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My initial impressions on games I recently played for the first time

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Xia + expansion, Dream Home and Hab & Gut

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Xia: Legends of a Drift System + Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star
tl;dr: fun, but quite random

This is mostly a pick up and deliver game, but there is also some exploring, engine building and conflict in the mix, which I guess is why some see it as a 4x game. I don't think that is correct though, since you only have one ship and can't build an army to destroy your opponents.
I quite enjoyed most aspects of this game but I do have to say that there are a good amount of (not always streamlined) rules that make the game sound more complicated than it is. And you do have to live with the fact that there is a very sizable luck factor. You can get cards that give you points, but 70% of the time you get cards you can't fulfill because the right systems haven't been discovered yet. So you need to explore more, but that is no guarantee you'll get what you need for your goals to work out.
We only played till 10 points (as pre determined) and that was a bit too short we found, but I can see 20 points taking a bit long with the game overstaying it's welcome.
I only played this with the expansion included. Apparently the luck factor and chaos is even higher in the base game. Lots of the things that are in the expansion felt like they belong in the game and I can't imagine the game without them. So I think the expansion is essential.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Dream Home
tl;dr: light but fun

This is a very light, family friendly game, but it manages to squeeze in some nice choices. Do you go for that one card you really need now or wait for it in the hopes of scoring more, running the risk of not getting it?
I suppose there are a couple of different approaches to playing this game, but I don't expect this to have a huge replay value.
Still, quite enjoyable.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Hab & Gut
tl;dr: chaotic!

Buy low, sell high. Simple concept, but in this game it is really hard to pull off. Even in a three player game, where every player has two thirds of the info, you still have situations where you can't see a stellar rise in value of one commodity coming from the one set of cards you can't see. So there's always some crap shoot situation going on.
If you don't mind that, this is an enjoyable stock market manipulation game.

Rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Wed Oct 4, 2017 8:18 am
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Lisboa, Martian Dice and Heartland

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Lisboa
tl;dr: solid deign, but where's the fun?

Vinhos is a game from Vital Lacerda that I quite enjoy, but it's also complex, heavy and feels a lot like work. This game seems to continue further in that direction. It feels even more like work. Maybe that's because this was only my first play though. But yeah, this game has a lot of mechanisms and it takes a good while before you start having an idea of how things interact and how to archive things. This game has a player aid that actually is an 8 page leaflet! And it doesn't even include things like end game scoring!
Yeah, this is definitely one of those games where the designer and developers didn't bother finding ways to streamline it a bit while retaining the depth. Now, don't get me wrong. This is a solid design. It is clearly well thought out. But I found it lacking in the fun department.
A word on production: the artwork is ugly and the board is too busy. Especially the part where you build the tiles. And it seems like the publisher actively looked for ways to include more pieces to jack up the price needlessly. I would put this in the 'overproduced' box.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Martian Dice
tl;dr: doesn't evolve

I quite like light dice games as fillers. Rolling stuff and making the best of what you get is a challenge I enjoy.
This game has a certain push your luck factor. If you take certain risk, you might bust and not score anything. Also, if you cash too much of one thing, you might not score as much as when you score a bit of everything.
That's all good. What let me down in this game is that there is no evolution whatsoever. Every turn you take you take from scratch and nothing is retained except your score. Every turn has the exact same flow and choices. The game gets old very fast because of that.
If you make a dice game, please make sure not every turn is the same!

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Heartland
tl;dr: solid

This game does a lot with very few rules. Every tile you place gives you so many options. Where do you place it, what side of the tile do you score what way? Do you go for the barn points or just for regular straight up points?
There's also a bit of an Ingenious thing going on where everyone wants to score that big area on their turn (if they can) until it looses it's value and everyone moves on to the next points bonanza.
It can be quite aggressive at times, but this is not a game you win by just blocking others. Most of all you have to make sure you are scoring points.

Rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu Sep 14, 2017 8:46 am
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Villages of Valeria, Terraforming Mars Hellas & Elysium and Vinhos Deluxe

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Villages of Valeria
tl;dr: decent

I like it when cards games in small boxes have some depth to them. Especially if cards can be used in different ways. This game fits that description.
You have cards that can be built as buildings. Or added to a structure to function as a resource generator. Or added to monuments to be a resource. Or discarded to pay for certain actions. That's always good in my book.
Underneath it is a game that has some engine building and resource management and a few ways to score VPs.
It all fits together quite nicely. Nothing is groundbreaking or spectacular, but it is quite pleasant and moves fast.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
tl;dr: not much, but still welcome

This expansion is a double sided board. The map on each side is slightly different, but the biggest change comes from the new goals and milestones that will impact the way you play a bit. For people who have played TM a good amount of times, this injects a very welcome fresh taste into the game even before it got stale. It's not much of a change, but it's very welcome.

Rating: 8/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Vinhos Deluxe Edition
tl;dr: why?

This game put Vital Lacerda on the map. With good reason: it is an excellent, heavy, tight euro. You know, the type of game I usually love. And I love this one.
I have a couple of questions about this version though
- Why do away with the excellent artwork of the previous edition? It looked great, was functional and integrated perfectly with the other games by What's Your Game?. This has been replaced by new, fine artwork that has been printed in horrible, washed out colors, in a huge box that doesn't fit anywhere and has a custom insert that doesn't hold the components very well. Why?
- The game has a ton of small extra modules. They are mostly nice and integrate quite well, but none of them are must haves. But why do some of those come with extra bits that replace other bits in the box? You're paying for 2 different versions of the same components. Why?
- Some small things in the graphic design are questionable. Ambiguous icons, missing icons, that kind of thing. Why?
Don't get me wrong, this doesn't do anything do diminish the joy I get from this game, but I'll be sticking to my old edition.

Rating: 8.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Wed Aug 30, 2017 3:51 pm
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Dice Forge, Exit the Abandoned Cabin and Tzolk'in

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Dice Forge
tl;dr: not more than the sum of it's parts

I love the concept of building dice with custom faces to build your strategy. Rattlebones did it first (I think) and was enjoyable, but I didn't feel it used the idea to it's full potential. I hoped this game would do more with the concept. It's been a while since I played Rattlebones, but I feel like this game does even less with the idea. It's just too basic. Roll the dice to gain resources, use those resources to buy new sides or get points. Was there really nothing else they could do with the concept?
Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad game, but there is just so much more untapped potential.
Oh, and the game is way overproduced and probably costs more than the gameplay warrants.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin
tl;dr: not a game

Let's be clear: I mostly enjoyed 'playing' this, but I don't consider this a game. In a game you have a number of possible moves and choose which one to take. This is just a multi player puzzle. You have a number of things and you make your best guess as a group and look if you where right. Nope, not a game in my book. But certainly not annoying.
There was one question that had us stuck for quite a while. We used the tips, but the first tip didn't add any new info, and the second one only a tiny bit. We also used 2 other tips on other problems, but those also didn't help as they always gave us info we already knew.
In any case: if you like solving puzzles as a group, give it a try. But don't expect a proper board game, not even a proper co-op.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 1/10 as it defies the description of a game. And I will never play (this version) of the game ever again as there is zero replay value. But it is not awful as the BGG scale for 1/10 indicates.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
tl;dr: still excellent, still unique

This game introduced a new, novel and unique mechanism with the gears that advance the placed workers from one action to the next. Usually when a game introduces something new and unique, it gets copied and reworked and introduced into games the original designers couldn't imagine. As a gamer, I love it when designers let us experience these mechanisms in different ways in different kinds of ways. For this game though, that didn't happen. I understand why though: this is not cheap to produce, but still.
In any case... this game doesn't just have a unique mechanism and use it as a gimmick. No, it's a very solid strategic game in it's own right with a bunch of different strategies to explore. I like it a lot!

Score: 9.5/10
BGG scale: 9/10
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Sun Aug 20, 2017 9:27 pm
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Gentes, Glory to Rome and Zooloretto Dice Game

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Gentes
tl;dr: Spielworxx does what it does well

This game has a nice, fresh take on both worker placement and the action point allowance system. The way it does this is that you select an action, but in stead of placing a worker, you take a tile associated with that action. You put that token on your time track together with time tokens. The amount of those depends on the action. If you have to place more than one you get a choice of multiple single ones or double ones. The double ones take up less time this turn, but stay on there for 2 turns. So do more now but less on the next turn. This creates lots of fun dilemmas.
But it's not just that. These mechanisms are integrated into a tight albeit a slightly dry engine building game where you get resources to build buildings and acquire cards to expand your abilities.
All in all: good stuff for the heavy euro lover.

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Glory to Rome
tl;dr: great but you have to live with the luck

This game is sort of a predecessor of my all time favorite game: Race for the Galaxy. OK, that game was build on the foundations of San Juan, but it did one main thing very different: the huge amount of different, unique cards. Glory to Rome also has that, and cards that can be used in a lot of different ways. It allows players to explore a ton of different strategies over a big amount of games. Of course, just like in RftG you have to work with the cards you get and adapt your strategy accordingly. So there is a certain luck factor that you have to live with. And the buildings that can end the game early can be annoying for other players, but that's easily fixed.
I have the 4th edition that comes with the flashy colors. It's ugly as hell but it's also extremely functional. I don't think I've ever played the black box edition. It looks nicer but I'm not sure it's as clear.
In any case: good, exciting game!

Rating: 8/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Zooloretto: The Dice Game
tl;dr: fine

This game applies dice to the classic Coloretto mechanism. And it's very basic. Place dice with animals on trucks or grab trucks. Score points for grabbing animals, unless you take too many of the same kind, then you score negative points.
It's simple and effective, but in this day and age where we are flooded with dice games where you cross off things on a score sheet, this one is not one of the best. It's fine.

Rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Fri Aug 18, 2017 9:56 am
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Valletta and Pandemic

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Valletta
tl;dr: solid engine builder

This game is an engine building game that also has a deck building aspects. now deck building is a sort of engine building mechanism by itself, but this game also adds buildings on the table that determine what resources you can generate. The combinations of these elements works very well.
On your turn you get to play 3 of your 5 hand cards, then you refill to 5. Cards that you gain during your turn go into your hand. Both those things are small tweaks to the standard deck building stuff we're used to. They work well for this game. There's also a timer element with a meeple waling along a track, but there are other things that can end the game. I think in most games one player will build all their buildings.
Every now and then you could end up holding cards you can't use. If you're having 'build' action cards and you don't have the resources, then you'll be forced to waste your cards and actions. This can be bad and could put you at a disadvantage. Good planning advised.
I quite liked this and hope to play this again.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Pandemic
tl;dr: a huge success with good reason

I remember this game being announced. There was NO buzz. I was working for a distributor or Z-Man titles at the time, so I ordered just a couple of cases. I had requested pre-orders from shops, there were very few. The day the games arrived though, the game was sold out. So I contacted Zev to order more. He had sold out. He told me he had printed 3000, a very normal print run at the time. So this game went from no buzz to THE hype of the moment in no time. And it seems to still be growing, with all these variations and expansions coming out.
In any case... I've never been a fan of co-ops. And I probably never will be. I don't hate them, but I just prefer some healthy competition. That being said, I think this is still my favorite co-op (of the ones I've played, duh!). I think it has the perfect balance of amount of rules, play time and complexity for all experience levels. Most co-ops have some variation of the if-this-happens-resolve-this-random-event-card-mechanism. Pandemic kind of has that with the epidemic cards, but other games like Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island have way more of that. If feels kind of like a lame way to throw problems at the players to me. But the (sparce) way it is implemented in Pandemic is perfect. There's only a little bit of it, but the tension it creates is great.
Also, this game is pretty streamlined and usually takes less than an hour.
All in all, very good, though not my favorite.

Rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Mon Aug 14, 2017 2:13 pm
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Wombat Rescue, Fuji Flush and PAX

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Wombat Rescue
tl;dr: a bit too long

A game about spreading your poop cubes for more efficient movement? What the hell? This game is just one huge open doors for lots of puns during play, so that can be fun. And the game itself is certainly not unenjoyable. You have strategically spread your poop so you can move around efficiently to get your babies home before the other players complete their four runs.
The game did outstay it's welcome a bit. The way the game is set up is that 2 babies are at equal distance from the home base, 1 is a bit further, 1 is a good amount further. Getting to that last one is pretty difficult. I think the game would be served well by removing the 3rd baby so you can go directly from the first easy ones to the difficult one. That should shave off some play time and do away with the let-me-do-the-same-thing-again that starts happening as the game goes on.
I haven't tested this though, but I think it could be a good improvement.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Fuji Flush
tl;dr: pretty effective

This is one of those typical simple colored-number-card games of which you can find a million. But it's also stupidly effective. It reminded me a bit of Linko!. What cards to you play when to block the other players? But in this game you can work use what other players have played to be more effective while also letting the other players profit with you. So it's a game of give and take.
Sure, there is a big luck factor. If you get all the high cards, you will probably win. But still: a good amount of fun!

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

PAX
tl;dr: pretty effective

Wow, this game is 6 years old already! But it's still worth playing if you ask me.
This is a majority game, where you want to have more of different kinds of cards than Rome. And having lots of the same kind also gives you benefits. But you also want different kinds of cards as that also gives you points. Or do you become the Primus Conspiratus and help Rome defeat the players?
This game combines a number of simple mechanisms. Everything fits together very tightly and comes together very nicely.

Rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:13 am
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Ponzi Scheme, To Court the King and Magic Labyrinth

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Ponzi Scheme
tl;dr: well, now this is different!

How many games have a mechanism that will make sure at least one person goes bankrupt? This is the only one I know. That's actually the end game trigger: one or more players go bankrupt. This is archived by having VERY high interest rates on loans. And you need loans. Some of them are over 100% and there is no way to pay them back. So the only way you can stay in the game is by being able to lend more than you have to pay. And as the game goes on, that becomes harder and harder, because the maximum amount you can borrow can very easily be exceeded by your interest payments if you don't pay attention to how these start accumulating.
I thought this was pretty cool. None of us really had any idea of how to play, so we all just tried some stuff. I'm still not sure if you're better off going for higher amounts sooner or not.
Definitely worth a try!

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

To Court the King
tl;dr: a race to the top

This game isn't completely balanced. There are 2 or 3 players that have chance of winning until one player gets the queen, and then that person is almost certain to win. Other players might not stand a chance. But I'm fine with that, because rolling all these dice and using your abilities just is a fun puzzle, and there is still tension in what players get to the tipping point first, leaving the others behind.
So not the perfect strategic dice game, but I really quite enjoy this for what it is.

Rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 8/10

The Magic Labyrinth
tl;dr: good fun memory game

I'm usually shit at memory games, but if they're spacial, like this one, I do quite well.
This game has a hidden labyrinth that you're trying to explore (and remember). This being a kids game, the rules are very simple and there is a good dose of luck, but I still enjoy the challenge.

Rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Tue Aug 8, 2017 9:29 am
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Tramways, Tower of Babel and For Sale

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Tramways
tl;dr: good, rather heavy but too many rules

I'm not sure why, but this game just has a lot of rules. It doesn't really feel like that when you're playing, that's relatively straight forward, but explaining it does take a fair amount of time. More than it should, was my feeling.
This is a route building game, and I enjoy those. There's also some pick up and deliver thing going on. A bit like Age of Steam or Railways of the World in fact.
One thing that did bother me, was that the game can be broken from the setup, and there seems to be no fix for that. I ended up only having yellow and green cards, so I could never deliver to red (for lots of points) or blue (to get cards to expand my abilities). We remedied this on the first turn by swapping one of my cards for one that gave me red, and that helped, but still, my opening cards gave me very few options.
Other than that, I think the game works fine and it's heavier than I expected.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Tower of Babel
tl;dr: OK majority game

So this is JAMG (just another majority game). Play some cards, get some wooden bits on the board and at certain points score for majority.
There's also a kind of set collection mechanism going on with the tokens. If you have multiple of the same kind, you score points for them. More is better. This is where the main draw from the game comes from I guess, since you can get tokens on other players turns by playing the merchant card. But if you do, they're less likely to choose you as contributing partner.
It all works well and there's some nice push and pull going on as you'd expect, but this game doesn't stand out in any way. A very average Hans in Glück game.

Rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10

For Sale
tl;dr: holds up

This is such a cool little game. First you use money to auction checks, then in the second half you use those checks to blind bid for properties of different values. It's so simple and effective. The fun of course comes from knowing who is holding what checks in the second half and anticipating when these might come out. Sometimes people save them for later and only crappy properties come up.
This all comes together very well in a game that will keep on hitting the table for years to come.

Rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Thu Aug 3, 2017 2:19 pm
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Clank!, Fleet Wharfside and GemBlo Q

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Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
tl;dr: fun, light deckbuilder

This is a mixture between Dominion and an adventure game. The deck building is very standard but it does use a mix of fixed cards and a moving row of available cards. Also: some cards are not bought but defeated (like in Thunderstone).
The adventure part has you go in a dungeon, encountering obstacles, finding valuable items and making sure that you make it out on time.
There is a big luck factor in what items you turn over. If you're looking for a certain type of item and you never turn it over, tough luck.
While you play your cards, you might make noise, this makes the dragon angry, and he might hurt you because of it. So managing the amount of noise you make is an important part of the game.
This is quite enjoyable, but it is very light. This is not a deep strategic game.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Fleet Wharfside
tl;dr: fine

Gather resources, fulfill contracts to score points. Not new, but done well or in an interesting, different way, it can be enjoyable. This game doesn't do anything exceptional, but it does work pretty well. There is a nice balance to find with the order of doing things and timing your stuff right. When do you take new contracts? When do you score contracts, loosing the special ability they grant? Or do you simply take the resources you want now before someone else snatches them?
It all works well and is enjoyable, but no new ground is broken here.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10

GembloQ
tl;dr: the same but different

The original Gemblo wasn't that original, it took Blokus and changed it into a game with hexagons. That was an improvement, since it can be played in a balanced way with 2-6 players, where the original only works well with 4.
This game kind of takes a step back: it's Blokus with a few twists: the grid is at a 45° angle on the board, leaving some half squares at the border. It also makes the board smaller for 2 or 3 players with a way more balanced result than Blokus. And then there are these pieces that have triangle shaped half square on some sides. This is a game changer as it allows very nifty play in some situations.
So while this game doesn't change that much from the game it's based on, it does improve on Blokus in a number of important ways.
I think I still prefer regular Blokus, but this is pretty cool as well and since I only payed €6, this was an excellent deal!

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:55 pm
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