqued my interest.
Well 2014 draws to a close and some thoughts on my favorites of the year. I'm including games with their first general introduction at Essen 2014 as well as games released in 2014. There are still plenty of games I haven't tried yet so I'll addend this as necessesary.
The English edition of The Ravens of Thri Sahashri was released at Essen 2014. I choose Ravens as mt top game of 2014, because of it's unusual theme and the mechanism of play also feels unique to me. I love deduction games and Ravens provides that nicely while still being challenging. It's really rare to have a good 2 player deduction game that doesn't feel like Battleship. I like the fact that it is 2 player and that it works so well as a cooperative game to boot. So often 2 player games are "take that" or conflict driven it's nice to have one that is not. You also really can't tell the other person what to do since you are not supposed to have much table talk. While I guess you could compare it to Hanabi to me it had a totally different feel. I've heard rumors(semi confirmed) this might get a reprint or it might be picked up by another publisher, I hope so as it deserves a wider audience.
Five Tribes was a pleasant surprise from Days of Wonder. Heavier than their usual fair, it seemed about the right amount of complexity for a nice middle weight game. The multiple paths to victory seems fairly well balanced in my plays. The meeple movement adds a nice little puzzle.
The new edition of Fresh Fish makes my list as well. I have always admired the original version and love the puzzle aspects. One of the few games where I don't mind the blind bidding too much. I think Fresh Fish 2014 nicely simplifies the game for new players while still keeping some of the tension and challenge of the original game. I haven't yet tried playing the original game with the modular board but I look forward to it.
Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice. I mean the hype, the expectations! Surely the TM expansion couldn't live up to it right? Well it does. The expansion does a great job of adding new races which are very different in their special powers. So far I've only had a chance to play of them, the Acolytes and the Yetis. Both were extremely fun. It also added a new double sided board and the new end game tiles which certainly make the game more interesting. The turn order board works well and I think balances that aspect of the game a bit better.
Wonderful addition to the chess like abstract family. It plays quickly and the rules are simple. It's still challenging to play and the card variety keeps it fresh.
Wasn't sure I would enjoy this addition to the Uwe Rosenberg collection. I mean how much more can he do with the farming theme?! Well, apperently enough! This makes a great two player game. It feels different enough from his other games to keep me interested. Each turn there are so many more actions that you want to take than you are able to like in his other games. I like that the it's a bit easier to feed your people so you can concentrate on other parts of the game.
Deus makes my list for being a decent civ lite. It balances the card play and board play enough to get the game done in an hour. The game is one of hand building and requires cycling your hand through the deck. There is some luck since it's a card game but the different types buildings are fairly well balanced and it's short enough that I don't feel overly invested if I get a bad draw..
Colors of Kasane is my pick for nicest presentation (with honorable mention to Colt Express for the train). The game is a nice set collecting game. You draft cards trying to make the best meld possible. The cards are beautifully designed to go along with the theme for making kimonos and the designer included buttons as scoring markers hand covered with kimono cloth.
Tajemnicze Domostwo is another game I was a bit surprised that I would enjoy so much. The rules have been a bit confusing since there were a couple of sets floating around. It is a cooperative mash up of Dixit and Clue. The "Ghost" gives clues ala Dixit size card and vague pictures so the team of pshychis can deduce like in Clue location, weapon and person. Even though the rules were a bit a point of confusion the game is flexible enough to bend them around in some semblance of a working game for everyone to have fun. Tajemnicze Domostwo
Home again and recovering. Had a great time as usual but I didn't buy as many big games as usual, mostly because some of them offered shipping post Essen and I hope they start arriving soon.
I purchased a number of expansions this year including Hansa Teutonica: Britannia, Concordia: Britannia / Germania, Keyflower: The Merchants, Russian Railroads: Mini-Expansion, Bruges: The City on the Zwin, Brügge: Die Haustiere and of course Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice.
2 reprints, more or less, Fresh Fish and Uruk II: Die Entwicklung geht weiter
Several Japanese games, Taiwanese games and a few abstracts.
So on to the important part, games played and first impressions.
Deus this is a nice lite civ game. It's card driven. You start with 5 cards. There is a card drawing mechanism that's core to decreasing luck of the draw and allows you to turn over your hand.
There are 5 primary types of buildings (cards) you build for resources. Maritime, Production, Science, Military, Trade. You can also build temples for end game points. When you build a new building it activates previously build buildings of the same type. You place tokens matching the buildings onto the modular board. You can gain points by "attacking" barbarian villages. This means the barbarians must be surrounded and the person with most military tokens adjacent wins. There is no direct player conflict.
Game is over when all temples are built or all barbarians are conquered.
I liked this game a lot. Really looking forward to trying it again. It's a challenge to use the cards you have most efficiently. Have already played a second time. Kind of a civ lite that works for me.
La Isla I had mistakenly thought this was going to be an Alea big box game so was disappointed to see it was not and that it was a lighter family game. It's a decent set collecting game with a kind of stock market type track, but nothing really grabbed me. You randomly pick 3 cards and the have 3 different abilities on each card. You then choose and program the cards which allow you to gain a special ability, resources or score an animal set. There is also an action which allows you to place an adventurer on the board at the cost of resources. When you surround an animal you collect it.
Colt Express Played this, light and silly fun. Lots of "take that" play like there should be in a western. As some of the players commented, we just needed a good soundtrack to complete it. The 3D train is an integral part of the game and doesn't feel like a gimmick. I predict a hit.
Doodle City Cute little dice game. Played on the iPad several times on the airplane home, so plays quite nicely solo. It will be interesting to play against other people to see the differences in patterns I think.
UPDATE: We played with more players, I still like it, but the trick is, that for a light and fun game the scoring is relatively complicated. I think once everyone knows the game better it will make a nice filler. It's basically a solitaire puzzle I like the challenge.
Flip 9 Speaking of puzzles, I tried this with the easy mode. Definitely do-able. Too jet lagged to go for the advanced mode which looks to be quite challenging. Beautiful graphics. Since it's only 9 cards super easy to bring along to fill some time. Winner for me.
Haru Ichiban Hands down one of the nice looking productions this year. Laser cut pressboard with great graphics. This is a 2 player pattern building game. Not a true abstract as there is a bit of bluffing involved and the presentation of the theme oozes with theme.
Each player takes 9 blossoms numbered 1-8 and 1 frog of their color. The water lily pads are laid out on the board a 5x5 grid. One lily pad is dark side up. Each player places a frog on one of the pads. The players draw 3 blossoms and simultaneously choose one. The values are compared and the player with the lowest value is the "little" gardener and the other player is the "grand" gardener. The little gardener places the blossom on the dark pad and the grand gardener places on any other pad. The little gardener may then have the wind "blow" a group of lily pads or single if no adjacency in the direction chosen orthogonally one space. The grand gardener then chooses a new pad to flip to the dark side for the next turn.
If the players choose the same number they ribbet. They place the blossoms on the pads where the frogs are and the player that made a frog noise first places their frog on a new pad.
If one of the specific patterns is formed by a players blossoms, the round ends immediately and the players scores points for the pattern. The first player to 5 points wins.
So a simple game with a fantastic presentation. The game is short and there is interesting play. It makes a good filler. The theme fits beautifully. I think there was a limited print run but it deserves more.
King's Pouch So this is a new twist on deck building, using a draw bag instead of a deck. In this game some of the resources have different shapes so you can tell what kind of resource (1 of 2 types) but not the color before you pull it out of the bag. You can then use resources to claim territories on the board, buy buildings which give more abilities or claim a character card for end game points.
My game was missing some wooden pieces and 1 card. Hopefully I'll be able to get replacements as I'd like to try the game again with a full 4 players. I think the game has a nice balance between the bag building and integrating the other parts of the game..
Update: the company was quite nice and has responded to my email for the missing pieces, hopefully they arrive soon!
Patchwork A 2 player game with a quilting theme. This game is squarely in the Tetris/puzzle-like game family so nothing new there but it has a nice mechanism for turn order and income.
Players can purchase patches using buttons as currency to add to their quilt. Some pieces can give button income. Each piece also has a time cost. Players move along the track the number of time units need to place the patch. The player behind gets to take a turn and it is possible to have multiple turns. When you pass a button on the time track you collect income.
I liked it but again you can see my preference for puzzles.
The Ravens of Thri Sahashri Speaking of puzzles this little gem from Japon Brand is fascinating after the first play. It is a 2 player cooperative deduction game. The game play does take a bit to figure out. We had a mulligan our first batch, realized some things we didn't do correctly and then played a full game. We lost in the third batch. I can't wait to give it another try now that we know how the game flows.
Update: Played again. Oh this is a good one, may be my favorite from Essen this year. For such an unusual background theme the game is immersive. It really stays pretty tense through the game and you have to be on your toes.
Takamatsu Despite its name this a German designed game.
Interesting game with 5 players. Uses a movement mechanism like Heimlich & Co.
You start with 2 groups of samurai one on an outer track and one on an inner (there are crossover rooms where you can change tracks).
When you move, you move the number of spaces equal to the number of samurai you take. You may empty a room if only has 1 or 2 tokens. If the room has 3 or more you must leave at least one samurai behind. If there is another color(s) of samurai in the room you must take at least 1 with you.
When the samurai get to a room of matching color the whole moving group stops there and the samurai matching the room color takes movement cards for the point track. Most are positive movement 1-5 and a few are negative. A few are kept face down to be scored at the end. First person to 20 wins. I liked the mechanism and the tactical aspect. Fun to try and advance yourself and strand opponents. I think maybe next time I might try it without any hidden points and have them all face up instead.
Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice We tried this. I didn't get to play one of the new races but they looked like a lot of fun. It was a bit tricky to do the new turn order. I like the alternate game end point tiles.
Update: Played again and got to be the Yetis. Lots of fun!
Villannex I'm not sure what to think of this one yet. The rules are so simple and it takes about 30 sec to play but figuring out the scoring is a challenge. It's a bluffing game with simultaneous card selection. Not particularly my favorite mechanisms but then again it's so fast it seems fun.
Carnac Nicely produced 2 player abstract. It has an interesting mechanism of giving your opponents a potential advantage to take a turn. Placement is key.
Yesterday was quite exhausting. We moved at least 12 pallets of games around yesterday. What a work out! Finished setting the booth up and taught demo minions how to play the games for teaching this year.
I did manage to score some preorders though!
The fair starts soon. Not sure how the train strike will affect crowds this morning.
Today was set up day. It takes a lot of work to set up the booths, especially when you still have jet lag Bryon and I were there early and Ted and Toni arrived about the same time as the tables for demos.
Today was a lot of waiting for equipment to arrive and running back and forth asking for items that still hadn't arrived. We did get to do some fun things like punch a copy of Castles of Mad King Ludwig and Subdivision for the demo table. Also helped Toni set up in the press booth so had a tiny peek at some of the games coming out.
Even better was saying hi to some folks I rarely get to see in person thees days. Stopped by the BGG booth where Aldie, Doug and the rest of the gang were hard at work setting up the computers, cameras and BGGStore items. Chatted with the brothers Yu, waved to W. Eric and said hi to Tak and Ryoko and everyone at the Japon Brand booth.
I received my first game of this year's spiel, a little postcard game as a gift! Tried to upload a photo but not working right
On my way! Packed all the usual, snacks for the plane, double and triple checked the passport, almost forgot the hair brush. Did have to make a last minute run for a new battery for the luggage scale but totally worth it. Printed preorder info, so much to do!
I'll be starting up a geeklist soon.
Onitama will be seeing a general release this year at Essen. This my first impression of this great little game.
First off, I am a fan of abstracts, particularly abstracts that can be played in under 15 minutes. Onitama is definitely an abstract, but like Let's Catch the Lion!, I think it's short enough and simple enough to have a broader appeal.
The game is won by either capturing your opponent's Onmyo (think king) or by moving your Onmyo to your opponent's home square. Each player has 4 pawns to assist in this.
The game has variable setup. Basically movement of your pieces are determined by 5 cards that are randomly chosen (out of 15) at the beginning of the game. Each card is named after an animal with an associated movement. Some cards have specific movement to the piece, Onmyo vs pawn. Each player is dealt two face up in front of them and the fifth is set to the side also face up. On a turn a player executes one of their two cards and then takes the set aside card into his hand. The played card is then set aside to be taken during the next player's turn. Since the 5 cards are randomly determined at the beginning of each game, each games plays quite differently, so no favorite or set opening move. Really adds some nice variety.
The game is a little brain burning as you try and figure out the best moves. Since your possible moves are limited it doesn't take too long per turn.
I like the variable set up. The game is easy to learn and can be played fairly quickly. The limits set by the cards can be extremely challenging. In one of our games lateral and diagonal movement was extremely limited so the game took a bit longer but it was fun trying to solve the problem.
The production quality is nice, the cards are of good stock and the board and wooden pieces mesh well. If you are a fan of games like shogi or chess but want something shorter this could fit your needs or if you are like me and like a good puzzle, Onitama makes a great filler. I am anxiously looking forward to playing it again as soon as possible.
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