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

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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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Airships, Hansa and Manila

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Airships
tl;dr: not earth shattering, but it works well

This game from the designer of Puerto Rico is nothing like that game. This is a streamlined, pretty basic, family friendly strategic dice game. It's also an engine building game. A bit like To Court the King I guess: use dice to expand your possibilities. But in this game the possibilities are a bit more basic. More dice or convert certain dice into dice of a different color. Stuff like that.
It's a dice game, so there is a good dose of luck of course, but if you choose your battles well, and build a good engine, success has a higher possibility of being the result.
I quite enjoy it, but it certainly is not a game that stands out in any manner.

Rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Hansa
tl;dr: elegant

How cool is this? A trading game in which there is only one pawn for all players combined. The position where you end your turn directly influences what options the next player has. Now this means the amount of planning you can do ahead of time is limited of course, but that's not really an issue here as the options are also limited: move, buy goods, convert into points or build a trading post. This game does quite a bit with very few rules and components. Just as one would expect from Schacht of course. The result is a very tight and pretty tense game that feels neither too heavy nor too light.
Very efficient and elegant.

Rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Manila
tl;dr: nice, but a bit more control would be nice

Each round players spend money to place followers in locations they hope will give them more money than they invested. Then dice are rolled and stuff happens. This can lead to pretty tense situations, but for the most part stuff is out of your control. If you're fine with that, this game can be good fun. If not, you might end up mostly frustrated.

Rating: 6.6/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Mon Jul 10, 2017 12:29 pm
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Lorenzo il Magnifico, Condottiere and No Thanks

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Lorenzo il Magnifico
tl;dr: solid euro

This game introduces a new novel mechanism I don't remember seeing this before: dice in 3 colors are rolled. These determine the value of the 3 workers in corresponding colors for each player. And, this being a worker placement game, influences what workers can be used where, as different locations require different minimum values of workers. Of course there are ways to mitigate the luck involved. Pretty cool.
But one cool mechanism does not make a great game (there are noticeable exceptions of course). But on top of that, there is a very solid though pretty standard engine building game.
So all in all this is a solid offering. The biggest knock I have on it is that the artwork won't be to everyone's taste, and that the price is pretty high of the box contents, especially in the US reprint.

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

Condottiere
tl;dr: nah, not for me

Yeah, some games just aren't made for some people. This game is not for me.
The main mechanism is: play cards of different values. Whoever lasts the longest (has the highest value at the end of the round) wins a region. Win enough regions and win the game. The problem I have is that the game simply is too unpredictable. I guess that is what many people like about this game, but having cards that can bring a 10 point card down to 1 point and take away any chance you had at winning. Quite often you have good cards and throw everything you have into a round because it seems you can't loose only to find out that you wasted everything on nothing because of a chaotic card that you knew could come up, but you have to try something, right?
So yeah, not for me.

Rating: 4/10
BGG scale: 3/10

No Thanks!
tl;dr: still excellent fun

This game is so simple you wonder how someone can come up with it. Having so few rules and still having an engaging game, that is hard!
In any case, I just love the tension of taking risks in this game. Do I take this big card and make up for it in chips later, running the risk I can't complete a series of cards? Do I go for an other round, hoping to pry a few more chips from other players, running the risk one of them is out of chips?
This is as good as minimalist games can be.

Rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Thu Jul 6, 2017 2:20 pm
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Capital Lux, Keltis and Archaeology The Card Game

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Capital Lux
tl;dr: better than I expected

So, to start: the theme is completely pasted on. You play numbered cards in 4 different colors, that's the real theme. Doesn't bother me though, it's rather engaging.
The game is pretty basic: numbered cards in 4 colors. Either play them in front of you or in the center. The goal is to have the highest value in front of you (color majority scoring) but not to match or exceed the value of that color in the center. Playing cards in the center also lets you perform the special actions that are tied to every color.
So yeah, that is pretty basic, but it just works very well.

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

Keltis
tl;dr: solid, but I prefer Lost Cities

When this came out, I had been playing Lost Cities for a while. I like that game a lot. Getting to play that multi-player is nice, but Reiner made some changes. And in most of those cases I prefer the way Lost Cities did it.
The ability to play the cards in either order is more family friendly, but I quite like the idea of knowing that the other player will have to play in the same order as you
Playing the hand cards adds so much tension because it ups the stakes. What if you don't get the cards you need to get above 20? The punishment in Keltis for starting a new color is not nearly as big.
The addition of the stone collecting seems a bit like an afterthought.
That being said: this is still a solid game, I just don't enjoy it as much as the short, fast, clean Lost Cities

Rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Archaeology: The Card Game
tl;dr: good, but a few cards mess it up for me

This game has some cool ideas. The different types of artifacts have different values and payoffs. There is also tension for scoring your stuff before you loose it. But that's part of my issue with this game: the impact of the thiefs and, more so, the sand storms, can be pretty big and can potentially cost you your victory.
The thief isn't that useful as for the player of that card it is not better than randomly drawing a card from the deck in most cases. The sand storm can be pretty bad when the same player keeps on drawing those. It means that player has less chance of building up something to score before loosing it (that was me in this game).
I like the basic idea behind the game, but the random factor is just a bit too high for me.

Rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Tue Jul 4, 2017 3:44 pm
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Covert and World's Fair 1893

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Covert
tl;dr: solid strategy game

Roam the board, gather intelligence and stuff, manage your cards well and solve cases. In essence this is a resource gathering and order fulfillment game, but they tried hard to give it a good amount of theme. I thought they did a reasonable job.
Also, the way in which the worker placement part works and is executed is quite effective and can give nice tension. In what order do you take your actions? You might want to do a certain action before the other players to make sure you grab something first, but that might make an other action less efficient.
I quite enjoyed playing this, but at the same time, nothing about the game blew me away. It's competently made, but it doesn't stand out, unless maybe you care for the theme.

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

World's Fair 1893
tl;dr: surprisingly good

This game looks pretty basic, and sounds very middle of the road, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Managing your cards well, going for the right majorities, using the special actions of the certain cards... It all falls into place very nicely and offers a surprisingly deep game. Now, this is no Terraforming Mars of course, but it is a good deal deeper than I expected.
It plays fast, it has simple rules and has depth. For me, this hits the sweet spot for these kinds of super fillers

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Tue Jun 20, 2017 1:45 pm
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Century Spice Road and Terra Mystica

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Century: Spice Road
tl;dr: accessible but deep enough

I see a lot of people comparing this to Splendor. I'm not sure why though. OK. Both games require you to gather resources and use those to fulfill cards for points. But in Splendor you simply take the resources you need. In this game you have to use cards to get them and then convert them to other types. And you can expand on your gathering and converting abilities by buying new cards. This uses a system like you can find in Firenze: drop one resource of any kind on each card before the one you take. You also get any resources that might be on the card that you acquire. This adds a lot more depth then simply taking resources and turning those into cards.
So while this game has a similar complexity when it comes to rule density, the play itself is more complex and deeper. And more fulfilling for me.
So this game is quite accessible but has more than enough depth to be enjoyed by hardcore gamers like me. And with the speed the game has, this is a very solid amount of fun!

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Terra Mystica
tl;dr: masterpiece

This game took off like a rocket when it came out. And people are still playing it way more than most games from 2012. And that was an EXCELLENT year with other masterpieces like Snowdonia, Keyflower and Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar! Man, what a year!!! There is a good reason why people are still playing this as much as they are despite the lack of new expansions: the game is very replayable out of the box and is a fucking good game! The different races and the way all the different game elements interact gives you an immense amount of game to explore, and each time is very enjoyable. And once you know the game, it's very doable to finish this in under two hours, which, for a game this deep, is very nice.
Yeah, this is a masterpiece, I'm so glad I get to play it every time I do.

Rating: 10/10
BGG scale: 10/10
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Wed Jun 14, 2017 10:58 am
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Near and Far, Barenpark and Floating Market

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Near and Far
tl;dr: harder than expected

I quite liked Above and Below (and all the other Red Raven Games things I've played actually) and this game is supposedly a continuation of that game. Now, both games do have that adventure book and you have a similar system of recruiting adventurers with different skills. But the rest of the game around it, is quite different.
I found this game harder to play then expected. Not because the rules are complex, they are not, for a strategy game, but because there are many things to keep in mind and combine to be efficient.
I quite enjoyed my first play of this, even if I didn't do particularly well. The challenge is bloody good fun.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Bärenpark
tl;dr: more fun than expected

Yay, an other family friendly tile laying game. That's a rare thing, no? No? Oh, never mind then
This game gives you some tiles, and by laying tiles you not only score points, but also get new tiles. The order in which you place the tiles and puzzle the different shapes is what this game is all about.
This is what it is: a family friendly game that doesn't offer 10 different strategies to explore, but hey, this is good fun, so I wouldn't mind playing this a couple more times!

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

Floating Market
tl;dr: less fun than expected

This game has you juggle for position on the board to get the best chance of getting the fruit. Be the first to get 5 different types of fruit and win! There are different places on the board where you can influence the outcome by adding dice or get some bonus income or even profit when a neighbor scores fruit.
Unfortunately this all sounds more fun than it is. At least for our group. We just went through the motions, but in the end it is a bit too much of a crap shoot who gets the fruit and we were all happy when it ended. Even me, and I won.

Initial rating: 5.5/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Mon Jun 12, 2017 2:30 pm
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Yokohama, Wettlauf nach El Dorado and Rolling America

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Yokohama
tl;dr: very solid euro

Now here's a nice variation on things we are familiar with. It's not a real worker placement system, but it is something in the same vein. You add workers to the board on locations you want to use, and then you can move your main pawn anywhere on the board, as long as the locations you pass over contain at least one of your workers. The location you end on is activated. The strength of the effect depends on the amount of wooden bits of your color on the location, including your workers, pawn and possibly buildings.
The different locations do different kinds of things: give you resources, give you goal cards, score you points, give you more playing pieces... This allows for a huge variety of possible strategies that can be combined.
This is a rather heavy game, and new players will probably have no idea of how to get started. But after a couple of rounds, things fall into place and everything will become clear.
I was pleasantly surprised by this game, I look forward to exploring it more.

Initial rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10

The Quest for El Dorado
tl;dr: surprisingly fun

I'm not going to lie: it's been years since I played a new game by the Dr that I found worth the time. His output has mostly felt extremely derivative and watered down. This game though was surprisingly engaging I found. It uses deck building to drive a racing game with some small, fun twists. It's by no means a grand, deep design, but it is efficient (as one would expect from a Reiner game) without losing it's soul.
There is, of course, a good amount of luck with the cards and once you have a good deck going, you just can cruise towards the finish line, but I suppose that's part of the appeal. The trick is to know when to stop building your deck and start sprinting.

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

Rolling America
tl;dr: light, but not easy

Just what the world needed: an other of those "roll dice, fill in the paper" games. But as long as they're fun, people will play them, and people with keep on publishing them.
In this game you fill in the values of the rolled dice in a matching region of the same color. Sounds easy enough, but the difference between adjacent regions can't be more than 1, and once a few numbers are filled in, that will lead to problems. The trick is to foresee that and plan ahead. But of course you don't know what numbers will be rolled in that color next, so while you can plan, that plan can very well go wrong. A few modifiers that you can use are there to help you out on some occasions, but they come in short supply, so use them well.
So the rules are dead simple, but playing well is tricky. I enjoy the challenge.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Fri Jun 9, 2017 12:41 pm
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NMBR9, Strike and Elfenland

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NMBR 9
tl;dr: fun variation on the theme

You know the kind of game: Take it Easy!, FITS... A card is flipped, and all players puzzle in the exact same piece. In this case you're puzzling numbers into a tableau of multiple levels. The score is the number times it's level minus one. So a 9 on the third level is a very good thing. But since you can't have overhangs and such, this is very tricky.
So, nothing new really, but a good take on the genre, and one I wouldn't mind playing again.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Strike
tl;dr: more fun than it should be

How simple can a game be? Throw dice into a bowl, retrieve the ones that have values that occur more than once. Be the last player with dice left over. This is so simple and stupid, but at the same time it is pretty good fun. When do you cut your losses? When do you press on and win big? And can you force the next player to risk all their dice?
Yeah, this shouldn't be this much fun, but it is.

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

PS: thanks to Lincoln for giving me a copy!

Elfenland
tl;dr: more complex than one would expect

This is a family strategy game. But in fact it has more levels of things to keep in mind than one would expect. These days family strategy games have 1 or 2 things to think about. This game gives you cards. Then you have to draw tiles. Then you have to place the tiles, alternating with the other players. And in doing so, you have to puzzle the most efficient route combining the landscape, tile and your cards. That's quite complex for a game of this level. You can build a good plan, but there are many points of failure: you might not get the right cards, you might not get the right tiles, or the tiles might end up on the wrong types of landscapes. On top of that every player has a tile to increase the cost of one route during one round. That could be an other point of failure in your strategy.
So yeah, I enjoy the puzzle, but for a family game, this is quite though.
This is not on par with the games that these days fall into the same category of games (complexity wise) but it is a good game. Just don't underestimate the amount of mental gymnastics you need to play well and learn to live with the luck factor it has.

Initial rating: 6.8
Initial rating: 7/10
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Thu Jun 8, 2017 2:05 pm
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Magic Maze, 12 Thieves and Thurn and Taxis

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Magic Maze
tl;dr: a fun challenge

This is a cooperative game, and it is of the lighter fare. I appreciate both these aspects in games, but neither are my favorite.
This game gives players a maze to explore and each new level adds a new element or rule to make it harder. Each player has their own special ability, but at a certain point those start shifting during the game, screwing with your mind quite a bit. An other big aspect is that you can't talk for most of it, and getting across a message to an other player can be tricky.
I quite enjoyed playing this, but I don't feel the need to explore this more. If someone would request to play this, I wouldn't object though.

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

12 Thieves
tl;dr: an enjoyable puzzle

In this game you're stealing treasure. The way to do this is by cleverly maneuvering your pawns around and timing everything well. It's also a game in which you sometimes are making moves to block the other players from getting the treasure. And that turns it into a game of planning for ways around possible blocking moves.
It's a rather enjoyable puzzle, but the game itself doesn't really stand out in a any way.
So not bad, but very middle of the road.

Initial rating: 6.2/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Thurn and Taxis
tl;dr: very good

This game has been around for over a decade now! I'm getting old!
Of course this is not my initial reaction, I did play this game a good amount when it came out. I owned a copy, but sold it after I felt I was done with it. But I hadn't played it quite a while, so this is my impression after playing it again recently.
This game has aged quite well. It falls into the family strategy category as the rules are pretty simple and accessible, but there certainly is a very solid amount of strategy there. There is some luck in what cards come out of course, but there's ways to deal with that and it usually evens out over the length of the game.
This is certainly a game like you would expect from Hans in Glück: it is very, very well developed. It is very clean without loosing depth.
All in all this is a very solid offering that doesn't feel dated at all yet. Certainly worth playing.

Rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Wed Jun 7, 2017 3:09 pm
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