Allen OConnorUnited KingdomRead my blog
Annabelle and I have been together for a little over three years now and in that time she’s gradually been exposed to the world of strategic board gaming. In that time she has slowly begun to enjoy heavier games but was yet to try anything from one of my favourite designers Stefan Feld, who’s games can be quite complex with dozens of ways to gain victory points and ways to optimise scoring that reward players with experience of the game. I remember when I was introduced to some of Feld’s games a few years ago by various different people and the process would usually look something like this:
- Here’s a bunch of rules to remember...
- ...and then I’m going to take this, which triggers this, then I get this one for free, which also...
- So I got 250 points and you got 75. What did you think? Do you like it?
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a problem that is exclusive to Feld’s games, many other eurogames can fall into this trap too. Teaching games in this way can really put someone off from playing the game again. Nobody wants their first experience of a game to be getting helplessly crushed by your opponent, especially when there are only two people playing. This week my wife and I ended up playing a game that reminded me so much of Feld’s designs that I got the itch to play one of his games again, only this time I wanted Annabelle to learn the game in the way that I wish it was taught to me.
Annabelle and I finally got around to trying our fancy Kickstarter edition of Wreck Raiders by Kids Table BG this week. The game arrived with a bunch of little extras a few weeks ago but we opted to play just the base game so that we could learn the rules. The game looks absolutely amazing with plenty of custom wooden pieces, artwork and custom dice covered in fish; even as a two play game Wreck Raiders has a great table presence with so many different parts to keep track of. The game feels a little bit like a family weight Stefan Feld game with players having plenty of different ways to trigger combos and score points. Wreck Raiders centres around a dice drafting mechanism that allows players to dive into one of the four different excavation sites each filled with different types of treasure. Players can store their plunder in their vaults for some end game scoring or they can put them on display and attempt to score one of the exhibition cards available for all players to take. Over the course of the game players will also get their hands on three different types of shells which can be used to trigger certain helpful effects or alternatively players can trade them in to build aquariums. The game felt simple enough to easily engage with while maintaining enough strategic depth to hold my attention. The Vault mechanism felt a little underpowered for the amount of attention that it required to score, but I know that one of the mini expansions in the box called The Relic Hunter remedies the problem by giving players additional ways to score points in their vault. I did enjoy the game quite a lot and I think that it did work well as a two player experience, I’d like to see how well the game handles four or five as I can see the competition for exhibition cards being fierce with more players. Annabelle and I played a fairly close game but in the end my aquariums scored highly to give me the edge and win the game.
Allen 127 - 118 Annabelle
Keeping with the nautical theme I decided to try out my newly acquired copy of SOS Titanic designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc. The game is loosely based on the solo card game Patience, which will be familiar to anyone who has procrastinated in front of a Windows computer in the last thirty years. The suits of cards have been replaced by First and Second Class passengers and the completed card stacks are now the lifeboats to safety. The game has the most peculiar replacement for a board that gives it an original and engaging look, instead including a booklet with spaces at the bottom to place your stacks of cards. As time progresses the pages are turned and the Titanic slowly sinks, leaving fewer positions in which to play cards; if you get to the last page before saving all of the passengers the ship sinks and you lose the game. I learned the rules and played through a few turns before realising how badly I was doing, making some terrible choices and leaving me in a position where I was going to lose the game very quickly. So instead I gathered the cards together and started again, this time doing a little better and scoring 35 points before watching the Unsinkable plunge into the sea. I can see this being a particularly difficult game to beat which isn’t a bad thing, this is a really enjoyable game to play even when you don’t win. I’d be interested to see whether the game is any easier to beat with a team of players rather than as a solo game.
Score - 35
Next up Annabelle and I played an abstract game called Parallelo by Clemens Gerhards. Although games by this publisher tend to be on the expensive side, the quality of this production is excellent and the rules have a great balance of being both simple and intricate at the same time. The playing area is made up of a slightly wonky six by six grid of spaces designed to house the various coloured pieces. Players each start with eighteen pieces made up of six colours, so three pieces for each player from all six of the game’s colours. Players take turns to place their pieces on the board and should they make a parallelogram of one colour the pieces are removed and scored by the active player, the first person to make three such moves is the winner. The only rules about placement are that pieces can not be adjacent to the same colour and there can never be more than three matching pieces in a single straight line anywhere on the board. The game had both of us focussing heavily on strategy as one wrong move will give your opponent the chance to score. I scored two parallelograms before Annabelle managed to score one, then the pieces that she took away from the board from scoring allowed me the space to score my third and win the game. As an abstract games fan I thoroughly enjoyed playing Parallelo and I can’t wait to try this one again, it felt truly different to anything that I’ve played before.
I’ve played Overbooked by Jumbo a bunch of times now and I can confidently say that it has been one of the best games that I’ve played this year. As a fan of solo games I was interested to try this one out in it’s solitaire format, especially after reading about how setup works. Instead of being score based Overbooked has a series of different single-player scenarios to play, each with three levels of difficulty. I played “Scenario One: Friends Weekend” in which I had to get a group of at least six Green, Blue and Yellow passengers together, as well either three Red couples or three surronded White babies. Cards are still drafted from the four centre spaces however players can now take any of them without taking a penalty. Food vouchers are used to remove and replace cards from the board or to pay for overbooked passengers, with the player losing should they need to spend a food voucher that they do not have. I played on Beginner difficulty which gave me six meal tickets to use, this ended up being the only reason that I won the game as I got everyone on board into the right seats with only a single meal ticket remaining. I thought that the solo game was engaging, puzzle-like and quite original too. It made me love the game even more now that I know that the game works at every player count. It was refreshing to play a solo game that wasn’t based on trying to score points, I feel like I can keep going back to it now and play through the various scenarios and difficulty settings without the game becoming dry. If you haven’t tried Overbooked already then I highly recommend that you take a look at it, I think that it’s quite wonderful. Simple, strategic, fast and satisfying to win.
With Annabelle being tied up with her first week back in school I had the chance to play a couple of other solo games including one of my favourites, which is Steffen Benndorf’s The Game. Despite my love for this clever-but-tricky game it probably has the stupidest title in my collection, making it difficult to locate here on the Geek. I finally managed to beat this recently after being unbelievably close on a number of occasions. This week I didn’t even come close, drawing middle cards at the start of the game and either very low or very high cards shortly afterwards forcing me to spoil one pile after another. Eventually I lost with a whopping thirteen cards remaining but I still enjoyed the ride, I know that I’ll beat this game again at some point very soon. I also got a chance to play my Moroccan Solitaire set this week purchased in the Souks of Marrakech, which I suppose is more of a puzzle than a game. I know that there is an algorithm that can be followed to remove the pieces leaving one behind in the centre of the board, but I don’t know it so for now I’m enjoying trying to beat my score and trying to solve the puzzle. This time I ended with two pieces remaining, so close!
The last game of the evening was the one that I hinted at at the start of today’s post, Stefan Feld’s masterpiece The Castles of Burgundy. I’ve played this game to death over the years whereas Annabelle has never tried this or any other Feld design, so I took a different approach to teaching the game. I know that if Annabelle enjoys playing Castles of Burgundy we will end up playing it quite a lot, so rather than play a competitive game I it set up as normal but played both sides to start with. Then as Annabelle got to grips with the rules she started to make decisions and eventually she was controlling both players. I tried to make sure that both colours were using different strategies to show Annabelle the various ways to play the game, one side focussed on scoring animals and shipping goods while the other collected buildings and end of game technology hexes. By the time we got to the end my wife understood the rules, got her head around the strategy and fell in love with Castles of Burgundy. I think that in a two player setting, especially when playing with your spouse, this is the best way to teach a highly strategic eurogame. I’ve met no shortage of people who were put off from playing Feld’s designs because they tried the game with someone who wanted to beat them more than they wanted to show them how to play. I’d love to hear your experiences of learning Feld games with Feld fans. Now that my wife understands how to play I’m excited to see how well she fares in a competitive game.
Annabelle and I also did a little bit of board game shopping this week thanks to a Waterstones voucher that I received for my birthday (thanks Stuart!). I’ll leave you with a list of our new purchases and a picture of this week’s beer, which was rather delicious. Thank you for reading!
Slide Quest - This wonderfully presented cooperative balancing game by Blue Orange Games that see players each holding one edge of the board and trying to maneuver a hero through a series of RPG inspired challenges.
Corinth - An ancient Greek themed roll-and-write game published by Days of Wonder that looks a little meatier than other games that I’ve seen in the genre. The publisher was the first thing that drew my attention towards this game, they don’t often put out bad games.
Coinhole - Wooden boards with holes in, plus coins that need to be bounced into said holes. I don’t know much about this one but it might make for a fun drinking game.
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A blog about board Games and life from Allen and Annabelle O'Connor.
- [+] Dice rolls
This post covers the two weeks or so that I have been off on my holiday from work over the summer. We were visited by friends, went to Africa, visited London and got together with my parents for a night of gaming. I’ve had the best time and I’ve played plenty of games along the way, starting with the final part of the Century Trilogy.
My wife and I had such a great time playing the first two parts of Emerson Matsuuchi’s incredible Century Trilogy. This is a set of three games that can be played individually or together in any combination, turning three games into seven. The series started with Century: Spice Road which is a fairly simple card driven game that sees players manipulating their supply of four different goods in exchange for contracts. The game quickly achieves a flow state with simple actions, limited choices and some degree of engine building with the various action cards. The follow up was called Century: Eastern Wonders and although it had a very different look the core objective remained the same, manipulate four different goods to fulfil contacts and gain points. The card driven gameplay is replaced with a large modular playing area made up of hexagonal tiles, players will manoeuvre their ships building outposts along the way and use the actions associated with each space all of which relate to exchanging different goods. The game has a little bit of area control because outposts are cheapest if you build them first, it’s one that we’ve played quite a lot over the last year or so. We also combined the two games together to make Century: From Sand to Sea, which uses the cards from Spice Road to drive the actions and the movement for the ships and map from Eastern Wonders, the end result is a game that is better than the sum of its parts. My wife picked up a copy of the third and final game in the series last week named Century: A New World which has worked placement as it’s main mechanism. This means that we also have three new combinations including a game that uses all three titles, called Century: From East to West parts one, two and three. Needless to say, you might be seeing a lot more of the Century series on our blog over the coming months, starting with our first game of A New World.Games Night with Charlotte and Jordan
We were joined by our close friends Charlotte and Jordan for a couple of days at the start of my summer break, and they both enjoy the board gaming hobby too so it only seemed right that we would find the time to squeeze in a few games starting with the much anticipated Century: A New World. At first glance the game looked like it had a little more weight than the other Century titles but once we started playing it was actually quite simple. Players all start the game with six workers available and a stock of six more to be acquired over the course of the game. Each space requires a certain number of workers to activate it, with the stronger spaces requiring more workers. Should a space be occupied by another player’s workers it can still be used only at a cost of one additional worker, this action sends workers back to a player’s supply to be used on a future turn. Like with the other games in this series the actions all surround the management of four different resources, which are then traded for cards providing the main source of points for scoring. Unlike the first two games each point card gives players a benefit for the rest of the game such as extra workers, discounts and additional resources for action spaces. Over the course of the game players will have the opportunity to grab bonuses point tiles awarding extra opportunities to score points, however they only have the space to fit three on their player boards so players must choose wisely. The game plays at a good pace with players only having two possible actions to take on their turn, either place workers on a space or return them all back to your supply for a future turn. Our game ended being very close with only five points between us in the end, I was the player to trigger the end and the only person to have eight scoring cards which I think is what won the game for me. We all enjoyed playing this one as we had enjoyed the other two games in the series, I’m quite excited to try the game that uses components from the whole trilogy.
1st - Allen 50
2nd - Jordan 48
3rd - Annabelle 46
4th - Charlotte 45
Another game that I was eager to introduce to Charlotte and Jordan was this year’s well deserved Kennerspiel des Jahres winner Wingspan, which is quickly becoming one of our favourite games. The four of us have played quite a few eurogames together, so despite the game’s unique gameplay it wasn’t difficult to teach the rules. I did opt for the blue side of the end of round scoring card for a less confrontational game which makes sense when you’re introducing the game to new players, especially those who are more used to euro style games. Within a couple of turns the game started to flow really well, with players taking their actions quickly and planning their moves ahead of time. I think that Charlotte picked up the engine building element of the game more than Jordan, who only managed to play seven birds by the end. From the games that I have played so far it seems that a good strategy is to try and get two birds in every terrain as quickly as possible to make sure that all of the actions are at least worthwhile, otherwise you can be left taking weak actions in later rounds when you really can’t afford to be wasting turns. I managed to get four cards in each terrain by the end of the game which worked out pretty well for me as one of my bonus cards awarded two points per bird for whichever terrain had the fewest cards in it. I ended with almost no eggs left as I seem to do in most games of Wingspan and a fairly comfortable win, though this is a game that rewards players who have already played it before so I was at somewhat of an advantage. Four seems like a good number to play Wingspan with though I’m yet to try the game with five, I can’t wait to see what Elizabeth Hargrave is going to put together in the first expansion to the game. I read that each expansion will cover a different continent, as all of the birds from the base game can be found in North America.
1st - Allen 87
2nd - Charlotte 76
3rd - Annabelle 70
4th - Jordan 56
Next up was a game that Charlotte came across recently by the name of Squirrel Rush by Tailor Games. It’s not a game that I had heard of before but I was glad to give it a try, and we all had a very enjoyable experience. In Squirrel Rush players maneuver their squirrel token around a grid of cards with the aim to collect nuts. On each turn players can jump from one card to another collecting the amount of nuts depicted on the card then flipping the card over for future turns. The cards contain between one and five nuts and players can only move to a card with fewer nuts, so the most amount of nuts that a player can get on their turn is fifteen. On every turn after the first players are each given one random power from a deck of cards which can be helpful in getting more nuts that turn. The game did feel a little bit random with players often being left with no decent moves to use on their turn, but there is an advanced variant that mitigates the randomness to some degree by giving players one copy of each power to use over the course of the game. Our game ended up being very tight right up to the last round when Charlotte won by a single point.
1st - Charlotte 65
2nd - Allen 64
3rd - Jordan 58
4the - Annabelle 49
While Annabelle and Charlotte were busy discussing the difficulties of being a Teacher and having six weeks off in the summer Jordan and I sat down to a two player game. I introduced him to KeyForge as I have done for so many of my friends recently which is one of my favourite two players games at the moment. Unlike some of my other friends who came to the hobby after playing Magic:the Gathering Jordan had never played any kind of two player card game like this before so we played two tutorial style games to go through the rules. I stuck to using decks from the Call of the Archons set to minimise the number of rules and keywords, as more were added to the second wave of KeyForge decks. Jordan picked the game up straight away and appeared to really enjoy himself, so much so that he ended up buying a starter set and a couple of decks to go with it. I think that Jordan must be the tenth person that I’ve introduced to the game and he certainly won’t be the last, I just can’t get enough of KeyForge at the moment.
The four of us were together again for the next game and knowing how much Charlotte and Jordan have enjoyed playing Patchwork I introduced them to the game’s roll-and-write counterpart Patchwork Doodle. I think that I’m actually starting to enjoy this game a little more than the original because I like the fact that you can play it with more than two people, and because I find drawing the unnecessary patchwork patterns to be rather therapeutic. We bought some coloured pens to add some more variety to the patchwork patterns that we could draw and before you know it we were a bunch of adults sat around a table drawing pretty patterns in our individual score sheets. I somehow managed to make a 6x6 grid by the end of the first round by using almost all of my bonuses, which did make things harder as the game went on but gave enough points to maintain an early lead. Annabelle managed to completely fill her nine by nine grid with the last tile of the game, however she was somewhat disheartened to learn that it wasn’t enough to win the game overall. My early lead made all of the difference in the end as I won by a narrow four points.
1st - Allen 147
2nd - Annabelle 143
3rd - Jordan 137
4th - Charlotte 105
We ended our gaming session a superb trick taking game by Adam Porter called Pikoko. We picked the game up at last year’s UK Games Expo so the four of had all played the game together before. In Pikoko players can only see the cards of their opponents as their own cards are displayed to the rest of the table using the Peacock card holders. Each phase of the game is made of eight rounds of trick taking, with players guessing how many tricks the other hands at the table will win at the start of each phase. You don’t gain anything for your hand of cards winning tricks, instead all of the points are awarded for correctly guessing how many tricks a person will win with fewer points awarded for being close with your guess. Players also have confidence cards that are played in secret and award big points for getting their guess for a specific player exactly right, otherwise they make you lose points. Players actually control the cards for the player to their left rather than their own hand, so you can manipulate the outcome of the rounds if you’re careful. I do suck a little at this game but I always find it very enjoyable to play. Charlotte did a great job of correctly guessing the outcome of each round eventually guessing three out of four of the players in the last round to win the game comfortably. It was a great way to end a visit from our close friends, I’m looking forward to playing with them again hopefully sooner this time.
1st - Charlotte 16
2nd - Jordan 12
2nd - Allen 12
4th - Annabelle 10Visiting London
The original plan was for Annabelle and her mother to visit London for a few days, to see a theatre show on the West End and some afternoon tea, however she was struck with illness and I found myself packing an overnight bag at 5am to take her place on the short break. We made the most of our visit and ended up having a great two days in London despite the constant torrential downpour of rain. We went to see Les Miserables: the All Star Stage Concert which is basically just the music from the show but performed from the likes of Alfie Boe, Michael Ball and Matt Lukas. We had a good time and the show finished in time for me to watch Liverpool beating Chelsea in a penalty shootout to win the European Super Cup. We spent the next day meandering around the Tate Modern art gallery, which is a great place to visit and technically free though we did make a few donations on the way around. The picture above shows Olafur Eliasson’s The Cubic Structural Evolution Project which invites participants to help to build a futuristic modern city using only white Lego bricks. We also visited Shakespeare’s Globe and another exhibition on the Psychology of Magic. I don’t really know how we managed to cram it all in.
Although we did have a pretty busy agenda in London we found the time to play a couple of compact travel games on our long train journey from the North. Gigamic make some great travel editions of their games including our compact edition of Quixo so we started the morning with an abstract game. The rules to this one are pretty simple, take a cube from the edge of the grid that doesn’t contain your opponents symbol, turn it to show your show your symbol and push the cube back into the grid to a different location. The first person to make five in a row is the winner. We ended up playing a fairly long game and I thought that I was setting up a winning move when Annabelle displaced a cube from the edge of the board to win the game from a row that I had overlooked.
Next up we played Encore! which is one of our favourite roll-and-write games, though it is one that we have probably played more as an app than in its physical form. Players use one dice to identify a colour and one for a quantity, then they cross out some of the spaces on their individual score sheet. Points are awarded for completing columns, more so if you get there first, and for fully completing one of the colours in your grid. The game is pretty relaxing with lots of interesting strategic choices and it works really well with two players. Annabelle got two bonuses to trigger the end of the game however I scored more thanks to completing more columns over the course of the game, making me the winner.
Allen 30 - 26 Annabelle
The last game that we squeezed in before arriving in London was Kuhlorado, a two player only roll-and-write game that sees players filling in their moves on the same score sheet. This is a pretty simple game in which players roll two dice, and add their symbol (either X or O) to a corresponding space. Points are awarded for having a majority of symbols next to each edge, next to the water spaces and for having large groups of orthogonally adjacent spaces. We had a pretty tight game but Annabelle finished on top thanks to scoring more water spaces.
Annabelle 35 - 30 AllenOur Holiday to Marrakech
As my wife is a teacher we are restricted to taking our holidays during the actual school summer break, which coincidentally is when the travel agents charge double the price for any kind of holiday. This year we decided to travel somewhere a little different opting for a week in Marrakech, Morocco. We were somewhat influenced by the Dominique Ehrhard game of the same name in our choice of destination and we had a wonderful week, ate some great food, drank myself stupid and enjoyed the 47°C heat. We had our own hot tub and a child free hotel, which contained a surprising amount of other teachers.
Before we left I thought that I would see how many games I could fit in our copy of Marrakech, shrinking most of them down to as small a space as possible. I managed to get twelve in of which we managed to play a total of six over the course of the week. I think that I’d definitely do this again the next time that we leave the country, it was nice to have plenty of choice rather than the handful of small card games that I usually take away. Also it meant that we could take games that actually required a board to play thanks to us having a box to store it in.
The first game that we played on what was to be our first trip to Africa was the aptly chosen Roll Through Africa, which was a Kickstarter bonus found in Roll to the Top!. This is one of the more straight-forward roll-and-write games in our collection with players simply trying to be the first to fill their score sheet, in which pretty much every country in the African continent has a space. Before beginning players choose one of the central spaces, marked with a dot, as a starting point and everyone places a 1 in the space. On each turn players will roll a pool of different dice which may change over the course of the game in much the same fashion as Roll to the Top, and add the numbers to their score sheet combining them if necessary. Every time you place a number it must equal to or higher than every adjacent number on the score sheet, so players need to find a balance between trying to fill in their score pad quickly but not at the expense of making the later spaces too difficult to fill in. We had a pretty close game with Annabelle completing her score sheet while I only had Angola left empty on mine. It was an interesting twist on the Roll to the Top gameplay, I’m quite looking forward to playing this one again though I think that my strategy might be different next time.
Over the years I’ve seen plenty of people here on the Geek playing board games in their thematic setting, games like Carcassonne, Santorini and Alhambra that just happen to set in a beautiful location perfect for holidaying. Marrakech was to be our first such game though we actually ended up playing it in bed during the midday heat under our much appreciated air conditioner. Although this is probably not the most strategic game in our collection I’ve always found Marrakech to be an engaging and relaxing experience, especially when played as a two player game. A neutral character called Assam will travel around the board leaving the players carpets around him as he moves. On a player’s turn the will first choose which way Assam is facing, then roll the dice to see how far he moves, and finally place one of their carpets adjacent to the space that he lands on. The board has arrows around the outside so that Assam will be redirected back on to the board should he move off the edge, and if Assam ends his move on an opponents rug the active player must pay coins equal to the number of spaces covered to the rugs owner. Players start with 30 coins and at the end of the game your points are equal to the number of coins you have left plus the number of spaces covered by your rugs. One of the reasons that I quite like the two player game is because you both get two different rugs each, so there is an added layer of strategy in trying to keep your two two rug types together to maximise the penalty to your opponent should they land on the space. Our game ended up being very close, but I landed on a big group of Annabelle’s rugs close to the end of the game in a move that lost me a bunch of coins and ultimately the game. Annabelle ended up winning by eight points.
Annabelle 58 - 50 Allen
The next game didn’t quite have a Moroccan theme but I suppose that Cairo is still in Northern Africa, albeit on the opposite end to where we were. Cairo Corridor by nestorgames is one of those easy-to-teach difficult-to-master abstract games that puts an interesting twist on the genre of linkage games. The board is made up of spaces for irregular pentagons which can take a little bit of getting used to, I know that new players to the game often find it difficult to correctly orientate the pieces. Players take turns to place their coloured pieces on the board until no new pieces can affect the final score. There must always be an empty path that connects all four sides of the board together, players will score one point for every one of their pieces that are adjacent final path at the end of the game. The strategy to this game can be quite challenging, at any point a whole section of the board can become redundant and all of your pieces suddenly aren’t worth any points should your opponent block the way entirely. Also I think that Nestorgames are perfect for travelling as the majority of the games that the publisher releases are portable, our copy fit easily into the box with the rest of the games. We played a very tight game with one corridor suddenly becoming blocked and redirected mid way through the game. I ended up winning by a single point by the end.
Allen 11 - 10 Annabelle
After a day of baking in the Moroccan sun my wife and I retreated to the bar, both feeling far too English for this level of heat. We sat down to a couple of drinks and two of our favourite games. I was surprised at how compact Ticket to Ride: London could be when you just bring enough components for two people to play, even if I did bring the wrong score marker for Annaballe’s purple trains. This is the second game in what I hope is going to be a long series of smaller, shorter Ticket to Ride titles which maintain all of the fun of the bigger titles but play in around 15 minutes or so. I’ve come to the conclusion that of the two smaller Ticket to Ride games I prefer the London map, especially when played with two players. I like the fact that the map is more rounded, less confrontational and I really like the districts mechanism. I think that with the limited number of moves at your disposal, pushing to connect those last few routes to score your districts adds a nice reward at not too much risk to the player. Annabelle has a habit of absolutely crushing me at this game and today was to be no exception. Annabelle started with the Baker Street to the Tower of London card for a whopping eleven points and managed to attach three more tickets to the route before the end of the game, including taking tickets with her last action and finding a six point route that was already completed. A very ballsy move to end the game and a well deserved win for Annabelle.
Annabelle 49 - 33 Allen
Next up was one of my all time favourite games, probably as high as a top 10 game for me. Honshū combines drafting, trick taking and city building into a compact card game (with a few cubes) for two to five players. There are a few special rules for the two player game which make sure that there is a little more choice, with players ending up with a selection of two cards to choose from each turn. Every card is split into six sections containing different terrain types which will all score in a certain way. Players get a randomly selected starting card, then they will be adding twelve more cards over the course of the game. Every new card needs to be placed either on top of or slotted underneath a previously placed card when being added to your tableau. Each card has a number between one and sixty, at the start of each round there is a trick taking step with players selecting one card from their hand and the player using the highest number choosing their card first from those used in the trick phase to add to their tableau. I know that there is a sequel to the game that gets rid of the trick taking step all together called Hokkaido but I’m yet to try it, for now I still very much enjoy playing Honshū. Annabelle played a fairly well rounded game scoring consistently in all areas including eighteen points for her lakes, where as I focused heavily on building up an enormous town across my rather chaotic tableau for twenty-seven points. In the end Annabelle’s more balanced approach to scoring came out on top as she won the game by eight points.
Annabelle 69 - 61 Allen
It was the last day of our holiday and we were feeling pretty sad about leaving, Morocco is a beautiful place with great culture and better food. Plus we hadn’t seen a drop of rain for an entire week, something of a luxury after the none stop showers of our Enlish summer. We sat down to a couple of games of Qwinto in the hotel bar before our transfer coach came to collect us. Again this is a great game for travelling as are most roll-and-writes, especially if your as sad as I am and you laminate your score sheets for unlimited replayability. Qwinto is a sequel to the incredibly popular Qwixx with a step up in strategy and complexity. There are three rows of spaces matching three coloured dice, on a players turn they can roll any number of dice then they can add the collective value to any space on one of the rows matching the colours rolled. Numbers must ascend from left to right, players have the chance for one reroll and the active player must input a number or cross out a fail worth minus five points, the inactive players can add a number if they want to. In addition numbers can not be repeated in a column, there are five special column spaces that will be worth points at the end of the game should the column be completed. If a player manages to complete a row they will score points equal to the highest value, otherwise they score one point per number in that row. The game ends when one player has scored two rows, or when one player has made four fails. We ended up playing a close game in which I won and a not so close game that went catastrophically wrong for me as I only completed one out of five of my columns and lost dreadfully. With that our holiday was over and we were on our way back to sunny Manchester airport.
Game 1: Allen 78 - 64 Annabelle
Game 2: Allen 17 - 70 AnnabelleGames Night with my Parents
On the day that Annabelle arrived back in the UK we visited my parents for a barbecue, some booze and a few games too. As much as I enjoyed the food in Morocco it was all very rich, so I was grateful for some traditional British barbecue food. Lovely burgers and sausages and not a tajine in sight. This is probably my favourite group to play board games with so it was a great way to end my break from work. Also I had celebrated my birthday while I was on holiday so I was given some gifts, some cards and we cracked open a bottle of Champers to celebrate, as well as a few fine English beers,
Our first game of the evening was probably the most peculiar game that we played that day. New York Slice is a fairly simple I-split-you-choose game that sees players carefully dividing up pizzas, collecting sets and eating slices along the way. This is actually a reimplementation of a game that I had the pleasure of playing a couple of years ago called ...aber bitte mit Sahne which is German for ‘but please with cream.’ The original game had a cake theme but I love the presentation of this new Bézier Games edition, plus I’d eat pizza over cake any day. Essentially each piece of pizza has a number printed on and possibly some pepperoni too, when you take your slice you can eat a section for some guaranteed points equal to the number of pepperonis or you can keep the slice and try to finish the game with the most amount of a certain numbered slice. In addition there will be a specials board that can either be included in a segment or can be itself a segment, each special with either grant points or will give you some kind of action to use before the last round has ended. The game starts with a number of stacks of face down pizza slices and specials boards relative to the number of players included in the game. When it’s your turn to split the pizza you will first turn over the slices building the pizza in the exact order that the slices appear, you read out the specials board then you split the pizza into exactly the amount of parts to the number of players at the table. Starting with the person to your left everyone will take one section and you will get the part that is left at the end, meaning that you need to split the pizza up in such a way that you will still end up getting something good at the end. It’s a great concept for a game and it’s very tricky to split the pizza up on your turn, especially when your taking one of the last turns in the game. I ended up eating most of my slices and scoring two majorities to win the first game of the evening fairly comfortably, trust me to win a game about eating pizza.
1st - Allen 28
Joint 2nd - Sue and Dave 23
4th - Annabelle 22
Next was a game that Annabelle and I tried for the first time recently as a two player game. Overbooked by Jumbo Games sees players chaotically drafting passengers into their planes to get the most points and leave the fewest empty seats. We both loved the game after our first play, and it scales up to four players really well too. There is a central row of cards showing a seating position for some of the five different types of passengers, players take turns to collect the cards and then sit the passengers in the matching pattern on their plane turning the card if necessary to fit people in. Sometimes players are forced to remove previously placed passengers from their planes to make way for new passengers with each ejected person making the player loses two points at the end of the game. Passengers can all cause a player to score points depending on their seating positions. Red passengers are lovers and must be sat in pairs, though any more than that and they’re worth nothing because three's a crowd. White passengers are babies and must be surrounded by adults but not by other babies to score points. The other three passenger types are rugby players, friends and old folks, all of which score points for having large sets sat together. The game has such a nice flow to it and played in around 40 minutes with a rules explanation, which is a good length for a game with so much strategic depth. I went a little bit baby-mad scoring eight of them before the end of the game and neglecting other ways of scoring points. Sue managed to balance her points across several areas and avoided having empty seats at the end of the game to win by a clear margin. I’m really enjoying this game at the moment and I can’t wait to play it again, I’m excited to see how well the game works in it’s solo format too.
1st - Sue 33
2nd - Allen 27
Joint 3rd - Dave and Annabelle 23
Next up was a game that everyone except for Annabelle had tried a few weeks before called Rats to Riches, a tableau building card game about rats, sewers and finances. We had a great time playing the game recently so I was eager to see what my wife thought of it. The game sees players buying three different types of cheese and trading them for cards that have different effects on the game. Some increase the amount of income that you have, some can be saved up and traded in for more money, some give you ongoing powers and some give you take-that abilities to use against your opponents. As soon as a player gets over $100 the last round is played and the game comes to an end. This is a somewhat chaotic swingy game with plenty of humour along the way, it might not appeal to some of the more hardcore eurogamer types out there but it’s great if your looking for something a little more light hearted and accessable as a family game this is well worth a look. Also the take-that cards are somewhat balanced by the ‘Big Cheese’ token which sits in front of the player who is currently in the lead and grants some additional income; it’s a great way of reminding players who is currently ahead and needs to be targeted by those nasty red cards. We decided that playing a game about filthy scheming rats seemed like a good time to crack open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate my birthday, which made being awarded the Big Cheese token all the more rewarding even if I did end up losing it the following turn. Dave was out ahead for a little while but ended up getting completely screwed first by the other players, then by some of the event cards that were turning up in the Open Sewer. Sue triggered the last turn by passing the 100 point mark, but Annabelle pulled of a ridiculous series of moves to generate tons of cash to take her ahead and win the game. I think that the game was much more enjoyable with four players because we got to see more of the Supreme Sewer cards than in a three player game.
1st - Annabelle 150
2nd - Sue 119
3rd - Allen 102
4th - Dave 62
Our next game was to be the second title in the Undo series by the name of Curse From the Past. We all had a great time playing the first Undo game so my wife and I invested in the other two chapters in the trilogy. We’ve played a lot of story driven, one-shot games together but I feel like the Undo series brings something new to the genre. Each game starts with the death of a central character, usually with some kind of ominous clue as to how the person died. Players have a series of face down cards each with a date and location leading up to the death, sometimes a day before, ten years before or even three-thousand years before. The team will travel to various points in time, learn more about the story and be faced with a multiple choice decision to change the course of history and ultimately try to prevent the death of the main character. Each decision has a score attached to it and when players have visited a certain number of points in history the game ends and you see whether you were successful or not. Players can also get a couple of clues along the way to help them in their decision making but the number of clues is very limited, so they must be used sparingly. There were a few twists and turns in this story which unfortunately we didn’t figure out fast enough to influence our decision making, meaning that our five points weren’t enough to save the protagonist of the story. But still we had a great time playing the game and watching the narrative unfold, this was certainly much more difficult than the first game. We have one game left to play in the trilogy and we’re all really hoping that Pegasus Spiele put out more in the future, though I think that in the same vein as the Unlock series maybe the three games could have been contained in one larger box.
Score - 5 (Fail)
The last game of the evening and the last game that I’m going to talk about in what has become a rather large blog post is Ohanami, one of the many outstanding games from the NSV Middys series. We actually played this for the first time in March and then shortly afterwards lost the game, accidentally leaving inside another box up until recently. I suppose that’s one of the downsides of having such a small game. The cards in Ohanami are numbered from 1 to 120 all spread between four different suits of cards. Players have ten cards in their hand and will take two and pass them on in each turn, laying them out into rows in front of them to score points. Players can have three rows of cards each in numerical order, however cards can only ever be added to the bottom or the top of a row, meaning that players have to be careful not to prevent themselves from being able to play numbers in the later rounds. Three rounds are played meaning that a maximum of thirty cards can be scored by each player by the end of the game. Blue cards score in all three rounds, green cards score in rounds two and three, grey cards only score in the last round and pink cards score exponentially being counted up at the end of the game. This is a really chilled- out drafting game with some beautiful artwork by Christian Opperer, and in the four player game every card is used so the table ends up well and truly covered in cards. Annabelle and I not only tied the game but also tied the tiebreaker of most number of pink cards ended the game in a draw. It was a great game to end a very enjoyable evening with my family. I’ll leave you with the sounds of our Marrakech hotel: some relaxing pool side music and the local Imam calling people to pray from the Mosque next door. I hope that you’ve all had an enjoyable summer too, thank you for reading!
Joint 1st - Allen and Annabelle 183
3rd - Dave 177
4th - Sue 154
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20 Aug 2019
So I have two half written blog posts to finish off and I’ve recently received my long awaited copy of Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set in the post, however work commitments got the better of me and I didn’t manage to get them finished before travelling to Morocco on holiday. I’m writing this blog post from a rare WiFi spot in what I can only describe as the most unusual city that I’ve ever visited, the alternative is to spend £7.20 per MB via the mobile internet on my phone. I’m not going to pretend that our board gaming hobby didn’t play a part in our choice of destinations, Dominique Ehrhard’s 2007 masterpiece Marrakech is one of our favourite games, so much so that it managed to stowaway with us to Africa. You’ll hear about it on our blog soon enough. I did turn Thirty-three yesterday which incidentally is my favourite Smashing Pumpkins song, what better way to spend it than exploring the Souks of Marrakech half pissed from the morning’s whisky at our all-inclusive hotel. Enjoy your summer, I’ll be back to normal life by the end of the week
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12 Aug 2019
There’s Something About Billy / Drunken Ali Express Shopping
I just started a 17 day break from work and it couldn’t have come any sooner, I’m absolutely cream crackered after the last few months. There’s something about work and abnormally hot weather that just doesn’t mix. This gave my wife and I a chance to play a few two player games together and to recharge our batteries before we go on holiday next week to Morocco. We played a few new games, a few old games and some oddities that arrived this week courtesy of Ali Express. For those who don’t know Ali Express is a website that allows people around the world to buy products directly from manufacturers in China. You can buy some really quirky stuff on there if you’re willing to trawl through pages garbage, and if you don’t mind waiting a month or two for your package to arrive. I don’t like the fact that you can buy knock-off versions of popular board games on the shop, stuff like that hurts the industry and should be avoided. I sat and made a drunken order the other day for four new games, some were great and some were terrible. Still it was nice to be able to relax and play games with my favourite friend, I can’t honestly think of a better way to spend my time. Here’s an account of what we’ve been up to over the last few days.
Annabelle and I started our evening with a game of Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr by Hub Games. We tried this for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and as we were both new to the game we decided to set the game up and learn the rules together as we played. There were a few occasions where we had to slow the game down to digest some of the more complex rules such as how the partial and full memories are revealed and how the game needs to be altered when playing with only two players. I wouldn’t say that Holding On was a heavy game but some of the mechanisms are quite specific so it did take a practice run to get it straight in our heads. We decided to go back and replay the first chapter now that we have a better grasp of the rules and it flowed much better the second time we played. Holding On sees players working on a busy palliative care ward looking after their newest admission, a man called Billy Kerr who admitted after having a massive heart attack while travelling from Sidney to London. As the nurses care for Billy and gain his trust he starts to open up about his troubled past. The game is played over ten chapters with players needing to get the win condition before moving onto the next chapter, the game has a legacy look to it with a huge stack of scenario cards but nothing is destroyed or altered during a play through. I’ll put a brief description in the spoiler box below of our experience because I wouldn’t want to ruin the story for anyone, there was an important revelation that becomes apparent pretty much as soon as you start to play the game. We both had a great time playing Holding On, and we’re very much looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds, the scenario deck is pretty thick so I imagine that there will be a lot of twists and turns before the end of the final chapter.Spoiler (click to reveal)Chapter 1
One of the first things we learned about Billy was that he was not from London or Sidney, he was in fact from Belfast in Northern Ireland. Our objective was to gain one clear memory from each of the five story lines laid out below the main board of the game. I noticed that the word ‘Troubled’ is in bold text on the front cover of the box, and that one of the clear memory cards that we revealed on our first run had pro-IRA vandalism written on the wall. I’m guessing that Billy was either in the IRA or was in some way involved with the group, and that the central theme will be related to The Troubles conflict in Northern Ireland. Also we revealed some kind of romantic scene depicting a younger Billy in Sidney, which might explain why he was travelling back from the city. This is a theme that I’ve never seen used in a board game before and one that I find fascinating, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Next up we played one of the more unorthodox abstract games in our collection. 2001 (which was later re-released as Touché) uses magnets in such an inventive way, there are 37 magnets in total across the game including one in every playing piece, two built into the frame of the game and one in every space on the 5x5 playing area. Although my 1977 edition is battered and held together with sellotape it’s still functional and is still a very enjoyable experience. Before starting players will build the playing area randomly by placing the five 5x1 strips onto the plastic frame that makes up the game. The reason for this random set up is that each space contains a magnet that will be facing one way or the other, this will affect which colour is showing on the player’s pieces. Each piece contains a coloured disc showing yellow on one side and red on the other, one player starts with square pieces while the other starts with circular ones. The magnets within the player pieces are polarised oppositely, so a space that is yellow for a circular piece will be red for a square piece and vice versa. Players can move any piece once it has entered the game other than the last piece that was played, and the first person to get four in a row in their player colour is the winner. The strategy to this game can feel a little bit odd because players will need to test out certain spots to see what colour their pieces turn and they need to remember their positions. This isn’t a game that I’d pick up all the time but it’s a quirky design and one that Annabelle was yet to try. I kept getting close to winning, moving a piece to make four in a row only to see the wrong colour appear on the disc. Annabelle eventually set up a diagonal row across the board to win the game.
Next up we played one of Bruno Cathala's more unusual games called Haru Ichiban, a two player abstract game with a zen theme about frogs and lily pads. The rules to this game are a little bit confusing the first time you play, so teaching this one to Annabelle took a little longer than usual. Essentially each round of the game ends when a certain formation of lillies is achieved by a player, each lily is numbered and in each round players bid to be Senior Gardner. This is followed by four actions which change the state of the board and possibly lead to a win condition being met. First the Junior gardner places their coloured lily on the dark lily pad, then the Senior Gardner places a lily wherever they want, next the Junior gardner moves up to three lily pads in a straight line and the turn ends with the Senior Gardner turning a lily over to the dark side for the following round. Although that does sound a somewhat perplexing the game does flow very well after a couple of turns, and there is an interesting dynamic with players aiming for either the Junior or Senior role to suit their move on a given turn. There are four different formations of lilies that can end a round each worth a different number of points, the first player to score five points is the winner. We played two round which both played right through to the last few lilies, but with Annabelle winning both times she ended up winning a perfect game.
Annabelle 5 - 0 Allen
Drunken Ali Express Order #1
Penguin Trap is actually the reason why I stumbled across Ali Express in the first place. The game appeared on the website a couple of years ago and alot of my boardgaming friends picked up a copy, I bought one but ended up leaving it at my friends house after seeing how much his children enjoyed playing the game. The concept is simple, first build the board by wedging together blue and white pieces and place the penguin around the middle space to begin. On your turn you will first spin the wheel to tell you which colour to target on your turn or to skip a turn if you’re lucky, then you use your big plastic hammer to knock said piece off the board. The first person to make the penguin fall is the loser. Make no mistake, this is a great game and I highly recommend getting yourself a copy. It takes about fifteen seconds to teach to a new player and is always an entertaining experience. According to the BGG catalogue Penguin Trap (or Penguin Jrap as my copy is labelled) is a reimplementation of Don't Break the Ice which looks very similar only with square tiles instead of hexagons. Annabelle ended up hitting what she thought was a safe piece of ice, only to see the whole thing collapse and lose the game.
Drunken Ali Express Order #2
I almost feel bad posting pictures of this next Ali Express purchase, poo themed games aren’t exactly the most prestigious titles on the market. The rather descriptive name given on the website was Creative Shit Fall into The Bowl Family Board Game Funny Desktop Balance Toys Interactive Party Game (Random Colour of Bowl). This is a bowl (quite a good one actually), some plastic spaghetti and a big plastic poo with googly eyes. The game came with no rules but did show an apparent set up on the side of the box along with three hand gestures which we think were rock, scissors and paper. The set up shown the spaghetti holding the poo over the bowl in a criss cross pattern. We used our powers of deduction to figure out how to play the game: do a round of rock scissors paper, the loser removes a piece of spaghetti hoping that the poo doesn’t fall down on their turn. In a similar fashion to the last game Annabelle ended up taking the wrong move and made the poo fall, losing the game. After posting pictures on Instagram, we found out that this was a copy of a game called Yeti in My Spaghetti only with a poo instead of a mythical beast. The game was hilarious and I enjoyed playing it, despite it’s terrible look I don’t regret adding this one to my collection.
Our next game was one that made quite a big impact at this year’s UK Games Expo called Overbooked by Jumbo. This was to be our first time playing and despite the busy board and high frequency of components it was pretty easy to learn the rules. Players are all trying to fill their aircraft with passengers in an effort to please them all as to where they want to sit while avoiding leaving empty seats. Each passenger has different requirements, lovers like to sit together but three’s a crowd, babies must be surrounded by adults, and pensioners, rugby players and friends want to sit in large groups. On each turn players draft cards showing a set of passengers in a certain position, they select a card and add the passengers to their aircraft. As the game progresses this becomes more and more difficult and may lead to passengers being removed from the plane at the cost of losing victory points. Once one type of passenger has run out the game ends and the scores are tallied. Our first impressions of the game were really positive, we enjoyed the simplicity and the pace of the game. I liked the puzzle element of the game too, trying to accommodate some of the more awkward cards to your plane in the last few turns can be quite a challenge. The game scales from two to four players by changing the number of passengers available and by changing the size and layout of the aircraft, also the game features a number of different advanced rules and variants. Needless to say that Overbooked is probably going to be featured a lot in our blog over the coming months, we both loved it.
Allen 45 - 40 Annabelle
We decided to play the first instalment of Uwe Rosenberg's Puzzle Trilogy next which is a game called Cottage Garden. This game uses the polyomino system that Uwe first explored with the incredibly popular Patchwork, the abstract mechanism is the central theme to an otherwise euro-style game. Instead of fitting the polyominoes to a larger board players are filling a series of smaller boards with some spaces already filled in with glass jars and clay pots. Players will always have two boards in front of them and when all of the spaces are filled in on one of them it is scored, flipped over to show a different layout of jars and pots, then exchanged for a spare player board from the table. Players each have their own score tracks for jars and pots which ramp up in value for their last spaces. To make matters more complicated they will have three scoring cubes for each method of scoring which players must choose between when being awarded points. Like with the other parts of the Puzzle Trilogy the game feels quite light hearted and relaxing, it’s easy to plan your moves ahead of your turn and the game doesn’t overstay its welcome at around 20 minutes for a two player game. Our scores ended up being pretty close but Annabelle came out eight points ahead of me to win the game.
Annabelle 76 - 68 Allen
Drunken Ali Express Order #3
My rule with Ali Express is that I don’t buy games that are blatant knock-off versions of actual games that are available in the West. It’s bad for the industry as a whole and it’s not something that I should encourage others to do on my blog. I did however accidentally break this rule with my third purchase which ended up being a mini version of Humpty Dumpty's Wall Game, I wasn’t aware of the original game when I made the order. The components arrived bagged up inside a small polystyrene box with no instructions. We had a small brick wall, a Humpty Dumpty standee and two different coloured trowels. Our detective skills came into play again and we guessed that one must use the trowels to remove bricks in the hope that Humpty Dumpty does not have-a-great-fall on your turn. This ended up being a lot more fun than it should have been, and now that I know that there is a bigger more professional edition (one that actually comes in a box) I may have to add a copy to our collection. We played two rounds with both of us winning before moving on to the last game of the day.
Drunken Ali Express Order #4
I think that the only way to really label this game would be Outside the Scope of BGG. You wear footballer legs on the ends of your fingers, put a picture of a football kit around your hand and try to score a goal with your finger-legs. The game is played on a folded piece of plastic paper which does not go flat on the table and the goal posts fall over if you so much as look at them. This really didn’t work as a game but we couldn’t stop laughing when we tried to play it. Your index and middle fingers are not the same length so trying to make your finger-legs run around to chase the ball was near impossible. We played a first to three goal game because there was no way we could keep this up for 90 minutes, and after picking the ball up off the floor several times my lovely wife won the game. I’ll leave you with a picture of my new arrivals from China and add that the only one that I’d recommend to a friend is Penguin Trap. I’ll hopefully have more time to play plenty of games before returning to work at the end of the month so maybe you’ll be seeing a bit more of me. Thank you as always for reading!
Annabelle 3 - 2 Allen
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...and then, we held hands
A little over three years ago Annabelle and I played a game of ...and then, we held hands. in Prague which is a cooperative two player card game with a theme about relationships. The next day I “took an arrow to the knee” and proposed, then the next year we became Man and Wife. We marked the three year anniversary of becoming engaged by playing the game all over again and, just like we did in Prague, my now-wife and I beat the game (just about). I’m not daft enough to think that a board game is a good indicator of how successful a relationship will be but it was a nice way to remember one of the most important days of my life. The picture above was taken shortly after we got engaged, but you’ll have to excuse the photobombing from my fleshy stump of a thumb. After playing a few games over the last weekend Annabelle jetted off to Sorrento for a week with her Mother, not a bad way to fill the first part of her six weeks off for summer. It blows my mind how much time Teachers get off work, if only Nurses received the same treatment. That left me alone for a week, still in work and feeling super jealous every time another picture of the Italian sun came my way. I caught up with some family and friends, plus I got a few solo games to the table. Here’s how my wife-free week unfolded...
Annabelle and I sat down to a few two-player games before she travelled to Italy, starting with one of my all time favourite games ...and then, we held hands. designed by David Chircop and Yannick Massa. This is a two player game in which players are trying to overcome a series of challenges without talking to one another about their moves or strategies. The game’s theme surrounds the formation of an intimate relationship and it plays over three rounds with more of the board becoming available as the game progresses. One of the things that I like most about this game is that each player’s hand of cards is kept face up on the table and you can play cards from either hand on your turn. This can be a source of frustration for players that have planned their next move but they aren’t allowed to express it because communication about the game is not permitted. The gorgeous presentation by LudiCreations is made all the better with Marie Cardouat’s dream like artwork on every card, you may have seen some of Marie’s other works in games such as Dixit and Marrakech. We played a very close game but we both got into the centre space on the same turn with one card remaining to win our first game of the afternoon. This is a truly unique two player game, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different to play.
Next up we played a game of Splendor using only the base game. This is one of the first games that Annabelle and I really played together and it’s still one that I enjoy playing today, especially with two players. I do enjoy the expansions for this game, but the base game alone has such an enjoyable flow with players only having a limited number of moves to choose from on their turn. If you’re playing with someone who is familiar with Splendor then a two player game takes around 15 minutes to play. The only change that we did make is that we selected our nobles exclusively from the Splendor: Nobles Promo Tiles for no reason other than the fact that they were in the box. I tried to build myself up to getting a top tier card that would have taken me to fifteen points until Annabelle claimed a card and a noble on the same turn to win the game.
Annabelle 15 - 11 Allen
The last game that we picked up and played that afternoon was ConHex designed by Michail Antonow and published by nestorgames. I accidentally stored the game incorrectly the last time that I played it which is why the sides of the board are slightly folded up, usually the mouse pad type material stays flat on the table. This is a two player linkage game meaning that one player is trying to connect two horizontal edges together while the other is trying to connect the vertical edges. Players take turns to place their smaller playing pieces into the circular spaces around the board. Once a region has at least half of it’s adjacent circular spaces controlled by a single player that region is claimed using the larger rectangular pieces, which are the only ones that matter for the purpose of linking the edges of the board and winning the game. The game is simple enough to teach but has plenty of strategy and depth. This was Annabelle’s first time playing the game, so rather than go out all-guns-blazing trying to beat her we played a tutorial game to help her to learn the games strategy. This is probably my send favourite linkage game behind Twixt so I’m looking forward to playing the game again now that my wife understands the rules.
I ended up catching up with my parents through the week for some food and a couple of three player games. We started with a new game to our collection called Rats to Riches designed by Eugene Lim and published by Accentuate Games Ltd.. I first saw the game at this year’s UK Games Expo and thought the game looked interesting, and I know that Accentuate Games did very well with their first two releases. The board in Rats to Riches is actually the bottom half of the box which is why it’s an unusual shape, it’s the first time that I’ve seen this used in a game design and I like it. This is essentially an engine building game that sees players drafting a tableau of cards in front of them in an effort to be the first player to have $100. On each turn players take income from their current cards, then they have the option to buy cards or to use the cards that they have in front of them, then at the end of the turn players have the option to buy up to three cheeses in three different colours. The majority of the cards cost cheese rather than cash, so ensuring that you have the right cheese at the start of your turn is important. Also the cards available for purchase get better part way into the game, with the top cards forming the ‘Scrappy Sewer’ and the better cards below forming the ‘Supreme Sewer.’ There are few take-that cards in the game but the player who is currently in the lead has a ‘Big Cheese’ token in front of them worth two extra income, which helps others to know who to target with their red cards. Our first impressions of the game were very positive, the game has some interesting mechanisms and was an enjoyable experience. The engine building aspect certainly ramps up quickly and we were all close to winning when Dave pulled off a sequence of moves to get to $101 and win the game. I’m very much looking forward to playing this one again in the near future, hopefully with four or five players.
1st - Dave $101
2nd - Allen $88
3rd - Sue $80
Next up we played Android: Mainframe, an abstract game that reimplements Bauhaus into the Android Universe. The game adds individual asymmetric player powers and uses some of the outstanding cyberpunk artwork from the Android: Netrunner Living Card Game. I’ve been meaning to play this one for a while now being a fan of both abstract games and the Android theme. Players take their actions from a row of ‘Generic Program’ cards which will change throughout the course of the game, the cards will add or move partitions and nodes showing the player’s characters around the board. Alternatively players can discard a card from the deck to add one of their eight nodes to the board, or they can use one of their chosen character’s cards which are unique to them and have a wide range of different effects on the game. The aim of Mainframe is to close off parts of the board with partitions in such a way that they will contain only one character’s nodes, at which point the zone is captured and can not be distrubed by any future actions. At the end of the game, triggered when all of the Generic Programs have been used, each scored node will be worth points equal to the size of the zone it is contained in. I absolutely loved playing this game, it surpassed my high expectations. I can see the game working particularly well with two people which is always a good feature for an abstract game. Sue managed to win thanks partially to scoring two nodes on the same four space zone, I can’t wait to play this one again.
1st - Sue 18
2nd - Allen 14
1st - Dave 10
We finished the evening with another game that was new to me, this time Qwantum by Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag. This is the third game in a roll-and-write series that includes Qwixx and Qwinto, though it’s the first to include custom dice. The active player rolls all of the dice then has the option to re-roll as many as they want. The value designated to each colour for scoring is the total of all the dice matching the colour plus the value of the white dice, and no two dice are the same which each having a different distribution of colours and numbers . The active player has the option to score a colour without adding the value to the white die, this action also takes the colour away as an option from the other players. In addition, the active player has to make a move or take a penalty, adding a number to your score sheet is optional for everyone else. There are six spaces available for each colour which must first ascend in value then descend after they cross the white line. One a column is completed players will score points for the second lowest value in the set. Once one player has either filled the score sheet or has made five errors the game ends. It sounds a little bit complicated but once the game got going it started to flow very well, it has a little more depth than the other two games in the series. Scoring your second lowest value is clever too because a column might have three of the same number and one really high value which would end up being the number that gets scored. Dave ended up being the only player not to score his final row thanks to some bad luck at the end, and I beat Sue by a very narrow margin. It was a great way to end a very enjoyable games night with my family.
1st - Allen 56
2nd - Sue 53
3rd - Dave 48
Being without Annabelle for a week also gave me the chance to play a few solo games. I’ve wanted to try Wingspan solo since trying it for the first time recently, Stonemaier Games games tend to play very well thanks to David J. Studley, Morten Monrad Pedersen and the Automa Factory. An Automa is a replacement for a human opponent that is usually simplified to avoid causing too much interruption to the game. It was suggested to play the solo game using the Green side of the end round bonus card for better interaction with the Automa, which ranks players against each other rather than awarding points for the quantities of the identified bonus. Gameplay was similar to my previous two experiences with the Automa Factory with Scythe and Viticulture, cards are turned over between player turns to show what the Automa was doing that round and to show whether or not they contributed to their end of round bonus. It was pretty challenging in the end to keep up with the Automa for the bonuses, and in the end we both scored 19 points for this category having both won a round and having tied in the other two rounds. I played the game on the standard difficulty meaning that each face down bird card for the Automa was four points at the end of the game, this can be adjusted to three or five depending on how challenging you want your game to be. There also a Automa card that makes the game more difficult to beat called the Automubon Society card that I didn’t include in my game, when played it adds a bird and an end of round bonus cube which is a pretty strong move. The Automa felt very easy to run without interrupting gameplay too much, which made the Wingspan solo experience very enjoyable to play. This is probably my favourite use of an Automa so far thanks to its simplicity, though I don’t think that it would really work with the blue side of the end of round bonus card. My game ended up being very tight, but I won by four points. That means if one of the end of round bonuses would have gone the other way then I would have lost the game. I am excited to play this one again in the near future, maybe next time I’ll add that Automubon Society card now that I’ve beaten the standard difficulty.
Allen 88 - 84 Automa
Playing Wingspan gave me the urge to play another Stonemaier game with an Automa, this time one with much more complexity and table space. What can I say, I had a lot of time to kill while Annabelle was away. There’s probably a bit too much set up time to play Scythe as a solo game too often but it’s still fun to pick up now and again. The Automa controls a faction of your choice by turning over a card each turn and following a list of instructions, then part way through the game the cards will be flipped 180° and the commands will become much more aggressive in nature. As the rounds progress the Automa will start scoring their stars and the games ends in the normal way, with one faction getting their sixth star. The first time that I played against the Automa I chose to play against the ‘Easy’ difficulty named the Autometta, which skips some of the cards with more aggressive moves. I won the game quite easily last time so I thought that I would try my luck against the standard difficulty. I played as Anna and Wojtek with the Republic of Polania on the Western edge of the board against Olga and Changa of the Rusviet Union on the opposing Easter side of the table. The theming, artwork and world building elements of Scythe are truly incredible. The Automa was super aggressive causing me to spread my forces across the board to keep away from Olga’s mechs, I ended up scoring two stars for winning two battles but I probably lost twice as many over the course of the game. I created a little metal and oil engine to get my six upgrades and four mechs, and I was the player to get the sixth star and trigger the end of the game. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to beat the Automa and I ended up losing by eleven points. It was a lot of fun though, It made me want to try and beat the Automa all over again. Now that I know how aggressively the Automa plays I’d definitely take a different approach to building up combat strength and taking control of the Factory.
Allen 63 - 74 Automa
My good friend Matt and I caught up for a couple of games of KeyForge this week on my fancy-pants KeyForge: Call of the Archons – Architect's Vault Two-Player Gamemat. Matt and I have been meeting up and playing the game quite regularly over the course of the last year but we haven’t had a chance to play any of the Age of Ascension decks together yet. The new set contains combines 204 new cards with 166 cards from the first set and adds a few new mechanisms and key words. My favourite of the new abilities are the Alpha and Omega cards, cards containing Alpha have to be the first cards you play that turn and Omega has to be the last. This has some interesting effects on gameplay and strategy, and there’s even a card that has both Alpha and Omega meaning that it will be the only card you play that turn. We played two games using decks from the new set and two games using decks from the Call of the Archons set. Matt is very good at this type of game having played a lot of Magic:the Gathering over the years, so winning one out of our four games probably made me happier than it should. It was great to catch up and spend the evening playing a game that we both enjoy so much, I have 22 KeyForge decks now and with more expansions on the horizon my collection is only going to grow. The next set has been named as Worlds Collide which adds 284 cards and two more factions to the series, please take my money now Fantasy Flight Games.
Matt 3 - 1 Allen
I received two packages in the post this week from Chaos Cards, the first contained games that I’d pre-ordered after missing out at this year’s UK Games Expo, the second was filled with surprises from my wife who was missing me dearly from her holiday in Italy.
Foothills - I missed out on a copy of this game at the UK Games Expo this year so I got home and pre-oreded the game for it’s main release date. This is the advanced two player spin off of Snowdonia designed by Ben Bateson and Tony Boydell. I’ve played a prototype version at a convention before and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this gorgeous looking game.
KeyForge: Age of Ascension - When we pre-ordered Foothills we also added another two player starter set for the new KeyForge series. I now have two starter sets meaning that have enough components to run two games at once should I wish to get four people together to play the game. One of the boosters in the box also had a Pit Demon Legacy card and a Mars Ambassador which is one of the new special rarity cards.
Century: A New World - My first surprise game from my wife was the third and final part of the Century Trilogy after Spice Road and Eastern Wonders. The three games can either be played independently or can be combined to make a new game, meaning that a total of seven different games can be played using the three sets. A New World is a worker placement game and is probably the best looking title in the series, also look at how great the three boxes look when they’re side by side.
Welcome to Dino World - Annabelle knows that I love dinosaurs so this was a great choice for me. Dino World is an advanced roll and write game by Alley Cat Games that sees players making a Jurassic Park inspired attraction. The game comes with two pads, one for a basic game and one with advanced rules, it can be played solo too which is a feature that I am always grateful for.
On Saturday I took a little look at the charity shops in my local village and I’m really glad that I did. I found some great stuff including one rare game, a party game and a game for my friend.
SOS Titanic - I’ve wanted a copy of this game for years but up until now I hadn’t seen one for sale. This collaboration between Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc sees players trying to save the passengers of the Titanic as it sinks, and finds its roots in an old card game called Patience. The board is actually a book that shows the Titanic sinking further on every page. This is supposed to be one of the best solo games out there and to make it better this copy was sealed. This is probably the best £1.99 that I’ve spent all year.
Apples to Apples - This one was a bit of a gamble for me. I’ve seen the game referenced often here on the Geek as an older game that people have enjoyed, so I wanted to at least give it a try. At worst, it might be a good game for Annabelle to use at school with her class. This copy was £2.99 and contained everything but the rulebook.
Balanx - Kris Burm is my all-time favourite designer, so although I already own this game I couldn’t just let it sit there on the shelf for £1. I bought the game for a close friend who has recently fallen in love with abstract games, hopefully he will enjoy this one as much as I do.
...and finally I received an order from my friend Bez, who has recently been touring the UK promoting their wonderfully designed imaginative games. Annabelle and I have had a great time playing In a Bind over the last couple of years. The game was picked up and reimplemented by Gigamic as Yogi in 2017 with some great new artwork by Simon Caruso, and now I’ve finally gotten around to getting a copy. I got an extra one for my friend for her birthday too some original Bez artwork on my delivery box. There aren’t many game designers who put as much work into engaging the board gaming community as Bez does, it’s great to see their passion for innovative game design and their creativity. Thank you Bez! I hope that you have a great birthday / Bez-day!
I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of Annabelle and her mum on holiday, I don’t think that I’ve ever missed someone this much in my whole life. Thanks for reading!
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Today's post is my 300th entry which is not only a great milestone, it also has some significance to the character in my avatar too. You may have noticed that I use Cerebus the Aardvark as my avatar which is a character from a comic book of the same name by Dave Sim, who made the decision to write an epic monthly series about the life and death of an anthropomorphic aardvark spanning 300 monthly issues over 27 years. Cerebus ran from 1977 until 2004 and started off as a Conan the Barbarian type Sword and Sorcery parody only to become more serious as the series went on, tackling topics such as politics, faith, poetry and love. When I started writing my blog my intention was to track the games that I played and the new additions to my fledgling collection and that much hasn’t changed, other than the fact that my collection is by no means a fledgling anymore. My first blog post was written on 15/09/13, contains no pictures, and mostly featured games of Love Letter. It featured four new purchases, none of which are still in my collection. It also didn’t have the title ‘Glass Bead Board Games’ which came in later after I read Herman Hesse’s ‘The Glass Bead Game,’ a great novel about a mysterious game that is never fully described in the book, well worth a read if you get the chance. I’ve also shifted away from writing in a rigid weekly format to writing whenever I feel like it, I go through spells of writing three times a week and other times when it’s more like three times a month. Writing this blog has given me so much enjoyment over the last six years and it’s helped me to connect with members of the board gaming community as well as designers, publishers and artists. I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and support over the last few years, this is a great community and I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s gotten me through tough times and it’s helped to enhance the better times too. So what’s next for my blog? Probably more of the same, maybe with a few more reviews in future. I put a lot of effort into my coverage of this year’s UK Games Expo and I’d like to do the same for future gaming events. Anyway, on with this week’s post...Take it to Another Level
I’ve played Take it Higher! a fair few times over the last year or two and I’ve had my fair share of bad luck with the game, but last week everything seemed to line up perfectly for Annabelle and I ( more so for Annabelle) when we played our most recent game. This is Reiner Knizia's sequel to Peter Burley's classic abstract game Take it Easy!. Most of the rules from the original game remain the same with each tile containing a set of numbered lines and players scoring points for each complete sets across the board. Meaning that a row of three tiles with a continuous line of sevens is worth its face value, so twenty-one points in all. Take it Higher uses octagonal tiles instead of the hexagons found in the original game, which doesn’t sound like much but it changes the gameplay significantly. The hexagonal tiles have three sets of lines each varying between three different numbers, the player board has nineteen spaces and fifteen opportunities to score points. The octagonal tiles found in Take it Higher have four sets of lines instead, however each axis will only vary between one of two different numbers meaning that eight numbers are used in total. The player boards are larger too containing twenty-four spaces and twenty-six chances to score points. The game also adds two new mechanisms to the series with spaceships and special scoring for silver and gold tiles. In addition to the four numbered rows found on each tile there is also either a silver or gold core, at the end of the game each row containing only silver core is worth an additional nine points and each gold row will score an extra ten points regardless of the amount of tiles found in the row. Also there are ten coloured spaceships that run up the side of board matching the ten colours on the board. These are added to the board when scoring a line sequentially from the lowest value to the highest, ending with silver and gold rockets and can be worth up to 200 points should all of them be played. I’ve never played a game where the silver rocket has been played because scoring with the core colour of the tiles becomes very difficult towards the end of the game. Somehow I managed to play my silver rocket after an unbelievably lucky game, however not to be outdone Annabelle scored her final gold rocket and beat me by one hundred points.
Annabelle 486 - 386 Allen
Next up was a game that predates both my wife and I called Skirrid from 1977 which went on to inspire many modern polyomino type abstract games. Followers of my blog will know that I have a soft spot for older, uglier abstract games, and Skirrid fits perfectly into both categories. The game feels somewhat dated now but it’s still fun to dig out from time to time, it has a simple charm and unique look that draws me in and makes me want to play it all over again. Skirrid describes itself as a two to six player game but to be honest, it’s only worth playing as a two player game or as a four player team game (which is almost identical), any other player count removes some core elements to the game and isn’t really worth bothering with. The board is split into a central section and an outer section with better scoring opportunities which can only be accessed once a player has scored 75 points. In the two player game each person has eighteen pieces of six different sizes, some of which have a circle containing a 2 or 3 covering one section of the shape for bonus scoring. Players take turns in placing their shapes starting from a central space and scoring points equal to the numbers covered by the shape, these numbers can be multiplied should they line up with the bonus spaces on the polyominoes. Each subsequently placed piece must be placed orthogonally adjacent to pieces currently on the board. Players can also place a piece upside down without scoring it as a ‘block’ action, preventing the opponent from playing adjacent the following turn unless they wish to score half of the amount of points that they would usually do. The game has a bit of a reputation for being ugly and impractical, though I know that there is a worse box cover out there than my edition. The board is the same size as the box but features a fold anyway, and it’s off centre too for no good reason at all. There is a huge impractical score track, and the tiles come in two colours: black and invisible. With all of these flawed 70’s components in mind I still love the game, and we had a great time playing it. We ended up being very close in the end with me saving some larger pieces for the last few moves to win by a measly seven points.
Allen 478 - 471 Annabelle
Our third game of the afternoon was to be Bruno Cathala's 2017 Spiel des Jahres winner Kingdomino, which is actually one of the first games that my wife and I bought and played together. We bought the game when it was first released and followed it’s journey to win the prestigious gaming award, eventually going on to buy all of the sequels and spin offs. When playing Kingdomino with two players you have the option to include all of the game’s tiles and play a longer game, meaning that players each build a 7x7 estate rather than one that is 5x5 large. It’s possible to play the longer game with more people by combining Kingdomino with it’s heavier sequel Queendomino, which adds some great mechanism and features for a more involved strategic experience. For now we wanted to keep it simple so we played the base game without any of the additional scoring rules. I did a good job of keeping my terrain types together for a nice orderly estate at the end of the game, unfortunately however I failed to pick up enough crowns to really make use of them. Annabelle won by loading some smaller regions with plenty of crowns, beating me by a rather comfortable margin for the last game of the afternoon. It’s been a while since we played vanilla Kingdomino, and I was surprised at how quickly the game played ending in around 15 minutes or so. I like the changes and the strategic depth found in the sequels, but there’s a flow state that only the original game seems to be able to achieve that makes Kingdomino such an unforgettable game.
Annabelle 169 - 122 Allen
On Sunday Annabelle and I did a little bit of shopping in Manchester before I attended my monthly Sci-Fi book club. This month we read “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet” by Becky Chambers which was alright, it had some good ideas in it but the story was rather dull at times. We found a copy of New York Slice in Waterstones in the sale for £7.50 which I’ve wanted to buy for a while after I played a copy of ...aber bitte mit Sahne many years ago. The game is a reimplementation with a few extra rules, plus pizza wins over cake any day. We also picked up Undo: Blood in the Gutter and Undo: Curse from the Past after enjoying our first experience of the Undo series earlier this year with Undo: Cherry Blossom Festival. The game system feels so fresh and playing the first game left me wanting more, hopefully this is a series that will continue beyond the initial three releases. I’m excited to get all three of these games to the table very soon.
On Wednesday evening I was joined by my family for some Bangers and Mash (my favourite) and a few six-player games. This isn’t always the easiest number to accommodate, especially when there is a wide range of exposure to the modern board gaming world across the group; but we did our best with what we have in our collection. We started the evening with a game of Dixit: Odyssey which really is at its best with larger groups of players, any less than six and the game can feel somewhat stunted. The rules are easy enough to teach and there is almost no downtime, which helps to keep a group of people engaged in a game. I have a couple of sets of cards and plenty of promos too, this has been one of my favourite party games over the years. Dixit went down well and got everyone laughing, especially the moment where the whole group got Sue’s clue correct ensuring that she did not make any progress on her turn. Dave always seems to do well in this game and eventually won the game by a comfortable lead.
Next up was Gemblo which is not only a great game to play with six people, but actually a game that I wouldn’t play with any other player count. For that reason I will almost always try to get Gemblo to the table when there are six players sat around it. This is probably my favourite of the try-to-use-all-of-your-shapes family of abstract games partly because of the variety that the hexagonal shapes introduce and partly because of the chaos involved with six people all trying to play their pieces on the same board. Players each start by placing one of their shapes in their respective corner of the board, then playing each subsequent piece along the path of a hexagonal edge one space away which can include passing between two previously placed pieces. Your shapes can never touch but somehow all six players will often find a way to spread to every corner of the board. By the end of the game both Sue and I had managed to play all of our pieces to get a joint win, which really is a rarity in Gemblo.
Our third game of the evening was Camel Up which not only works well with larger groups of players, but it’s also great to play with new people thanks to its unique look and hilarious mechanisms. Players are essentially betting on a camel race while and tampering with the race track to try and tip the odds in their favour. The camels move in a chaotic fashion, carrying each other around and moving in a random order each turn. The game looks a bit silly, but always seems to get players laughing and cheering for their camel, and consistently seems to have a dramatic ending. Despite the green camel looking as though it is going to win in the picture above it actually ended up carrying the blue and orange camels across the finish line and finished third. My turn came around at just the right time to be the only person to bet on the blue camel winning and I ended up scoring 36 points in all to come out on top. This is still one of my favourite party games albeit one that can feel random and swingy at times. I really must invest in the Second Edition which has a complete aesthetic overhaul and features camels running backwards along the race track.
We played our last game of the night shifting from the silliness of a camel race to the outright ridiculousness of Pegasus Spiele's soon-to-be-hit party game NObjects. We picked up our copy at this year’s UK Games Expo and haven’t stopped playing it since. BGG’s Eric Martin talked about the game recently in this post for those that are interested. This is essentially a charades variant in which players must attempt to convey a secret word in 60 seconds by using their finger to draw an invisible picture on the table; they cannot talk, mime, gesture or attempt to draw a letter or number. It may sound pretty ridiculous but the game works incredibly well and has been successful at getting everyone laughing every time that we’ve brought it to the table. Sue was the quickest to answer people’s clues (possibly due to being the designated driver for the evening and therefore the only sober person left) and ended up winning her second game of the evening. It was a great way to end an enjoyable session with some of my favourite people.
I work in a busy psychiatric hospital and I’m always looking to find ways to use my board games in the work setting either as a communication tool for my patients, as a way to break-the-ice during big team meetings, or just for a bit of fun. Last week I used my Tapple board to get people talking and to set the mood for the day at our big team meeting. In Tapple players select a category from a deck full of suggestions and the game begins, players then call out an answer that begins with one of the letters from the outside of the board, push the letter down removing it from play and press the big button in the middle to reset the timer. The game itself will make ticking noises and should a player not think of an answer quick enough a bell will sound and they will be the loser of that round. Usually you would use the cards to Mark which players have lost a round but we were just using the game for a bit of fun, also there were thirteen people in the room so a game with points could have gone on for quite some time. Keeping with the theme of our meeting our categories were “treatments for psychosis,” “names for street drugs,” and “ways to alleviate stress.” The game got people laughing and made sure that we all started the day in the right frame of mind. I spotted a few people playing the game at dinner break too with a few slightly less professional themes such as “names for testicles” and “scouse slang,” I’m glad that a few other people figured out the best way to enjoy Tapple.
The two pictures above were sent to me by my Sister and my Brother-in-law who live in Australia during their visit to Tasmania. It’s from the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart and shows a giant version of Robert C. Lloyd’s1962 release Squatter, an old family game about agriculture and industry. The game played a part in Simon Denny’s art exhibition about data mining, with data being collected from all of its visitors without them knowing about it. The exhibit also featured a modern retheming of Squatter about data mining available for purchase called Extractor (not in the BGG database). It looks like a really interesting event, it’s a shame that I couldn’t get a closer look myself. If you would like to know more then please follow the link below:
Last week also saw Annabelle and I receive a package in the post from Germany containing two new arrivals from Clemens Gerhards. I’ve been meaning to order some games from this publisher for a while now but they aren’t the cheapest of games, they specialise in high quality wooden abstract games and have some quite peculiar titles in their catalogue. First up is Semiramis which is a smaller single player puzzle game that sees players trying to solve a series of different starting positions, the aim being to end without two pieces of the same shape or colour next to each other in a restricted number of moves. I love this style of puzzle and the gorgeous presentation only adds to the appeal of Semiramis. Next up is a larger two player game called Parallelo, which has a mechanism that I haven’t seen in an abstract game before. Players each start the game with an identical set of eighteen pieces in six different colours, and they take turns in adding them to the board which contains a slightly twisted grid of spaces. Every time a parallelogram is formed with four pieces of the same colour it is removed and scored by the player who completes it, the first to score three such sets is the winner. Players will eventually find themselves backed into a corner and needing to play a third piece of a colour, but always trying to do so in a fashion that would prevent the opponent from creating a parallelogram and scoring it. I had a little play of the games which were then wrapped up to be opened on my birthday next month. This has ended up being a rather long post so if you’re still here, thank you for reading! Here’s to another 300 posts.
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Snowdonia: I’ll Ride Second Class For Now
Over the past couple of weeks Tony Boydell has been teasing us with his early copy of the Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set over on the Every Man Needs A Shed blog, but I still have to wait a few more weeks to get mine. Snowdonia is one of my all time favourite games and this new super-duper edition comes with upgraded components, a huge box, a larger double sided board and every expansion in the Snowdia family including all of the small print-and-play expansions that Tony posts on his blog. As far as I’m aware the game has been manufactured and is now working its way towards distribution centres around the globe to eventually be delivered to all of the backers of the Kickstarter campaign. I’m really happy for Tony that his most successful game now has a Deluxe Edition, it’s probably the most exciting thing that I’ve backed so far on Kickstarter. I’ll be sure to post pictures of it when the game arrives but for now here’s everything that we played last weekend.
I met with my regular gaming group to introduce them to Snowdonia using my standard edition with fancy plastic workers. I’ve been trying to get this one to the table for a while now with this group, especially now that my Deluxe Edition was nearly here. The game’s theme is all about building the famous railway line from Llanberis to the summit of mount Snowdon in Wales. This is one of the best worker placement games out there and is well loved by many people across the BGG community, it’s also one of the only games that scores a perfect 10/10 for me. We played the basic game to keep it simple, but where I think the game is at its best is when you play one of the many expansions. Essentially the majority of Snowdonia’s mechanisms are contained on the board while the cards around the outside represent the railway line and the stations. The expansions usually change the stations, the contract cards, and usually add a new mechanism unique to that campaign injecting a little more depth and variation. I have eight scenarios in my box and each one plays in a very different way. We’ve played a fair few worker placement games together over the years so everyone picked up the rules quickly enough, Snowdonia’s actions are intuitive and make sense thematically so you don’t have to keep explaining symbols or complex sequences of actions like with many other eurogames. I managed 57 points from scoring all four of my contract cards but I didn’t do well enough in other areas of the game to beat Annabelle, who scored fewer contract cards but a bunch of station spaces and managed to get her surveyor all the way to the summit. She won the game without laying a single piece of track instead opting to use her steel bars to score high value spaces on the stations. Everyone seemed to enjoy the game as I thought that they would, I can’t wait to start playing expansions with my regular gaming group once my Deluxe Master set arrives.
1st - Annabelle 113
2nd - Allen 94
3rd - Dave 83
4th - Sue 69
Our second game of the night was Master Labyrinth which is the advanced spin off of Labyrinth. Despite its ‘Master’ title the game is still very much a family weight game. The core idea is the same, players will take turns in adding the one remaining tile to the board shifting one row of tiles along one space, then they move their wizard in the hope of getting to a target space in the maze. Where the game differs is in the way that players score points. 21 numbered tiles are placed randomly at the start of the game and players are all trying to get to the lowest numbered tile. Each one is worth points equal to the value printed on them but this isn’t the only way that players can score points. Everyone gets a secret recipe card featuring three of the game’s ingredients printed on the tiles, should a player acquire all three the card is worth an extra 20 points. This is made a little easier with the use of magic wands which can be traded in for extra turns, or kept for extra points at the end of the game. Each player starts the game with three wands which are worth four points each should they remain unused. I was the only player to score my secret recipe, but in the end it didn’t make much of a difference to the final scores (other than preventing me from coming in last place). Dave managed to get a few of the later high value tiles to win the game by a comfortable margin. I’m still unsure about whether I prefer this to the original game but it’s nice to have both in my collection for a bit of variety.
1st - Dave 88
2nd - Sue 66
3rd - Allen 61
4th - Annabelle 48
We played Ticket to Ride: London next, which is the follow up to New York in the smaller line of Ticket to Ride games. I like the fact that you can now play a full game of Ticket to Ride with four players in under 20 minutes and still retain everything that I love about the series in relation to gameplay and mechanisms. This was the first time that I’ve played the London game with a full player count so I was eager to see how it compared with the first small box game. Every new Ticket to Ride game tends to include a new mechanism unique that location, London features numbered ‘districts’ which players must connect together along with a successful route to award points. The map has five districts ranging from two locations in the centre of the board worth one point, all the way to five points for connecting four locations around the perimeter of the map. The layout of the map is very different too with London being rounded and spread out with lots of single track routes while New York is more narrow and tight with many double routes running through the centre. The game worked really well with four players and the district mechanism played a key part in the game too. Annabelle did her usual trick of making a long path through the middle of the board and taking more tickets including one for eleven points, eventually making four routes and winning the game by six points. This is already one of the best games in the series for me.
1st - Annabelle 41
2nd - Sue 35
2nd - Dave 35
4th - Allen 29
I’ve been meaning to play Army of Frogs by Gen42 Games with four players recently after finding the game to be a little bit lacking when played as a two player game. Army of Frogs has a surprising amount of interaction for an abstract game, players need to find a balance between maneuvering their own frogs already in play and selecting the right pieces to add to the table. Where Army of Frogs differs from many other abstract games is that players do not exclusively control their own frogs, instead ten frogs of each participating player colour are mixed together in a bag and players each have a ‘hand’ made up of two randomly drawn frogs, when one frog is played another is drawn from the bag. First players add a piece from their hand to a connected group on the table of any colour, they can add their own colour but only in a way that it doesn’t touch any previously placed piece. Next players will move one of their previously placed frogs if possible by jumping it in a straight line to the next available space, players can make several jumps in one turn so long as only one frog is moved. The first player to get all of their pieces to connect with a minimum of seven pieces on the table is the winner. What I enjoy most about Army of Frogs is choosing which frog to play and trying to add it to the group in the most awkward way possible, so that a player can’t connect it to their other frogs. If exactly one of your frogs is added to the game between your turns you can usually connect it to your own group once your turn comes around again, should two or three get added then that becomes a little more difficult. So the parts of the game that I enjoy most don’t really work as well with two players, but with three or four this game superb. I managed to get all six of my frogs together on one side of the group and my opponents stopped adding any more of my pieces knowing that I’d only need one more to win. Sue was eventually forced to play one of mine having two frogs of my colour in her hand, and initially played it in such a way that I couldn’t connect it to my frogs by moving it in a straight line. But Dave then changed the shape of the board on his turn to undo her move and I was able to take the win. I think that this game might out of print at the moment but if you’re a fan of John Yianni’s other games then I’d strongly recommend trying Army of Frogs, just make sure that you have three or four players at the table when you do.
Our next title was another four player abstract game, this time the 2004 Spiel des Jahres nominee Ingenious which is probably my favourite Reiner Knizia game. I believe that the game would have won the prestigious award on most years, but it had the bad fortune to be released on the same year as the original Ticket to Ride. This is essentially a Dominoes inspired tile laying game with some classic Knizia touches. The tiles themselves are like Dominoes except for both halves are hexagons and the pips have been replaced with one of six colours. Each player has a plastic tray in front of them to hold a hand of six tiles to be kept secret from the other players, everyone take turns in adding their tiles to the board and scoring points for every line of colours extended by their tile. Players have a scoring track for each of the six colours in play, only the lowest of the six scores matters so you have to diversify your moves in order to win. If a colour makes its way to the end of a track then a player gets another turn, also if you end a turn without the colour that you’ve scored the least of in your hand of tiles you are given the option to trade them in for new ones. This is such a simple concept but one that works well with most gaming groups. When you play Ingenious with more experienced players you tend to find that people block rows of colours from extending too far to stop people from scoring too highly on their turn, so you tend to see lower scores in such cases. Everyone at the table apart from myself was new to the game so I didn’t play my tiles too aggressively, but I did nearly have a perfect game. I just couldn’t get the last two yellow points that I needed to get my sixth scoring cube to the end of the row. Still it was great to get this one back to the table, hopefully we’ll play our second game soon.
1st - Allen 16
2nd - Dave 12
2nd - Sue 12
4th - Annabelle 10
Annabell ducked out for the next game finally succumbing to tiredness and leaving three of us at the table to play a game of Santorini. As Sue and Dave hadn’t played the game before I sat back and facilitated a two player game first, which actually ended up going on for quite a while and ended up being very tight. Sue eventually managed to break away from Dave to corner off a section of the map and make her winning move. Then we played again this time with all three of us. The gameplay changes a little with more than two players with the introduction of God cards, which give each player a unique asymmetric power. Mum had Athena who can prevent opponents from taking a move-up action by doing so herself. Dave had Artemis who can make a second move but not back to the space that they are currently on, and I had Hermes who could move any number of spaces (even zero) so long as I don’t change the level that I’m currently on. The powers added some interesting dynamics to the game with all three players being close to winning at different points. I eventually got lucky with a winning move opening up in the corner of the map. Dave was already adjacent to the space so couldn’t move in closer to block my final move. Santorini is such an enjoyable experience, and the beautiful presentation only adds to what is already an excellent abstract strategy design.
We were now in the early hours of the morning and my mum followed Annabelle to bed, Dave and I found ourselves to be the last men standing as per usual. After a whisky or three (Togouchi Japanese whisky for those who are interested) we got talking about Upwords and the fact that it is a far better game than Scrabble. Before we knew it the game was set up and we were ready to play. Our reason for preferring Upwords was because the rules are simpler, there’s no special scoring spaces on the board, less variation in point value between letters and the fact that the game tends to end very quickly. Often the last few moves in a game of Scrabble can be painfully long and tedious, plus there’s always a know-it-all at the table who has memorised every two letter word in the dictionary. All of these factors contribute to a cleaner, faster and more relaxed gaming experience. It’s been a few years since I’ve played either game so it was a great way to end the evening, I’d forgotten just how fun a game of Upwords can be. Dave managed some high scoring moves towards the end of the game and was the first to use his final tile to avoid losing points at the end of the game. This has to be one of the most nostalgic gaming experiences that I’ve had in a long time.
Dave 288 - 228 Allen
This week Canine Kleptomaniacs by Golden Ginty Games Ltd. also goes live on Kickstarter. I’ve been following the game’s development (and the designer’s dogs) on Instagram for a little while now and we had a chance to see a pre-production copy at this year’s UK Games Expo. The game has some interesting mechanisms, great artwork and a unique theme about thieving dogs gathering whatever booty they can find around their owners house. We’ve backed the game and I’d urge you to at least take a look, especially if you are a fellow dog lover.
The night before playing the other games featured in this post Annabelle and I managed to squeeze in a round Uwe Rosenberg’s abstract masterpiece Patchwork. We’ve been playing the Doodle addition to the series quite a lot recently and thought that we owed it to the original to get it back to the table. This has been a consistently enjoyable two player game for us in both its physical and digital editions, it’s also one of the main games that I recommend to people who are new to the hobby because of its simple rule set and originality. I actually achieved a rare win against my wife, who usually destroys me at this game. I almost managed to fill my board too ending with only one space remaining, I’d like to say that it’s all skill but I think I got a bit lucky with the last few moves which all seemed to be the right shape to fit the gaps in my board.
Annabelle -8 - 14 Allen
I’ll end this blog post by showing off my fancy-pants KeyForge play mat which is absolutely enormous. Play mats are a great way of keeping your messy card games in order, and KeyForge is a game that has a lot of different zones and piles of cards. This includes your deck, discard pile, Archon, archives, creatures and items, and the mat has somewhere for all of these things. The only downside is that my Keys came from the KeyForge: Age of Ascension starter set meaning that they are significantly smaller than those in the first edition, which I’m sure you can see in the picture below. Still it gives me an excuse to buy some blinged out metal keys for the game. Thank you as always for reading!
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Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artist: Paul Windle
Year released: 2018
Time: 30-45 minutes
Key Flavours: Tile Laying, Area Control, Score by Majority.
Forbidden City is one of the newest games by Reiner Knizia, one of the most accomplished and well-loved designers in the industry. This beautifully produced game published by Jumbo is a reimplementation of an earlier Knizia title by the name of Mise: Kolonizace, switching a space setting for an ancient Chinese theme. The game is made up of tiles, a central starting board with two different sides, a 3D cardboard pagoda that sits inside of the starting tile and a ton of chinese coins with a range of different values.How does it work?
Every player has their own identical set of tiles to play with 30 tiles each in the two player game or 24 tiles each when played with three or four. Most of the tiles contain either one, two or three advisors of that player’s colour as well as one of three different room colours, walls and doorways. There are also a few tiles containing dragon heads which can award additional points when they’re scored, and although the dragons match the colour of the person playing them they can be scored by anyone. During set up players will choose either the simple or the complex side of the starting tile which covers a three by three space on the table and houses the 3D pagoda in it’s centre. After choosing which side of the starting tile you want to use players will take turns in adding their tiles to the board, creating rooms in such a way that they will only ever contain one colour. When a player closes a room off scoring is triggered and players receive points in the form of the game’s chinese coins. The player with the most advisors in the completed room scores the most points while the player with the second most scores half as many points. Each space in the completed room awards one point and a dragon tile will add a further three points, in addition points will be added in the same way for every room that adjoins the one that is scoring regardless of whether the room is completed or not. The game continues until all players have two tiles remaining in their stack, players are then awarded two points for each advisor and three points for each dragon featured on their remaining tiles and the game ends. Whoever has the most points at this point is the winner.What do I Think?
There are no shortage of great tile laying games to choose from, so it takes a lot to make one stand out as much as Forbidden City does. The game has just the right level of complexity to make it accessible and easy to teach while still being a deeply strategic satisfying game. I’ve played it with non-gamers and with folks who thrive on heavy strategy games and it works just as well in both settings.I like the fact that the strategy isn’t as simple as just trying to build high scoring rooms with a majority of your advisors in, because you’ll often find that you’re scoring more for the adjacent rooms than the one that you are closing in. A good strategy is to keep trying to close off small rooms next to large rooms, and keep making the large rooms harder to complete by placing awkward tiles in their way. One of the elements of game design that Knizia is well known for is his approach to scoring points in games, he likes to add a little twist somewhere in the conditions of scoring that ends up defining the strategy to the whole game. Forbidden City’s emphasis on scoring points for adjacent rooms takes a little time to get your head around but it’s probably the thing that I like best about the game, the strategy can feel quite counter-intuitive at times but it’s rewarding when you pull off a high scoring move. I’d say that the game works better with three or four people rather than with two, because some of the best moments in Forbidden City come from competing for majorities and from the chaos that can arise from three people taking a turn between each of your actions. I’m glad that the game comes with a few extra tiles for the two player game though, it might otherwise have felt too short with only 24 tiles each. The game flows very well and even with a full player count only takes 30-40 minutes to play, which I feel is a good game length for this level of complexity.My BGG Rating
Knizia has such a wide variety of different genres, styles and levels of complexity to his designs. For me I do tend to prefer his family-weight games, especially those that can be played with four people. Forbidden City fits nicely into this category for me and it’s very quickly become one of my favourite Knizia games, when you add the excellent presentation and the gorgeous artwork this game has to get a high score from me. It feels original, it’s great fun to play and it has such an eye catching look, highly recommended for any Knizia fan or for anyone who has enjoyed tile laying games in the past.9/10
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Welcome to Redview, the town where nothing bad ever happens...
My wife and I managed to start our Welcome to Redview campaign for Chronicles of Crime this week just in time for the release of Stranger Things season 3 on Netflix. The game has been one of our all time favourites to play and although we only played the first chapter, there were certainly some similarities between Redview and the world of Stranger Things. Both have a 1980s small town America setting and both follow a group of teenagers who stumble across a supernatural mystery. According to the town’s mayor we shouldn’t listen to the newshounds who believe in monsters, aliens and other supernatural phenomena, nothing ever happens in the town of Redview; after playing the first part of the story I beg to differ. This is the second expansion to Chronicles of Crime making it the third setting that the series has explored, starting with modern day London in the base game and a post World War II Los Angeles backdrop in the Noir expansion. One of the most important changes in this newest expansion is that the game no longer surrounds murder and death, instead it follows some kind of mystical event to be solved by the newly formed Redview Mystery Gang made up of a few local teenage friends. Mobile phones and the Internet weren’t around in 1985 so the four specialists from the base game are no longer included, instead players will each control one of the game’s six characters who each come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Welcome to Redview introduces a new mechanism in which players encounter Fitness, Speech or Mind tests and must roll a die to pass or fail. The characters each have different attributes to modify the outcome of dice rolls as well as energy tokens which allow a die to be re-rolled. The tests give the game an old-school RPG feel and worked well in our game though we did get pretty lucky at times, again this added to the similarity with Stranger Things which makes some pretty direct Dungeons and Dragons references. We played through ‘Chapter 1 - The Beginning’ and loved every minute of it. The four chapters of Welcome to Redview form a wider narrative rather than being self contained stories, so some of the events in our game were left unexplained I’m guessing until future chapters. We got most of the puzzle right and eventually gained a respectable score of 4/5 once we’d attempted to solve the mystery. I’m not going to ruin the story but if you’re a fan of the base game you won’t be disappointed by this new addition of the series, the new mechanisms make the expansion feel totally different to the base game and fit the theme of the story exceptionally well. Also congratulations are in order for Lucky Duck Games as Chronicles of Crime picked up ‘Best Cooperative Game’ and ‘Most Innovative Game’ at this year Dice Tower awards, we can’t wait to see where the series takes us next.
After trying Wingspan for the first time the previous week I was left wanting to play it again and left wanting to see how much the game adapts to two players as this is how I tend to play games most often. Additionally this was Annabelle's first chance to play, the pair of us have been ogling at pictures of this beautiful game on Instagram for a few months and thanks to demand outstripping supply the price of Wingspan has been tremendously high; at the time of writing this blog post the game is currently priced at £80 ($100) through Amazon though I’m sure that you can get it cheaper elsewhere. We were lucky enough to pick up a copy at a reasonable price at the Board Beans Cafe in Northwich recently. Some euro-style games don’t work as well with smaller player counts but as there isn’t a huge amount of player interaction in Wingspan I was hoping that the gameplay wouldn’t be impacted too much. The only mechanism that I thought might suffer in the two player game was that the birds with pink abilities require other players to perform specific actions in order to trigger their abilities, but even that didn’t pose a problem in our game. The only pink card that ended up getting played was a Black Vulture on my player board which had the ability to take food from the birdfeeder once-per-turn should an opposing player successfully use a hunt action. Luckily for me Annabelle ended up with a few cards that used hunt actions so the Vulture ended up getting me plenty of food over the course of the game. In addition the end game bonuses can be awarded in two different ways to be selected before playing the game, either by ranking the players against each other or by awarding points for the quantities relating to the randomly chosen bonus tiles. We opted for the latter because we tend to prefer less confrontation in our games but it’s nice to have the option, I’m sure that there are plenty of people who would prefer the other side for more interaction when only two players are involved. The game ended up playing very well with two players thanks to the lack of down-time between turns and the game was played in around 40 minutes, I can see this becoming one of our go-to games for times when it’s just the two of us playing. In the final move of our game I sacrificed my last two eggs to play a big fat Turkey for eight points but it wasn’t enough to catch up to Annabelle as she won by four points. This game really does deserve the positive attention that it’s getting at the moment, it’s one of the best games to enter our collection in recent years and I’m left wanting to play it again. I really must try the solo mode next, Stonemaier Games have a habit of paying attention to their solo modes with the help of the Automa Factory and they usually work very well.
Annabelle 81 - 77 Allen
Next up was one of my favourite Nestorgames called Battle of LITS designed by Grant Fikes. Both Annabelle and I have been completely addicted to playing Tetris 99 on the Nintendo Switch and had the urge to play a board game that used tetrominoes. It’s funny how a game such as Tetris which is two years older than yours-truly can still be relevant and enjoyable with the right modern twist, somehow this newest edition of Tetris is a frantic 99 player battle royale. Battle of LITS uses the principles of Japanese puzzle referred to as either LITS or Nuruomino, adapting it into an excellent two player abstract game. There are actually four different player boards included in my Nestorgames edition so we played all of them and tallied up the scores. I don’t know when this stops being a Battle of LITS and becomes a War of LITS instead. The game contains 20 tetrominos of four different types, players take turns in placing them on the board with each piece beyond the first needing to touch a previously placed piece orthogonally with two restrictions, two pieces of the same colour may not touch each other and pieces may not be placed as to cover a 2x2 square anywhere on the board. Players select their pieces from a shared pool of tetrominoes so it’s not uncommon to run out of one type or to abstain from using one shape entirely. Most of the spaces on the board contain either an X or an O, players are assigned one symbol and must try to keep as many of them visible once the game ends. It’s a pretty chilled out and enjoyable game, one that I haven’t played in a while but one that I’m always happy to see hitting the table. We both ended up winning two rounds but Annabelle won hers by larger margins making her the overall winner.
Annabelle 59 - 54 Allen
My regular gaming group also got together midweek to complete the T.I.M.E Stories: Estrella Drive campaign which was the eighth TIME Story game that we had played through so far, meaning that we now only have two parts left in the White Cycle. The expansion came in two parts and we had already played through the first section of the game the week before, unfortunately it took us quite a long time and we decided to wrap it up using the ‘save state’ function found in the base box. In hindsight the story did get a little bit complicated with lots of names and events to remember so we probably would have benefited from playing the whole game in one go. Still it was great fun to play and it’s the only TIME Stories game that we have beaten using only one continuous run. I’m not going to ruin any of the story but what I will say is that it felt different from the rest of the series and had a great twist at the end. I’d rank this one somewhere in the middle against the other seven games but I liked the fact that Estrella Drive was able to use a slightly more adult theme, it made the expansion distinctly different it suited the theme of the narrative behind Estrella Drive. Next up we’ll be off to the Carribean for T.I.M.E Stories: Brotherhood of the Coast which I’ve heard is the best part of the series, it certainly has an awful lot of cards in the box.
Annabelle and I had a chance to play a pre-production copy of Weird Alchemy by Clever Unicorn Games following this year’s UK Games Expo and both enjoyed playing the original little card game, we wrote about our experience in This Post if you want to find out how the game plays. The crowdfunding campaign has gone live this week so you can buy yourself a copy of the final game, or for marginally more money you could pick up the Weird Alchemy: Kickstarter Edition which includes everything from the standard edition plus nine new creatures, three new spells and six new pass cards. I’ve backed the Kickstarter edition myself, here’s a link to the campaign page:
Thank you as always for reading, I’ll leave you with one last picture of Chronicles of Crime: Welcome to Redview and I hope that you’ve enjoyed watching the new episodes of Stranger Things as much as I have.
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Everyone’s Raven about this Im-peck-able Game
On Saturday night last weekend I caught up with some of my closest friends for a night of gaming, catching up and some all-round good times. It’s been too long since I’ve seen most of these guys so I was really glad to get people together, we ended up playing some new games and a few old favourites too. We started our evening with Wingspan by Stonemaier Games which seems to be absolutely everywhere at the moment and is doing a good job of flying up the BGG top 100 (at the time of writing it’s up to 43), I was eager to see what all the fuss was about. The first thing that I noticed is how beautifully presented the game is with 170 different bird cards featuring excellent illustrations, a birdhouse dice tower and some great looking tokens and wooden eggs; even the rulebooks have a linen-finish to them. I have to say that after playing Wingspan the game really did live up to its hype, everyone at the table commented on how much they enjoyed playing it. Essentially this is a medium weight euro game with some set collection, resource management and engine building elements; though the individual components of the game feels recognisable the overall experience felt completely novel and original. Players each have their own player board with three rows of five spaces for bird cards to be placed in. Each row also represents one of three different actions to gain resources including food to pay for the birds, eggs to use better spaces on your board, and cards which can be drawn from a face-up row or can be blind drawn from a face-down deck. Players gain resources equal to the number of icons to the right of the last bird card in a row so the more birds you can play the more resources you get later on; in addition most of the birds in the game have an ability with a brown background which will trigger every time that a players takes resources from the row that the card is placed in, so by the end of the game an action may trigger a series of different effects giving Wingspan a strong engine-building component. I’m going to have to play this one a few times before I get my head around the strategy but my first impressions were good. I want to get this to the table again very soon, maybe in its solo form to get an understanding of how to optimise my moves. Ginge seemed to focus heavily on his secret objective cards which he kept adding to thanks so some of the bird cards he was playing, eventually ending up winning by a narrow margin of three points. It was a great way to start the evening, such an outstanding game.
1st - Ginge 94
2nd - Matt B 91
3rd - Allen 76
4th - Matt P 56
I played Undo: Cherry Blossom Festival by Pegasus Spiele with my family recently and we loved the experience, so I decided to bring the game along to facilitate it for my friends. Each part of the Undo series is a one-shot experience, meaning that once you are aware of the narrative you know the solution and you can’t really play it again; but I had just as much fun watching another group play through the game and try to figure out the solution. The Undo games start with the death of a character and the gameplay sees players visiting a series of different times leading up to (or sometimes following) the death in an effort to understand the cause and to try and make changes to avoid the death from taking place altogether. The group took a different approach to my main gaming group and ended up figuring the puzzle out much quicker than we did. They finished the last time jump with nine points which gave them the best possible ending, we’d only finished with six points and a slightly lesser ending. This is a series that I’ve enjoyed greatly from my first play, I can’t wait to try the other two Undo games and I hope that Pegasus go on to make a more in the near future.
Next up we decided to play a shorter cooperative game while we sat and ordered some filthy take-a-way food.I’ve only ever managed to beat The Game once so far and that was during a solo attempt. This is a relatively simple game in which players are collectively trying to play numbered cards sequentially in four different piles, two must ascend in value while the other two must descend. The deck is numbered from 2-99 and players will only have a hand of six cards, so the game is pretty tough to beat. Players need to play a minimum of two cards per turn and can not converse with each other about what they are planning on playing, or on which piles they don’t want the other players to use. We actually came very close to winning a four player game getting lucky by triggering the ‘ten apart’ rule several times over the course of our game. This allows you to play a card exactly ten in the wrong direction on any of the piles leaving you in a better position than you started in. Once we’d drawn the last facedown card I thought that we could actually win, but both Kim and I ended up with one card each that couldn’t be played, losing frustratingly with only two unplayed cards; still this is by far the closest that I’ve been to winning outside of the solo game.
My friends didn’t believe me when I told them that this gorgeous looking Disney game was actually well worth playing. Typically when Disney release a board game it tends to be mass market junk or a retheme of something like Monopoly, but Disney Villainous is a well designed asymmetric card game for two-to-six players that uses mechanisms from games like Scythe, Android and Magic: the Gathering. Each player assumes the role of one of Disney’s villains and although the cardplay is similar for each player, the conditions needed to win the game differ completely. Kim was putting her son to bed so we played a three player game using Jafar from Aladdin (Me), Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty (Matt P) and Captain Hook from Peter Pan (Ginge). Matt came pretty close to winning a few times needing to start his turn with a curse card on every space, but Ginge and I were able to keep him at bay using his fate cards. Ginge first needed to find Peter Pan from the fate deck, of which he ended up being the second-to-bottom card in the deck, and move him to the Jolly Roger before defeating him. I was convinced that I wasn’t going to do well with Jafar because I had to first find a Golden Scarab to open the Cave of Wonders, then find the Magic Lamp to summon a Genie, then corrupt the Genie and move the Magic Lamp all the way back to the Palace. I felt like I was never going to do all of those steps, but after what turned out to be a pretty long game Ginge and I found ourselves one move away from winning. I kept finding ways to hinder his progress and eventually ended up getting the lamp to the palace and winning. This is only the second time that I’ve played Villainous but I’m already convinced that it’s the best Disney game out there, I can’t wait to play it again.
It was getting late now so we started to play lighter more relaxed games to end our session with. NObjects by Pegasus Spiele is a great party game with an unusual set of rules, providing another twist to the draw-a-picture-and-guess family of games. Players are given a secret word on a card which they must convey in the form of an invisible finger drawing on the table; players can not talk, mime or draw letters and numbers. Also if that didn’t sound difficult enough this must all be done in 60 seconds and the clues get progressively harder as a player gets closer to winning. This is achieved by Nobjects containing three different sets of clues coloured in red, amber and green to show their level of complexity. Nobjects is such a fun experience, it’s one that I’ll probably end up getting out every time that I have a big enough group and a desire to play something a little more light-hearted. I think that the highlight of our game was when Ginge had drawn ‘Tool’ as his clue, and rather than trying to draw a hammer or a wrench he tried to draw the music of the progressive rock band of the same name. As you might imagine nobody guessed the correct answer and when Ginge revealed what he was trying to say Matt P ended up laughing so hard that he fired beer out of his nostrils. Kim outperformed everyone else at the table managing to get her all of her clues guessed in time and solving other people’s clues too. She won the game while Ginge and Matt P were a single point behind.
Winner - Kim 6
Joint second - Matt P and Ginge 5
Loser - Allen 4
Next up was an old favourite for my gaming group called Cockroach Poker which has been played to death by most of the people that I know. My copy of the game is well-loved and well-worn, partly due to the amount of plays that it has endured and partly because it’s often played by heavily intoxicated friends and family. For those who are unfamiliar with Cockroach poker it’s is a simple game about bluffing where players put a face-down card in front of someone and tell them what is on the card. Players then have the option to try and call out what is on the card or to pick it up and give it to someone else. It’s a simple concept but always fun to play, I’ve never had a dull game of Cockroach Poker. The game started with a card being passed all the way around the table and then back to me again, I think Matt P had forgotten who started the round because he seemed shocked when I knew exactly what was printed on the card. The picture above captures the moment just before I drew my third copy of one animal and lost the game, I was told that it was a toad but it turned out to be a rat. Cockroach Poker simply has one loser rather than a winner, so with my defeat we moved on to the final game of the night.
We ended the night with perhaps the silliest game of the evening called In a Bind (later released as Yogi), and as everyone was either tired or intoxicated it seemed like a great way to wrap the session up with. If you haven’t had a chance to play this game yet then I couldn’t recommend it more, In a Bind is a great game that you can play in almost any group and I’ve had loads of fun playing it over the last few years. The main way to play is that players take turns to reveal a card from the deck and to follow the instructions printed on them. Some instructions include the use of the card itself such as ‘this card touching right elbow’ and ‘this card touching left eyebrow,’ while other cards simply include an instruction such as ‘upper teeth showing’ and ‘right arm above right elbow.’ Players must continue to take cards as the game progresses, following more and more instructions until they are well and truly In a Bind, once a player stops following an instruction they are eliminated from the game. We were all doing well for a good while each holding around ten cards, but then a snigger turned into a chuckle, chuckles turned into the giggles and before we knew it we all started to laugh uncontrollably with cards falling all over the floor and the table; it’s amazing how difficult it is to laugh when you’re wrapped up like a contortionist. Kim was the only one who managed to keep hold of all of her cards where they belonged, winning yet another game.
I had a great evening with some of my favourite people made all the better with some very enjoyable games, especially Wingspan. Thank you for reading!
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