Mina's Fresh Cardboard

Where I discuss my game buying addiction and love affair with freshly-printed cardboard. I dislike randomness and love high strategy. I play daily with my partner, Peter, who is always ready to win, but mostly ready to lose. Don't worry. He loves it! :)

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [12]

Recommend
372 
 Thumb up
25.00
 tip
 Hide

In Which...

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
...Mina is Still Breaking




Hi Friends!


I would like to apologize for my protracted absence and thank you all for your concern, kindness, and understanding. I am humbled by the great response garnered by this period of bloglessness and this makes me so incredibly appreciative of each and every friend I've made here. Writing Mina's Fresh Cardboard has always been a super fun extra-curricular activity, but a bout of illness, work and personal commitments have made it impossible for me to make posting my BGG blog a priority. In fact, I had so little time and energy for a while that I couldn't even bring myself to play games (GASP!)! AT ALL! I know. shake For an extended period of time, I didn't touch a single game. NOT ONE!

Although I may have disappeared from the face of BGG, I haven't been disappeared entirely from board gaming things! If you are interested in keeping up with my doings, I have remained active on Facebook (under my full name: https://www.facebook.com/milena.guberinic), Instagram (@minasfreshcardboard : https://www.instagram.com/minasfreshcardboard/), and Twitter (@minascardboard : https://twitter.com/MinasCardboard). I have been posting photos and thoughts on those sites. And even during my non-gaming period, I did my best to post pretty pictures of something I had played in the past.

At the present time, I have no plans to return to making my usual epic posts, but I do plan to return to blogging here in the future...in a shiny new format!

I still love games. I still love BGG. I still love and appreciate each and every one of you! But sometimes, life gets in the way of things we love, and sometimes, we need to make changes. I hope that my absence will actually turn out to be a positive development in the evolution of Mina's Fresh Cardboard.



heart THANK YOU! heart
Twitter Facebook
65 Comments
Fri Jun 2, 2017 9:05 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
284 
 Thumb up
6.00
 tip
 Hide

In Which...

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
...Mina takes a break!


Hi Friends!


I have been exhausted and ill from getting a sinus pierced with a dental anesthetic needle thingy, so I decided to take a break this week. I hope you will join me again next time!



heart THANK YOU! heart
Twitter Facebook
76 Comments
Fri Feb 10, 2017 9:05 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
167 
 Thumb up
12.25
 tip
 Hide

In Which Mina Invades PAX South! * Overview of PAX SOUTH

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Friends!


I apologize for the absence of a post last week. I was at PAX South in San Antonio, Texas and was unable to complete a post in time. To make up for it, I get to show you a bit of the PAX experience this week! However, this will be a slightly abbreviated post, as I was exhausted and had a lot of work to make up when I returned. Though I played a bunch of games for the first time in the past two weeks, I just didn't have the time or brain power to describe them all in this post, so I'll save that for next week! For now, I will show you PAX South!



***


PAX South


If you're a gamer, I'm sure you've heard of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) show. It is a show dedicated exclusively to gaming, including PC, console, and tabletop!

PAX South is held annually in San Antonio, but the largest events take place in Boston (PAX East) and Seattle (PAX West). Each of these shows features a broad array of events, lounges, panels, and activities for attendees to enjoy. From board game tournaments (I REALLY wanted to enter the Terra Mystica one! ) to console and PC free play areas and new console releases (NINTENDO SWITCH!!!!), there is much to do! Though I spent most of my time at the Indie Boards and Cards/Action Phase booth, I did get to experience the energy and excitement of the event outside the exhibit area. LOOK!










There was a large tabletop area and library!


This is a Unipegasaurus! He is going to be on Kickstarter soon! I don't know when, but you can find him through Facebook at UNIPEGASAURUS!


Sadly, I did not get to try the Nintendo Switch, which was available for play for the first time EVER at PAX South. The line to try it was incessantly slammed! And CLOSED! The line was actually CLOSED down on regular basis! My friend and Indie booth mate, Tricia, and I tried to get in line before the exhibit hall opened each day, but the line was ALREADY packed with exhibitors long before the hall opened. There was a constant rush for Nintendo Switch! They had Splatoon and Zelda available for demo, but I didn't see the new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is the main draw to the Switch for me! I LOVE MARIO KART! I can't drive, but I kick ass at Mario Kart!


This area was constantly packed! I took this picture BEFORE the exhibit hall opened!


However, I did get to spend time with some of my favorite people! Tricia and N/A of Indie Boards & Cards/Action Phase...








Travis invariably makes me laugh


My favorite!


I helped out at the Indie Boards & Cards booth by demoing Ninja Camp, an adorable "hand-building" game in which you use the cards in your hand to navigate the movement of your 3 ninjas around a board made up of the very same cards. Each time you move a ninja off a card, that card gets added to your hand and each card has a point value and an ability. I adore this game! The rules are simple and the game is easy to teach to even the youngest of players, but the interplay between the spatial movement and point/ability tradeoff of cards generates plenty of depth to keep the gameriest of gamers engaged!



I also demoed Kodama and Coup. And I learned Coup for the first time there! For anyone in the same position I before last week, Coup is a social deduction game in which you start with two coins and two influence (two face-down character cards) and try to be the last player remaining with a face-down card. Each of the five characters in the game has an ability and there are 3 copies of each character in the 15-card deck. Each turn, you perform an action (taking coins, paying three coins to try to assassinate another player's character, blocking an assassination attempt against yourself, taking two coins from another player, drawing two character cards from the deck and returning two...). The trick is that each of these actions is associated with a character and if you don't have a character whose action you are taking and are called out on that, you lose an influence! The last man standing wins!

I loved playing this game! I don't typically gravitate towards social deduction games because I find them very stressful. I dislike lying and I am very bad at it. Everyone can see right through me. I didn't find myself getting stressed out in this game. I was never put on the spot, I never had to come up with some clever rationale for what I was doing, I never had to tell stories or be amusing to anyone; I just had to take the action I wanted to and be careful about whether and when I took an action I couldn't back up with my cards. I can't wait to play this with my family. I think it's simple enough that even my mom could enjoy it!



Joshua Githens
United States
Piedmont
South Carolina
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
from CGE.

We went to Dave & Buster's and I kicked his ass in Mario Kart! The Dave & Buster's Mario Kart AIs are stupid easy to beat, but Josh and I were well matched ...



JR Honeycutt
United States
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
from Artana/Nerd Night, who taught me Tichu, which is a partnership climbing game in which you try to get rid of all the cards in your hand. Each turn, you either play a single card or some variation of a poker hand capable of beating the previously played one or you pass. If you are the last to play a hand in a round, you become the starting player for the next round. The last player out in a game gives all the cards won to the player who ran out of cards first and the last player's unplayed cards are handed to the opposite team. At the end of a game, each team's collected cards are consolidated. Fives, tens and Kings are worth 5, 10 and 10 points and each hand one hundred points, but there are bonuses to be had for calling "Tichu" and "Grand Tichu" prior to playing any card in the game to bet on being the first to run out of cards in a round and the first team to run out of cards respectively. The first team to get to 1000 points wins! So there's a fun racey element!





J.R., Josh, and I also drafted some Star Trek characters. Can you tell I enjoy drama!?



Trey Chambers
United States
Houston
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
, the designer of one of my favorite worker placement games EVER - Argent: The Consortium...



the always fantastic, Matt Fantastic, who was debuting his Hey Girl, Hey game! It's a hilarious game of consensual stupidity in which you ask questions that will incite laughter. Of course, the questions have to start with "Hey Girl, Hey..."




This was Matt's selfie, pilfered for my own purposes.


And many more! I met so many wonderful people I feel so very fortunate to know.





For more about PAX South: http://south.paxsite.com/what-is-pax

***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Coup - I demoed Coup several times at PAX and after I did, I knew I had to have it! See above for more.

***


Next Week...


Look forward to full reviews for Dairyman and the Potion Explosion app. My flight was horribly delayed, so I had many hours to kill and the Potion Explosion app came to my rescue! I have become somewhat addicted to it since. Perhaps it's some sort of messed up emotional attachment to my savior or perhaps it's the fact that the app (and the game) really is that fun, but I'm a Potion Explosion app zombie! More on that next week!

***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING heart


***



First impressions coming next week! But I will say thumbs up for now!
Twitter Facebook
34 Comments
Fri Feb 3, 2017 9:05 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
234 
 Thumb up
12.35
 tip
 Hide

In Which a Dokmus Reigns Over an Energy Empire! Shhh. A Dokmus is a Kind of Mouse! ;) * New Reviews for MANHATTAN PROJECT: ENERGY EMPIRE & DOKMUS * First Impressions for FLIP CITY: WILDERNESS, DAIRYMAN, SANTORINI, & ROME: CITY OF MARBLE * Plus PAX South!

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Friends!


Getting better! Woohoo! Just in time for PAX South next week! Unfortunately, the poor weather in Toronto has meant that my photos all turned out a bit more blurry and dark than usual. Blurry and dark is sad. I'm looking forward to some sun in San Antonio! Come on, Texas! MAKE IT HAPPEN! Oh! And BBQ!



***


Reviews






The Overview


I had little interest in the original Manhattan Project game due to its nuclear war theme, but Manhattan Project: Energy Empire caught my attention. It is a game I had been excitedly awaiting since the Kickstarter was launched! Tableau/engine-building games are among my favorites and this one came with adorable pieces and illustration, so I had every hope it would be a hit.

In Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, you and your friends compete to build the best nation by adding government, industry, and commerce buildings into your tableau and then running them with workers.


Player board


Game board


Each turn, you place members of your work force, along with units of energy, on one of 3 sections of the board - government, industry, and commerce - to obtain resources, obtain cards, convert resources, obtain money, or obtain energy dice. Every time you activate a certain section of the game board, you may use additional workers (and energy) to activate any and all buildings of that type in your tableau. If you want to place a worker on a board space that is already occupied, you simply have to create a stack of workers/energy one higher than the highest stack already in the space! This means that no space is ever fully blocked.

The timer in the game comes in the form of pollution tokens, which are removed from the game or added to a player's tableau every time a player runs out of workers and has to "reset" their board. When you run out of workers, you must perform a reset action, recovering all your workers from the board and your cards, gaining an objective tile if you have two or more unused workers/energy remaining in your possession when you reset, discarding all remaining energy, and rolling your energy dice to determine how much energy you will have in the following round and whether you will have to add a pollution token to your board or remove it from the game.

Once a single stack of pollution tokens runs out, an event occurs, affecting everyone by generating pollution, blocking off areas of the board, or otherwise altering the rules of the game.

When the game ends, you score points for buildings, energy dice, unpolluted areas of your board, and objective tiles.


Building cards


Government section


Industry section


Commerce section


The Review






1. Great production and graphic design
Manhattan Project: Energy Empire is a) pretty and b) highly functional. Josh Cappel always does a great job of making his illustrations both visually attractive and clean and effective at communicating game processes and pieces. I love the player boards, which clearly outline your starting situation, provide a clear summary of die functions, and give you a great way to organize all the little chits and pieces you acquire throughout the game. The main board is similarly effective at expediting the setup process and making it easy to remember how many of each card to lay out. But my favorite part of the main board is the event space, which is illustrated to look like a newspaper page! Perhaps totally unnecessary, but totally awesome!



The attractiveness and clarity of the graphic design makes Manhattan Project: Energy Empire a breeze to learn. And once you learn how to play the game, you won't forget what things do very easily. In fact, the icons are so clear that they look nearly exactly like the things they are meant to represent AND there aren't very many of them. I can see expansions for this game adding many more functions to the game without eliciting confusion or overwhelming anyone.

My final piece of love for the graphic design: I love the fact that you get two starting nations from which to choose and simply use the back of the one you don't choose as a player aid! This is a no-waste graphic design system!

The production is spectacular as well! Between the adorable metal oil drums, steel bars, and pink plastics, I'm in happy component heaven! And while I know that some will complain about the "thinner" player board cardboard, I am actually a fan of the more pliable player boards, as the thick ones tend to warp.

2. Many different ways to score points
Manhattan Project: Energy Empire gives you so many scoring options! And I love such games because this means you can play with them to explore the effectiveness of various combinations of these over many sessions.

In Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, you can score points by building buildings, using buildings to score points throughout the course of the game, keeping tabs on the events to ensure you can satisfy their scoring requirements, collecting energy dice, keeping pollution at bay, and acquiring and fulfilling objectives! Is that enough!? You have so many options every time you play! Do you let pollution run rampant in exchange for great buildings and the freedom to focus on objectives and maximizing your ability to get things done with energy? Or do you focus on keeping pollution at bay by acquiring eco-friendly energy dice and keeping tabs on the events? There are many strategies to explore!

3. Huge sense of escalation
Early in the game, you are able to take single unrelated actions, but as you build your tableau of like-category buildings (i.e. government, industry, or commerce) and acquire additional workers, taking any single related action on the main board allows you to activate any number of these like-colored buildings, which can result in huge chains of actions on a single turn. You can create fun synergies between like-colored buildings that encourage you to exhaust all workers in a single turn as well.

4. Not enough time to do everything!
You want to see what the events are, you want to collect as many energy dice as possible, you want to build ALL the buildings! But you can't! Manhattan Project: Energy Empire challenges you to do as much as possible with a limited number of actions. You can expand the number of actions you can take over the course of the game and each turn by spending some time to acquire additional workers and taking chances with energy dice. You can use energy to activate buildings and ensure you are able to take actions that have already been taken on the main board, but you risk taking on pollution.

Manhattan Project restricts your ability to do things with the few actions you get throughout the game and allows you to expand your ability to do things by giving you the option to acquire more workers and, more interestingly, energy.

5. Player-controlled game progress
And more workers and more energy will lead you to become better able to control the rate at which the game moves forward! Each reset you make in the game and/or every time you run out of workers in the game pushes the game forward by removing one of the event countdown pollution tokens. SO, you are in charge! This is important because it allows you to strategically use knowledge of events against your opponents, pushing the game forward when you know you stand to acquire the most points from them. It also allows you to push the end of the game forward when you can see you are ahead.

6. Tricky tradeoffs
Selecting which energy dice to add to your life can be tricky! The green and blue dice ensure that you can consistently generate energy without pollution, but you can only have so many of these, they are expensive, AND they generate less energy than the ever-so-dangerous nuclear dice! Energy helps you get more done in the game, so the point-to-action tradeoff can be a difficult one to assess.

7. Lots of variety
You have a huge number of starting nations (i.e. variable "powers"), building cards, and event cards to create a different puzzle every time!

8. Works well with two!
Worker placement games frequently require lots of changes or blocking off spaces or other things to make them tense with two players. The changes to the two-player game in EE are simple and effective. You have a neutral worker in each of the building acquisition spaces on the board and smaller stacks of event-triggering pollution tiles! Simple and effective at a) ensuring the game doesn't go on too long and b) ensuring that the game remains tense and challenging, as you have to contend with the nasty neutral workers that increase the worker "cost" of building things!

soblue


Nothing. I honestly cannot think of anything I dislike about this game.



Final Word


Engine-building games are among my favorite kinds of games and Energy Empire is one of my new favorite engine builders! While many tableau/engine-building games are relatively simple and relatively limited affairs of discovering synergistic card powers, Energy Empire gives the challenge of finding card synergies a coat of competition for worker placement spaces, a sprinkle of timing and pacing, and a dash of resource management. Simple to learn and play and endlessly engaging with its variety in scoring and setup, Energy Empire is sure to please! It sure pleases me!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE



***






The Overview


Dokmus! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!? What is a Dokmus!? Whatever a Dokmus may or may not be, the game of Dokmus is a tactical, puzzly, area-control game that physically quite closely resembles the hilarious Cones of Dunshire. I thank my friend, Darrin, for noticing that!

To set up the game, you randomly arrange the 8 map tiles in a 3x3 grid, with the middle piece empty. If playing with two players, you make a map out of 5 tiles.



Each turn, you select one of 3 (in a two-player game) power tiles and then your opponent selects another. Each power tile comes with a number that denotes your turn order for that round. Each power tile also comes with a power you may use during your turn.



On your turn, you have to place 3 tents on the board. You have to place tents next to tents you already have, you have to sacrifice a tent to cross a river or place another tent on a forest, and you have to sacrifice tents you place on volcanoes at the end of your turn. Additionally, you can use the power of the tile you selected. The powers allow you to move one of your existing tents, rotate a tile, or shift a tile.



At the end of the game you get victory points for discovered temples and ruins on the map, with bonuses awarded for having discovered temples and ruins on multiple tiles and for having discovered all temples and ruins on single tiles, and having sacrificed more tents than your opponent.

The Review






1. Simple and quick to set up and play
Each turn, you pick a power and plop down 3 tents on the board. That's the game. You can teach Dokmus in a couple of minutes and you can get anyone to understand its simple principles very quickly.

The game is EXCEEDINGLY simple to set up and tear down. You randomly place a few smallish tiles on the table...and BAM!

2. Numerous interesting decision points and tradeoffs
This is a simple abstract game. And yet, it is filled with challenges and tradeoffs! You are faced with a relatively large number of different ways to score points and these are mutually exclusive, so whenever you make points in one way, you are losing out on points in another. The challenge is to find the perfect balance for the perfect point payoff.

Your chief way of making points is by discovering temples and ruins. Check. BUT, the fact that you get bonuses for discovering these on multiple tiles AND for each tile on which you discover ALL of these means you are pulled in two different directions. Do you try to rotate and slide-puzzle your way to all the tiles or do you stick to trying to discover all the temples on a few close tiles? Of course, you have to contend with the whims of your opponent and being blocked from being able to discover a final temple or ruin is standard course, so your tradeoffs and decision points tend to be more tactical than strategic. And that's actually a good thing because it adds to the decision making in the game. You can make chess-like predictions and hypotheses for the next turn or two, but then have to modify your course as you see what your opponent actually does!

3. High setup variability for high replay value
Even though Dokmus doesn't come with a huge number of different interchangeable tiles or powers, the game still has a great amount of variability and replay value. Setup variability is achieved through the fact that you will only use a subset of the double-sided tiles (when playing with two...otherwise you will use all of the tiles in every game), which will be randomly arranged.

The different setups will ensure you will face a different optimization puzzle in each game and the unpredictable moves of your opponent will ensure that you face unique tactical considerations each turn!

Plus, there is a lot to learn in this game! Both about the game and your opponent!

4. Addictive
Dokmus is so quick and simple to play that after each session, I find myself begging for another! I just can't seem to get enough of trying to find the perfect placement for my tents and trying to outwit my opponent! And that is precisely where I think the addictive quality of this game lies; growing with the game and your opponent. The tactical nature of the game means that you can get a feel for your opponent's preferences and learn ways to circumvent them. And, by the same token, you have to find ways to keep your opponent from capitalizing on learning about your own tendencies. In this way, the game is very much like chess...a rotating, slide-puzzle chess with multiple scoring options!

soblue


soblue 1. More powers!
I really wish there were more than 3 (with two players) different powers in the game. I know that this is probably the area most suited to expansion and will probably be the focus of any upcoming expansions, but I do wish that the base game came with a few more powers to mix things up from game to game.

soblue 2. Scales strangely
With two players, the order in which you select tiles each round simply alternates. With more players, the process depends on the power tiles you had in the previous round, which seems to put a bit more emphasis on and give a bit more interest to the powers tiles.

Also, with two players, the game has a great balance of tactics and strategy. You have a decent level of control over how the tiles shift and move and which temples and ruins are available to be discovered. More players=more chaos when it comes to the board state. I personally dislike chaos. Intensely.

Final Word


Dearest Dokmus, What are you!? I spent a long time thinking about just what it is about this game that draws me to compulsively play it over and over again and I think it has to be the sheer simplicity of its system and ease of setup. It's just so easy to pull it out and play! And because of the simplicity of the system, turns are quick, so you are engaged in the proceedings at all times! Plus, the fact that the board state is changing all the time means that you have to constantly pay attention and calculate and re-calculate your moves. And yet your options are simple and moves are few, so you don't have to take forever to do this!

Dokmus is a delight! That is what it is! It's like a beautiful jar of Nutella! I know! I know! PALM OIL! CANCER! Well, it's simple and delicious and I could literally eat an entire jar with a spoon (provided I could eat sugar at this point in my life, but at one point, I could AND DID!)! And I could eat (I mean, PLAY) Dokmus ALL DAY! Simple and tasty on its own! Over and over again!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart heart ALL LOVE ALL THE TIME




***


First Impressions






Hi! My name is Mina and I am a dairy addict! I live off a delicious combination of yogurt, kefir, skyr, milk, and cheese, as well as the occasional protein bar of whey protein isolate! I'm about 100% milk! So, whenever I'm asked about underused themes in board games, my response is always identical - CHEESE!!!! We need more games about cheese! And Dairyman is pretty close to just that! Dairyman is a light, push-your-luck, dice-rolling game.

Each turn, you roll a set of dice and find any sets of 2 or 3 dice with pips adding up to EXACTLY 10. You can assign any number of sets of dice that add up to 10 to the first barn and then either continue to re-roll dice or use the total value of the pips you have made to collect milk. If you continue rolling and manage to make additional sets adding up to 10, you will assign your next sets to the second barn. If you fail to make additional sets that add up to 10, you will forfeit your turn and take a red mark token! There are only 3 of these in a 2-player game and once all are taken, the player with 2 of them has to discard his highest-valued milk tile. So, rolling multiple times comes with the risk of failure and failure may lead you to lose a milk tile...if you fail more than your opponent. However, the advantage of rolling multiple times is that you can gain freeze tokens when you reach the third barn (i.e. once you've re-rolled at least 3 times). Freeze tokens let you either "freeze" dice prior to re-rolling on future turns OR let you turn milk into ice cream, with will give you super special powers, like re-rolling all dice of a specific value or a single die of any value. Also, ice cream and cheese can't be taken away by having 2 red mark tokens!


Milk and cheese and ice cream! All the goodness!


Barns and milky drinks and freezes and red tokens of doom and gloom...but they do let you roll an extra red die as long as you have them, so they aren't all bad...


Once you finish rolling, you may claim any of the 3 milk tiles on display, with their values denoting their point value at the end of the game.

The game ends when the milk tile display cannot be refilled and the winner is the player with the highest value of milk, ice cream, and cheese in his possession!

Dairyman is light and pleasant and when I'm up for some dice with a milky coating, I'll be sure to pull it out! I love push-your-luck games and this one creates a lot of tension with its dice-rolling chaos! Do you take a chance on being able to fill another barn or do you take a sure thing by placing two sets of 10 in the current one and taking a milk tile? More rolls can bring you superpowers and flexibility, but they can also bite you in the butt if you happen to fail to produce milk! Peter and I tend to be risk averse (though this is much more true for Peter than it is for me) and never once exhausted the "red mark" supply in our two games, but we did both end up with at least one of these in each game. Simple, quick, and effective. I like this! Excited to play more!



***






Santorini captured the imagination of many with its elaborate and well-designed Kickstarter campaign and outstanding production. Of course, I was not immune to its charms!

In Santorini, you contribute to the building of the magical island of Santorini by moving your little builder dudes around and calling on your patron God's power for inspiration! Each turn, you MUST move ONE of your two builders AND build a piece of Santorini OR YOU PERISH IN THE FLAMES OF...loss. Your builders can move to any orthogonally and diagonally adjacent spaces and may move one level upward or any number of levels downward. And you can build a ground-floor flat or add a second or third floor or a blue top to a building. Your goal in moving and building is to get one of your builders to the third floor of a building! Because...um...because the first to the pirate lookout spot wins the glory of all the Santorini-ites! Santorini residents!



Santorini is a delight! And the God powers MAKE the game! I keep wanting to play it over and over again because I want to discover how all the various God powers work and interact. They are quite different from each other and they drastically affect how you play the game. In our first game, I had a power that prevented Peter's builders from building anything adjacent to my builders, which meant I was playing a very defensive game, trying to keep him from being able to do things. Meanwhile, his power allowed him to zip around more easily, which meant he was playing more offensively. It was great! I can't wait to play again! I don't think I'd be nearly as enthused without the powers, but with SO MANY in the game, I think this one will keep me busy for a long time to come!



***






Rome: City of Marble is a game I have been eager to play sine it was released at Essen 2015. However, being a relatively generic-looking tile-layer, it never made it to the top of my wishlist. And even after I finally acquired it, it fell to the bottom of my need-to-play list. It looks forgettable and generic. And that is its greatest flaw. The game itself is absolutely brilliant!



Rome: City of Marble is a tile-laying game reminiscent of Carcassonne. But advanced. You and your friends compete to make the greatest contribution to the building of Rome by reserving the best areas of land, building the best buildings, and connecting these buildings to fountains and aqueducts.



Each turn, you must perform two actions and may spend Imperium tiles to perform additional actions. Your actions can consist of any combination of:
1. Draw two different colored city tiles and place them in the "prep" space on your player board. You can place these on the board on your next turn.
2. Expand aqueducts, adding 2 pieces to the existing aqueduct system.
3. Recall one of your magistrates from a city tile.
4. Play a city tile onto the board, connecting to existing city tiles or to existing hill tiles. You can cover river spaces to claim river tiles, which will give you straight-up VP at the end of the game. Whenever you place a city tile, you MAY place one of your magistrates on it. If you create a complete pentagon by placing a city tile, the center pentagon becomes a building, the color of which is determined by the number of tiles that contribute to making the pentagonal shape. The player with the most magistrates on city tiles of the building's color gets to claim the building by placing one of his cubes on it and then all players with magistrates on the tiles contributing to the pentagram may move them to the imperium tiles to gain one of the same color as the building that was just completed.

The game ends when two stacks of city tiles are exhausted. You gain points for buildings, river tiles you collected during the game, 2 bonus points for each of your buildings connected to an aqueduct, 1 point per fountain adjacent to your buildings, coins, and 5 bonus points per Imperium tile color in which you have a majority.

First of all, let me be very clear about how much I LOVE this game! LOVE! It's brilliant! For a seemingly simple and abstract tile-laying game, you have much to consider. You have to
a) race for building ownership while managing your meager city-tile supply,
b) you think about the way in which buildings are being combined in order to ensure you are placing your magistrates on the right colored tiles and the colors are related to the number of tiles contributing to the pentagon,
c) you have a tradeoff between building in the Eastern part of the city (easy access to aqueducts) and Western part of the city (random point tile acquisition),
d) you have a tradeoff between ease of completion and VP gain when it comes to number of city tiles contributing to a building
e) you have to think about which building colors you are using to move your magistrates to the Imperium tile section and which Imperium tile colors you are using for extra actions because 5VP per majority is a huge number of points.

Ok. Now for the bad stuff. The rulebook is a mess of mathematics language, poor layout, and lack of illustration. To be fair, this is a relatively complex game. It isn't quite as it first appears. It is much more complex than the average Carcassonne clone. But it is so badly explained in the book. It's hard to explain and I'm sure I've done a shoddy job of it myself, but somebody who got paid to do it should have done better. I think.

Ultimately, Rome: City of Marble came as a huge surprise! I had some expectations, but after reading the rules, those expectations burned to nothing. And then I played the game! And it was engaging, fast paced, and fabulous! So there! Rewrite the rulebook, snazz up the art and this baby is going places! Just kidding. Definitely check this out if you love a good, challenging tile layer! It is worth your time!



***






I love Flip City! It's a push-your-luck deck-building game in which you try to be the first to score 8 VP. You play cards directly from the top of your deck and decide whether to stop or continue. But you cannot continue if you ever have 3 unhappies in your city, unless you have unhappiness-cancelling churches, of course!


Wilderness starting deck


Once you have played all the cards you want to play, you use the coins on your buildings to buy additional building cards to add to your deck or to upgrade existing cards in your discard pile by flipping them over. You win the game if you manage to play 8 points worth of cards in a single turn!

Flip City: Wilderness is a standalone version of Flip City with identical rules and a few more card functions. Some cards have effects that take place only when you first purchase them, giving you an unappiness-cancelling happy for the following turn or allowing you to make an additional upgrade and giving you additional coins with which to do so.


New buildings side 1


New buildings side 2


Overall, I enjoyed playing with Wilderness, but I wouldn't recommend using it as a standalone game. Peter and I played this twice - once as a standalone game and once mixed with the base game and Reuse buildings. For me, there aren't enough options in Wilderness to make for a very a compelling game. With four stacks of building tiles that have relatively limited "when played" effects (because these are replaced by "when bought" effects), you just don't have enough to do. For me. But I have played the base game of Flip City many times and have played the base game with the Reuse expansion both with Peter and solo, so I crave more from my city flipping experience! I'm sure this would be just as good an introduction to the system as the base game alone for new players! So, welcome to the world, new Flip City!


WIN!



***


Session Reports


Habitats
I will never tire of this beautiful puzzly tile-layer! In fact, I seriously considered putting it on my top 10 of 2016 and SHOULD have put it in the honorable mentions. I love it that much.

In this game, I tried to make effective use of the lookout tiles. I typically ignore them or do everything I can to avoid having to take them. They seem to be the greatest liability in the game. And yet, I made one work very well for me this time! Lesson of the day: lookout tiles are NOT evil!







Russian Railroads + Russian Railroads: American Railroads
I am loving Russian Railrads with the American expansion! GO AMERICA!

I went for the middle track because I just love the point scoring potential there! I also focused on the stock track, as I did last time. I figure, the game wouldn't present you with this big 'ol board if you were intended to ignore it, so I plan to always do my best to make my company go up that thing! Plus, the bonuses (both action and end-game VP) are enough to convince me that it's a good goal to have. I ended up winning again and I will attribute that entirely to the stocks!





Dream Home
Dream Home!


I tried to keep the garages away from Peter THE ENTIRE GAME! I cannot tolerate his getting to the truck before me! And I knew I couldn't get it this time because one of the first cards I got was Laundry Room. I failed. Peter got truck.


BUT I WON THE GAME! BWAHAHAHAH


Suburbia + Suburbia Inc
Suburbia! When I suggested we play this, Peter actually asked me whether it was his birthday! It's one of his favorite games ever and we hardly play it. Earlier, this was caused by my tiring of it, but now, it's caused by my having to get through so many new games to review! Well, we played this week and it was all kinds of fun! It's easy to forget how amazing these "non-hotness" games are, but I don't think we should. Suburbia should forever be in our hearts. And collections!

If you don't already know this, Peter and I play Suburbia with an open-goal variant. We don't use any secret goals; we just leave 3 open goals. That reduces the luck and weirdo guessing part of Suburbia I just don't like. One of the goals in this game rewarded having the fewest residential tiles, which challenged us to find alternative sources of population. So, both of our suburbs ended up with lots of culture to ostensibly draw population from surrounding cities. Or perhaps our single residential tiles were as densely populated as Hong Kong or Tokyo .

I ended up 2 points ahead of Peter at the end, but he managed to shed more cash than I did in the final turn and took the 10-population least-$ goal. Oh well. I take solace in the knowledge that my suburb was not shaped like the contents of Lance Armstrong's boxers.



t


Touria
Touria continues to disappoint me and I continue to play it! I actually quite dislike this game. It's adorable and harmless enough, but it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO random. Between drawing gems from the bag and rolling the die to determine which color of gem will allow you to steal hearts from the dragon, you are already faced with a frustrating amount of randomness. Add to that the uber random tile flipping at the end and you have a game I don't ever want to see again. ACTUALLY, scratch that. I would play this with kids. I think they'd get a kick out of it. It's definitely better than Candyland . Also, the tower action-selection thing IS awesome. I will try to write a full review for this soon.





Villages of Valeria
Villages of Valeria continues to entertain! I wrote a review last week and played it a bunch and I still want to play it! And that's a good sign! Unfortunately, I failed to follow my own advice to focus on taking as much advantage of the following option as possible and ended up 8 points behind Peter. Villages being a race game means it is VITAL to maximize the number of actions you have by ensuring you are able to follow your opponent's actions. And I didn't do that. At all. I kept building, maxing out my resources, and watching as Peter built his gigantic empire , recruiting the EXACT adventurers I wanted a turn before I could and ending the game when I had only 7 cards in my tableau. Oh well. I was actually surprised to find that I didn't lose as badly as I had anticipated when we finally tallied the points.





Great Western Trail
Great Western Trail is always a great time! In this game, I really wanted to focus on buildings, but the construction dudes didn't start to appear until late in the game, so I was unable to do that. Instead, I focused on cowboys and Peter focused on the conductors. And yet, despite the lack of construction dudes, we managed to nearly fill the board with buildings between the two of us! And Great Western Trail is always made greater by an abundance of buildings!

I was convinced that Peter would win this game. We were even in most categories, but I failed to make it to San Francisco, which meant I had to lose 3 points, and it seemed to me that he had done better at buying cows. I was wrong. I ended up winning by 10 points!





***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Clans of Caledonia - This looks sooo good! A mid/heavy-weight economic game with variable player powers, route building ( YAY!), and a reasonable play time!? SIGN. ME. UP. I'll be doing a Kickstarter preview for this when the prototype arrives. Hopefully soon!
2. Colt Express - I didn't get the physical version of this game. I got the app! That means I can actually play it. And I have a feeling I will actually enjoy the app version more than I could ever enjoy the physical version.
3. Path of Light and Shadow - I signed up to do some play testing for this game because I played the prototype at BGG Con and LOVED IT! I can't wait to try it with two! Of course, it's still in the prototype stage and doesn't look nearly as pretty as it will when it's complete (Beth Sobel art!!!), BUT there is some art and the non-art parts look decent, so yay!

***


Next Week...


I'm not 100% sure that I will have a post next week. I am going to be attending PAX South in San Antonio starting Thursday morning. I will do my best to post a review and some session reports and if I do post a review, it will definitely be for Round House. If not a review, maybe a top 10 anticipated of 2017? Would anyone be interested in that? Also, if you get to PAX South, be sure to say hi if you see me!

***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING heart



For next week!
[/center]
Twitter Facebook
62 Comments
Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:05 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
281 
 Thumb up
27.25
 tip
 Hide

In Which We Camp in the Villages of Valeria * New Review for VILLAGES OF VALERIA & My Board Game Base Camp Experience! * Lots of First Impressions and More!

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Friends!


The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity that ended up in my getting sick YET AGAIN! Only this time, I ended up with no fewer than two infections AND I managed to fall on my face and dislocate my front tooth! I am clearly a disaster magnet, so if you ever do see me, you may be wise to stay far, far away!

As for the whirlwind of activity, part of that had to do with my attending Board Game Base Camp in New Hampton, Ontario. More about that below!



***


Reviews






The Overview


I have a confession to make. I had very little hope for this game. After playing Quests for Valeria, I just assumed that the Valeria games would all be too light, too simple, and too long for me. But assumptions lead to assuming, so I decided to keep an open mind. I backed the Kickstarter project for Villages for the artwork and decided to give it a try. I mean, it is a completely different game.

In Villages of Valeria, you and your friends take on the roles of intrepid Dukes, building villages around your castles by playing cards into your tableau in an effort to build the biggest and best village, one worthy of the title of CAPITAL!

To set up the game, you lay out two rows of cards - a 5-card row of adventurers and a 5-card row of buildings and create a bank of 12 coins for a 2-player game. You give each player a starting castle and a hand of 6 building cards and 3 coins. Each player then selects a building card to play upside-down as a resource underneath their castle. And the game beings!



Each turn, you reset your tableau, moving any coins on your resources to your supply and then select one of 5 actions. Each of your opponents may then follow your action by taking a weaker version of it. The actions are:
1) Harvest - draw 3 building cards (followers draw 1)
2) Develop - discard 1 card from hand to add one other card underneath your castle as a resource (followers must discard 2)
3) Build - pay the cost of 1 building card from your hand to add it to your village as a building and take any immediate bonuses or effects to which you are entitled AND draw a card. You pay costs by putting your coins on resources above your castle OR any opponent's castle, but ones you put on your opponents' castles will stay with them (followers don't get to draw a card)
4) Recruit - pay 1 gold coin to the bank to add an adventurer to your village. You must fulfill the adventurer's requirements, which always means having a certain number of a certain type of building in your display (followers must discard 2 gold)
5) Tax - take 1 gold coin from the bank and draw 1 card (followers draw 1 card)


Buildings


Adventurers


The game ends when one player has a total of 12 buildings and/or adventurers in their tableau. You get points for buildings and adventurers in your village, points granted by special powers, and 1 point per gold coin in your reserve. The winner is proclaimed the LORD (or LADY...mostly LADY ) OF VALERIA! At least that's the case when Peter and I play!



The Review


Played prior to review: 7x






1. Super pretty
Wow! The artwork in Villages of Valeria is sublime! I love the fact that even the individual player starting cards have unique castle illustrations!

2. Quick
Villages of Valeria takes about 20 minutes to play with two players and this time window is perfectly proportional to what you get out of the game. You get a tense and compelling engine-building experience that won't blow your brains but will challenge your tactical decision-making skills in a short amount of time. What's more, the game is easy to set up and tear down. When setting up, all you have to do is lay out 5 cards of each type and when tearing down the game, all you have to do is put cards of each type together.

3. Plenty of strategic and tactical considerations to generate interest
There are many different types of building and adventurer cards that can help you accomplish many different things and reward you for doing many different things in Villages of Valeria. The key to playing well is recognizing the most synergistic combinations of these based on the contents of your opening hand and the starting display of adventurers. There are cards that reward you for collecting coins, cards that reward you for building certain types of buildings, cards that reward you for collecting adventurers, cards that reward you for collecting resources, etc. You can create a long-term strategy in this game by focusing on fulfilling the requirements of a certain set of scoring cards, gaining buildings that enhance your ability to do that or simply building the things for which you will reap extra rewards.

Despite the fact that you can create and try to follow an overarching VP-generating strategy, you will have to make many tactical tradeoffs throughout the game based on the ever-changing building card display, which means you will have to make some detours and tradeoffs when it comes to fulfilling your strategy. Because the game ends when one player has added their 12th building/adventurer to their tableau, you can't be too picky about the things you add, which means tactical considerations can take precedence over strategic ones. Any VP is a good VP!

4. Limitations create much tension
I love the number of limitations in this game and how much tension they add to each decision. Your hand is limited to 8 cards. While this may seem like many cards, it actually feels like too few when playing because a) you will undoubtedly encounter discarded cards in the building display you will want to draw and won't want to part with any hand cards to draw them, b) you have to use some of your buildings as resources and c) you have to discard one or two cards every time you want to add a card to your tableau as a resource. So you need cards you don't want or want only for their resources, but you are generally accumulating cards you DO want and CAN see as being useful played as BUILDINGS in your tableau. And this creates a huge conundrum when trying to decide which cards you're ok to let go. It's a lovely tension!

Another source of tension in the game is the limited coin pool. You get one point at the end of the game for each coin you own, there are a number of buildings that give you coins when you take certain actions or do so immediately, and you need coins in order to recruit adventurers and generate resources to build buildings. There is even an adventurer who gives you bonus points for hoarding coins! So, you want coins. But coins are limited. There are 12 in a 2-player game, which seems like plenty, but it's really not. Given the fact that these coins are so valuable, it can be quite tempting to hoard them. BUT, because this is a game of efficiency, you also have to evaluate whether it may be worth shedding a coin or two for more points elsewhere.

Everything is in a very fine balance in this game. I didn't appreciate this in my first session, but each one after has led to a greater appreciation of the subtle tradeoffs and tensions the limitations in the game create.

5. Cool interaction
Villages of Valeria features a very interesting form of player interaction in its resource-generation system. The fact that you can build buildings without having the requisite resources by essentially giving your opponent coins means that you have a sort of interdependent relationship with your opponents. However, it also means that the resource has to be worth at least a point to you! This tends to happen more early in the game than it does later in the game, but the fact that you are racing to get the most points in as little time as possible means that you are inherently encouraged to constantly consider this tradeoff. I love games with this type of player interdependence. They really mess with your mind!

Another interesting form of interaction in this game are the discard piles. Each of the building card piles is a discard pile. You CHOOSE the pile to which you discard cards when you do so and this can allow you to bury cards that you see as advantageous to your opponent(s).

6. A great sense of progress
Villages of Valeria is one of those engine-building games that starts out REALLY slowly and then ramps up REALLY quickly! You start out unable to build anything at all or the simplest buildings at best, but as you add resources to your kingdom and build buildings that give you bonuses for performing certain actions and give you free resources for building certain types of cards, you become better and better able to build more buildings and better and better rewarded for taking particular actions. This makes you feel really powerful and accomplished and that's a great feeling to experience in a game! No matter how shitty your day, no matter how little you feel you've done, you can feel like you accomplished SOMETHING of value, like you've created SOMETHING that functions in a quick 20-minute time period. Thumbs up for that! And for engine builders in general!

7. Lots of variability for high replay value
Villages of Valeria isn't an incredibly deep game, but it does feature a number of different cards and strategies to discover and explore and these give it enough depth to encourage you to play it numerous times. The card variety in the game also gives rise to a different game each time you play, challenging you to create the best synergies with the unique combination of adventurers and buildings on display. And this is great because it means you will have many different puzzles to solve in every game!

8. You can appreciate the beautiful kingdom you've created at the end of the game
You know I love a game that makes me feel like I've accomplished something!? Well, this one really makes me proud of my pretty kingdom! It's a great, synergistic machine AND it's GORGEOUS!


Events are an optional addition to the game


soblue


soblue 1. Events are unnecessary
Villages of Valeria has all the randomness inherent to a card-based game. Luck of the draw is always there, but when you add the events, which randomly arise and randomly reward or punish players, the level of randomness is too much for me. I'm sure some people will appreciate having an extra layer of unpredictability and the extra bit of game-to-game variety the event cards add, but I'm not one of them.

soblue 2. Adventurer non cycling in 2-player game
The fact that adventurers only cycle when they are taken means that the adventurer row does not change much when playing with only 2 players. Of course, this also depends on the extent to which players focus on recruiting adventurers when playing with more than two, but in a two-player game, the lack of adventurer cycling is quite pronounced and can create some stalemates. For example, if the adventurer selection doesn't happen to generate bonuses that fit in either player's strategy or if there are no VP-generating adventurers, the adventurer display tends to rot. Because you have to basically give up a VP/resource-generating coin in order to gain an adventurer, I tend to be choosy about them. And Peter does too. So perhaps this is as much a reflection of the players as it is of the game, but I still feel like the adventurer display should be expanded or somehow modified when playing with two...

soblue 3. Derivative
There isn't much of anything in Villages of Valeria that hasn't been done before. That does not make it a bad game! No, in fact, it's what contributes to making it a great game. It has elements of San Juan/Race for the Galaxy in the role selection element, combined with some simple engine building. However, if you are a stickler for "uniqueness" in your collection, this one might disappoint.

Final Word


Villages of Valeria is one of those too-pretty-to-be-good games. You know the ones? They look so so so so pretty and you have to try them because they look so pretty and you so desperately want them to be good but they are likely to disappoint you with their shallowness and randomness and boringness (ok, I invented the last word, but go with it ). Fortunately, Villages of Valeria is that rare too-pretty-to-be-good game that is ACTUALLY good! It's full of engine-building fun, tension, and pretty buildings and peoples! I would happily play this any time of day or night!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE




***


First Impressions


More first impressions will come after this section because, although I did spend some time playing games at home, I experienced more new-to-me games at Board Game Base Camp.





Las Vegas was my first game of 2017! It's a game that had been sitting on my shelf for ages but was never played because frankly, it looked about as dull as one of those round doorknobs. And reading the rules didn't help improve that impression at all. In fact, after I read over the few sentences of rules, I was ready to give up on it. How could something as simple as rolling a few dice and putting them on numbered locations to gain majority be fun? Well, it was actually quite fun. Even with two players.



The two-player variant for Las Vegas involves neutral dice. Each player gets a set number of player dice and neutral dice. Each turn, you roll ALL your dice and then must place all dice showing any single value in their associated location. Each location has a pile of cash and the player with the most dice in each location gets the highest-valued bank note, the player with the second-most, the second-most valued bank note, etc. The trick is that if there is a tie, all tied dice are removed from the location before money is allocated! This creates a neat tension between the three "players." Because you have to place ALL dice showing the same value, you could end up having to place neutral dice along with your own, taking the chance that your opponent won't roll the same value in neutral dice and either take the majority away from you or create a tie.

Personally, I found myself living in constant fear of the neutral dice, which was a cool aspect of the game. I would try to see what they did and get rid of them as soon as I could and then deal with my own dice. But that would give Peter information as well.

Overall, I found plenty more to enjoy in Las Vegas than I thought I would. It's a relatively random, Yahtzee-like dice-chucking game, but the luck-pushing and area-majority tradeoffs create a lot of tension. And it's over so quickly that you can just refresh the cash and start rolling again! It definitely has an addictive quality...like Las Vegas, I imagine...

***






Manhattan Project: Energy Empire was a game I had been excitedly awaiting since the Kickstarter was launched! Tableau/engine-building games are among my favorites and this one came with adorable pieces and illustration, so I had every hope it would be a hit.

In Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, you and your friends compete to build the best nation by adding government, industry, and commerce buildings into your tableau and then running them with workers.

Each turn, you place members of your work force, along with units of energy, on one of 3 sections of the board - government, industry, and commerce - to obtain resources, obtain cards, convert resources, obtain money, or obtain energy dice. Every time you activate a certain section of the game board, you may use additional workers (and energy) to activate any and all buildings of that type in your tableau. If you want to place a worker on a board space that is already occupied, you simply have to create a stack of workers/energy one higher than the highest stack already in the space! This means that no space is ever fully blocked.

The timer in the game comes in the form of pollution tokens, which are removed from the game or added to a player's tableau every time a player runs out of workers and has to "reset" their board. When you run out of workers, you must perform a reset action, recovering all your workers from the board and your cards, gaining an objective tile if you have two or more unused workers/energy remaining in your possession when you reset, discarding all remaining energy, and rolling your energy dice to determine how much energy you will have in the following round and whether you will have to add a pollution token to your board or remove it from the game.

Once a single stack of pollution tokens runs out, an event occurs, affecting everyone by generating pollution, blocking off areas of the board, or otherwise altering the rules of the game.

When the game ends, you score points for buildings, energy dice, unpolluted areas of your board, and objective tiles.



I LOOOOOOOOOVED Manhattan Project: Energy Empire. Had I played more games of it earlier, it would have likely made my honorable mentions for the top 10 of 2016. What do I love about this game?
1) Many ways to score points
2) Huge sense of escalation, as you build synergistic combinations of buildings
3) Too much to do with too few actions! You want to do everything! You want to see what the events are, you want to collect as many energy dice as possible, you want to build ALL the buildings! But you can't!
4) Super pretty! I love the art and graphic design! It makes the game easy to learn and pleasant to play! And I love the fact that you get two starting nations from which to choose and simply use the back of the one you don't choose as a player aid! No waste!
5) Player-controlled game progress - I loved it when players are in charge of their own destiny, particularly when it comes to game duration. You can try to push the game forward or slow it down by how often you reset
6) Tricky tradeoffs - Selecting which energy dice to add to your life can be tricky! The green and blue dice ensure that you can consistently generate energy without pollution, but you can only have so many of these, they are expensive, AND they generate less energy than the ever-so-dangerous nuclear dice! Energy helps you get more done in the game, so the point-to-action tradeoff can be a difficult one to assess.
7) Theme - I had zero interest in the original game due to its theme! However, this theme of nation building and micro managing quite appeals to me!
8) Lots of variety - You have a huge number of starting nations, building cards, and event cards to create a different puzzle every time!

Overall, love! I can't wait to play this a few more times and write a full and proper review! If you love engine-building and worker placement, pick this one up!





***






Royals is a multi-layered area-majority game. It isn't a game that was high on my wish list, but when the opportunity to try it arose, I decided to take it!

In this game, you obtain country cards from either a face-up selection or a face-down deck, play those cards to place your influence cubes on members of each country's royalty and also on the corresponding type of royal off the side of the game board. If you are the first to get to a royal, you get a point chip. If you are the first to have influence cubes in all areas of a country, you get a country point chit. If you have a majority of influence in each country when the country deck is depleted, you get an end-of-round point chit. Lots of points chits go around in this game. The game ends after 3 rounds, at which point points are awarded for most influence on each TYPE of royal.



Royals could be referred to as the ULTIMATE area-majority game because you are vying for SO MANY intertwined majorities. The game changes somewhat from the mad dash to be the first at each location to a slower, more contemplative tug of war over particular areas and royals in the later stages of the game. I found much more to think about here than I expected to, but I don't think the game works particularly well with only two players. Despite the fact that different regions, countries, and royals are associated with different VP values, players can easily part ways and simply stick to certain regions with nobody to bother them. I really feel like a third is needed to mix things up a bit here and provide an additional majority challenge.



***


Board Game Base Camp


I spent Wednesday playing some new games with friends and Saturday and Sunday at Board Game Base Camp in New Hampton, Ontario! Board Game Base Camp is the brain child of Daryl Andrews, who envisioned a Gathering of Friends-style retreat in the Ontario outback for his friends. A small gathering of about 80 people, this was probably the most intimate "con" I have ever attended. It was an honor to be included in this event and to be able to spend some time with so many lovely designers, reviewers, and representatives of so many renowned publishing companies.







Before the great outback adventure, a small group of us gathered for an evening of games at Snakes and Lattes! I'm sure most of you have heard of it because it was one of the first board game cafes ever and is still one of the most famous! The first game played was Sushi Go Party!





I had played Sushi Go before, but not Sushi Go party. They are essentially the same game with some rules changes, so if you like one you'll likely enjoy the other. What I did not enjoy about the party version was the fact that there are SOOOOOOOO MANY cards! You have to sort and unsort everything every time you play and that's just too much work for me for what this game offers...which is a great introduction to drafting.







Dead Last is a player-elimination-based party game in which you try to be the last man standing round after round in order to gain gold bars.

On each turn, players decide who to eliminate for that turn by playing a single colored card face down to the center of the table, with the color of the card corresponding to the identity of one player. Players can talk to each other and even reveal which player they are selecting for elimination. Anybody who selects the player in the majority is safe, but the player who has been selected for elimination and any player who selected a non-majority color gets eliminated for the round. The last man standing each round receives gold bars and once a player has 20 points worth of gold bars, the game is over and that player wins!

I did not like this game. It was not a game; it was an awful activity that I care not to ever repeat again. I know those sentences made it seem like playing this game was torture - it was not. There were fun people around the table and we could talk when we had been eliminated, but the activity we were engaged in was boring and felt utterly pointless. I actually looked forward to being eliminated each round!

That said, these types of games are typically not my jam, so take what I'm saying with a grain of whatever condiment you prefer.





After Snakes and Lattes, we ended up getting dinner at The Captain's Boil, which is a super fun place that serves you boiled fish stuff in a bag! You get a bib and gloves and have to eat your foods out of the bag!! It's hilarious! I got my favorite picture of Travis Chance ever at that restaurant! He's an ephemeral being.




I got bibbed too!


Eric Lang shows us his universal sign for crab


After that, we ended up playing some games in a condo lobby because that's what people do. Dig Mars is a strange, strange game. You start the game with a basic ability to move, dig, and carry out tiles and can upgrade these abilities over the course of the game. Your goal is to dig out tiles in a face-down display by placing and moving your tokens, revealing the top tile of a stack with one of your tokens, and collecting one face-up tile with at least one of your tokens on it. At the start of the game, you can only dig and collect basic tiles, but as the game goes on, you will need to improve your ability to dig and collect in order to acquire the advanced tiles. And you actually have to pay POINTS in order to upgrade abilities! Because this is a race game and the first player to a certain number of points wins, this upgrading business creates a lot of tension.

First of all, I'm not sure that we played this game entirely correctly. Second of all, I didn't enjoy it at all. Some of the upgrades seemed completely unnecessary and the key point of tension in the game (i.e. trading points for upgrades) seemed to be eliminated by many of the tile-acquisition bonuses. Oh well.







We found ourselves at 401 Games at one point and Eric Lang was gushing about this game, so several people ended up getting it. It's a simple push-your-luck game in which you try to collect a group of cards that add up to a value closest to 8 or 28 without going over either value. I played a 3-player game with Amber and Brandan and we both found the game to be overly long, but fun enough. It's quite light and random, so it would be great if it could be played in 10 minutes, but it went on quite a bit longer than that for us.





Arboretum is one of my favorite light games, but I don't play it nearly enough! I was very happy to have the opportunity to try it with 4 players, but I don't think I care to repeat the experience! I think this game shines with two because a) you have a lot more control and information about the contents of the deck and your opponent's hand and b) the game plays MUCH more quickly. We all had fun, but it went on a bit too long for everyone involved.







On the first night of Board Game Base Camp, I taught my friends, Jayme and Amber, Honshu. I decided not to throw in the extra rules even though I think they can easily be added even on a first play.

I decided to build lakes because both Amber and Jayme were ignoring them and lakes can be a great source of points if everyone but you is ignoring them. I have played this game so many times with new players now that I see that the city strategy (i.e. building one giant landmass) tends to be the most seductive early on. It was, indeed, one that I was initially drawn to. It's always fun to play this with new people! And old people! Love it!







After Honshu, we went for Junk Art! This is a dexterity game in which you play numbered, illustrated cards and the player who played the highest number gets to decide which junk piece everybody has to add to their piece of "art." Each round features a different objective and different scoring criteria, so the art you are creating changes accordingly. In one round, you may be trying to build the highest structure, in another a structure with the most pieces. In one round, toppling your artwork may mean nothing, in another it may mean you are eliminated from the round.

I think we all enjoyed Junk Art equally. It's a fun, silly game to play when you want to have a few laughs with friends and family. The colors of the wooden pieces are vibrant and unique and the structures you create elicit interest from passers by.

The only thing I didn't care for about the game is the rulebook and the fact that there is no way you can keep in mind the rules for ALL the different scenarios through which you have to play. You are pretty much learning a new game each round, and as simple as that game may be, it slows down the experience. Still fun!







The Game of Trains is one of the games I least enjoyed playing at the camp. You start with a train of cards of descending values and have to reverse that to cards of ascending values by drawing cards and using them to replace existing cards in your train or playing face-up cards from the display for their special powers. The game is incredibly random and overly long and I care not to repeat the experience. The end.





A simple, micro set-collection game in which you build an alpaca!? Such a thing could only come out of Japan! Of course!

Each turn in this game presents you with 3 options
1) draw two cards from a face-down deck and select one to add to your alpaca and discard the other
2) add all cards from the discard pile to your alpaca
3) trade with an opponent.

You are trying to a) build an alpaca with the longest neck, b) collect sets of accessories, and c) avoid poop neck!

This is a simple game, but the trading aspect and the push-your-luck aspect of drawing the discard pile give it a bit of zing! I know, I'm really struggling for words here because it's such a silly game and yet I love it so much! Building alpaca necks is hilarious and trying to setup trades with opponents can lead to some equally hilarious situations!





Flamme Rouge! I was super stoked to try this game even though I quite dislike both pure cycling and simple race games. In retrospect, I'm glad I put trust in my instincts and avoided picking this up at Spiel because I found little to enjoy.

Flamme Rouge is a race game in which you pilot two racers - a sprinteur and a roleur. Each turn, you draw 3 cards bearing number values from each racer's deck and select one face down to indicate how many spaces each racer will move. Your opponents do this at the same time and you reveal everybody's selection at the same time. Then, you move the racers along the track that many spaces. Yay!

Nay. This would have been fun had it lasted 5 minutes. Otherwise, it's too simple, too repetitive, too repetitive, too repetitive, too repetitive, and too repetitive to be fun or interesting. I would try it again BUT ONLY if I was trying the "advanced" version. I would leave the basic version for young kids.







A fake artist goes to New York and meets a bunch of goofballs with colored markers who like to make random sexual scribbles!

I LOVED this game! One player is a clue giver. That player gives every other player a card with a word. Everybody sees the same word. One player gets a card with an X. Then, each player adds a single line to draw the word on the clue giver's card. Once everybody has drawn two lines, everybody gets to accuse someone of being Mr. or Ms. X (i.e. fake artist). If the fake artist is found out, they get one chance to save themselves. They don't lose if they can guess what the drawing was!

This game is such a hoot because all the drawings inevitably end up looking like genitalia! Can you guess what this was!?





Time's Up! Awesome fun! Unfortunately, we played with a bunch of names and they were all the same and nobody knew whose names they were and we were all sad! Great game! Names suck. That is all.



Oh this game is such a delight! In Team Play, you draw cards from a face-up display or a face-down deck and pass cards to your partner to try to help them accomplish goal cards. Goals demand that you collect certain values and/or colors of cards. The game ends when one set of partners has completed 6 goals!

Perhaps it helped the situation that Jayme and I won this game, but I loved it! I loved the fact that you have to keep a close eye on what your partner is drawing in order to ensure you can give them the right cards. And because this is a race game, you are also making tradeoffs about whether you are closer to completing your goals or whether your partner is closer if you both need similar cards! Very cool game!





***




Prototypes are always on the menu at cons for me! I love playing with pieces that aren't quite yet games! I played a few at Board Game Base Camp!



Rising Sun is Eric Lang's upcoming area-control game and it is BIG! Set in ancient Japan, the game challenges you to gain control over the biggest chunk of Japan by building strongholds, beating up on opponents, and developing your affiliations with various gods and demons. I didn't ask how much I can reveal about the game, so I won't go into any more specifics, but I will say that it is both simple and complex and will appeal to players who are fans of war games. For me, the focus on battles and area majority was too strong, but I'm clearly not the target audience for the game.

I will try to expand my thoughts on this game a bit later on, but this is all I can muster for now. It is 2 am and I am super tired and quite sick.




This is one of the many reasons I love prototypes







Delve is an upcoming tile-laying/dice-rolling game in which you and your friends compete to collect the most loot from the dungeon of Skull Cavern. Each turn, you place a dungeon tile and may place an adventurer on one of the rooms. What happens when a room or corridor has been completed depends on which adventurers are there. If yours are the only adventurers in a completed area, you experience an encounter with a strange beast! The adventurers you have deployed to that area determine the types of dice and powers you have at your disposal when dealing with the encounter. if, on the other hand, other players' adventures are present in a completed area, all adventurers in that room or corridor have to roll dice based on the adventurers they have deployed to compete for their share of the loot. Some adventurers are better at fighting and others are better at collecting treasure, so what you get depends on which adventurers you deploy.



Delve is an interesting game. I typically enjoy tile-laying games and I even enjoy the odd game of Carcassonne with my family. I love seeing things grow and develop and I did love the puzzle of creating the dungeon and trying to determine which adventurers to place where, but the dice rolling and encounters were incredibly random. I would like to try this with fewer than 4 players just to see whether some of the randomness is at least somewhat ameliorated, but I doubt it. Between the tile draw, dice-rolling, and encounter card draws, the game is a bit too light for me. However, I am not the target audience for this game and I know that people who are into these types of light, dice-rolling, trash-talking, story-telling games will find much to enjoy. It is definitely pretty and there are some interesting choices to be made! You have to decide a) which of your 3 tiles to place, b) how to best position that tile in the dungeon to ensure you are most benefiting yourself and least benefiting your opponents, c) which of your adventurers to place and in which room to place them. Unfortunately, the randomness detracts from those for me.







Witching Hour! This is a quick, take-that card game that I actually enjoyed for some strange reason. It's quick and simple and there is an interesting tension between dumping all your cards as quickly as possible and saving certain cards to protect yourself from attacks.



***


Session Reports


A Feast for Odin

When I was putting together last week's list of top 10 games of 2016, I had to make sure I was including the right games and not missing any important ones, so I had to play Odin to confirm that I hadn't spontaneously developed some sort of crazy love affair with it while I wasn't paying attention. And sadly, I hadn't. I still think it's a good game, but definitely not worthy of being on my list of favorites of 2016.

In this particular session, both Peter and I focused on nothing in particular. I abandoned the animal strategy I had been developing over our past several sessions and just went for randomness. I DID send out 3 21-point ships, which seemed like some sort of strategy, but I also DID take an exploration tile WAY too early in the game when it was worth very few points. In the end, both Peter and I ended up with some of our lowest scores ever!



Mechs vs. Minionsx3

Mechs vs. Minions! We played it 3 times in a row!!! The first time, we won the first scenario, so we had to go to the second. And then we lost the second twice in a row! We were completely overwhelmed with minions! I honestly don't know how we are going to take these suckers down!





Noch mal!
Noch Mal! True to its title, I just want to play this game over and over again! This time, I SUPER LOST! I accomplished NOTHING!!! That happens when you aren't paying attention to what your opponent is doing!



First Class

First Class was another one of the games I had to play in preparation for my top 10 of 2016 because it is a game I absolutely adore. There is an endless amount of variety with the myriad of modules and combinations thereof and there are a number of different strategies to pursue. This game ALMOST made it on my honorable mentions because I do love it very much!

In this session, I decided to pursue the Paris connection, which is a side of the board I typically ignore. I tend to focus on extending my train (and populating it with baggage and passengers when playing Module D) and Peter tends to focus on the Paris connection. In this game, we reversed roles. And Peter STILL won! He always wins this game! And by ONE point!





Arkham Horror: The Card Game

The Arkham Horror LCG initially disappointed me due to the amount of time it took to set up and sort. I was worried it would take just as long to get through that process every time. And that wasn't too far from the truth, as it took a good 15-20 minutes to set up again. However, the fact that I didn't have to learn the game again definitely helped increase the enjoyment factor. Also, knowing what to expect from the monsters and knowing how to pace ourselves certainly helped. I doubt I'll opt into any expansions, but I'm now looking forward to exploring the rest of the story in the base game! I love the legacy-style upgrade system.







Avenue

This was an interesting point difference! 69 to 10???? Peter was clearly asleep. There is a funny thing about planning in this game; it's hard to do, especially if you don't take every opportunity to check the next home that will score! I did get a little lucky with my crazy long-term plan and Peter did get a little unlucky, but that point difference! Makes me laugh .



Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
Clank! Yet another game that was on my potential top 10 of 2016! In this game, Peter ended up stuck just above the dungeon when he got knocked out by the dragon!

I'm so excited for the recently-announced underwater Clank!





***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Barnyard Roundup - Sometimes, I fall for these cute, childish games. This one has a farm animal theme I just adore, so I'm hoping it will satisfy.
2. Dokmus - FINALLY! I missed picking this up at Essen Spiel and now, Board Game Bliss finally has it in stock! This game has some similarities to Kingdom Builder, which is one of my favorite games of all time, so I NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDS IT! Can't wait to play!
3. Dairyman - A game about cows and milk (and cheese???)!? YES YES YES YES YES!

***


Next Week...


Look forward to some first impressions for Santorini, which has finally arrived from Kickstarter! I will also be playing with my shiny new copy of The Great Zimbabwe, which has finally arrived at Board Game Bliss!!! YAY!. And, of course, I will have some surprise reviews because I simply cannot commit to anything at the moment!

***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING! heart



The face of confusion! If you know me, you know my favorite thing ever is coffee! This is adulterated coffee! Adulterated with MUSHROOMS!!!! WHY!? WHY!? Can anyone explain!?
Twitter Facebook
66 Comments
Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:05 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
189 
 Thumb up
36.65
 tip
 Hide

*** SPECIAL POST *** MINA'S TOP FAVORITE GAMES OF 2016 ***

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Friends!


HAPPY NEW YEAR! We are now in 2017, so it's time to take a look back at what happened in 2016 and put it in some order of order!

Whenever I put together a list of top 10 games of the year, or any other top 10 list of games, my goal is to include the games I most enjoyed playing. This means that my personal preferences, preconceptions, biases, and moods are front and center in these lists. Rather than thinking of this list (or any other top 10 lists of mine in general) as lists of what I consider to be the BEST games of 2016 (or of any other category), consider them to be lists of the games I most enjoyed playing and the games I most want to continue to play. There are some games that I would consider to be objectively better than ones on my list that do not appear here at all and there are some games that "should" be higher or lower on the list had I gone with the "best" criteria. Just keep that in mind when you go through this list. heart

For games that I have reviewed, I will include some of my final thoughts, adjusted to reflect my current feelings about the game in question, as well as the basic and soblue points I presented in the original review. If you would like to see more details about these, please check out the Review section for the game. For games that I have not yet reviewed, I will try to capture my current feelings as best as possible and provide some general and soblue points.

My overall impression of the year as a whole was quite positive, but some of my favorite games were re-imaginings of ones that had already been published. This year definitely brought a number of such re-imaginings, from 51st State Master Set to Key to the City - London to Avenue to to Evolution: Climate to Pandemic: Iberia to Pandemic: Cthulhu to Cottage Garden. And though I tend to prefer heavier games, some of the heavier hitters don't appear on my list. This may be a reflection of my shifting tastes, it may be a reflection of the quality of games of medium weight that 2016 produced, or it may be a bit of both. Either way, sit down and get ready for some surprises!

*Don't worry, I don't think any of my choices will elicit any heart attacks



***


Top Ten Favorite Games of 2016






Terraforming Mars is an excellent game, but not one that is easy to review or rate. It wasn't love at first play and it isn't perfect. At least, it isn't perfect for me or with two players. There are nearly as many things I don't like about it as the ones that I do, but the balance falls FAR in favor of the ones that I do. The high level of game-to-game and turn-to-turn variability, broad decision space, and great sense of evolution and progress towards the ultimate goal make Terraforming Mars something I intend to keep playing for a long time to come!

Now, if I had to liken Terraforming Mars to a food item, which I feel I do for no good reason at all, it would be a kumquat, as it features a full spectrum of game flavors. It's a little sour on the outside because it doesn't look all that appealing...at least the cards don't. It's incredibly sweet and delicious in the middle because the decisions you make are so many and varied and each card pulls you in a different and equally appealing direction as the next, and if you're like me, this just makes you smile. And it can be quite bitter if you get unlucky and fail to draw the cards you want/need while you watch your opponent get the perfect ones. It's like a kumquat in another sense too; it so cleverly combines so many game elements and mechanisms, including card play, engine building, tile laying, and resource management, that it overwhelms the senses! I just love it! Sour, bitter, sweet, and tasty! I'll never get tired of it!



Great graphic design that makes the game easy to learn and play
Very satisfying sense of progression
An INCREDIBLE amount of stuff to think about each turn
Interesting spatial element
Unique, science-based theme that comes out in the card effects and actions
Variable player powers
High replay value

soblue The two-player game takes as long as a three-player game, which takes as long as a four-player game, which makes the game quite long (i.e. 1.5 to 2 hours)
soblue Can be difficult to keep track of all effects late in the game, particularly when playing with two players, as your tableau sprawls uncontrollably
soblue Spatial aspect would be more interesting with more than just two players involved
soblue The card artwork is very strange and disjointed, as it combines photography with illustration
soblue Card randomness can be a bit annoying, but given the number of cards you draw throughout the game, it seems to even out
soblue The game has a strange decision curve, with few actions available to you early in the game, many in the middle, and few again in the end
soblue Might be a bit mean for some people, but the stealing that happens in the game is occasional and limited and not at all problematic for me



***






Roll Player is super! I was hooked on its wild dice rolling, extensive scoring options, and fun theme from my first play! The artwork may be less than sublime, but I'm happy to look past that to the fun and pleasant game that lies beneath. And the stories I get to tell at the end of each game are just priceless! Roll Player is a sweet treat at any time of day! Deep enough for a main course but procedurally light enough for an end-of-night session, it's dice-rolling perfection!



Unique theme
Unique game with a large number of scoring criteria, effects, and options to be kept in mind and an interesting and unusual system of dice activation and allocation
Much to think about for a dice/card game
High replay value
Sense of accomplishment for having created a fun character with a story and personality
Double-sided boards with male/female versions of each character
soblue Production is somewhat lacking
soblue Rulebook is poorly laid out
soblue Much randomness, but it doesn't bother me because I know what I'm in for
soblue Does not feel thematic while playing, but gives you a thematic ending with a unique and strange character
soblue Artwork is poopy



***






Aeon's End has quickly become one of my favorite and most played cooperative games ever! Of course, it had to make my top 10 of the year!

It would be understatement to say that I had high expectations for Aeon's End. Fortunately, my expectations were met. And exceeded. Aeon's End is a tense, challenging, highly replayable, and intensely satisfying co-op puzzle. Right now, it sits atop my list of gaming obsessions, as I continue to pull it out to try all the various character and monster combinations and take down the baddest of baddies! If you're a fan of deck-building co-ops or co-ops in general, Aeon's End is a must!



Awesome art and story
Unique, variable turn-order system that significantly adds to the decision-making in the game
Unique card-play system
Incredibly challenging and satisfying
Super duper awesome high replay value

soblue Setup and teardown is quite involved and time consuming. This does decrease with repeat plays, but can seem quite daunting when you first start playing
soblue The variable turn order can create some unhappy down time
soblue The game can be easy or impossible depending on the interaction between the market cards, characters, and nemesis in play



***






Mansions of Madness may seem like an unlikely candidate for a top 10 list from someone like me, but here it is at number 7! I am not typically a fan of games with little control, little information, and a heck of a lot of dice rolling, but this one is so full of story, atmosphere, and excitement that it just keeps drawing me back. I now have all currently available expansions, and though I have yet to play through all the scenarios, I am eager to do so. I do wish a greater number of scenarios could be played in less time, but I'm quite happy to keep this game as a "treat" for when I have tons of time to just explore and interact with it and have fun.



Aesthetically and intellectually captivating - If you have a great sense of curiosity, this game will devour you. The game breathes life into the story through its mechanisms, the atmospheric app, and its awesome appearance.
Super exciting - This game is just plain FUN! You never know what is lurking behind the next corner and surprises abound!

soblue Demands a substantial time commitment (about 2 hours at least)
soblue Seems to be more difficult with fewer players





***






The newest Feld game is not a Feld game at all! Oracle of Delphi is the least Feldian of Feld games because guess what!? NO POINTS! No salad! It's a race game in which you try to be the first to complete 12 objectives. Each objective tasks you with moving resources and statues to islands that need them, building temples, or fighting monsters. And once you complete each objective, you gain a reward that makes completing others a bit easier. Of course, being a Feld game, you occasionally get punished each round for no reason whatsoever .

Oracle of Delphi is one of my favorite games of 2016 because it has some of my favorite game elements - route planning and action optimization - combined with a fun dice-based action-selection system and a huge amount of game-to-game variability. And perhaps because it is so well aligned with my preferences, it has quickly become one of my favorite of Stefan Feld's games as well!



Pretty components
Fun theme
Fun, dice-based action selection with ability to manipulate dice
Because the game is a race, much action and route optimization is necessary to do well
Much variability in setup, including a variable board layout, many different starting powers, and many different powers you can acquire by fighting monsters

soblue Setup is horrendously difficult due to the strangely shaped tiles. It improves with time, but it's always a bit of a pain
soblue The rulebook isn't as clear as it could/should be



***






Key to the City - London is quite similar in structure to Keyflower and yet plays out differently enough to warrant owning and playing both. At least for me. You are doing all the same things, including drawing meeples from the meeple bag, using meeples to bid for tiles, using meeples to activate tiles, and using meeples to activate tiles. However, London has a stronger spatial element than Keyflower. Perhaps it could be argued that it's simply different, but I definitely felt like I had to think more about space when playing London than when playing Keyflower. And why? Because London has a clever "connection" system. Many tiles require that you gain and attach to them connectors of specific colors in order to upgrade them. What's more, a number of end-game scoring tiles (which are visible and available to everyone from the start of the game) provide additional points for having a certain arrangement of connections. This means that whenever you place a tile, you have to think about how best to position it in your city in order to be able to connect it to another tile with similar connection requirements and thus ensure you aren't being inefficient. When selecting tiles and actions, you also have to ensure you are able to gain the right colors of connectors.

Another difference between Keyflower and London is the passing system. Whereas in Keyflower, you could simply return to the round after passing, in London, you have a second passing option; you can cut yourself completely out of the round by sailing your ship to an adjacent river tile and select the number of meeples you wish to receive/your turn order for the next round. One space on each river tile also allows you to add the river tile from the previous round to your city and river tiles can be lucrative sources of points if you effectively satisfy their conditions, so this passing business is always a tempting option.

As I did with Keyflower before it, I ADORE Key to the City-London. At this point, I actually prefer it to Keyflower due to its spatial planning demands. It's also quite lovely to think about visiting all the places on the tiles! I love theatre and the Globe Theatre has always been at the top of my places to visit in the world! I know that's a silly reason to be attracted to a game, but that type of intrinsic attraction isn't something one can ignore, particularly when it comes with such a compelling system attached to it! Love!



Tense bidding/tile activation system
Tense passing system
Unique "connection" system that encourages creating synergistic spatial arrangements between tiles
Fast playing
Beautiful

soblue Setup and tear down is a little fiddly
soblue Connection rods are super fiddly



***






Kane Klenko is a brilliant designer. His Dead Men Tell No Tales and FUSE became instant favorites and Covert only continues this tradition. But for me, Covert goes further than the rest. Being a deeper and heavier game than the rest of Mr. Klenko's designs, it just gives me more game to love! I love the beautiful puzzle of the game that folds over and under itself so simply yet intricately that it boggles the mind. Except for the code-breaking bit, which seems somewhat detached from the rest of the game, every aspect of Covert interacts with the others in multiple ways, which forces you to think about a mind-blowing number of elements at once. This is a game grows and expands with each play and that's my favorite thing! Mind-expanding game goodness!



Beautiful, intricate, Möbius-strip-like system
The structure of the game reflects the theme
Interesting dice placement system
Interesting form of player interaction
Well-considered scaling to two
Incredible replay value
After a game or two, can be played quite quickly

soblue Looks a lot more boring than it isn't
soblue Can take a few sessions to "get it"
soblue The code-breaking part feels somewhat disjointed from the rest of the game
soblue Moderate randomness




[center]***






Scythe may be a somewhat deceptive game. It LOOKS like a high-conflict, fast-paced, miniature-heavy Ameritrashy game thingy, but it is definitely not. Consequently, it may draw the attention of gamers who would not necessarily be drawn to the type of game this is. And it may draw the ire of such players when they are disappointed to find what it actually is. As such, I think it is important to note that Scythe is NOT about conflict. It is NOT about war. And it is NOT about killing. Yes, those elements are there in a very quiet, muted, Euro-ish way, but they are not the focus of the game. So be aware of that. With that out of the way, let's get to what Scythe actually is.

Scythe is my kind of game. It is a game of puzzles and efficiency with a strong spatial planning element and it is gorgeous! It makes me feel like an adventuring economist, planning to take over the world with my numbers and books and resources and clever planning. I love the multi-layered race and the puzzles generated by the variable action boards and player powers. I know that Scythe will be a game I will reach for for a long, long, long, long time to come!



It's so beautiful and it smells like vanilla cupcakes! (SERIOUSLY! The minis smell like vanilla!).
The Scythe world is thematic and unique
A tense puzzly game of efficiency and speed
Highly strategic with many strategies to explore
A great sense of progress and escalation
Map works well even with only two players
Subtlety in aggression with a quick, simple, and effective combat system
A tremendous amount of variability and replay value is generated by the depth of the game, as well as the multiple faction boards and action boards, the huge number of objective cards, structure bonuses, factory cards, and encounter cards, and various faction matchups
GIRL POWER! Many powerful female characters from which to choose!

soblue It is a bit difficult and annoying to keep track of the bonus actions when others take them



***






Great Western Trail does everything right! From the myriad of ways to score points to the unique hand management demands to the different ways to upgrade your actions to the spatial element of planning your route and building layout to the cute wooly cows, this game has it all! My favorite part of the game is definitely planning for the reckoning that occurs in Kansas. Doing so skillfully involves careful pacing (i.e. determining which and how many action tiles you'll need to use) and ensuring you have discarded, thrown away, or otherwise done away with duplicate and low-valued cows in your hand.

This is one of the games on this list that I have yet to review, but when I do, you can expect an overwhelmingly positive review. I have few negative feelings about this game and adore the



Cute and colorful
Many ways to score points, including building buildings, building stations, customizing your deck, hiring helpers, and collecting station bonuses. These can be combined in various ways and seem to be
"Tech" upgrades that customize your ability to accomplish things and encourage you to focus
Too little time, too much to do!
Clever "deck-building" system
Tense hand management

soblue Limited ways to cull deck



***






51st State Master Set embodies so many of the features that I love to see in games; variable player powers, endless replay value, engine building, a great sense of progression, huge amounts of tension, multi-use cards, interesting decision points, beautiful artwork and pieces...I could go on forever. But more than anything, 51st State Master Set makes me feel like I have progressed, achieved, and evolved over the course of the game and it does so more than any other game I've played. Players quickly take themselves from a place of tight restrictions and impossibility to a place of freedom and possibility and their agency in this process provides an incredible sense of accomplishment. And it's the intensity of this feeling that makes 51st State stand apart from other games and is one of the many reasons this game will forever hold a special place in my collection and in my heart.



Gorgeous art and super duper awesome quality production!
Multi-use cards create a lot of tension and difficult decision points
Limitation of use of conversion actions on players' boards to once
Overbuilding through development is super cool, providing more options, especially late in the game
Great sense of progression
The player interaction provides an interesting decision point and, in our experience, has not been as destructive as it would appear to be
51st State is a largely solitaire game, with players largely focused on building their own tableaus.
Variable player powers
Super replay value
All the tension of a race game without the sense of all being lost if you're not in the lead
Perfect duration to depth ratio
Great pace
Great rulebook



***


BECAUSE I CAN'T STOP AT TEN...SOME OTHER WONDERS






Dream Home! I've written at length about how much I love the drafting combined with the spatial elements in this game, which is why it makes this list of honorable mentions. Plus, it invariably puts a smile on my face and that has to count for a lot of somethings!



Perfect artwork and production
Many different tactical considerations to make
The spatial element takes the game a step above a simple set collection affair
Interesting for gamers with a theme and ruleset that makes it accessible to non gamers as well
Great sense of accomplishment for having created something at the end and you can tell fun stories about your home's inhabitants...because the homes turn out very strangely sometimes...NO BATHROOMS!? No problems! These people don't poop!
ULTRA FAST PLAYING!
Scales well
soblue May be a bit too light to stay interesting for a bunch of plays in a short period of time, but this complaint is alleviated by avoiding playing it obsessively in short periods
soblue Roof cards introduce a memory element and I'm not fond of memory elements in games.



***






Evolution Climate is Evolution perfected. If you have ever had an interest in Evolution and enjoy a deeper, more challenging game, Climate is the one to get! For me, it is perfect thematically and incredibly satisfying as it forces me to think in ways that no other game does. And it allows me to create a happy menagerie of species that I have evolved to persevere through a variety of events and circumstances. At the end of each game, I feel like I have accomplished something huge and important. And I have! I have created species that thrive and survive!

If you have any interest in evolutionary biology, animals, grand stories, or simply love beautiful, elegant, highly interactive card games, I would urge you to check out Evolution Climate! I'm going to have to adapt one of my shelves to keep Evolution Climate at the front and center of it forever!



The most beautiful artwork ever!
Card game that tells stories
Simple rules for a very interesting and deep experience
Numerous tension-filled decision points generated by multi-use cards and player interaction. Climate amplifies this
Every game plays out completely differently due to the huge card variety and climate shifts
Quite strategic with two
Climate introduces a couple of rules that reduce the randomness in the game at any player count
You can use Evolution Climate to play the base game without climate-related events or the base game with the Climate expansion



***






Millennium Blades was clearly a labor of love for the designer and publisher and represents a most beautiful ode to geek culture. From CCGs to Pokemon to the Princess Bride and Legend of Zelda, you will find all kinds of references and in-jokes here. And when you step away from the details, you will find a game that beautifully encapsulates the experience of being a collectible card game enthusiast. Ultimately, I think that this game appeals to me as much as it does because I am familiar with many of the references and jokes and experiences portrayed in it and I think that it will, for the most part, appeal to others who are similarly inclined. It is frantic and fun and can feel chaotic at times, but it is actually full of strategic and tactical decision points to challenge and engage players. Between the fun and the strategy, I can't see myself parting with this stunning achievement of a game EVER! SO MUCH LOVE! I could play this all day!



Mind-boggling amounts of gorgeous artwork. Fábio Fontes' hand must have fallen off!
HUGE amount of content and high replay value
Unique theme that is effectively carried by the mechanisms and art/production. CCG simulator!? SIGN ME UP! This thing rekindled my love for Magic: The Gathering!
Unique mechanisms, including chaotic real-time action in the deck-building phase and the player-versus-player battle tournament phase that involves spatial relationships between cards
Super exciting real-time deck-building phase
Multi-use cards!

soblue Resetting the game is troublesome
soblue Shuffling the giant deck is hard
soblue Takes a long time to play (about 2 hours with 2 people)
soblue The tournament phase doesn't involve a lot of decision-making
soblue Millennium $ assembly is a serious commitment - Project "Assemble Millenium Bucks" took us several days and hours to complete.
soblue Rules are not quite as well developed as they could and should be in some places
soblue Two players does not appear to be the ideal player count



***


FAVORITE EXPANSION OF 2016






2016 brought many exciting expansions, but the one that topped them all for me was Dominion: Empires! Hyperborea: Light & Shadow, Deus: Egypt, and 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon were among my most highly anticipated expansions of the year, but Dominion: Empires topped them all. Why? Because while every Dominion expansion has tweaked the game and created additional challenges, no expansion has tweaked the game and created additional challenges like Empires. Between the Landmark cards and Event cards and the debt cards and the action cards that interact with VP tokens on their piles, Empires gives players a lot more to think about on each turn. The Landmark cards encourage players to compose their decks in ways they would not normally be inclined to and give the game more direction than a pure race for VP cards and the Event cards give them more buy options and create crazy combinatorial possibilities each turn. Debt cards create a lot of tension in the game, giving players tempting, powerful cards that can shut them out of buying cards for a turn or two. The end result of all the additions is an advanced Dominion that will challenge seasoned Dominion players and give those looking for more out of this game exactly what they are looking for. This expansion was MADE for me! I LOVE IT I LOVE IT I LOVE IT!



High-quality components
Additional scoring options that will not clog your deck and will give you a lot more to think about
Debt provides another option to consider
Split piles of related card types add a lot of tension, encouraging you to dig through certain piles to reap greater and greater rewards, while benefiting other players
Landmark cards give you extra scoring options and encourage unusual deck-building strategies
Even more variety for Dominion

soblue Definitely takes longer to play than most other expansions



***


BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF 2016






I am going to get a lot of flack for this one, but I was highly disappointed with The Networks. I'm not one for fluffy games with kitschy themes and television is of little interest to me. Perhaps I'm simply the wrong audience for this game, but here's what I had to say about it earlier in the year:

The Networks is a game in which you become a TV network executive, adding shows to one of 3 prime time slots (8, 9, and 10 pm), placing stars and ads on those shows, and making money and gaining viewers. The goal of the game is to gain the most viewers through your shows and revenue. You will have to spend money to acquire and retain stars and shows and will gain money through ad revenue. And money can be a very good thing to have because creating a focused network that consistently shows comedy or sport or science-fiction shows may allow you to turn your money into viewers later in the game.

Ultimately, The Networks is a simple drafting game in which all the cards to be drafted are visible to all players at the start of each round. This is an interesting concept and one I assumed would make the game feel more strategic than a typical drafting game. And indeed, having this information does make the game feel strategic (despite the fact that some cards are randomly removed every 3 turns in a 2-player game). However, our session lacked the level of tension that I favor in games. Money wasn't very hard to come by and Network cards, which grant special powers, were too plentiful and powerful. A higher player count may increase the tension, but with two, everything felt too loose and easy. For us. This may not be an issue for players who prefer lighter games and intend to play The Networks for laughs (because it is uproariously hilarious) and light strategy. We don't. At least for how long it took to play. I could see myself enjoying this game much more if it took 20 minutes to play, but it took over an hour and that's too much for me for the game's weight in my eyes So sad. But I would still recommend The Networks to those who are looking for something funny with simple mechanisms and a relatively light weight. And perhaps to those who are able to consistently play at higher player counts.



***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING! heart



This is a small preview of next week's fun! I had a lovely time at Snakes and Lattes with some great designer and publisher and general friend people and will be at Board Game Base Camp with them this weekend! You'll get to read all about my adventures in a board game cabin in Middle-of-Nowhere, Ontario next week!

I may have to post a day late because I'll be on a super secret surprise mission on Thursday evening! Happy Gaming, everyone! heart
Twitter Facebook
62 Comments
Fri Jan 6, 2017 9:00 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
258 
 Thumb up
11.80
 tip
 Hide

In Which Ulm Becomes the Pickled Beast Salmon Capital! * New reviews for ULM, CAPITAL, PICKLE LETTER, BEASTS OF BALANCE, & HAPPY SALMON * First Impressions for MECHS VS. MINIONS, ONITAMA, AMERICAN RAILROADS, & ALCHEMISTS EXPANSION * HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Friends


I hope you all had a great Christmas break! I certainly enjoyed spending some time with my family! And, of course, introducing them to some new games! We played Pickle Letter, Happy Salmon, and Beasts of Balance!

I hope you all have a great New Year's Eve and Day and a perfectly blissful 2017! Let's kick 2016 in the behind and open the doors to a fresh start! I'm totes ready for one!

Here was my family Christmas! Peter is stacking, Gabe is pickling, and I'm holding the dog because she won't let me do anything else!



My Christmas was filled with games and presents! Mostly smelly presents! Because I love perfume! So, the three things (and I promise there are only three that I somewhat obsessively collect are a) BOARD GAMES, b) lipstick, and c) perfume). The first one I got was Viktor & Rolf's Special Edition BonBon! True to its name, this one smells like a very sweet caramel candy bomb!



I also got Tom Ford Noir Pour Femme, which tells the story of a much more powerful woman. It was worn during Russian Railroads because it made me feel like a railroad baroness or CEO or something really awesome!

[center]


And finally, my mom got me the fruity candy Yves Saint Laurent Mon Paris! This one is Dream Home kinda scent. So sweet and colorful! Ok. That's enough of my nonsense! Let's get on with the real stuff!

My mom, sister, and I wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!





***


Reviews






The Overview


Ulm is a game about life in the city of Ulm in the 16th century. It's actually quite a themeless game with an incredibly clever action-selection mechanism. Each turn, you pull a random action tile from a bag of tiles and slide it into a 3x3 grid of action tiles. You can only slide tiles into rows and columns that don't already have a "kicked out" tile (i.e. a tile that was slid out of the grid in a previous turn) and you get to take 3 actions each turn, with each action tile remaining in the row/column to which you've added your new action tile giving you 1 action each. The actions include obtaining coins, obtaining/clearing away action tiles that are cluttering up the sides of the 3x3 grid, buying a card by returning 2 action tiles you've already obtained, moving your barge along the Danube, and paying 2 coins to place one of your player tokens on a free space in one of the city quarters between which your barge is currently located in order to take advantage of the city bonus.


Board


Action tile display


Danube


A city quarter that allows you to gain a permanent ability


The game ends after 10 rounds, at which point you get points for Ulm sparrows (which you can obtain throughout the game by owning a city coat of arms, obtained in most cases through city bonuses), the position of your barge along the Danube, sets of cathedral cards, and sets of trade cards.


Cards


The Review






1. Very well produced
Ulm is beautifully (if slightly busily) illustrated and produced with surprisingly thick, sturdy cardboard! I don't typically comment on cardboard thickness unless it deviates from the norm in some way and this one does. I'm very pleased with it!

2. An interesting action-selection system
Ulm's action-selection system is brilliantly elegant; draw an action tile + place an action tile. It's simple, but gives you many options! First, you can toss an Ulm sparrow (hard to obtain and worth a point at the end of the game, but it's an option) to select the action tile you want from the bag rather than draw blindly. This will occasionally be necessary, as Ulm is all about making the most of each action. You get a total of 10 turns over the course of the game and being able to take as many actions in each of those turns as possible is critical to doing well. If you have 1 coin and need a second in order to take advantage of the seal actions that are everywhere, it might be wise to toss a sparrow for a greater point payoff!

Second, the action-selection system presents you with a little puzzle each turn. How do you push your action tile into the 3x3 grid to ensure you are able to take as many actions as possible and make the most of each?

3. Interesting action dependencies/chaining
I love the action dependencies in the game and the ways in which they demand you chain certain actions together. For example, you need coins in order to leave your player markers in city quarters (seal action). At times, you may need to ensure you are able to take these two actions in tandem in order to be able to make the most of the seal action. The same goes for the clear-away action and card action, as you need to have action tiles in order to obtain cards, and ideally, action tiles of the same type! Both of these dependencies encourage you to look for rows and columns that will allow you to take advantage of these synergies.

4. Many different ways to score points
Ulm is one of those games that offers you a multitude of different directions to pursue while restricting your ability to pursue all of them at once. You have to choose whether you whether you want to focus on moving your barge along the Danube, along with perhaps dropping your tokens off at various city quarters to gain their bonuses, whether you want to focus on set collection through cards, or whether you want to focus on acquiring city crests and reaping constant benefits when your opponents join you in your cities?

You may not be able to engage in all of these activities and you definitely won't be able to able to engage in all of them very well, so you have to pick and choose your battles! Which scoring route will you choose!? It's a delightful dilemma!

5. High replay value
There are a number of factors that go into making Ulm compulsively replayable. First, there is a lot of variability in the game. Between the variable round bonuses (you use 10/12 and they appear in a different order every time), the different helpers available in the second city quarter, and the variable card and action tile draws, the game demands that you respond to its ever-changing demands in a tactical manner between games and during each game.

What's more, the numerous point scoring options you are given mean that you have many different combinations to explore!

soblue


soblue 1. Icon hell!
Ulm features a large number of icons over its 12 round tiles, cards, helpers, and cities. The fact that these are all quite different, combined with the fact that they are rather difficult to reference in the small-format, high-page-count, multi-language reference book means that you are wading through icon hell in Ulm for at least your first couple of games.

soblue 2. Randomness moderate and occasionally frustrating
If you go into Ulm expecting a high-control/high-strategy game, you may be disappointed to find a level of randomness that keeps it from being that. First, you randomly draw action tiles from the bag. If the action you want to take is absent from the 3x3 action tile display, you can't take that action unless you spend one of your Ulm sparrows, which equates to a point. So, you could get unlucky, draw stuff you can't use, and have to spend points to take actions you can use, while your opponents consistently draws what they need.

Second, you have the random card draws. And THESE!!! THESE can be infuriatingly frustrating. Because you are trying to collect sets of cards to potentially score HUGE points at the end of the game and drawing one or maximum two cards at a time, you are largely at the mercy of the random card draw. Of course, the cards aren't useless if you can't turn them into an end-game scoring set - you can use them for in-game effects like moving your barge, gaining coins, and gaining points. But the end-game VP payoffs for complete sets are so large by comparison to these effects that randomly falling into one or two of these can really clinch the game for you. Of course, you have agency in what you decide to do with the cards you draw (i.e. play them for their short-term benefits or do a bit of luck-pushing thing by playing them in front of you), but a lot of the set collection does ultimately boil down to luck of the draw.

soblue 3. The city crest portion of the game isn't the best with two players
I don't think that city crests are as viable a source of points when playing Ulm with two players as they could potentially be when playing with more than two players. Gold city crests give you points every time somebody drops their player marker on their spot, which is much less likely to happen in a two-player game than it is when playing with more. So, this part of the game may be a bit less "balanced" against the others when playing with only two players.

Final Word


Ulm is a beautiful game with a unique and interesting action-selection mechanism. Simple yet complex, fast-paced, and satisfying, it gives you a light/mid-weight tactical puzzler in a 45-minute play time. And truly, the action-selection mechanism can't be beat!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE




***






The Overview


Capital is a game about building the city of Warsaw over the course of its tumultuous history. The game is played over 6 epochs (rounds), each of which represents a stage in Warsaw's history. Each epoch presents you with a milestone to satisfy and the player who best satisfies its requirement gets to add that milestone to his city and reap its benefits at the end of each epoch.


Milestones and epoch tiles


Starting goodies


During each epoch, you draft 4 tiles into your city, paying their costs. If you cannot or do not want to add a tile to your tableau, you can discard it to obtain coins. Your district is limited to a 4x3-tile rectangle, but you are allowed to build over existing tiles, which reduces the cost of building new ones.

At the end of each epoch, you receive the milestone tile if you have best satisfied its requirement and gain income and VP from the tiles you have played into your tableau.

Additionally, at the end of the third and fourth round, you have to destroy one space in your city, representing the destructive effects of war.



The Review






1. Well produced
Capital is tiles are vibrant and chunky, the mermaid-shaped VP counters are unnecessary awesome and could just as easily have been any old disc or cube, and the insert is pretty and perfect for organizing the game to expedite setup and tear down!

2. Simple, fast paced, and fast playing
Capital features a simple ruleset with familiar mechanisms, so it's something that you can teach and play easily. What's more, turns are quick and everyone is doing their tile selection and city puzzling at the same time, so there is virtually no down time in the game!

3. Satisfying puzzle made tense by tight restrictions and destruction
The tile-laying puzzle in Capital is akin to that fond in games like Cities and Limes. You are tasked with creating some synergistic layout of landscape types in order to ensure maximum VP and $ income at the end of each round. This is familiar. Even the rule that restricts your tableau to a 4x3 area isn't new, but it does generate much tension as your city starts to grow. Do you continue to build outward or do you build over an existing tile? And if you choose to overbuild, which tile will do you dump?

Now, the spicy fun of Capital actually comes in the form of Godzilla-like destruction. You become Godzilla! And you have to destroy a tile in your city at the end of two epochs. This means that you frequently end up adding a cheap throwaway tile to your city early in the game, or during the ill-fated round, in order to ensure you have something to sacrifice to your lizard beast self. I love the zing the destruction-y bits add to the game. It is unusual to have an element that forces you to destroy with no benefit something you have worked to build up over the course of the game. I just don't like war, so I prefer to think of the destruction as Godzilla-induced.

4. Good replay value generated by variety
Capital is not a deep and heavy game. There isn't too that much to discover here beyond what you will see in your first couple of plays. However, that does not mean that you won't be able to play the game over and over again! What you WILL find is variety in the tiles that you draw and have available for building your city and in the milestone tiles, which are double sided and will ensure that you have some external encouragement to build your city somewhat differently every time.

5. Great sense of satisfaction at the end of the game
I always say that building games are my favorite because they give me a great sense of satisfaction at the end. I have achieved something and I have something tangible to show for the time I have spent on playing the game; something that I can take pride in owning, whether I have won or lost. Capital does that very well. The colorful cities I create always put a smile on my face!

soblue


soblue 1. Not much new
If you are someone who insists that each game you own adds some new mechanism or game type to your collection, you might not find much to be tempted by in Capital. This isn't a bad thing for me because I'm perfectly happy to own multiple games that do similar things, but it may be to some people. This is a drafting/city-building game and there are a number of those on the market already. Of course, none of them are quite the same thing and this one is different enough from the others to warrant owning. For me.

soblue 2. Could use a few more milestones
I did state that the milestone tiles are double sided, which ensures you have some variability in terms of the goals you are trying to achieve with your city puzzle in each game. That's good, but it could be better. And better would mean more milestone tiles. Right now, there is enough goal variety to keep me happy when I play Capital occasionally, but there isn't enough to tempt me into putting the game on repeat more than once a month or so.



Final Word


Capital is instantly likeable. Simple, fast-paced, fast-playing, puzzly, and composed of safe, familiar mechanisms, there is nothing here to offend anyone. And perhaps that will keep people from giving it a closer look. Another tile-laying/drafting game? Meh. No. No meh! This is a great tile laying/drafting puzzle for anyone who is looking for a satisfying puzzly, city-building filler.

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE




***


Mini Reviews for Mini Games






I love pickles! Pickled anything is my favorite thing ever! I guess that's why I get along with Korean cuisine so well! PICKLES PICKLES PICKLES!!!

Pickle Letter is a real-time, letter-matching game that has as much to do with pickles as any other game; this one just happens to come with some cute plastic ones, so I'm happy to roll with it.

In this game, you dump a bucket full of letters on the table and race your opponents to grab pairs of face-up letters. As soon as you can't spot any more matches, you call out, "Pickle," which initiates a 15-second timer that gives everyone else the opportunity to prove you wrong. If anyone does manage to find a pair of letters in that time, you get a pickle. If they don't, then everyone but you gets a pickle! If anybody ever has 4 pickles, they get PICKLED and taken out of the game.

Once there are no more matches, you turn over 10 more letters and get to matching again. And again. Until there is one player remaining or until all the letters have been spoken for.

At the end of the game, you get 1 point for each tile you grabbed, 2 points for a full set of tiles of a single letter (there are 4 tiles showing each letter), and lose 3 points for each pickle.



Pickle Letter is a exceedingly easy to teach, easy and quick to play, and a lot of fun, particularly when introduced to new gamers. My sister and her boyfriend, Gabe, were delighted with the simplicity and familiarity of matching letters. And the speed element adds enough tension, excitement, and chaos to create a party atmosphere! Plus, the silly pickles that you want to avoid at all costs generate lots of laughter. Why pickles!? Who cares!? It's just fun!

soblue


That said, there is a bit of a negative to Pickle Letter. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the N and Z tiles and the M and W tiles are pretty much indistinguishable. Perhaps that was intended to make the game a bit more challenging, but it was perceived as a bit of a nuisance by my family members. Even after playing the game 4 times, we were still struggling with these letters and the confusion wasn't making the game any more fun. They were seen as "bomb" letters, avoided at all costs. Dots or crosses or something would have been a help.

Pickle Letter is a darling! If you need a great non-gamer-friendly game with a light, party vibe, this is a great choice!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart LIKE




***






Beasts of balance is a beautiful app-driven, cooperative dexterity game in which you and your friends take on the roles of creators of a unique animal world. The game comes with a Bluetooth base (referred to as the "plinth") that connects the rest of the components in the game to your phone or tablet. Each turn, you must touch the animal or action piece you wish to add to the stack to the plinth before carefully adding it to the world. Every time an animal or action is added to the stack balancing on the plinth, the app recognizes it and adds it to the world. And what a beautiful world it is! Each animal gives you points, but it requires that its habitat be maintained in order to continue to provide points. Animals can be hybridized to form some seriously strange beasts using action tiles as well. And these strange beasts will turn on the animals that created them, sapping their life.

Your goal in the game is to make as many points as possible by keeping as many animals alive as possible through stacking animals and action tiles onto the plinth. This becomes very difficult very quickly because both the animal and action/habitat pieces are shaped like twisty pretzels of impossibility, but if you happen to knock everything over, you do have a few seconds to reassemble your world before it explodes! Unfortunately, those few seconds are often not enough.





Beasts of Balance is beautiful! Absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful! That was what initially drew me to it. I love animals and I do love a good dexterity game. This one wins on both counts, especially with non-gamers. Between the beautifully-illustrated app that creates a world and a story as you play and the beautifully-produced pieces, this game is a veritable toy for children and grown-ups alike. Peter quickly became addicted to trying to best his high score, playing Beasts of Balance over and over again by himself. And my family couldn't get enough of it at Christmas! Creating worlds and unlocking new beastly combinations through the app is a joy.

soblue


Now, this isn't a perfect game. No. It's not really a game at all. I would classify it as a fun thing to do. It's an activity, it's a toy. But not a game. It doesn't come with a rulebook; it comes with a tutorial that gives you a vague idea of what the pieces in the game can do, but you have to discover the rest on your own. And you can play with this alone just as well as you can with others to challenge your stacking skills, which is a bonus. But don't go in expecting a game. Expect a joyful toy and you won't be disappointed.

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart LIKE




***






Happy Salmon was the shining star of my family's Christmas party. In this game, you have a deck of action cards. Each shows one of 4 actions, including the "High 5", the "Pound It", the "Switcheroo", and the unique "Happy Salmon" (3 slaps on the inner arm). You and your friends all shuffle your own identical deck of cards and one player gives the start signal, at which time everybody flips their decks over and starts calling out the action on their top card. As soon as partners find each other, they perform the action on their card and discard that card. The player who is able to first discard their entire deck of cards wins!

True to its name, Happy Salmon is brings the happy! It's filled with laughs and silly fun! You don't have to know anything or anyone to take part and you have to have just enough mobility to give high fives and swap places with a partner! This makes the game very inclusive. Even my 80+ year-old stepfather found happiness here!

Happy Salmon is easy for anyone and everyone go enjoy and generates tonnes of laughter! Sure, it might be mostly random (i.e. based on who happens to get matching cards the most quickly), but that hardly matters when you realize how much fun you've had high-five-ing and happy-salmon-ing your family and friends! It makes for a great, unusually physical, analog diversion when you are trying to avoid banal (or serious ) chatter with family members or want to turn some strangers into friends! Happy!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE




***


First Impressions






Mechs vs. Minions was the big secret board game project of Riot Games, known for the ultra famous League of Legends MOBA! Of course, as soon as news of its impending release appeared, EVERYONE and their grandma wanted a copy. And, of course, the order window was during the Essen Spiel fair. And, of course, I was entirely focused on that and forgot to order my copy to get on board the first wave of shipments, but that's ok. I had plenty to keep me busy. In fact, I all but forgot about Mechs until it arrived! And when it did, the excitement came rushing back! I had to get it played immediately!

Mechs vs. Minions is a scenario-based drafting/programming game in which you pilot a mech's movement across a variable map to fulfill a variety of scenario-specific missions. Each time you complete a mission, you unlock new cards and functions and goals that are locked in secret envelopes!

Playing through Mechs vs. Minions feels a bit like playing through a legacy game. You have all the excitement of unlocking new content, but you aren't really changing things as you go, so you can replay scenarios as much as you want. At least, that's the impression I have from playing through the first two scenarios!

As for the game itself, it's a silly, relatively light programming affair. Each turn, you take a card (or two when playing with only two players) from the open drafting display and then place that card in one of the slots on your mech's action board. You then execute all the action cards you have placed in order. You can place action cards of the same type on top of each other to create more powerful actions. And you can replace old cards with new ones. But you must always execute your full row of actions. The thing is, you won't always WANT to execute your full row of actions because it can get clogged up with damage cards that will inevitably be unleashed upon your poor mech by the nasty minions! In fact, in one game, I had a display full of nothing but damage cards. It was all kinds of sad.


Action cards


Damage cards


Game


My overall impression of Mechs vs. Minions is currently quite positive. I'm not in love with it, but I like it well enough. I look forward to discovering what the remaining envelopes hold. And, of course, I look forward to playing with the AMAZING TOYS that come in the game! TOYS!!!



***






Onitama is a simple abstract game in which you try to move your King piece to your opponent's King space or try to capture your opponent's King piece.

There are 5 movement cards in each game and each player gets 2. One is out of the game until one of the players plays their first card. Each turn, you select one of the two cards in front of you and choose a pawn to move according to the possible movement locations indicated on the card. You then move the card you played between you and your opponent and replace your missing card slot with the card that WAS between you and your opponent. In this way, the action cards cycle and an interdependence between your actions and your opponents actions is created.



First of all, I am not a fan of chess. And I am generally not a fan of abstract games. I am clearly not the target audience for this game, so it should come as no surprise that I found myself yawning by the time I had finished my first three moves ever. I was bored! I found no satisfaction in pushing my pawns ahead at a snail's pace. And I found even less satisfaction in the tug-of-war that developed when Peter and I got into what seemed like a stalemate later on in the game. So, I didn't enjoy my first experience with the game. At all.

On to the second! The second time around, I decided to open my mind a bit and give the game a fair chance. I liked the fact that a different set of action cards is used in each game, which makes each tug-of-war challenge a unique one. And I wanted to try another combination. I was still unimpressed by the game's heavy tug-of-war nature and the seemingly inevitable stalemates that arise here and there, but I did find more joy in the game. Puzzling through my options and my opponent's options depending on which card I played and which cards he played was actually quite engaging. I will definitely have to play this one a few more times before passing my final judgement, but I do think it's a great game. It might not be for me personally, but I understand that the simplicity, universal familiarity of mechanisms, and variety of the game appeal to many.

[center]

[center]***






I wrote a bit about my past relationship with Alchemists in my previous post. Let's just say it was a rocky one. However, I had fun with the game last week and was eager to find out what the expansion would bring to the experience.

The King's Golem expansion for Alchemists is actually 4 expansions in 1! Two are relatively basic and two are a bit more advanced. We decided to try one simpler one and one more complex one - Busy Days and Royal Academy.

In the Busy Days expansion, the rewards (and costs) of turn order change each round. And with Royal Academy, you have a new venue for publishing your research theories. The payoffs and the risks are basically the same as when publishing theories about alchemicals, but in the Royal Academy. you are publishing theories about the polarities of ingredients.





One of my chief complaints about the base game of Alchemists was that it was a lot of work for not much payoff. I found the deduction puzzle to be fun, but the worker placement portion felt uninspired and the whole thing was just too long and fiddly. While I did have many laughs with the base game last week and more with the base game and expansion this week, my original complaints stand. And, of course, they are only amplified by the expansion. While I appreciate the option to add new elements to the game, some of the more involved expansion modules like the Royal Society (and the Golem) definitely add a lot more fiddle to the game. And while I enjoyed having the option to publish theories about the ingredients and polarities with the Royal Society, I didn't find that module of the expansion nearly as satisfying as the much simpler Busy Days module. I will have to play around with these modules a few more times to determine how I will ultimately feel, but for now, my natural preference for simple expansions that only add more variety and enhance what is already in a game leads me to believe I won't be very happy with this expansion overall.



***






I love Russian Railroads! Actually, I don't love the base game. I think the base game is ok, but the German Railroads expansion made me love it! And American Railroads seemed like it would give me another great way to play the game! More importantly, it seemed like it would give me a slightly less component-heavy way to play the game! As much as I adore German Railroads, it is a pain to set up and tear down and navigate due to the sheer number of tiles and chits and pieces.

American Railroads gives you new player boards that feature a "stock market" action, and some boulders to explode, and a double factory track!



The boulders are relatively self explanatory - in order to be able to push your track beyond the boulder spaces, you have to explode them by pushing other tracks past the explosion actions! Once you do, you have an additional end-of-round scoring opportunity!

The market is a bit more interesting. Every time you hit a market space with your track, you can pay a coin (or not, depending on the type of space) to push your market marker up the market track and add (or simply take advantage of) the bonus for that level. These bonuses can trigger crazy chains of effects! And, at the end of the game, the players whose marker are highest and second highest on these tracks get bonus points!



This expansion is love! I absolutely adore it! I love the fact that the market actions give you bonuses you can take advantage of immediately to potentially trigger huge chains of effects that will get you much further than you were!

The dual factory track is also an interesting feature of these boards, giving you a great option for some quick early points!

I will have to play with this expansion a few more times, but at this point, I prefer it to Germany simply because of its lower fiddle factor. it still gives me plenty more options than the base game, but without the undue clutter of Germany. Thumbs waaaaaaaaaaaay up!



***


Session Reports


Inis
I THOUGHT one of our previous games of Inis would be one for the record books in terms of duration - it ended incredibly quickly. Nope. I was wrong THIS week's game was the fastest one ever! It was over in about 15 minutes!

My favorite win condition is the one that demands you be present in at least 6 territories. I don't know what it is about dividing and conquering that I love so much, but I do. Perhaps it has something to do with watching the map grow and unfold like a pretty flower! At any rate, that win condition is (predictable though it may be) what I always pursue...if possible. So, that's what I went after this time. I was blessed with a hand of Druid and . Thankfully, the evil counterspell stayed out of the game in the few rounds that it lasted and I was able to accomplish my mission in record time with the help of a little deed! I didn't even realize I had fulfilled the win condition until Peter passed for the umpteenth time and I looked at the board and my deed and screamed out "I WON!" It was hilarious. This is a great game and one that definitely surprised me by how enjoyable it is at the low, low player count of two! Love!


This deed weighs heavily on our souls!



Touria
Oh dear. Poor Touria. It's not you; it's me. I expressed some concerns about the level of randomness in Touria in my previous post. Well, those concerns have proven themselves founded and then some! There is a LOT of randomness here, particularly if you play the full game (i.e. finding the prince/princess in the castle once you've acquired all your tiles).

In our game, Peter once again got lucky with the dice. I somehow managed to turn swords into hearts with some regularity, but Peter finished a turn or two ahead of me and managed to uncover the prince/princess door IMMEDIATELY! This happened in our previous game as well! It was uncanny. And annoying. If anything, I would recommend playing Touria without the final uncovering business (the rulebook recommends doing this if you are allergic to randomness as well). The game devolves to a pure luck fest at the end.





Noch mal!
Noch mal! There is really not much more I can say about this game other than what I've already said. Delightful, fast, addictive dice rolling. Peter's and my scores ended up reversing this time! And I won. Peter is better at dice, so kinda happy about this.



Round House + Round House: 1st Expansion – Additional Tiles
Round House! I got the first expansion for this from the BGG Store along with my order of American Railroads and was eager to try it out! The first expansion introduces an alternative way to use the pirate action. You can now pay the resources or coins indicated on a pirate tile to dump one of your helpers on a scoring space on the pirate board! At the end of the game, additional points are awarded for having the most helpers in each column.

The expansion also makes any remaining helper cards you have at the end of the game worth points equal to the number of that type of helper in the discard pile. And it gives you the option of taking end-game scoring tiles instead of 5 coins whenever you are entitled to take the latter!




Each helper card is worth a number of points equal to the number of helpers of its type in the discard pile


Pirate action


I think that this expansion addresses some of the small issues that were present in the base game; namely, that taking late-game helpers that provide ongoing benefits or even helpers in general can be unattractive, that the pirate action was largely uninteresting and unnecessary, and that late-game honor actions without apprentices in the market was just not an option.

The new pirate board makes the pirate action interesting and gives you a new way to score big points, the helper cards have an added value beyond their actions and gems and you now have a very interesting choice between keeping them on board for end-game points and using them for their ability, and late-game honor actions without apprentices are finally a viable option thanks to the fact that you can now acquire the end-game scoring tiles by performing this action!

Some aspects of the expansion were not exactly clear in the rules (i.e. how to set up the honor tile market), but I largely understood and enjoyed what it has to offer. More Round House is always good!







The Oracle of Delphi
Oracle of Delphi! Peter has finally caught onto this game and did very well! He had the bonus tile that allowed him to toss one of the 12 goals at the start of the game and I had the one that made my Gods super powerful (i.e. easier to push up the God tracks). I immediately headed for the closest statue thingy because those are clutch. They allow you to get the heroes, who help push your military might up and avoid taking on those nasty end-of-round curses. Peter was a bit slower, but we were pretty much neck and neck the entire game. It was tense!

I love games that challenge your efficiency/optimization skills in a spatial puzzly sort of way, so I love this game! Truly one of my favorite Felds! That said, I would love to try it with more than two players because I think the race for the hero cards would be all the more tense and interesting.



Dream Home
I cannot get enough of Dream Home! It may be my favorite light game of 2016, as I find myself constantly and consistently compelled to play it! Peter won this game easily. I was completely absent and distracted, which was silly of me, but it is what it is. I got the interior decorator in the first round of the game and was really hoping to maximize my use of her ability and end-game scoring bonus (extra VP per decoration), but that didn't work out as well as I thought it would. I also once again got duped into thinking that the red and orange roof tiles were the same. I THOUGHT I had a complete roof, but nope. Colors are hard. Anyway, Peter built the better house, so congrats to Peter!





Aeon's End
Aeon's End! One of my favorites! I accidentally sprayed Viktor & Rolf's Flowerbomb perfume on it last week and since I did that, the game seems to have softened up a bit! Our first attempt to defeat the Wayward One ended in miserable defeat in record time. This second, Flowerbombed one, ended in OUR favor! Of course, I think the fact that I played as Jian helped this time! Not only are we soul sisters, but Jian starts the game with two open breaches, which helps against the Wayward One, who is constantly shifting alignment and negating attack from breaches that aren't aligned with his current position. WIN!





Railroad Revolution
Peter won! Incredible! Actually, quite credible. He is quite good at this game!

In this game, I decided to go for the long-distance rail building thing again and it totally blew up in my face. I was entirely focused on that one thing and failed to realize how far Peter had pushed his multipliers both on that track and the trading post track. They were both at the top of their respective tracks. Mine were not. He won. And I didn't even see it coming!

In other news, I am loving this game! And you'll probably see it on next week's list .





***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Flip City Wilderness - I love Flip City and this expansion is coming to me! WOOHOO!
2. The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire - Engine-building games are kinda my thing, so I'm pretty sure this is going to be an instant success. I stayed away from the original Manhattan Project game because of its theme, but I've heard that is toned down in this one, so we'll see! Can't wait to try it! Looks pretty cute too!
3. Orléans: Invasion - WOOT! Finally! I have the Orleans expansion! The first one!

***


Next Week...


Look forward to a list of my top 10 games of 2016!

***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING AND HAVE A COLORFUL NEW YEAR! heart


Twitter Facebook
91 Comments
Fri Dec 30, 2016 9:00 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
235 
 Thumb up
9.53
 tip
 Hide

In Which the Emperor's Lanterns Bring on Aeon's End * New Reviews for AEON'S END & LANTERNS THE HARVEST FESTIVAL WITH THE EMPEROR'S GIFTS * First Impressions for TOURIA, ULM, FABLED FRUIT * And More!

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Friends!


This week was even worse than the previous one for work! Things have been really hectic! Hopefully, they will slow down soon and I'll have more time to play and write more extensively about more games! But I know I shouldn't be complaining because I've probably a good number of games regardless.

Also, this week, I've decided to change the titles of my blog sections. This will be a permanent change, as it has come to my attention that my previous titles are no longer valid and may seem like I am big 'ol board game snoot! I am not!!! I promise! So I'm changing! I've changed "What's New?" to "Reviews" and "What's Not So New But Still Exciting?" to "Session Reports" to better reflect what I mean.

Finally, since Christmas is almost here, I want to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS or whatever other holiday you may celebrate. Festivus. Whatever! I look forward to spending some time with my sister and mom playing games! I'm going to come armed with Pickle Letter in one hand and Beasts of Balance in the other! And maybe some Happy Salmon for dessert!



***


Reviews






The Overview


In Aeons End, you take on the roles of intrepid heroes defending the city of Gravehold against hordes of attacking monsters! In each game, you face a unique monster with a unique set of abilities and in each game, you take on the roles of a different set of characters and because both the monsters and characters act so differently from one another, each game feels very different from the previous one.


Characters


Market cards you can acquire over the course of the game


All the nemeses


Because Aeons End is a variable-turn-order game, the first thing you do each round is to flip the turn card that determines whether one of the players or the monster takes a turn. On a player turn, you may first use any or all of your prepared spells on your enemy and then can take any number of actions using the cards you have in hand. You are not allowed to discard any cards, but you can always arrange the cards you've played in any order prior to discarding. Your actions include things like using gems to buy new cards, activating a partner's spell without exhausting it, using gems to activate your character's special ability, etc. Spell abilities generally allow you to punish the baddies and their minions.

The baddies like to do a lot of punishing of their own! Each turn, they unleash all their minions and powers revealed in previous turns and they do some new bad stuff, which can include punishing you, the players, or punishing the city of Gravehold.


Crooked mask and some of his punishment cards


The game ends either when Gravehold has been reduced to 0 life or when the baddie you are up against has been reduced to 0 life.



The Review


Played prior to review 11x






1. Awesome art and story
Aeon's End features a unique and diverse cast of characters to ensure that everyone has a face and story with which they can identify. My personal favorite is Jian!

2. Unique turn-order system
Between the variable turn order, card-play system, the lack of deck shuffling, and the combination of tower defense with deck building, Aeon's End has a lot to offer for those seeking something "different."

Chief among the game's unique qualities is its turn order system. In most games, you know when your turn is coming and can plan accordingly. In Aeon's End, turn order is another figure you have to add to your statistics calculations each turn. When the turn order deck is full, you know that the odds of your turn being drawn are 1/3 (in a two-player game). As the deck is depleted, the odds change and may affect the cards you choose to play and save. For example, if you are fighting against a nemesis who will punish the player with the most prepped spells and you have less life than your opponent, you might keep a spell or two in your hand even though you could cast them to ensure you don't end up getting knocked out prematurely.

The turn order system isn't just "different;" it adds significantly to the decisions you make in the game! It's good stuff!

3. Unique card-play system
Aeon's End also comes with an interesting card-play system. There are two elements that are interesting here. First, in order to play "spells" (your chief way of dealing with nemesis shenanigans and your only way of reducing your nemesis to 0 life), you have to spend the game's currency to focus (reducing the cost to open) or open breaches. These breaches give you additional card slots and each mage has a unique set of breach opening costs. In fact, one has one fewer breach altogether! The effect of all this breach business is that you have to carefully evaluate when and how many to focus or open vs. purchase cards from the market. It creates many interesting decision points that set the game apart from other deck builders.

The other aspect of the card-play system that sets the game apart from other deck builders is the fact that you never shuffle your deck. Therefore, you get some control over the way your cards come out in future rounds and can set up synergies and combos with your cards. For example, if you purchase a card that will allow you to remove a card from your deck, you might want to sandwich it between sparks or cheapo gems to ensure you can get rid of what you want to get rid of!

4. Incredibly challenging and satisfying
Aeons End is tense and challenging, with each of the games we've played so far ending either in a loss or a near loss! Not once have we EASILY won the game, which is something that HAS happened in other co-ops like Pandemic. The victories feel all that much sweeter as a result!

6. Super duper awesome high replay value
Aeon's End can be played over and over and over again and you'll find yourself discovering new aspects of the game every time. There is a huge amount of variety in the game!

First, the monsters behave very differently from one another and some modify the win/loss conditions. Typically, you lose when Gravehold dies, but the Glutton, for example, doesn't touch Gravehold. Instead, he consumes the card market and you lose if he eats up all the cards before you kill him!

The characters themselves are also very different from one another, as each starts with a unique ability and character-specific card, as well as a uniquely composed deck and portal configuration.

Finally, the game comes with 42 different market cards (I'm including the expansions that came in the KS version) and you'll only use 9 of these in any given game!

And if you consider the number of possible combinations of all these factors...well...there are many! I can't do math right now. It's late.



soblue


soblue 1. Setup and teardown is quite involved
Between setting up the market, doling out character-specific cards and decks, and handling all the nemesis-specific setup, Aeon's End can take a bit of time and effort to set up and tear down.

soblue 2. The variable turn order can create some down time
I am used to playing two-player games with very little down time. Basically, by the time I've figured out what I'm doing on my turn, my turn is already here. Always. In Aeon's End, turn order is variable. And, as cool and unusual and unpredictable and awesome as that is, it can create some unusual down time. It can happen that you get a double turn and then don't get to do anything for another 4-8 turns. Of course, turns are quick and even nemesis actions and effects are relatively easy to administer, but all the upkeep/waiting business takes a bit longer than I would like. That said, I think the variable turn order is worth the extra down time. Just be aware that the game can feel a little slow at times and may be best at lower player counts.

soblue 3. The game can be easy or impossible depending on the interaction between the market cards, characters, and nemesis in play
This is a criticism that can be lodged against pretty much any co-operative game. A large number of random elements are inherently necessary in co-ops due to the fact that they demand a random "AI" for the players to fight.

Perhaps the fact that some characters and cards are particularly well suited to fighting certain nemeses leads me to believe that there are some "optimal" and some "impossible" setups for each nemesis. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but this, combined with the fact that every game we have won has come down to the wire leads me to suspect that the stars can align for or against you particularly strongly in this game.



Final Word


It would be understatement to say that I had high expectations for Aeon's End. Fortunately, my expectations were met. And exceeded. Aeon's End is a tense, challenging, highly replayable, and intensely satisfying co-op puzzle. Right now, it sits atop my list of gaming obsessions, as I continue to pull it out to try all the various character and monster combinations and take down the baddest of baddies! If you're a fan of deck-building co-ops or co-ops in general, Aeon's End is a must!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE



Box!


Five days of Aeon's End together at last!


***






The Overview


Lanterns is an abstract tile-laying game in which you are tasked with decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns! The game starts with one lake tile in play and you start with 3 lake tiles in hand.



Each turn, you
1) may exchange one of your lantern cards for another from the supply by using 2 favor tokens,
2) may make a dedication by exchanging lantern cards in your supply for point tokens (scoring tile options include four of a kind, three pairs, and seven unique lantern cards), and
3) must place a lake tile from your hand adjacent to an existing lake tile. You get a matching bonus if you match the color of any side of your newly placed lake tile to that of an adjacent one. This bonus comes in the form of a lantern card of that color. You also get a favor token if the matching adjacent lake tile has a platform on it.
4) Finally, EACH PLAYER gets a lantern card of the color facing them.

The game ends once the stack of tiles runs out and the player who has accumulated the most points wins!

The expansion gives you a few more options in the form of:
1. Pavilions
When playing with the expansion, each player receives a set of pavilions in their color and the Emperor's pavilion is positioned on the starting tile at the start of the game.

The pavilions act like the platforms on the base game lake tiles, but instead of favor tokens, you get gift tokens, which you can later use to activate Emperor card actions.

Whenever you place a lake tile, you may place one of your pavilions on it, as long as it is not adjacent to another pavilion. If the lake tile you place matches the color of an adjacent lake tile with a pavilion on it, you get a gift token, but so does the player who owns that pavilion, which provides an incentive for placing pavilions.



2. Emperor card activation
The expansion includes a set of 5 Emperor cards, 2 of which you will use in any given game. These give you two additional action options and can be activated at various points during the course of the game by spending 2 gift tokens.

Emperor cards may allow you to rotate a tile, gain honor points directly using favor tokens, perform an end-of-turn dedication, perform a special lantern card exchange action to obtain wild lantern cards, or perform a special Emperor dedication using 5 unique cards of different colors, a full house of colors, or five of a kind.



The Review


Played prior to review 6x






1. Pretty!
Lanterns is colorful and vibrant and the artwork simply exudes joy! I love pulling it out just to look at the pretty tiles!

2. Quick and simple, with or without the expansion
You can teach this game to anyone in a few minutes. The base game took me about 2 minutes to teach Peter and he got it immediately. Adding the expansion immediately wouldn't be a problem for a seasoned gamer, as it adds a few simple options that vastly improve the game's decision space. However, if introducing the game to a child or non-gamer, I would stick with the very simple base game prior to introducing the expansion. Either way, the game plays quickly (about 20 minutes with two decisive players) and can be taught quickly.

3. Lots of emergent depth
Even though Lanterns is simple to learn and teach, the game seems to grow every time you play. At first, it seems to be a relatively pleasant little tile-laying game in which you can do whatever you please to maximize points by optimally arranging your tiles to give you the biggest card payoffs each turn, largely unfettered by the actions of your opponents. And then you realize how few lantern cards there are in the deck. With two players, you can be quite strategic about keeping track of the available lantern cards and the lantern cards your opponent has in order to prevent them from obtaining a 4-of-a-kind or all 7 colors or whatever goal they seem to be pursuing.

4. Tense
Games of Lanterns are always tight scoring affairs, so every point you can manage to squeeze out can mean the difference between victory and defeat. The fact that the dedication tiles are arranged in descending VP payoff means that you are effectively racing to be the first to get to each stack as quickly and efficiently as possible as many times as possible before the lake tile stack runs out. This means that (at least, when playing with two players), you are always keeping track of your opponent's potential dedications and the remaining dedication tiles to ensure you get the biggest point payoffs possible.

5. Many options added by the expansion for even greater depth and vastly expanded decision space
The expansion adds much to the game. First, it gives you more game-to-game variability. Because only two of the five Emperor cards are used in any given game, you will have a different set of additional actions from which to choose in every game...at least in a bunch of games before the combinations start repeating again!

By giving you additional action options, the expansion challenges your brain's computing power in new ways. You have a number of new decisions each turn! Do you rotate that tile or do a double dedication? Do you put that tile next to a pavilion just to get some of those gift tokens to help you activate an Emperor card? The Emperor cards challenge you to make difficult new tradeoffs and decisions and they are wonderful!

soblue


soblue 1. Plenty of randomness
Lanterns is a light, tactical game with a moderate level of randomness. Yes, you can make and execute some plans, but they typically don't extend beyond your next turn. And even then, your opponent's tile placement can turn all your planning upside down. Keep this in mind if you are averse to such things.

soblue 2. Base game doesn't give you enough options for favor tokens, but the expansion solves this issue nicely
In the base game, you can quickly accumulate a large number of favor tokens and have nothing to do with them. They are certainly useful in getting the exact lantern card colors you need when you need them and take some of the stress out of the tile arranging puzzle, but you can only use them once per turn. Every game of Lanterns I've played with the base game alone has ended with me holding a large number of unused favor tokens. That just seems a little...off.

soblue 3. If you are prone to AP, this game seems to bring it out to the MAX
Peter can slow waaaaaaaaaaay down when playing certain games and Lanterns is one of them. The tile-placement puzzle can be "solved" for optimal placement. You have 3 tiles and a limited number of places to put them. But as the game goes on, those options expand and expand to the point that the puzzle can still be "solved" to achieve a PERFECT placement, but the time required to get to that solution necessarily expands with those options. And this can be a problem. Watch out if you're playing with a Peter! Just sayin'.



Final Word


Lanterns didn't pique my interest when it first came out because small, abstract games just tend not to scream "PLAY ME!" to me. However, after trying it out at BGG Con, I knew I'd have to try it again and again! And the prospect of additional action options in the expansion didn't hurt my excitement.

Of course, the game turned out to be a hit! This game looks and tastes like candy! It's sweet! It's tasty! But it has a bit of a bitter core..perhaps it's one of those cough-medicine-filled candies! It has a bitter, bitter heart, forcing you to do your best to screw your opponent out of being able to gain dedication tiles and maximizing the rate at which you acquire them yourself. This quality may be less significant at higher player counts, but with two, this is a pretty little game with an evil heart! And I love it!

MINA'S LOVE METER (base game) heart heart LIKE

MINA'S LOVE METER (base game with expansion) heart heart heart SOME LOVE




***


First Impressions






Ulm is a game about life in the city of Ulm in the 16th century. It's actually quite a themeless game with an incredibly clever action-selection mechanism. Each turn, you pull a random action tile from a bag of tiles and slide it into a 3x3 grid of action tiles. You can only slide tiles into rows and columns that don't already have a "kicked out" tile (i.e. a tile that was slid out of the grid in a previous turn) and you get to take 3 actions each turn, with each action tile remaining in the row/column to which you've added your new action tile giving you 1 action each. The actions include obtaining coins, obtaining/clearing away action tiles that are cluttering up the sides of the 3x3 grid, buying a card by returning 2 action tiles you've already obtained, moving your barge along the Danube, and paying 2 coins to place one of your seals on a free space in one of the city quarters between which your barge is currently located. The game ends after 10 rounds, at which point you get points for Ulm sparrows (which you can obtain throughout the game by owning a city coat of arms), the position of your barge along the Danube, sets of cathedral cards, and sets of trade cards.

Ulm is a game of contradictions. It is simple yet complex and fast paced and yet slow. The system is brilliantly elegant; draw an action tile + place an action tile. However, the simplicity of the system is marred by the opacity and multitude of symbols used to describe the many auxiliary actions that take place in the game. And while the system should theoretically create a very smooth-playing game that is over very quickly, it fails to do that due to the need to constantly reference the rulebook. This is definitely primarily a first-play grievance, but I think it's a legitimate one nonetheless, as it has definitely affected my enthusiasm to play again. That said, I see great potential in the game and look forward to getting over the initial symbol overload.





***






In Touria, you and your friends compete to win the heart of the prince or princess of Touria! You represent a traveling group of adventurers as you move from location to location to gather gems, trade those gems for coins, and collect admiration by fighting the dragons lurking in the countryside. Your goal is to collect 7 coins and 7 hearts and then find the prince and princess in the castle in order to marry...one of them!

Each turn, you select one of four action options that are presented to you on 4 towers located at the corners of the kingdom. Each of the towers has 4 side and each side presents you with a different action option, so each turn, you will be able to select from at least 2 and at most 4 different actions. Once you select an action, you rotate the tower, which will change the action available to you on your next turn, but also will change the action available to your opponent(s). Actions include things like gaining magical items, fulfilling orders by delivering gems of certain colors to exchange for coins, fighting the dragon to gain hearts, and simply trading gems/coins/hearts, among other things.

Every time you select an action, you have to move the group of adventurers to that action space, paying coins to move them further than 3 spaces. And every time the group of adventurers moves over a gem mine, you have to take 1 or both gems standing there. You pick one if both are colored, but if one of the two gems is a wicked black gem, you have to take both! So you end up cursed! And if you're cursed, you can't enter the castle! You have to take actions to rid yourself of the cursed gems before you can wed the prince or princess!

The game ends when one player has 7 coins and 7 hearts and has revealed the castle door behind which the prince and princess are hiding!

Touria is like a sparkle unicorn prancing through a rainbow sky. It's sweet and filled with fun, but a bit on the fluffy side, so if you're not into fluff, stay away.

First, for the substance. The action-selection mechanism is brilliant! Having 4 options from which to select and having the action you select affect your opponent's options gives you an interesting puzzle to solve each turn.

Next, for the fluff. There is a TONNE of randomness in this game. From the dice rolling to determine the color of gem you have to give up in order to appease the dragon and win some hearts to the flipping of the castle doors at the end of the game, the game is RIFE with randomness. And I don't say that only because I am bitter about the fact that Peter fought the dragon twice and rolled the EXACT gem color he had the first time both times and I fought him once and kept rolling the one color I didn't have over and over again until I ran out of swords! No. That's not why I say this!

Considering the good and the bad, my feelings about Touria fall firmly in favor of the good. Despite the frustration with the level of randomness in the game, I found myself having a lot of fun with it. And the action selection mechanism is indeed brilliant. I look forward to playing it a few more times to see where I will finally settle, but I like it for now! #notbitter





***






Fabled Fruit is a game that expands and changes over the course of multiple sessions. In the first game, you start with the first 6 stacks of action cards. Each turn, you move your animal to a different action card to carry out the corresponding action. Actions include things like drawing fruit cards, exchanging fruit cards with your opponent, etc. On your turn, instead of moving an animal to a card to carry out the action, you may move your animal to a card to fulfill its order by discarding the required fruit cards from your hand. Every time an order is fulfilled, a new one comes out from a huge stack of action cards, potentially opening additional action options. The first player to fulfill 5 orders wins!

At the end of each game, all cards used in fulfilled orders are removed from the game and the current cards constitute the available actions in the next game.



Fabled Fruit has a strange addictive quality. Initially, it appears to be a simple and rather lackluster race, set-collection card game, but when you start playing and revealing new actions and the game literally grows in front of you, you want to play more and more! You want to see more! You want to experience more! New options! New possibilities! New combinations! It's amazing!

Now, it's not all happy fun times with Fabled Fruit. At least with two players. With two players, you can generally go back and forth between the "best" actions in the game without having to give up any fruit cards (if you want to move your animal to a card occupied by another player's animal, you have to give that player a fruit card). With more players, you would have to put more thought into when to do this and which cards to give to your opponent. Regardless, I do look forward to playing this a few more times. Our first session lasted a total of 4 games!






What do you mean by 'Fabled Fruit isn't a stacking game!?'


***


Session Reports


Alchemists
Once upon a time, I owned a copy of Alchemists. I did not enjoy it enough to warrant keeping, so I sold it. This year, the King's Golem expansion showed up and guess what? I HAD to try it, which also meant I had to re-acquire a copy of the base game! Of course, having failed to love the base game, I fully intended to jump right into the expansion material...until I opened the expansion box. Module 1, module 2, module 3, combine this, exclude that, remember this, remind you of that...It was too much! There is SO MUCH stuff in the expansion! And I could barely remember how to play the game!!! So, I had to go through the book and re-learn the game.

The re-learning experience wasn't as tough as I thought it would. It was actually much easier for Peter than it was for me. He seemed to breeze through the deduction bits and had all the potions figured out halfway through the game. One of my original complaints about the game was that it was just too easy to figure everything out rather quickly and that proved to be the case yet again. For Peter. Not so much for me. Perhaps my math skills have slipped since 2014 or whenever it was that Alchemists first came out, but I just couldn't figure anything out. I did get unlucky with a couple of neutral results at the start of the game, but even with that, I should have been able to figure SOMETHING out. Nope. I kinda decided to guess at everything and hope for the best. It was hilarious and we were both laughing the whole time. Peter kept telling me I had no idea what I was cooking and I would just blow myself up! And it was kinda true. I ended up screwing up a few ingredients' alchemicals and losing a few (many...shhh) points, but I ended up only a few points behind Peter in the final scoring because I spent a good chunk of time collecting artifacts and...well...having cheater alchemicals published, which ensured I could keep raking in the end-of-round majority points. I'm cheese! It was SO MUCH fun! I can't wait to try the expansion!

I still have the same problems with Alchemists that I had when I first played; it's a relatively simple puzzle with a relatively simple worker placement game around it that is procedurally over-complicated and over long. HOWEVER, I see fun in it. I hope the expansion adds more fun. I could use the laughs.







Guilds of London
Guilds of London is yet another game we entirely forgot how to play! We had played it three times prior to Essen Spiel and then...not again. Poor thing got drowned out by the noise of the shiny newer games. Well, it didn't take us long to reboot in this case, but it did take us a while to start getting in each others' way, which is what this game is all about!

I quite missed playing this game. My favorite part is the puzzle of coordinating your masters' locations with your end-game goals. Lots of fun!





Railroad Revolution
Railroad Revolution is brilliant! In this game, I decided to go for the long distance scoring by building a nice, long rail network. I was so completely focused on that that I figured I wouldn't end up being able to complete many contracts, but I was so wrong. Because you draw 3 contracts and pick one, you can pretty much tailor them to suit your current needs, so I ended up completing even more contracts than in our first game! It was beautiful! I love all the synergies in this game and cannot wait to play more!



Great Western Trail
I once again took a different approach in GWT! There weren't many cowboys available for hire, so I decided to go for station tile and building scoring, which was an unusual combo, but it worked! Not as well as the cows, but it worked.





Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King + PROMOS
I have the Brettspiel Adventskalendar and the other promo box from Spiel, but had not played with a single one of the promos from either of those until this week! I'm not sure why...perhaps because I misplaced a bunch of them . Either way, I saw the Isle of Skye ones sitting on top of the Isle of Skye box and decided it was time to get started on the promos...at least the ones I could locate!

The promos in both sets are unlike the previous promos provided for the game, as they are landscape tiles rather than scoring tiles. I prefer the promos that provide additional scoring options, but I'll take these too. The landscape tiles are not all that special, but some have different effects depending on the round during which they come into play.

Overall, I enjoyed playing with these new tiles, but they are certainly not necessary. Unlike the additional scoring criteria, they don't really add anything to the game.

Peter won this game handily! I priced my things poorly and ended up









Roll Player
Roll Player continues to excite! Of course! How could it not!? It's a game about building characters!

In this game, I created a champion elf, who was reckless, foolish, and cunning! Doesn't that sound like the most fun combination ever! Actually, it sounds like the most unlikely combination, bordering on contradictory, but who's keeping track!? She won me the game!

Peter made a dwarf. He was a big dwarf. A big protector dwarf!





Capital
It had been a while since our last game of Capital and I felt like a quick, but somewhat involved game, so we settled on Capital.

In this game, I completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) ignored the end-of-round bonus tiles, which may have been a mistake. I did the same thing in the previous game, but didn't suffer for it too badly because they weren't all that sexy. In this game, I also did another thing badly - I spent most of the game with huge 2x2 park tiles for no reason! They were just sitting there. Instead of overbuilding them with something more useful, I kept overbuilding other tiles! It was silly. I think my brain was somewhere else. Oh well. Peter won the day!





The Oracle of Delphi
I started the game with the +2 movement tile and Peter had the +1 favor tile. We had an issue with the +1 favor tile in a previous game. In that game, Peter got completely demolished because I had a tile that allowed me to move my gods to their first positions instead of their bottom positions once I used them. My ability seemed quite superior. My ability seemed quite superior this time as well. And that's exactly what it turned out to be. I kept getting +2 move every turn, which was particularly important due to the strange layout we had. Peter still had half his tasks to complete when I ended the game...





Dark Castle
Peter finally gets it!!!! YAY! This was our third time playing. The first two times were marred by his frustration and less-than-perfect understanding of the game. No matter how hard I tried to explain, he just didn't get it and didn't want to hear strategy tips, so...Yeah. He finally started using the yellow tower that allows you to peek at two tower cards! And he WON! By one point!

This game seems completely random. And while there is certainly a great deal of randomness, you do have the yellow tower to help you gain vital information for end-game scoring. That said, your access to yellow diamond cards needed to activate said yellow tower can be a complete crapshoot, so...Relatively random game, but a fun 15-minute diversion nonetheless.





Noch mal!
This was my WORST game of noch mal ever! I have no idea what I was doing. I wasn't paying attention to Peter's sheet and I was just randomly picking things to fill. Tip: DO NOT randomly pick things to fill. A bit of thought is required!



***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Royals - Area control generally isn't at its best with two players. There are exceptions, of course (like Inis, which I absolutely ADORE with two and wouldn't play with any more!), but they are few and far between. Let's hope this is an exception! It certainly looks inviting! Will be trying it next week!
2. Onitama - Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful! Intrigued by the uniquely shaped box, I just HAD to unshrink this thing the MOMENT I received it! And I was not disappointed by the contents! I can't wait to try the game, but I don't think it can disappoint. Excitement!

***


Next Week...


Look forward to reviews for Onitama and Ulm! This is a rare week! My reviews for next week have actually already been decided! Typically, I am too indecisive for this kind of behavior!

I also FINALLY received my copy of Mechs vs. Minions yesterday, so I will definitely be playing that TONIGHT! ASAP! NOW! I'm also SUPER looking forward to Russian Railroads: American Railroads, which also arrived the same day! I was super bummed when I missed it at Spiel, but it's mine now!!!!


Kicking winter in the butt with fuzzy coats and board games!


***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS! heart



Jackie found her favorite game!!!
Twitter Facebook
72 Comments
Fri Dec 23, 2016 9:00 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
246 
 Thumb up
8.75
 tip
 Hide

In Which Roll Playing Monkeys Seek New Habitats * New Reviews for ROLL PLAYER & HABITATS * First Impressions for RAILROAD REVOLUTION, ARKHAM HORROR CARD GAME, PHALANXX, & SCYTHE: INVADERS * And More Gaming Goodness! :D

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Friends!


This was a super busy week for me! SO much work! But games were played and fun was had, so it was a good one! Plus, I got to nominate
Sara Erickson
United States
Bozeman
Montana
flag msg tools
publisher
Covert Spy
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
to be this week's Geek of the Week! If you'd like to learn a bit more about Sara, you can check out her thread here. She is a very interesting and amazingly kind person!

Another awesome thing that happened was that I got to chat with the illustrious Richard Ham of Rahdo Runs Through about one of my top 10 games of the year - Terraforming Mars! You can catch the video here:





***


What's New?






The Overview


Unsurprisingly, Roll Player is a clever riff on role playing games. In this game, you build a role playing character by drafting dice and buying skills and traits and weapons and armor.



You start the game with a race (Elf, Human, Dwarf, etc.), a class, which indicates the values you are striving to reach in each attribute (strength, dexterity, intelligence, etc.), a backstory, which indicates the colors of dice you are trying to position in certain attributes, and an alignment, which indicates your moral perspective that can shift throughout the game as you acquire various skills.


Sample starting situation for 2-player game


Alignments


Back stories


Attributes


Weapons - You can only carry two hands' worth of weapons and they give you various benefits


Armor - Sets of armor score an increasing number of points


Skills - Shift your alignment and give you in-game benefits


Each turn, you roll a number of dice equal to 1 + the number of players, arrange those dice in ascending value on turn order cards numbered 1 through 3 and then select dice based on the current turn order. You must then place a dice in the leftmost free column of any attribute row of your character sheet. When you place a die, you can use the ability associated with that row, which may be increasing/decreasing the value of a die by 1, swapping two dice, flipping a die, re-rolling a die, etc. Then, you get a chance to buy skill, trait, or armor from the market, which will give you a one-time or ongoing ability throughout the game.



The game ends when all players have filled all attribute rows with dice. You get points for fulfilling your class goals (i.e. having a sum total of die values in each attribute row that matches the targets on the class card), fulfilling your backstory (i.e. having the right colors of dice in the right row x column), and satisfying your alignment goal. You also gain points for sets of armor cards and gain bonuses from trait cards.

The Review


Played Prior to Review 8x






1. Unique theme
This game is about creating a role playing character! Um...Yeah. I definitely can't think of any other game that comes even close to attempting to accomplish this type of feat.

2. Unique game
Roll Player is unique thematically, but also mechanically. It's quite heavy for a dice game, as you have to keep quite a large number of scoring criteria, effects, and options in mind throughout the game.

It also has an interesting and unusual system of dice activation and allocation. The row in which you place each die determines the dice manipulation ability you activate. And the value of the die you place contributes to the row's attribute score at the end of the game. And the COLOR of each die contributes to your tableau's backstory score at the end of the game. So the dice you select and place interact in many ways...

3. Much to think about for a dice/card game
The thing that surprised me most when playing Roll Player for the first time was the sheer number of ways in which to score points and the number of ways in which those interacted with each other.

When selecting dice, you have to think about a) turn order, with lower valued dice ensuring you get to buy market cards first but also ensuring that you'll likely have difficulty with point b), b) fulfilling your character's class requirements by filling attribute rows with dice that add up to specific values, c) fulfilling your character's backstory requirements by positioning dice of the right colors in the right slots, and d) fulfilling the conditions of various trait cards you acquire over the course of the game, which may demand you have a certain configuration of values or colors of dice in rows and columns on your character sheet.

Coordinating all these goals and getting them to work together makes for a brain bending challenge, particularly when you are first learning to play the game. And even once you've played a couple of times, determining which tradeoffs to make to squeeze out an extra point can provide quite the challenge. Games of Roll Player tend to be close scoring affairs, so finding a way to squeeze out ONE extra point can make the difference between winning and losing.

4. High replay value
Roll Player is compulsively replayable for a number of reasons. First, the game is multi-faceted and challenging, demanding that you play it more than once or twice to become sufficiently able to "play" with it rather than just "explore" it. So, there is some intrinsic replay value to be found here, as you learn to manipulate the game's system and its various scoring challenges.

Second, the game comes with a huge amount of setup and in-game variety. You have 6 different character classes, each of which features a different set of attribute score modifiers, making it easier or harder to achieve certain attribute goals, 6 different class cards, each of which sets a different set of demands for your die totals, 16 backstory cards, each of which sets a different set of demands for your die colors and positions, and 17 alignment cards, each of which sets a different alignment demand.

And you will be faced with a different combination of market cards at different times during the course of the game, which will affect the strategies you choose to pursue.

5. Sense of accomplishment for having created something
I have an issue with how thematic Roll Player feels WHILE playing, which I will discuss in the soblue section below, but I have no issue with how I feel at the end of each and every game! I adore games that make me feel like I have created something unique and this one certainly gives me that feeling. And unlike most "building" games that focus on buildings and parks and cities, this one focuses on "building" an individual being! And beings are the most interesting of things! They have stories and experiences, they are hurt and they are healed, they are loved and they love, and they are hated and they hate! And all these things are related to their traits and skills and things, which are what you get to add to your character during the game. Perhaps it's just me, but I love coming up with a rationale for all the possessions and characteristics my Elf or Orc or Dwarf or Human has at the end of each game.

6. Double-sided boards with male/female versions of each character
The boards are double sided, having a female character on one side and a male one on the other! Score! I can be a female Elf just as well as a female Dwarf! I just wouldn't connect with the game as well if I couldn't play in my preferred gender.



soblue


soblue 1. Production is somewhat lacking
While the double-sided player boards are nice, they are prone to ripping if you are not exceedingly careful while punching chits. I ended up ripping up a few player boards because the chits that live in the dice holes were super sticky. Consider yourselves warned: take care when punching.

Production is lacking in one more respect; the lack of reminders on player boards. You can obtain money in various ways in the game - by playing a gold die to your tableau, by discarding a market card, by selecting an initiative with gold on it, and by filling an attribute row. While it is relatively easy to keep track of the first 3 means of gaining gold, the final one sometimes gets forgotten. I wish the player boards had included a reminder for this, but perhaps it would have led to too much clutter...I am not a graphic artist, but forgetting to gain gold when filling an attribute row has been an issue in nearly every one of our games.

soblue 2. Rulebook is poorly laid out
The rulebook is not laid out in the way I've come to expect rulebooks to be. It contains giant blocks of text that aren't broken up by enough pictures or examples and make referencing them a bit on the difficult side. Don't take this too seriously. The rulebook does teach you how to play the game well and I like the fact that the back of the book provides a "Quick Reference," but I do wish it was laid out better for easier reference. I also wish it came with player aids...

soblue 3. Much randomness
This is a dice/card game, so if you are a high-strategy, control-obsessed type of gamer, you might find yourself at odds with the basic premise of this game. But then again, if that's your style of play, it's unlikely you'd be looking at this review. Just be aware that the random flip of cards (particularly in a two- or three-player game, where a subset of cards is removed) and dice can, in some cases, make it impossible to perfectly accomplish what you've set out to accomplish. But that's ok with me!

soblue 4. Theme vs. no theme vs....
Despite the promise of theme, while playing I have never once felt like I was developing a character or story. And perhaps that's my fault and lack of experience and imagination in the role playing world, but this has been a slight disappointment. The game feels like another mechanical dice game. And that's fine! It feels like a very good and unique mechanical dice game, but it doesn't feel thematic WHILE PLAYING! HOWEVER, once you've completed the process, you do get a great sense of accomplishment for having created a character and you can tell a neat story about his or her life adventures! Why was your Elf a devoted maniac? Why did he need a full set of chainmail? Why did he fail at loyalty? All these questions need answering!!! I for one can't finish a game of Roll Player WITHOUT coming up with fun answers to all these questions!

soblue 5. Artwork is poopy
Obviously, art appreciation is a very personal thing, but for me, the artwork in Roll Player just doesn't work. It's dark, dingy, and all blends together. But this is my review and my opinion. The artwork doesn't exactly deter from the fun experience of the game, but I think the game would attract more people if it looked a little nicer.



Final Word


Roll Player is super! I was hooked on its wild dice rolling, extensive scoring options, and fun theme from the start! The artwork may be less than sublime, but I'm happy to look past that to the fun and pleasant game that lies beneath. And the stories I get to tell at the end of each game are just priceless! Roll Player is a sweet treat at any time of day! Deep enough for a main course but procedurally light enough for an end-of-night session, it's dice-rolling perfection!

MINA'S LOVE METER heartheartheartheart LOTS OF LOVE




***






The Overview


Both Peter and I are great fans of Factory Fun and Funner and enjoyed Samara when we played it, so I decided to Kickstart Corné van Moorsel's Habitats on that basis. Plus, the game comes with a random assortment of adorable porcelain animals! That totally sold me!

Habitats is a maze/puzzle game in which you first use your animal avatar to navigate a 4x4 grid of landscape/animal tiles in order to claim one tile each turn and then add these to your own wildlife park. Your animal avatar's orientation is important, as it changes orientation to face the tile it has just taken and it can only move diagonally or forward to select habitat tiles from the grid. It can never move backwards.


Starting tiles



Each animal tile you add to your park has a habitat requirement and won't score unless it is surrounded by the correct configuration of habitats.

The game is played over the course of 3 rounds, at the end of each of which you will score a goal tile revealed at the start of the game.





At the end of the game, you will add the points shown on the animals you have managed to surround with the proper habitats, for flowers, for tourists (which like to see LARGE habitats of specific types or SINGLE habitats of specific types), access roads (which must be surrounded by a specific number of tiles), and outposts (which score for adjacent animals/flowers or animals/flowers in a straight/diagonal line).



The Review


Played Prior to Review 7x






1. Fun and unique production choice
Aside from being a Corné van Moorsel tile-laying game, the main draw of Habitats for me was the unique production choice made by the designer/publisher to feature a random assortment of ceramic animal characters in each copy of his game. I love surprises, so this was a very exciting feature of the game for me! However, if you are averse to surprises, you may not be similarly enthused.

2. Quick and easy to learn and play
Habitats takes about 20 minutes to play with two players and is very easy to teach. You can explain the game in about 2 minutes and be off and playing without problems.

3. Satisfying
I love building things and Habitats allows me to build one of my favorite things - a wildlife park! The tiles are cute and colorful and make the most fun, animal-filled little tableau you can appreciate at the end of each game.

4. Some planning, some tactical maneuvering
There is a lot to think about in this puzzle! First, you have the tile selection puzzle that forces you to plan your animal's movement to ensure you are able to gain tiles that will work well together and then you have the tile positioning puzzle in which you have to plan an optimal spatial arrangement for your park in order to both satisfy the round objectives and the requirements of each animal.

The tile selection puzzle is made interesting by the fact that your animal figure's orientation determines the tiles from which you are able to select. You can only select tiles in front or to either side of your figure, so if you move into a corner, you end up restricting your options, but it can be necessary to do this at times because a particularly attractive animal or rare habitat is waiting in the corner.

And the tile laying puzzle is made interesting by the dual nature of planning your park in a way that creates synergies between animals with similar habitat requirements and the end-of-round objectives.

5. Great scaling
I have played Habitats a number of times with two players and once with 5 players and the game didn't change very much between 2 and 5 players. Other than duration and the fact that you have to keep track of more than a single other player's tableau when considering objective scoring, the game plays out surprisingly similarly.

Prior to playing with 5 players, I assumed that having so many animals on board would result in much randomness in tile selection, but the fact that the board increases in size with player count and the fact that objectives scale as well helped to ensure that the game actually felt pretty much the same. I will say that I preferred playing with two because the game was a bit too long for me with 5, but it was generally equally challenging and enjoyable at both player counts.

6. High replay value
Habitats may not be a super deep game, so intrinsic replay value may not be the highest; you can pretty much discover most of what the game has to offer in a single play. HOWEVER, that isn't to say that the game isn't open to repeat plays. There are plenty of variable factors in setup and gameplay to ensure that each game presents you with a unique puzzle.

First, there are 9 end-of-round scoring goals and you will only use 3 in any given game. Plus, those goals can be arranged in many different ways because they are not round specific!

Second, you have a box CHOCK FULL of habitat/animal tiles! Particularly if you are playing with two players, you will not come even close to using HALF, let alone, all of them! The unique layout and development of the 4x4 grid of tiles will also ensure that you have to solve a different movement puzzle each time in order to select tiles with the most synergies!

7. Learning
If you have kids and you want to teach them about animals, Habitats would be a great way to introduce them to some of the lesser known species! I had never heard of a number of animals in the game before playing myself!



soblue


soblue 1. Rulebook makes me sad
The rulebook is not very clear when it comes to explaining key aspects of the game. There are a few items that should have been spelt out explicitly rather than implicitly assumed to enhance ease of initial learning. Specifically, the thing that bothers me most about the rulebook is the fact that it does not spell out the fact that animals DO NOT block each other! They can skip over each other to move to the next available tile if needed. The only movement they cannot make is a backwards movement.

This rule was something that we played incorrectly a number of times. In fact, we played it incorrectly until one of us got blocked in a corner and became unable to take a single tile from the grid. At that point, we scoured the book and had to assume from the wording that animals do not in fact block each other.

soblue 2. Keeping track of animals can be fiddly
The rulebook suggests that you place animal tiles whose habitat requirements have yet to be fulfilled sideways and ones whose habitat requirements have been fulfilled right side up in your park in order to keep track of what you need to work on and what you've achieved. While it is certainly desirable to track your progress and keep ALL the various objectives you've taken on in clear view at all times, the tile rotating suggestion isn't a very good one. I have thin fingers and I'm quite careful when manipulating tiles and I still find myself tearing my entire park apart when trying to rotate the tiles. I think tokens or some other tracking device should have been included in the game to make this process a bit more elegant.

soblue 3. The ceramic animals are a bit scratchy on the bottom
I had to cover the bottoms of the animals with nail polish because they kept scratching my table. Beware, they may scratch yours if it's delicate.

Final Word


If you love a good puzzle, Habitats is sure to please. This dual-phase, multi-layered puzzle will challenge the most capable puzzlers and the unique pieces used in the game will delight younger and older players alike. It might be silly, but I love the process of selecting my animal avatar at the start of each game. It makes each game a little special. And the puzzles make each game highly compelling!

MINA'S LOVE METER heartheartheart SOME LOVE




***


First Impressions






I always look forward to What's Your Game? games and Railroad Revolution was their big release of 2016! The designers' (Marco Canetta and Stefania Niccolini) previous collaboration, ZhanGuo, is my favorite WYG title to date, so I was EXTRA eager to try Railroad Revolution! And it couldn't come soon enough!!!!

In Railroad Revolution, you are developing the American railway system and, of course, competing to do the best job! You start the game with a small set of workers. Each turn, you place a worker to perform a main action and then may perform an auxiliary action that depends on the color of worker you placed. Actions include things like building stations in cities to which you are connected, extending your rail network, building telegraph offices, and selling off a rail or building to raise money.

The game ends when one player has built all of their buildings, at which point you gain points for completed goals, having built connected buildings in telegraph spots, your performance on performance tracks for your buildings and rail network (because no WYG game is complete without TRACKS! ), and face-up trains.



Railroad Revolution turned out to be everything I was hoping it would be AND MORE! At first blush, it seems like a simple worker placement game, but the interaction between the main actions, which are unaffected by the type of worker you place, and the bonus actions, which are affected by the type of worker you place, can create quite a planning conundrum, primarily because you don't get your workers back until you've used them all! So, you have to carefully plan the type and sequence of actions to which you commit your various workers. Fortunately, the game's system isn't quite as simple as all this (though even what I've described thus far is far from "simple" in objective game terms). You do have ways of manipulating the types of workers you have and ways of acquiring additional workers through the actions you take, which further complicates your sequencing operations!

One thing I will say that I dislike about this and most WYG games is the artwork. This game looks like every other WYG title and every other WYG title looks as boring as any single fleck of sand in the desert. I do wish heavy games could look as fun and exciting as...say, IELLO games like Sea of Clouds. More pretty, please! Gamers who prefer heavier games aren't immune to aesthetic considerations and prettier artwork would only draw more people to these types of games! Oh well. I'm not a publisher, so what do I know?

Ultimately, Railroad Revolution offers an intensely satisfying combination of worker placement and route building that I can't wait to further explore!



***






Phalanxx is a game I purchased at Spiel, but lost track of due to a) its small size and b) the hotness of the others. However, it is a game that deserves to get attention. A unique mix of area control, dice-based action selection, and card drafting with a civ theme, Phalanxx is surprisingly satisfying.

In Phalanxx, you lead one of up to four competing factions, vying to rule the now waning empire of Alexander the Great. Each turn, you may first buy an Era card to add to your hand. Era cards give you strength, scoring options, or allow you to bend the rules of the game in various ways, but they have conditions that must be met before they can be played and the conditions typically require either that you have a certain amount of cash or that you have a certain configuration of dice on your board.

You start the game with 3 "home" dice and pair them with "traveling" dice you roll each turn. The pairs of dice determine which actions are available to you. You may
1) Play an era card to your tableau
2) Conquer a region
3) Push the "traveling" die into the position of one of your home dice to replace it
4) Take income and exchange one of your home dice with a home die of another player with the same value.



To do most actions, the traveling die you use has to be the same or higher value of a corresponding home die in your display, so you are able to take UP TO 3 actions, but that number is not guaranteed. The only exceptions are the "push" and "exchange" actions.

The game ends when the stack of Era cards has been depleted, at which point you get points for strength, scoring cards, territory control, having sets of unit types if you've fulfilled certain conditions, and having engaged in warfare during the game.



Phalanxx is a unique game. It combines a very clever and unique dice-based action selection system with combat, area control, and card drafting and thus occupies a unique niche. It is also cleverly scaled (only half the map and a subset of cards are used when playing with two players) and built to encourage player interaction by creating point-based incentives for fighting. I certainly look forward to trying this out again!



***






SCYTHE IS BACK!!! WOHOO!!!

This week, Peter picked up my Scythe expansion from Board Game Bliss and I had to take it out for a spin ASAP! Of course! Scythe is only one of my top 5 games of the year and one of my top 10 games of all time!

The Invaders from Afar expansion simply adds two new factions to the game - purple monkey girl and green boar guy! They do have names. They are the Albion and Togawa "factions." Albion has flags they can drop on territories as they move around the board, thus increasing the number of territories they control at the end of the game and Togawa has traps they can drop on territories as their leader moves around the board, thus laying fierce traps for their opponents and potentially adding to the number of territories they control at the end of the game if said traps don't trigger.

In addition to their new ways of gaining control over territories, the Togawa and Albion factions have another interesting feature - they don't have a mech ability that grants them an extra movement point. HOWEVER, they both have mech abilities that modify their movement in other ways, allowing them to move onto and off lakes and across rivers.



Overall, I was quite pleased with the new factions. For one thing, they add my favorite two colors to the game - GREEN AND PURPLE! But aside from that silliness, they legitimately change the way you play the game, forcing you to consider the best places to drop your traps, approach movement from different perspectives, and generally play the game a bit differently. Of course, if you won't be playing the game with 6 or 7 players, it isn't a NECESSARY expansion per se, but it definitely adds a nice bit of variety to the game.





***






Apparently, Arkham Horror Card Game is the most unlikely game for me to obtain. But I did!

Arkham Horror Card Game is an LCG in which you build a deck of cards to represent your character's abilities and actions before diving into the campaign.

You and your friends take on the roles of investigators who are trying to "solve" mysteries in a series of connected scenarios by exploring various locations, fighting and evading monsters, and fulfilling a variety of objectives.

The game revolves around two decks - an agenda deck, representing the enemies' progress towards their goal and an objective deck, representing the players' progress towards their goal.

Each round, you perform the following phases:
1. Mythos phase - Place a doom token on the current agenda and advance the agenda deck if the doom requirement of the current agenda has been fulfilled
2. Investigation phase - Each player performs 3 actions, choosing from among the following: draw a card, gain a resource, activate a card ability, engage an enemy, investigate a location, move to a new connected location, play a card from hand by paying required resources, evade an enemy, or fight an enemy
3. Enemy phase - Enemies move and attack
4. Upkeep phase - Ready exhausted cards, each player draws 1 card and gains 1 resource, discard down to 8 hand cards

The game ends if all players are killed, players fulfill their objective, or the monster agenda deck runs out. Whether you win or lose, you will read a scenario outcome from the campaign guide and may gain experience based on your progress.



This game. Ugh. This game. First, it took FOREVER to set up. We played the introductory scenario and by the time we found all the cards we needed to build our two decks and all the cards we needed to build the monster deck and the locations, we were already done. It seriously took that long (90 min to get through the rulebook and setup process) soblue. By the time we were finished setting up, I was ready to be done with the game.

Next, it is soooo random. You have a HUGE deck of cards that you will never get through and whether you succeed or fail at fights, investigations, or any other tests is very much determined by having the right cards with the right symbols and drawing the right nasty random chits of randomness that modify the character stats being tested.

That said, I got an odd sense of enjoyment from the game. I was both frustrated with the randomness and intrigued by the prospect of going through a campaign. The game felt like a combination of Elder Sign without dice and Mansions of Madness without all the awesomeness STUFF and story of that game ( ).

I also enjoyed the fact that you DON'T have to build a deck for your character if you want to. I am pretty much done with pre-game deck building (Magic burned me out on that stuff), so it was a pleasant surprise to find suggested decks for each character. Of course, it's probably preferable that you modify these decks to suit your preferences and the goals of each scenario, but the fact that I don't necessarily HAVE to do that and the fact that I don't have to start from scratch if I do decide to do that are encouraging.

Having only played the introductory scenario, which is not part of the proper campaign, there isn't much more that I can add, but I will continue to play on!



***


What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Terraforming Mars
Terraforming Mars was the first game we played this week because I was to join Rahdo on his Final Thoughts video for it! I needed a refresher because I hadn't played it since BEFORE ESSEN SPIEL!!!

In this game, I got a crazy starting hand/corporation combo! I was Phobo and had a card that further increased the value of my titanum and a card that allowed me to use titanium and money to build lakes! That set me on a course of titanium domination. I focused on keeping only cards that increased my titanium production or allowed me to make use of my titanium early in the game. And the fact that I was able to create lakes out of money and titanium meant that I was also able to get my TR rating and round-by-round income up relatively quickly as well. Peter wasn't too far behind. He had a crazy heat thing going, but he failed to focus on actually doing things on Mars enough, as usual, and ended up losing.





Aeon's Endx3
We have now played Aeon's End nearly 10 times and each game has played out very differently! I adore how entirely differently each nemesis makes each game. The Glutton has been my favorite because he changes the end game condition and makes a bunch of market cards effectively useless. His attacks eat market cards and the game ends when the market runs out of cards. He basically ignores players and Gravehold, so market cards that give you life become much less sexy than they would be otherwise. You just have to collect as many aggressive spells as you can as quickly as possible and kick his ass to the ground!

Love this game! In fact, I love it so much that I decided to do a Mina's Game Face series (like I did for 4 Gods ). You can see my progress up to now at the end of this post.







First Class
First Class eluded me the first two times we played it, but I think I finally got it!

We played with Modules A and D. D introduces the concept of passengers and baggage. These cards have cabin requirements (i.e. they can only be placed in cabins that have been upgraded to a certain level) and they either provide money (passengers) or action bonuses and points (baggage).

I LOVED the passenger/baggage module. I love upgrading and expanding my trains rather than focusing on the Paris connection, so I was delighted to find a new way to squeeze even more points out of my train! In this game, Peter focused on building his Paris connection. As usual. He kept making many points and scoring many bonuses each round. His bonuses SEEMED much more effective than my train points, but in the end, we ended up tied! TIED! I was happy to find that my lack of Paris connecting didn't result in an epic fail! It does appear that you can focus on either aspect of the game when playing with this combination of modules! And that makes me happy!





Noch mal!
Noch Mal! Always a delight! Fast, fun, and filled with dice and colors! In this game, I was focused on filling up the colors as soon as possible, while Peter was focused on filling up the columns. What I learned from this game was that the color completion bonuses can be quite effective!



Round House
We played with the promo "expert" cards for the first time this week! I didn't even know I had them!!! I threw them in with a bunch of other promos I received during the Spiel fair and simply forgot about them. Well, I righted that wrong this week!

I typically focus on hiring helpers who can add to my jewelry collection, but they didn't become available in this game, so I decided to focus on fulfilling goals instead. I had the Wealthy Man, who helped me gain points whenever I got gold resources. I eventually managed to collect a crazy set of goal cards that gave me bonuses every turn I acquired any resource, which created a kind of crazy loop of point and goal card acquisition. Needless to say, I won by a loooooooooooooooooooooong shot.





51st State: Master Set
We hadn't played 51st State Master Set in FOREVER (all the Essen releases pushed my earlier favorites of the year out of mind) and I am a bit dependent on it, so I HAD to get a game of it in this week!

For some reason, I KNEW I was going to draw the Hegemony. I JUST KNEW IT! I saw the pink-haired punk girl and immediately thought, "YEP. That's gonna be me." And sure enough, it was. Peter drew the Appalachians.

I started the game with a great combination of cards that allowed me to gain guns and then use those to gain points and various benefits whenever I razed. So, I spent the rest of the game razing heck and it was over in no time!





Pandemic Iberia
After last week's miserable defeat, this week, we were determined to save the world from Typhus! The various disease characteristics in Iberia dramatically change the way you have to approach the game. Typhus makes the red disease more difficult to treat, demanding that you spend two actions instead of one to treat the red disease in any city containing 2 or more red disease cubes. This means you either ignore the red disease and let it run rampant or try to take care of it before it gets out of hand by purifying water in the red regions and/or treating single cubes. We decided to go the ignore/purify water strategy because I had the Agrarian role, which allowed me to purify water as an action without discarding any cards. That was nice. And Peter was the railway man, so he just kept building our rail network in the red region so we could zip over there whenever the need arose. We ended up taking care of Typhus quite easily! But we did play on easy mode this time . Regular was way too hard! Excited to play this some more! The new hospital functions, railways, and disease attributes change the game for the better for sure!





Colony
We hadn't played Colony in a while and I was feeling something quick and dicey one night and Peter saw it on the shelf, so out it came!

Peter was going for a hoarding strategy because he didn't want to repeat his typical Fallout Shelter wins. He got two Stockpiles and expanded his storage, but that was useless against my two-pronged approach of Fallout Shelter and Fort Antonia. Of course, it was only ineffective because he failed to expand his dice pool as quickly as he normally does, which is something he said at the end of the game. Sometimes switching your strategy can leave you fumbling for no good reason!





Honshu
I love the alternate scoring cards in Honshu and while we had played through most of them already, we had never actually tried scoring card #1! This one allows you to deliver 2 resources to each factory at the end of the game, which makes hoarding resources very attractive!

In addition to hoarding resources, Peter decided to focus on lakes, while I went for city scoring. And Peter ended up winning by 1 point!





Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
This was the FASTEST game of Clank! EVER!!! FASTEST! It lasted about 20 minutes and I only managed to get a handful of cards into my deck before it was over.

Early in the game, I picked up a couple of chalices from the ? tiles and quickly decided to race to a reasonably located artifact and get the heck out of the dungeon. I could see that Peter was trying to get to the 25-point artifact and I wanted to ensure he was dead before he could get to it! Because I'm evil like that.

My progress through the dungeon was sped by the fact that the starting market display was filled with movement cards. I was able to stuff my deck with those and run, run, run! Of course, I made it out of the dungeon in record time and just had to wait for Peter to get out. He did manage to get an artifact, but had to give up the 25-point one when he realized what I was up to.

I just love how different this game feels depending on the market cards and the side of the board you're playing! FUN!





Inis
This was the FASTEST game of Inis EVER!!!! It really was! When I got Exploration AND the Druid AND the Geis counterspell thing in my starting hand, I knew what I had to do. I decided to do my darnest to gain control over 6 territories. It's my favorite way to win the game, so that worked out nicely . I could see that Peter was going for the sanctuary control victory condition and he quickly caught onto the fact that I was trying to rule the world. Of course, because I had all the cards I did, he had all the cards that allowed him to place dudes on the map, which left me at a bit of a disadvantage when it came to unit count, but I kept getting some combination of the Expansion, Geis, and Druid in my hand in each subsequent round and very quickly managed to overrun the map. I feel like Peter COULD have done something about that had he started to fight me early. He did take out a bunch of my units, but he didn't move into as many territories early in the game to pick fights as I would have had I been him. Oh well.




I CANNOT SAY ENOUGH GOOD THINGS ABOUT THIS ARTWORK! LOOK!!!!!


Rolling America
This was yet another game of Rolling America that ended in a tie. Of course, this game tends to be close, but Peter and I just can't seem to stop ending things in ties! Peter was spending FOREVER on trying to perfectly plan his little American paradise with each die roll and I was just intuitively plopping numbers down wherever they seemed like they wouldn't cause too much trouble later on. And we ended in a tie. I think. We often make mistakes in this game...



Dream Home
This was yet another game of Dream Home that ended in a tie. For the past THREE GAMES of Dream Home, Peter and I have ended in a tie! I was focused on decorating the heck out of my home, hoping to get the Interior Decorator at some point, while Peter was focused on screwing the heck out of me every turn! He managed to stay first player throughout a majority of the game's duration because every time I took the first player marker from him, he would just yank it right back the next turn. I stopped trying at some point. It worked out...I guess. I was quite sad that he managed to get the pickup truck...I feel like a failure if I fail to get the pickup truck.





***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Ulm - Ulm! I've heard great things about this game from friends and I can't wait to finally try it myself!
2. Touria - I'm a big fan of Inka and Markus Brand, so this game was an inevitability. The theme and the two-phase race system are an interesting combination (and by interesting I mean odd), but the way the actions are executed (i.e. with rotating castle thingies!) sealed the deal!
3. Rome: City of Marble - I REALLY wanted to try this game while I was Dice Tower Con. It looks so super cool! I do love puzzly, tile-laying games, so I was quite confident I'd enjoy it. However, I never got the chance! When I was free, somebody was playing it and when I was playing something else, it was available. Well, I will finally try it! Excited!

***


Next Week...


Look forward to a full review for Aeon's End and, of course, something else!

***


MINA'S LOVE METER

angry Burn it! - I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale)
Dislike - I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale)
heart Some like - I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale)
heart heart Like - I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart Some love - I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart Lots of love - I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart heart All love all the time - I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)


***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING heart



Incomplete Aeon's End love!
Twitter Facebook
84 Comments
Fri Dec 16, 2016 9:00 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
279 
 Thumb up
5.50
 tip
 Hide

In Which the Blood of an Englishman is Injected with Solarium! * New Reviews for SOLARIUS MISSION & BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN * First Impressions for AEONS END, TRAMWAYS, PANDEMIC IBERIA,AIRLINES,BACKSTAGE, NOCH MAL!, VALE OF MAGIC, LIGNUM, & FOUR SUSPECTS

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Friends!


This week was a HUGE improvement over the previous one! Thank you all for your kind messages and comments! They have meant more to me than you will ever know. heart

Not only have I been feeling better this week, I also got to be GEEK OF THE WEEK! This has been a huge honor thanks to
Raf Cordero
United States
Bolingbrook
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
! Thank you!!! If you'd like to ask some random questions, you still have a couple of days to do so! You can do that here if you feel so inclined.

Without further nonsense, I present to you...GAMES!!!!! ALL OF THEM!!!!



***


What's New?






The Overview


In Solarius Mission, you and your friends take on the roles of brave, dice-wielding space explorers who are trying to upgrade their ships, develop technologies, build space stations, complete missions, colonize planets, and generally explore the heck out of space!

You start the game with a basic spaceship and some basic storage and dice abilities. Each turn, you select one action die from a rotating action-selection wheel that determines the number of bonus resources you have to pay/you gain for selecting that die. The action you take is related to the color of the die, with black and yellow die providing one of two types of resources and the blue and brown die either providing their respective resource or allowing you to upgrade your resource storage abilities or upgrade dice values, which come into effect when determining the action points available for resource-based actions.


Player board


The map


After this main dice-based action, you may take one of a variety of supplementary actions. Some involve moving your spaceship around the galaxy and building space stations, completing missions, and colonizing planets. Others do not involve your spaceship. Instead, they allow you to gain tech cards, play tech cards, or add upgrades to your ship.

At the end of the game, you gain points for MANY different things, including ship upgrades, colonized planets, completed missions, upgraded dice, unlocked storage spaces, etc. You also lose points for planets you've committed to colonizing but failed, missions you've committed to completing but failed, as well as extraneous space junk you've taken on by selecting more flexible alternatives for your dice.


Building bonuses


Mission/tech cards


Action dice wheel


Stations


The Review


Played prior to review 8x






1. Pretty
I very much enjoy the retro sci-fi aesthetic of Solarius Mission. It doesn't look like every space game out there and I appreciate that. The little plastic ships are also a nice touch in what is otherwise a very "cube-pushy" game.

2. Fast playing
Solarius Mission takes surprisingly little time to play given its depth and complexity. You can get a two-player game done in 45 minutes.

3. Unique dice-based action selection
A number of dice-based action selection games have been published in the recent past. The designers' own, La Granja, as well as Grand Austria Hotel and Lorenzo il Magnifico immediately come to mind because they are my favorites. However, Solarius Mission sets itself apart from the others by its unique lazy-Susan-style spinny dice wheel!

The dice wheel is particularly pleasant when playing with two players because the available dice don't change much from turn to turn. Only one player removes only one action die before your turn comes around, so you have a relatively good idea about how to valuate the actions against each other. With more players, there would be more turnaround and perhaps a bit more randomness...

In addition to making for a happy two-player experience, the dice wheel gives you a lot to think about. You have 4 actions available to you and given the fact that you have a total of 16 dice actions to take over the course of the game, you have to ensure that you get the most out of each die you select. You get bonus coins or fuel for selecting dice that have been rotting on the wheel for a while, but those dice typically allow you to perform weak actions. Over time, they become more attractive. Deciding when to strike isn't easy.

The dice wheel also forces you to consider the combination of dice available and the likelihood of getting the dice you need on your next turn when deciding which die to select. There might be a die with a particularly powerful action you don't need and one with a weak action you do. Because the game gives you multiple things to do with resources, you might be tempted to take the more powerful action over the less powerful one just because you can convert the resources you gain for multiple ends, including completing missions, building stations, and converting into coins/fuel. Of course, this type of decision making is inherent in any dice-selection game, but with the wheel, you don't know which die will become available next, so you have to a) make an educated guess and b) take a risk. Your dice selection will be largely influenced by tactical considerations, as you try to make the most of what the wheel presents to you in order to feed into your overall strategy.

4. Unique multi-layered tech upgrades
Solarus Mission is filled with techs! But the techs I'm referring to here are your dice and their associated resource slots. Not only do you have to upgrade the dice themselves to increase your ability to perform more powerful actions associated with those die colors, fulfill planetary colonization requirements, and potentially gain points from the dice themselves, but you also have to push those dice further up their tracks in order to reveal a sufficient number of resource slots to be able to complete point-giving missions and stations.

I love the interaction between the die values and the ability to perform their associated actions, as well as the resource slots. The blue and brown dice are particularly important in this department, as they are the ones that allow you to directly manipulate the resource slots and die values, but the other dice can come in handy as well because you are able to use one die as a die of any color once per round.

Ultimately, the interactions between the various functions of the tech dice and their locations on your resource/tech mat is a neat feature of Solarius Mission and one that makes it stand apart from others.

5. Neat multi-use card system
Mission and tech cards are two sides of the same card, meaning that you have to choose between gaining a tech upgrade and adding a point-generating mission to your board every time you play a card! This often creates a lot of tension, particularly because the cards themselves are not exactly plentiful or cheap to acquire.

6. Not enough time!
Solarius Mission is one of those games that gives you LOTS to do and doesn't give you nearly enough time or actions in which to do it. Action limitations encourage focus and efficiency and force you to make some very difficult tradeoffs. You have a grand total of 16 dice actions over the course of the game! And in these 16 actions, you have to make resources, use those resources to complete missions and build stations, play tech and mission dice, upgrade dice and make space for resources...There is a lot to do! Of course, the "bonus" actions you are able to perform help you get things done, but the game nevertheless remains a tight and intensely challenging affair. As you become familiar with the game and come to see the ways it provides you with a relatively high level of flexibility when it comes to getting things done, the constraint becomes less of a factor, but never goes away.

7. Constraint and flexibility
Solarius Mission is a tight and unforgiving game that makes you feel like a slug in a straitjacket but at the same time gives you multiple ways to accomplish the things you want to accomplish. Being resourceful and clever about manipulating the various options given to you in the game is instrumental to finding satisfaction in it.

By way of example, the basic way to make resources in the game is to select a die of the color of resource you're after and receive the number of resources equal to the number of pips shown. However, you can also explore planets to receive resources instead of colonizing them, you can convert money to resources, etc.

You are also able to increase the number of pips you have at any time by spending money! And tech cards can give you additional flexibility by giving you additional pips or resources or other effects!

8. A number of strategic paths to follow
As I mentioned above, Solarius Mission is a game in which you will never be able to do everything! You have to focus! That said, the game gives you plenty of ways to make points, which means you can pursue a slightly different path every time. You can focus on planetary colonization, mission completion, space station building, etc.



soblue


soblue 1. Scripted opening
Although you are faced with a different setup and different tech cards in each game, the game tends to play out similarly in the beginning every time. This could be a bit of group think, but there just doesn't seem to be much you CAN do early in the game with your "bonus" actions other than to move your ship and see what's under the nearest planet...

soblue 2. Quite a bit of hidden information, which can make for a significant luck factor
I don't like a lot of hidden information and randomness in my strategy games. It's like putting fruit loops in coffee! It just doesn't work! Not for me anyway. Solarius Mission is on the borderline of annoying to me when it comes to the amount of hidden information in the game. Had they stuck in one more piece of randomness, my head would have been spinning. I'm happy with the game as is, but I understand that some people might find it a bit frustrating.

So where is all this randomness? First, you have face-down space stations that are revealed round by round. The space stations give you bonus points when you colonize planets or build other things beside them, so they are important. You are fighting for every point you can get in this game and an extra point from building beside a space station can make or break you! So, having these randomly revealed throughout the course of the game can be somewhat problematic. I realize that this is meant to encourage interaction between players and fighting over the space stations that have been revealed, so I can live with it, but it's not my favorite thing.

Second, you have the face-down planets to colonize. Some are easy to colonize, but reward you with a small number of points and others are much more difficult to colonize, but reward you with a few more points. The issue here is the colonization bonus. You get a bonus of 2 or 4 points for colonizing planets of 3 or 4 colors. If you happen to get very unlucky and end up revealing nothing but harder-to-colonize planets or planets whose colonization requirements don't align with your existing plans, you are at a disadvantage as compared to someone who happens to get a bunch of easy-to-colonize planets.

Third, you have the tech deck. Similarly to the planets, tech/mission card draws can be a boon or a "screw you" when it comes to points depending on whether you get lucky or unlucky. If you happen to draw a card that features resource colors you are able to get easily due to having upgraded those dice and resource slots, good for you! If not, boo.

Fourth, you have the action dice! You are randomly drawing dice out of a bag! Not only are dice colors relevant to determining the type of action you can take (and you can only change the color of a die once per round), their values are relevant to determining how powerful the action you take is. Of course, the just-rolled die is slightly nerfed by the fact that you have to spend a coin or fuel to take it, but if you happen to get unlucky (particularly in the final round) and miss out on a die that would allow you to complete a mission or planetary colonization requirement, too bad. And sometimes, you will have to take a chance and hope that you will have another opportunity to take a particular die...an opportunity that may never arise.

None of this is to say that I dislike the game for the level of randomness involved, but it is to warn those who are obsessive about control that there are some things in this game that you just won't know and won't be able to fully control. It's an amazing game, but there are one or two fruit loops in this coffee...

soblue 3. Production
Personally, I don't see too much of a problem with sticker dice, but they seem to be anathema to most people, so sticker dice soblue

Now, I didn't actually have to physically sticker all the dice included in the game, so I am a bit spoiled when it comes to all the sticker dice hate business, but I would definitely not be pleased with having to put stickers on the huge number of dice that come in the game, so perhaps I can get on board the sticker hate after all!

The second production-related issue is the fact that you have to literally GLUE things together! To get the lazy-Susan wheel thingy to work, you have to GLUE the pieces together and the pieces are things you could easily end up throwing out because they look like garbage. So...problem.

The third production-related issue is the fact that the wheel thingy doesn't stay together. Even after you've done all the requisite glueing, it just spins on top and comes apart...

Finally, the rulebook states that if you take an action die depicting 3 resources, you have to take a space poop, but there is no icon to indicate this...

soblue 4. Rulebook stinks!
Thankfully, it doesn't LITERALLY stink, but the Solarius Mission rulebook leaves something to be desired. The layout of the book made it unnecessarily difficult to learn the game and the constant repetition of certain pieces of information over others (pieces of information that were not necessarily particularly difficult to remember) overshadowed other pieces of equally important information. What's more, the rulebook uses the term "turn" interchangeably for "turn" and "round," which left Peter at a complete loss when first learning the game. He had quite the time trying to separate "player turn" from "turn." Bottom line: STINKY rulebook!

soblue 5. There are more "bonus" action options than "regular" action options, which feels very strange
This might be another rulebook-related criticism, but the fact that there are more "bonus" action options than "regular" action options and that there is literally a little tree diagram for the bonus actions that branch in "with travel" and "without travel" directions confused me to no end when first learning the game. Perhaps if more descriptive terminology had been selected for the actions (like "dice actions" and "non-dice actions"), the process would have made more sense to me. As it is, it took longer to process than strictly necessary.



Final Word


Solarius Mission is a special game. It combines a unique mechanism for dice-based action selection with a spatial movement/building mechanism, upgrade-able tech dice, and fun card combos! It stands apart from the rest of the 2016 crop of games by doing something different - action dice wheel + upgrade dice! It pulls you in different directions, but doesn't allow you to pursue them all, which creates the most delicious of conundrums! Despite the negatives, this is one of my favorite games of the year!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE




***






The Overview


Blood of an Englishman is an asymmetric two-player card game that is thematically based on the Jack and the Beanstalk story. One player takes on the role of Jack, who is trying to climb the beanstalk and steal 3 different treasures from the giant, while the other player takes on the role of the giant, who is trying to get his Fee, Fi, Fo, and Fum cards in order in order to scare Jack away.


Setup


The game starts with 5 separate beanstalks that each consist of 10 cards. Each turn, the giant is able to manipulate the front of the beanstalks either by moving 4 adjacent cards at the end of one stalk to another, by moving two cards from the end of any stalk to the end of another, or by eliminating one stalk card from the game. Jack is able to make 3 small moves, moving cards from the back to the front of stalks and adding stalk cards to his own personal beanstalk. To climb the beanstalks, Jack must acquire 6 beanstalk cards of ascending values and top each with a unique treasure.

The game ends when one player accomplishes the character goal.



The Review


Played prior to review 6x






1. Small and portable
Nothing more than a tiny deck of cards, Blood of an Englishman is portable and travel friendly. Now, you won't be able to play it on an airplane tray table unless you're on one of those super duper monster flights with giant Donald Trump sized tables, but you can easily play in the airport.

2. Fast
Blood of an Englishman won't take much of your space or your time. The clever "pruning" of the game space ensures that the game doesn't go on for too long despite its tug-of-war-ish nature. You can play this in about 15 minutes.

3. Tense
Tiny and fast-playing games can be as tiny and fast playing as they like, but it they give you nothing in return even for the tiny space and time investment, they are still soblue. Good news! Blood of an Englishman is a tiny investment in space and time (and $$$), but it gives you a HUGE payoff in tense decision points, replay value, and fun.

First, the game is tense. It is essentially a race, as the first player to fulfill the character (Jack or Giant) objective wins the game. And because every decision you make affects not only your progress towards your own goal, but also your opponent's progress towards their goal, every decision is filled with a huge amount of tension. When playing as Jack, you have to focus on trying to acquire the lowest-valued beanstalk cards to ensure that you are able to build 3 stalks AND focus on trying to keep the Fee, Fi, Fo, and Fum cards buried in the stacks. When playing as the giant, you have several tactical options at your disposal for dealing with pesky Jack's pursuit of low-valued stalk cards and treasures; you can destroy the low-valued stalk cards or bury them.

4. Highly replayable
You can play as Jack. You can play as the Giant. And playing as each character is quite unlike playing as the other. Like any asymmetric game, Blood of an Englishman comes with an inherently high level of replay value, as you are faced with mastering what are effectively two different games.

And like a fine wine, Blood of an Englishman improves with time...or in this case, experience. As you become familiar with how each character operates, you become better able to keep your mind on the two games that are happening at once and the game becomes more of a controlled battle of wits.

5. Fun
If you find a head-to-head battle of wits fun, Blood of Englishman is sure to satisfy. It's a relatively light and fast-playing game, so it's not something you will (or at least I don't) take too seriously. And dark though it may be, it is set in a fairy tale world, which further adds to the sense of "lightness" and fun. The art could have been a bit lighter, but that's a story for a different section of this review...

6. Thematic
Blood of an Englishman may seem quite abstract, but it is well themed. Now, don't go thinking this is one of those uber theme games! No! It's not! However, when you are playing as Jack, you do feel like a little creature, fighting to make small bits of headway against a lumbering giant. You feel nimble and light thanks to your ability to perform many small actions.

As the giant, you are able to perform one "large" action each turn, which makes you feel slow, but powerful.

Ultimately, Blood of an Englishman is no theme-lover's fantasy, but the actions fit the characters nicely, which achieves at least some sense of thematic immersion...more than the average little card game.



soblue


soblue 1. Art direction is bleh
This is a tiny deck of cards and games that are nothing more than tiny decks of cards should look vibrant and beautiful and inviting. Blood of an Englishman? Not so much. It's dark and dreary and woefully sad. Art is a subjective matter and I'm sure people will enjoy the art in the game, but when I play a game set in a fairy tale world, I want to see magic. I don't see magic. Meh.

soblue 2. Setup could theoretically make the game easier or harder for one side?
This is theory and conjecture and quite possibly nonsense, but because this game depends so heavily on the arrangement of cards, the arrangement could potentially favor one side over the other. I'm sure this has been playtested up and down and doesn't pose a significant issue, but it does strike me as potentially problematic one time in a million...

Final Word


Blood of an Englishman does everything well! It's an easy-to-learn, quick-to-play, highly engaging and challenging, and portable game for anyone and everyone! If you enjoy a fast-paced, tense battle of wits, Blood of an Englishman is sure to satisfy. It certainly pleases me greatly and continues to improve with each play!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE




***


First Impressions






I have been looking forward to getting my fingers on Aeons End since the Kickstarter project was launched! Shadowrun: Crossfire is one of my favorite games ever and deck-building co-ops without the silly LCG business attached to their descriptions are few in number, so I had high hopes for Aeons End! A co-op, deck-building, non-LCG, variable turn-order, no-deck-shuffling (enough qualifiers!?) game with a tonne of characters and an awesomely beautiful world!? SIGN ME UP!

In Aeons End, you take on the roles of intrepid heroes defending the city of Gravehold against hordes of attacking monsters! In each game, you face a unique monster with a unique set of abilities and in each game, you take on the roles of a different set of characters and because both the monsters and characters act so differently from one another, each game feels very different from the previous one.

Because Aeons End is a variable-turn-order game, the first thing you do each round is to flip the turn card that determines whether one of the players or the monster takes a turn. On a player turn, you may first use any or all of your prepared spells on your enemy and then can take any number of actions using the cards you have in hand. You are not allowed to discard any cards, but you can always arrange the cards you've played in any order prior to discarding. Your actions include things like using gems to buy new cards, activating a partner's spell without exhausting it, using gems to activate your character's special ability, etc. Spell abilities generally allow you to punish the baddies and their minions.

The baddies like to do a lot of punishing of their own! Each turn, they unleash all their minions and powers revealed in previous turns and they do some new bad stuff, which can include punishing you, the players, or punishing the city of Gravehold.

The game ends either when Gravehold has been reduced to 0 life or when the baddie you are up against has been reduced to 0 life.





Aeons End is 1) innovative, 2) highly variable, 3) beautiful, and 4) incredibly challenging and satisfying.

Between the variable turn order, the lack of deck shuffling, and the combination of tower defense with deck building, the game has a lot to offer for those seeking something "different."

Aeons End is innovative and every session feels like a wholly new game. The monsters behave so differently from one another and some modify the win/loss conditions. Typically, you lose when Gravehold dies, but the Glutton, for example, doesn't touch Gravehold. Instead, he consumes the card market and you lose if he eats up all the cards before you kill him!

The characters themselves are also very different from one another, as each starts with a unique ability and character-specific card, as well as a uniquely composed deck and portal configuration.

Finally, the game comes with 42 different market cards (I'm including the expansions that came in the KS version) and you'll only use 9 of these in any given game!

Aeons End is also tense and challenging, with each of the games we've played so far ending either in a loss or a near loss! The victories feel all that much sweeter as a result!

Right now, Aeonss End is at the top of my list of game obsessions. I just can't get enough of trying the various character and monster combinations! I look forward to playing the heck out of this and writing a full review in the very near future! Maybe even next week!


Market cards


Characters and their special cards

n


***






As far as I'm concerned, THIS is the definitive version of Pandemic. Yes, Pandemic Legacy was the most amazing experience, but I will never play it again. Yes, the base game of Pandemic does have a gazillion expansions. I realize this. HOWEVER, Pandemic Iberia adds just enough extra stuff without overwhelming me or forcing me to fiddle around with too many options and decisions about HOW to play the game (which is what happens when trying to decide which expansion modules to include when playing regular Pandemic).

So how does Pandemic Iberia differ from Pandemic? First, it's pretty! Super pretty!!!!

Second, it is more challenging. You can't simply fly from place to place because flight has yet to be invented. Not only that, but you can't even zip from place to place by rail because you are also responsible for building that! In fact, you have an additional action - build rail! That said, you can move from one port city to another, but that only allows you a very limited degree of movement.

In addition to the rail building and greater restrictions on movement, you have two new challenges you can include in the game. I would recommend using one or both for maximum effect.

The first is the patient challenge. In this challenge, the cubes no longer represent disease, but patients. For each hospital in play, the closest patient of the same color moves one space towards the hospital each round. Once four patients are at a hospital, an outbreak occurs!

The second is the disease challenge. This challenge gives each disease an identity and a nasty unique characteristic! You can choose to play with one or more disease characteristics. We played with malaria (black), which resulted in two black cubes being added instead of one when infecting. It also resulted in a horrible loss for us.

Pandemic Iberia isn't just Pandemic; it's Pandemic improved! It definitely differs sufficiently from base Pandemic to warrant its inclusion in any Pandemic fanatic's collection! For those who are less fanatic about Pandemic, I would recommend this over vanilla Pandemic if you want a variable and slightly more challenging experience without having to buy expansions. Plus pretty!







***






Tramsways! I was super excited for this game because it's by Alban Viard, whose games I love and adore!

What is Tramways? It is a deck-building/route-building game in which you first bid for the right to add one of the two (when playing with two players) cards on display to your deck and then play the cards from your hand to take a total of 3 actions per round. Each card has 4 action slots and you can play each card for one action for free, but must take on stress (i.e. negative points) for each additional action you take. The thing is, you will HAVE to take some stress because one action is frequently not enough. The fact that you only draw cards at the end of a round of performing actions means that you have to maximize the effects of the cards you have in hand for the 3 actions you get in each round. So what are these actions? Cards allow you to build rail lines, upgrade rail lines, build buildings, upgrade buildings, and transport passengers from one building to another. You get a point for each link you own that a passenger traverses and you get points for links you've completed at the end of the game. You lose points for stress.

That's obviously a hugely simplified summary of the game because every action you take has additional requirements and transporting passengers may give you a bonus depending on where they end up, but it should suffice to give you an idea of the type of game we're dealing with here.



After one play, Tramways left me lost and confused. The game is both simple and complex (as Alban's games tend to be) and though I understood how everything worked, I couldn't understand how to get everything to work together. After the second play, everything came together, but despite the appealing hand/deck management and route-building logistics, a few things about the game just failed to please me.

First and foremost, there is a lot of randomness here. You are given some random starting cards that determine your starting buildings and available actions and get to select an extra one from a set of 4. Also, the cards available for bidding during a round could leave you at a disadvantage when it comes to being able to upgrade buildings and/or rail lines at all. If you happen to get one of these cards in your hand at the start of the game but another one doesn't become available over the course of the game, you're at an advantage. Then there's the deck shuffling business that results in a random assortment of cards in your hand each round. Of course, your hand limit is quite large, so you end up drawing your entire deck into your hand early in the game, but random card draw can screw you later on. Because you are so dependent on having the right combination of cards to do anything in this game (for example, you can't just play a card and build a link between two buildings - you have to play the card and the destination), having the right combination of cards in hand is vital.

That said, I have enjoyed my Tramways experiences. I enjoyed the race for links and the competition for buildings, which are few in number. I enjoyed the spatial planning of your rail network. And I enjoyed how swiftly the game played. I certainly look forward to trying additional setup configurations and facing new logistical challenges. Perhaps I will become better able to see the reasons for some of the design choices that haven't quite clicked for me yet after another session or two...





***






Airlines is impressive! Look at it! You are literally playing with little plastic airplanes! You are putting the plane pieces together to create super long, phallic airliners , and loading luggage meeples on and off of them!!!



I know what you're thinking. "TOTAL GIMMICK!" *eye roll* Am I right??? It may seem like a gimmick, but Airlines isn't a gimmick; it's a great game!

Airlines is a card/spinny thing (NOT a rondel, but I have no idea what it actually is, so let's call it a spinny thing...a lazy Susan perhaps? ) game in which you play one or more cards from your hand each turn. Each card features a special effect and every card features a similar set of general effects. Special effects can be permanent (buildings), which include things like gaining an extra point for each passenger of a specific color you unload, gaining extra points for unloading passengers of different colors, and being allowed to unload passengers of colors not depicted on your general action, and they can be immediate, which include things like playing extra cards, drawing cards, constructing building cards without paying costs, etc. General effects include gaining a point, picking up passengers, dropping off passengers, and improving your airline by building a new airport or improving your airliner by adding a new section to an existing airliner or starting a new one. The trick here is that the number of airliners you have constructed determines the number of general actions you get to take. Because you start the game with a single, basic airliner, you only get one general action. There's a great tension between extending existing airliners in order to accommodate more passengers and building additional airliners in order to gain additional actions.

Airlines is definitely more than a gimmick. Having only played once, I have yet to form a perfectly solid opinion about the game, but I can say that I very much enjoyed the combo-rrific wonders I could achieve by stringing the special and general effects of cards. I also loved the tension between building multiple airliners (in order to gain additional general effects every time you play a card for its general effect) and building one or two very large airliners (in order to more efficiently transport passengers for points). I can't wait to play again!



***






Shakespeare was one of my favorite games of 2015, but it didn't have quite enough variety to keep me playing constantly. Backstage promised to fix that.

Backstage adds to Shakespeare

a) New actors



b) New objectives, and



c) Backstage cards! Backstage cards allow you to make use of the action discs you do not bid



Backstage is a tiny expansion (a tiny deck of cards that fits in a tiny, throwaway box) that makes a huge contribution to the base game. Backstage cards are an easy addition to administer, as all you have to do is draw 4 cards each round, but they give you so much more to think about when deciding how many discs to bid. Because you have a new "backstage" set to outfit and this set can only be outfitted using backstage characters and because some characters allow you to take specific actors from the actor deck and others allow you to take set and costume dressings from the discard pile, backstage character powers can sway you to bid far fewer action discs on "regular" actions than you would otherwise. When deciding how many action discs to bid, you are now thinking not only about the tradeoff between 1 VP and an extra action, but also about the tradeoff between "regular" and "backstage" actions.

The new actors and objectives are nice, but Backstage cards are what makes Backstage shine!





***






Noch Mal! Apparently, this means, "AGAIN!" in German because you'll want to play it over and over again!

Despite its exclamatory title, Noch Mal! is a relatively generic and supremely light roll-and-write game in which the dice determine the color of spaces and the number of spaces that you must cross out on your player sheet. That said, it's oddly addictive! Hence the title?

Each round, you roll all the dice! The start player selects one color die and one number die and removes those from the pool. Then the other players select a color and number. Everybody crosses out the EXACT number of boxes of the color selected, with the caveat that all boxes must be in the same area and that they must be orthogonally adjacent to previously crossed out boxes. The first player to complete a column, scores the higher number of points for the column and everybody else scores the lower number of points. The first player to cross out all boxes of a color scores the higher number of points for the color and everybody else scores the lower number of points for that color. The game ends when one player has eliminated all boxes of 2 colors.

As I mentioned in the intro, Noch Mal! is a super light roll-and-write game. However, you do have a few things to consider when playing, which means it is going straight into my light gaming repository. Because the game ends when one player has crossed out all boxes of 2 colors and the color rewards are generally higher than the column rewards, the game pulls you to try to complete colors. However, you can't exclude columns from your plans because they can be lucrative sources of points, so you're constantly trying to align your color chasing with your column chasing and keeping an eye on your opponents to determine which columns/colors you stand the best chance of completing first.

One thing I did not enjoy about Noch Mal! is the fact that it is possible to have wasted turns in which you can literally do nothing. This is something that generally happens in these roll-and-write games; your decision space generally becomes so constricted later in the game that you can have turns in which you can do nothing. So, my complaint is not a damning condemnation of this game in particular, but a mere report of something I dislike about this type of game that just so happens to appear here. Of all the roll-and-write games I've played, Avenue is the one that manages to maintain the broadest decision space throughout the game. That said, Avenue is not exactly a roll-and-write game due to its lack of dice, but the cards fulfill a similar role.

The race, the luck pushing inherent in dice games, and the challenge of aligning column and color scoring make Noch Mal! a neat dice roller for anyone and everyone. I can't wait to introduce it to my sister and mom. I think they'd really dig it! And want to play again and again!



***






Mystic Vale is a great deck-building game, but variety is the spice of deck building and the base game just didn't have all that much of it. This is where The Vale of Magic comes in!

The Vale of Magic expansion simply adds more of the stuff already in the base game of Mystic Vale - more Vale cards and more upgrade cards! Many of these allow you to acquire points, which means that if you decide to play exclusively with expansion material (which you can do because there is so much of it), your game will be quite short. Ours lasted about 15 minutes! It was hilarious! So, I wouldn't recommend playing exclusively with the expansion material. Mixing everything together is probably ideal. Because even some of the 1-dot upgrades allow you to gain points, the point acquisition starts early and games end early.

Ultimately, if you enjoy Mystic Vale, this is a good addition. More variety. Slightly shorter game. Good.





***






I was very excited about trying Lignum for a very long time. In fact, I had been waiting for well over a year. Since Essen Spiel 2015! And I finally did! And?

Lignum is a game about logging. You move your single worker down an action selection "road" that allows you to collect loggers to cut wood, shippers to ship the wood, millers to mill the wood, tools for those dudes, gain contracts, convert items to coins, and a few other things. It's basically an action selection game with a "road" of actions you can only follow in one direction and in which you have to contend with other players' selections. Jumping ahead on the track means you will lose out on actions, but jumping ahead can be necessary if you MUST have a certain item.

After the action selection bit is over, you have to allocate the workers you've gathered to perform their wood cutting, processing, and shipping tasks. Then, you have to sell your wood and dry wood to increase its value and fulfill contracts.

The game ends after two years (8 rounds).

The game can be played in basic, advanced (contracts), and expert (contracts and planned works) modes. We played in advanced mode, which includes contracts you can fulfill using wood you cut and dry throughout the game.



As I mentioned in the intro, I was very eager to try Lignum. I had high hopes. And my hopes were not met with satisfaction. I know I'm going to get a lot of hate for this, but I very much disliked Lignum. With two players. The game is probably better at a higher player count because the action selection track is tighter and there is more tension, but with two, there was just a lot of work without enough tension. You are doing the exact same thing each round without much of a sense of progress. Cut wood, transport wood, mill wood, dry wood, get some money. Over and over again. And the re-seeding of the action track with a bazillion little tokens each round is annoying as heck. For me. I just don't have the patience for it in this case. I'm sure that many people will enjoy this game for its woodsy weirdness, but it just felt like a lot of work without anything new or exciting to me. Oh well. You can't win them all.



***






Four Suspects is a highly suspect game. Designed by Kristian Amundsen Østby of Escape, Automania, Doodle City, and Avenue fame and published in JAPANESE by テンデイズゲームズ (Ten Days Games), the game is a strange cultural hybrid. It comes beautifully packaged and produced to replicate a Japanese novel. The rulebook even features a short story to serve as a backdrop for the game!

Predictably, Four Suspects is a game of murder, mystery, and deduction. The two-player version of the game differs very slightly from the regular version, but I will have to describe the two-player version, as it's the only one I've experienced.

Your goal in the game is to identify the two alibi cards that have been separated from the rest at the start of the game. You and your opponent each receive a set of 7 alibi cards and split these into two piles (one of 3 and the other of 4 cards). Alibi cards have 3 features - a person, a place, and a time. Each turn, you ask your opponent a question about the number of times a particular feature in one pile of cards repeats. For example, you can ask, "How many alibi cards in pile x show 6 o'clock?" The catch is that you can't ask about any old feature! Each turn, you have two feature cards to select from and each shows a feature and the number of aspects you can ask about. So, a card showing time + 2 would allow you to ask how many cards in a pile of alibi cards contain 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock cards. These feature cards become currency you can later use to recruit helpers, which allow you to bend space and time, taking double turns, deceiving your opponent about the number of cards with a feature you have, etc. The latter is very important because if you have 2 or more cards with the feature being asked about, you have to reveal one.

The goal of the game is to be the first to identify the two murders (i.e. the two missing alibi cards) and you can make your guess at any time, even during your opponent's turn. If you're right, you win. Otherwise, whomp whomp.

Four Suspects is a neat game. If you enjoy deduction, this one does the deduction thing quite nicely and functions surprisingly well even at its lowest player count. You have to keep in mind the composition of two alibi card piles belonging to your opponent, which effectively simulates having to think about two opponents! Plus, you have to guess not one, but TWO alibi cards, which makes for possibly an even greater challenge than when playing with more players!

Aside from working well with two players, Four Suspects just works well period. It presents you with an engaging deduction puzzle and gives you ways to manipulate that puzzle through the special characters. The fact that you can't reuse a character you have already used until somebody else takes it from you means that you have to be careful about when you take them, so they aren't in constant use! Overall, I look forward to more plays of this game! So far, so good!





***


What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Key to the City – London
I have a "thing" I do when I'm playing games and some games are more liable to induce this "thing" than others. Key to the City - London is very good at inducing this "thing." What is she going on about!? I'll tell you! I'll tell you everything! I'm sure I'm not alone in having favorite "things" to acquire in games. In Key to the City - London, I HAVE to get the Globe Theatre. No matter what! It doesn't matter whether it's conducive to my strategy or not, I need it! Well, in this game, I not only got the Globe, but also all the rest of artsy London! THAT is how I play this game! I build my ideal London!





Avenue
Avenue! Great light fun for when you are in pain and fever! I still won! Handsomely! Goes to show you how well "planning" can pay off!





Kodama: The Tree Spirits
Kodama! Another great piece of light fun for when you are dying of pain and fever! In fact, this is one of my favorite pieces of light fun when dying of pain and fever! I simply adore seeing the tree I've created at the end of the game! Perhaps it's a simple pleasure, but the simplest pleasures are the most pleasant when you're unwell.





New York 1901
NY 1901 is another game that was on my list of favorite relaxing games and another game that we played when I was quite unwell. It was one of the few things I could handle.



Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
I have so much love for Clank! This particular session was quite unlike any of our previous ones! The dragon was very vicious and kept attacking! Our previous clanking missions had ended with both of us largely unscathed (or perhaps it was just me!? ), but this one left us at death's door! Both Peter and I were at one life when we escaped the dungeon! Peter was first to do so, which left me chasing him like a maniac! I find it so funny how

This was also the first time we used the "alternate" side of the board, so perhaps that had something to do with how different the game felt, but I was pleasantly surprised by this development! Can't wait to play more!





Kingdomino
Kingdomino! We played with all the two-player and general variants! The two-player variant in which you use ALL the tiles and the scoring variants in which you get bonus points for having your castle at the center of your kingdom + not throwing away a single tile vastly improve the game! You have so much more to think about! I very nearly made a grave error that would have left me with a lopsided kingdom, but managed to recover! Losing that 10-VP bonus in a two-player game can mean the difference between victory and defeat and it definitely would have in this case!





The Oracle of Delphi
Delphi! Love this Feld! It has jumped to the top of my Feld favorites because it is so different from the others. To me, it harkens a return to the "old" Feld, the slightly more streamlined Feld. You still have your salad, but it's not a point salad due to the race nature of the game.

In this game, we decided to set the game up randomly rather than go with the first-game setup, as we had been doing for our first few games. Peter got a head start when he received a starting tile that allowed him to discard one of his goals. That put me on high alert, so I was trying to be as efficient as possible and ended up getting to Zeus first, but Peter would have gotten to him on his next turn! It was a super tight game!


I have a soft spot for mermaids...perhaps something to do with my being a Pisces?



Pandemic: The Cure + Pandemic: The Cure – Experimental Meds
I was feeling quite horribly on Monday night and only wanted to play easier games. Pandemic: The Cure was the second (after Mystic Vale) easy game we played. We had only played with the Experimental Meds expansion once before and I was eager to try it out again.

This game proved how very random this game can be. In our first game, we had little trouble curing the diseases, including the new purple people eater disease. In this game, we couldn't seem to make anything work! The game started horribly and just went from bad to worse. As the Quarantine Specialist, I was able to prevent disease from being added to my region and move from region to region quite easily, but despite these superior superpowers, I felt completely impotent. I just kept moving from region to region, trying to delay the inevitable. This helped us stay alive, but we ended up losing to the purple people eater disease. Don't forget. Never mess with the purple people eater disease. It's dangerous stuff.





Kepler-3042
Kepler is not an easy game, but it's not horribly complex or difficult either, so that was our third game for Monday night. By the time we were halfway through the game, my face was burning and I felt exhausted, but I pushed through.

Every time I play Kepler, I find something new to appreciate. This time, I was struck by how differently the goal cards made the game feel. I had the "terraform 1 alien world" goal and found myself pushing that tech track much further than in previous games. That also left me doing the production thing a lot more! It was fun, but I didn't really know where my head was by the end of it because fever.



Roll Player
I am quite obsessed with Roll Player! I adore how quickly and easily it plays and yet how much you are given to think about! And though the game doesn't feel all that thematic to me while playing, it does allow me to "build" something (in this case, a character), which is my favorite thing to do in games! In this game, I built a lunatic Halfling bard who was also the chosen one! And had a full set of chainmail! Oh so much fun!





Inis
Inis is climbing up the list of my favorite games of the year. I wasn't sure about it at first, but each session has pushed it up in my love scale.

In this game, I managed to achieve TWO winning conditions (6 sanctuaries and 6 territories) in the same round, which left Peter with nothing to do but concede. He could have tried to take one of the conditions away from me, but I would have been left with the other. I felt so clever when I managed to achieve that because I actually planned it! I thought this game was quite random at first, but the more I play, the less I feel that way. Of course, I doubt I'd feel the same way about the 3+ player experience...





Lorenzo il Magnifico
Lorenzo is back!

This time, I had a set of helpers that weren't particularly conducive to my typical all-blue strategy, so I went with a bit of everything, largely ignoring purple. Peter went much more heavily into blue because he is convinced that I always win because I go blue. Well, I still won and he went more blue than I did, so .



Great Western Trail
This was the worst scoring game of GWT for both Peter and me. Ever! Worst scores! I have no idea what happened! One of the reasons for our poor showing was likely the lack of high-valued cattle on the market. ONE level 5 cow showed up and I snagged it. The rest were mostly 3s. Of course, both Peter and I love to make points with cows, so when our favorite point source was neutered, we flailed and struggled to make up for it elsewhere. It would have been a good idea to follow the potentially equally lucrative building route, but the builders were on strike as well, so I guess the setup was a perfect storm for a poor showing . It was still a fun game and it was interesting to experience the variety of challenges the setup can throw at you!





Papà Paolo
This was our second game of Papa Paolo and Peter COMPLETELY forgot how to play! COMPLETELY! I had to explain the game to him all over again from scratch. Thankfully, it isn't a complex game and it takes about 5 minutes to thoroughly explain.

I went for money and free ingredient upgrades and those paid off tremendously! I had control over the bidding business because Peter was in a financial hole. Money is power! At least when it comes to pizza!







A Feast for Odin
Odin! It was a very bad idea to try to play this while exhausted! Of course, my exhaustion figured into my sad final score .

My goal in this game was to exploit my animals as much as possible. In the first round, I used only two action spaces and both were animal-related actions. I kept using the expensive spaces because why not!? Peter is very stingy with his dudes, so he remained first player throughout the game, but I ran wild on the high-cost spaces. I feel like their cost is justified by the bonus occupation card draws/plays they give.

Ultimately, I did manage to win, but my score was significantly lower than the previous time we played. I went from 145+ to 111 or so...sads. Oh well. Peter was more sad because his cheapo strategy is not working .





4 Gods
This game is so confusing!!! It keeps toying with my emotions! The first time we played, it just left me lost and disoriented; I didn't know what to think! The second time we played, I felt quite good about it; I enjoyed the game for what it was (chaotic real-time fun). This was the third time we played and it left me back at square one - lost and disoriented. I felt like I was doing quite poorly in the game and after the kingdom majorities were computed, my gods were indeed quite low on the scoring constellation. But after the territory bonuses were awarded, Peter's gods were left in the dust. And at no point in the game did I feel like I was intentionally counting or paying very careful attention to the number or size of my gods' territories relative to Peter's. All I was trying to do was to seize majorities, which I failed to do...I think I must continue to play this game more. I find it incredibly compelling, but I also find it incredibly frustrating because I feel like I have so little control . It's a strange combination...Perhaps I love it. Love is confusing like that!


Left in the dust



***


Fresh Cardboard


1. D6 Shooter - "Fast-paced, press-your-luck, Western dice game" Cool! I received a review copy and look forward to trying it out!
2. Arkham Horror: The Card Game - Finally!!!!
3. Russian Railroads: American Railroads - Another finally! Thank you to
Gary Chumbley
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
for making this possible! heart
4. Scythe: Invaders from Afar - OMG! Expansion for one of my favorite games of the year and one of my favorite games EVER!!!! AND WITH PURPLE CHARACTER!!!!!!! BEST!
5. Beasts of Balance - Balancing fun!? Why not! This will be a perfect game for family fun and laughter time!
6. Dungeon Alliance - I'll be doing a KS preview for this game by the designer of my favorite deck-building game ever! This is another deck-building game, but it's also a dungeon crawl! I love sci-fi and fantasy pretty much equally (I love escaping from reality and I don't discriminate when it comes to where I go ), so I'm totally on board with a fantasy escape! I can't wait to see what Andrew has created this time!!!! SUPER excitement!

***


Next Week...


Look forward to full reviews for Roll Player and something else! And some more first impressions!

***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING! heart
Twitter Facebook
90 Comments
Fri Dec 9, 2016 9:00 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [12]

Subscribe

Categories

Contributors

Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.