Candice HarrisUnited States
Hickory Dickory, a new 2023 release from designer Sawyer West and Plaid Hat Games, which I had the pleasure of playing on a review copy provided by the publisher.
In Hickory Dickory, you and up to three other players control your own team of mice competing in a royal scavenger hunt hosted by Lord Cuckoo. Your mice ride around the minute hand of a cuckoo clock collecting tiles that can be delivered for points, while trying to prioritize tiles that also match their hunt board. Whichever player manages their team of mice best and scores the most victory points wins.
Hickory Dickory's table presence is lovely. The main game board looks like a cuckoo clock and there's even a chain board below it. During setup, you place action space tokens at each number around the clock. A few are always placed at the same number, but majority of them are randomly placed so you have some variation from game to game. At each number except for 12, there's an inner ring space and an outer ring space. Each outer ring space gets randomly seeded with a tile at the beginning of each round, and those tiles are up for grabs for the first mouse to take the action at each space.
Each player gets 4 mouse cards for their mice meeples that'll be rummaging around the clock. Each mouse card has a number of storage spaces indicating how many item and relic tiles that mouse can carry. You'll also get a random Hunt board which indicates the starting positions around the clock for 3 of your mice (your Scavenger, Scurrier, and Spotter). However, there's also an advanced setup variant where players choose their starting mouse positions in priority order, one mouse at a time. You also have a Scamp mouse which doesn't start on the board, and a Scaler mouse which stays on the the chain board of the clock. That's your team!
Hickory Dickory is played over 5 rounds, and each round the minute hand makes a full rotation around the clock stopping at each number so the mice there can jump off the hand to perform that action or onto the hand to ride to a different one. The cuckoo clock's hour hand starts at 7, and at the end of the 5th round, the clock strikes midnight and the player with the most points wins.
Each round is divided into 12 clicks. When resolving a click, first you move the minute hand to the next number on the clock. Then you activate each mouse on the minute hand in order, starting with the mouse at the front of the minute hand. When you activate a mouse on the minute hand, you can have the mouse stay where it is on the minute hand, or it can jump off the minute hand to the outer ring space and perform the current action. If there's a tile on the outer ring space, the mouse can claim it before taking the action.
Whenever you claim a tile, you place it in an empty space on the corresponding mouse card. If that mouse doesn't have an empty space, you can still claim the tile and discard it, or discard a different tile to keep the new one. If any of your other mice are at the same number as the minute hand, they can freely trade tiles, regardless if they're on the minute hand, or on the inner or outer ring.
In a 4-player game the minute hand has 5 spaces to hold mice, and at smaller player counts, you add blockers to reduce the amount of spaces. Most mice only take up 1 space, however, the Scavenger mice are larger and take up 2 spaces. So if you end up with 2 Scavenger mice on the minute hand, there's only room for 1 regular-sized mouse before mice start getting bumped off.
This bumping mechanism adds an interesting layer of player interaction to Hickory Dickory and amplifies the logistical efficiency puzzle of managing your mice. You'll be trying to figure out the best time to jump on and off the minute hand with each of your mice for whatever you're going after, but you cannot ignore what your opponents might do since there's a chance they'll bump your mouse off the minute hand and foil your plans, regardless if it's intentional or not. It's fun player interaction that keeps you on your toes without being excessive. From my experiences, there are usually more occasions where there's a low chance, or no chance that you'll be bumped off, but I like that that it gives you something extra to mull over as you plan your actions. You should especially beware of being bumped if there's an action space with lots of mice on the inner ring space, because odds are, most of those mice probably want to go for a ride to a different action space.
Now that you have an idea for how your mice move around the clock to perform actions, let's go over some of the actions and how you score points in Hickory Dickory, noting some actions have a cost and you might have to spend some tiles to perform them.
• You can search to claim tiles from the bag and add them to the corresponding mouse card. When searching with your Spotter mouse, you draw an extra tile and then return one to the bag. The main way you score points in Hickory Dickory is by delivering sets of item tiles, so searching is a great way to get them, and with your Spotter, you improve your odds of getting tiles that are better for you to score.
• You can visit the market to either claim 2 tiles from Itsy Bitsy's discount bin or take 1 wild item. There are 4 tiles in the discount bin at the start of each round and they are not refilled until the end of the round, so there's some scarcity to factor in. The wild tiles are awesome because when scoring, they're considered to have every color and every symbol.
Dune: Imperium. You can have your eye on an action space with a free tile that you need and think you have it in the bag, then your opponent plays a card on their turn that lets them leap ahead and they grab it before you. You just never know what favors people have or when and how they'll use them. This another aspect of that game that makes you pay attention, or perhaps be suspicious, of what your opponents might be up to.
• You can gain/teleport your Scamp mouse. This is the only mouse that doesn't start on the board, so you need to trigger this action to place it on any outer ring space on the clock. After you perform this action for the first time, you have a 4th mouse on the clock for the rest of the game. After your Scamp is out and you take this action, you can teleport it to any outer ring space. Your Scamp can't hold many tiles, but that teleport ability is really sweet. At least 1 favor card has this action, besides the action space on the board. So again, you never know what your opponents might be planning and conversely, you can set yourself up for a really cool turn if you play this action on a favor card at the right time. It's especially satisfying when your opponents are least expecting it.
• With the climb chain action, you can move your Scaler mouse up the chain a number of spaces, and if you land on or pass any point spaces, you score that number of points. When your Scaler reaches the leaf at the top of the chain, it stops and scores points listed above the pinecone weight token on the right chain. Then you move the pinecone token up to cover that number, unless it was the 4-point space which is never covered. Finally, you move your Scaler back down to the starting pinecone at the bottom of the left chain. This is an excellent way to score a chunk of points early on since it starts at 9 points if you reach the top first, and decreases gradually to a mere 4 points. It's also worth mentioning that you can't land on another mouse; instead, you'll stop at the next empty space. Timing this right, you can get some free advancements on this track by leaping onto other mice.
• Aside from the climb chain action, just about everything you do in Hickory Dickory is to strategically set your mice up to deliver items and score victory points. When you perform the deliver action, you score 1 point for each item and bonus tile (on favor cards) that you deliver, plus 1 point for each item in the largest symbol group, and 1 point for each item in the largest color group. In addition, Lord Cuckoo has specific quests for players to complete. At the start of each round there will be 2 quest cards revealed that can give you extra points when delivering items if the items you deliver match the items on an available quest card. If you're able to score a quest card, it's discarded after you score. Then after you score points for delivered items and potentially a quest card, you place matching tiles on empty spaces of your hunt board, which might be worth points at the end of the game. The tile placement on the Hunt board is definitely reminiscent of Azul. Any tiles that you can't place on your hunt board are returned to the bag.
• Besides item tiles, you might be able to claim special relic tiles throughout the game. There are only 3 unique relic tiles, so they are very rare and they can't be delivered like item tiles. Instead, you take them directly to Lord Cuckoo at the action space at 12 o'clock. When you deliver relics to Lord Cuckoo, for each relic tile, you score 5 points and gain a favor card. Then you have to leap to the 1, 2, or 3 outer ring space. This special relic delivery space is always at 12, and does not have an outer ring space like all of the other action spaces.
• There are two other actions to help your mice along which you'll find on favor cards. There's a throw action where you can have one of your mice at a different location "throw" tiles to your active mouse and vice versa; it's a way to trade remotely which can be super helpful in a game where you're trying to make the most optimal deliveries for scoring. With the leap action, you can have an active mouse leap clockwise to an outer ring space up to 3 numbers away.
After the clock tick at 12 is resolved, that's the end of the round, but there are a few end-of-round steps you complete before jumping into the next round. First, you roll the cat die twice and place an adorable cat paw over the action space at each number. These action spaces are blocked on the upcoming round, and none of the mice on the minute hand can activate at a number with a cat paw. Then you'll advance the hour hand to the next number on the clock. If the hour hand moves to the 12, the game immediately ends, otherwise, you move all mice that are on outer ring spaces to the corresponding inner ring spaces, and refill the quest cards, and the tiles on the outer ring spaces and in the discount bin at the market. Finally, you move the priority marker to the next space on the priority track following the arrows.
When the clock strikes midnight, the game ends and you score additional points for completed rows and columns on your hunt board. In addition, you gather up all of the item tiles remaining on all of your mouse cards and score them collectively as a final delivery, but without scoring quest cards or adding tiles to your hunt board.
Hickory Dickory is an absolutely adorable, whimsical game, but don't let the cutesy theme and art mislead you; there's definitely a solid game here which can appeal to experienced and new gamers alike. Since the theme is so well integrated with the mechanisms, I think less experienced gamers will catch onto this in no time. With the logistics of managing your mice and trying to make optimal moves to score as many points as you can with deliveries, people who mostly play medium-heavy games are also likely to enjoy it. Plus, a 4-player game can be played in about 90 minutes and it doesn't overstay its welcome.
There's a decent amount of player interaction and plenty of interesting choices as the minute hand moves around the clock and you decide when it makes most sense to have your mice jump on and jump off. When possible, you'll also want to leverage each mouse's special ability too. There's scarcity from tiles on the action spaces, the quest cards, and discount bin items, so you'll be rushing to beat your opponents to those. Meanwhile, you can't ignore your opponents' Scaler mice moving up the chain to score points, especially earlier in the game. There really are a lot of things to consider when you take your turn, but it didn't bog the game down. It feels like it moves at a good pace, since there's really no set turn order and also because I'm invested in what my opponents are doing on their turn, especially when it comes to hopping on the minute hand.
The cat paws blocking actions after the first round keeps things interesting too. One of my games, we kept rolling a 6 for 3 rounds in a row and blocked one of the two delivery action spaces. If we wanted to make any deliveries, we had to have a mouse move all the way to 11, and so then you have to also make sure that one mouse is loaded up with as many good tiles as possible. Again, it sort of feels like a logistics puzzle. Besides the fact that I just love the cat paw tokens, I really like how they change up the dynamic of the game depending on which actions are blocked for the round.
I have had some rounds of Hickory Dickory where I felt like I didn't accomplish much, but I can't tell if it's me not playing optimally or if that's just the nature of the game. It could also be the result of the cat paws blocking spaces that would've been helpful to me. Either way, I do enjoy the decision space of figuring out when I want to have a mouse jump off the clock and take an action versus riding further ahead for something else, at the risk of getting bumped off.
If you're a fan of unique, thematic games that you can play with new or experienced gamers in less than 2 hours, be sure to check out Hickory Dickory. I've certainly enjoyed my plays of it and look forward to playing it more.
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Game Overview: Hickory Dickory, or When Things Get Micey in Your Cuckoo Clock...
31 Mar 2023
Fri Mar 31, 2023 7:00 am
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How to Fit 4 Expansions in 7 Wonders
21 Mar 2023
W. Eric MartinUnited States
7 Wonders: Edifice in February 2023, I thought I'd re-visit my storage solution for 7 Wonders (Second Edition) to see whether I could improve upon it.
What is that storage solution, you ask? Here's a screen grab from the video below:
Step 1 was to toss the insert from the base game. I find inserts mostly useless because they take up space that could otherwise be occupied by game. In the image above, you can see that all of the rules, wonders, and armada boards from the base game and the Leaders, Cities, and Armada expansions are stacked on the right, with the scorepads and coins on top.
On the left, I used the insert trays from the Leaders and Cities expansions to hold cards from the base game and all of the expansions, as well as the ships and tokens from Armada. Everything is bagged because whenever I bring out a game with expansions, I inevitably have someone new at the table, so I would teach only the base game. (This is the number one argument against expansions, in my opinion.) And even if everyone is experienced, we wouldn't necessarily play the game with everything. Everything bagels — yes! Everything 7 Wonders — enh, not so much.
Now here's that same box after adding the components of Edifice to it:
You can hardly tell the difference! Two new wonders have been tucked at the bottom of the stack, penalty tokens sit in the tray with the diplomacy and armada thingies, and the other components fit in the upper-right corner.
Can I pack all of this material in an even more compact way? Yes, by returning to step one: Throw out the inserts. I cut up the expansion boxes to make smaller card holders (which allowed me to get rid of their bags), and now I have room for expansion #5 and possibly even expansion #6 — should they be forthcoming.
I don't need all of the scorepads, but they fit, so I left them in place. Additional wonders would require a second bag for coins since they're pushing up against the box lid, but tossing scorepads would make room for two thinner bags of coins and military tokens.
After posting this video on YouTube, some people expressed surprise that I didn't just sweep everything into the box "like an animal", but that's because they missed the point of my previous storage videos. I'm not applying a single heuristic to every game; I'm considering what set-up entails and how components are used in the game, then creating a storage solution based upon those details — like a rational animal.How it started vs. how it's going
I realize, of course, that others might not like my storage solution, but I will not be breaking into their home to impose my solution on their games, so they don't need to worry.
Someone commented that I "macheted all the boxes in the ugliest fashion possible", and while I agree that some of the boxes are janky, they are serving the purpose that I want, and that's what is most important to me. I never want to spend money on a storage solution when I can instead spend time and create my own. (The other alternative is to do nothing and store things in their original boxes. Spending money on a storage solution is not on the list of possibilities at all.)
In any case, perhaps this post will inspire you to consider how you store your games and their expansions. If you have tips for crafting smaller boxes, feel free to let me know. I've been doing this for a while, but I'm much more of an impulsive do-er than a planner, so sometimes I make choices that are less than ideal and realize it only after the fact. For example, I made the box for the base game cards slightly wider than the other boxes so that I could store the original scorepad inside — then later realized that was pointless since I'd still need the wonders and token bag to play, so I might as well bring the whole box out. So be it...
Tue Mar 21, 2023 8:00 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Game Preview: General Orders, or The Spicy Two-Player Worker Placement War
15 Mar 2023
War Chest and the Undaunted series, I consider David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin to be a top notch designer duo; I'm automatically interested in anything with either of their names on it, and it's an insta-buy when I see both of their names together on any board game. Thus, I'm incredibly excited to share some details on General Orders: World War II, a new, two-player, worker placement wargame, which will be available from Osprey Games in Q4 2023.
General Orders: World War II combines the dynamic tactical gameplay of a traditional wargame with the cut-throat decision-making of worker placement games. As an added bonus, it's very accessible and plays in under an hour. Let's face it, they had me at "worker placement wargame", but I'm appreciative that I got the opportunity to virtually hang with David and Trevor to actually play a game of General Orders on Tabletop Simulator.
In General Orders, you and your opponent each take on the role of a general competing in two different World War II theaters – the alpine terrain of Northern Italy and the islands of the Pacific. Each game is played over a series of rounds, where you alternate deploying/placing commanders (workers) on the board to take actions, and then after both players are out of commanders and/or have passed, you recall your commanders from the board and move on to the next round. You win the game immediately if your opponent loses control of their HQ land area. Otherwise, at the end of the fourth round, the player with the most victory points on land areas they control and supply wins.
General Orders includes a double-sided game board, beautifully illustrated by Alex Green, which allows you to play two different game modes, either Alpine or Island. The Alpine side of the board represents the mountains of Italy, and the Island side represents the islands of the Pacific. The Alpine game mode is recommended for your first game, so that's what David set up for our game together. Meanwhile, Trevor watched from the sidelines and provided some entertaining commentary as we played.
The map on the board has a bunch of land areas – hex spaces and a few double hex spaces – separated by solid black borders. Each space has one or more icons representing actions you can take there, and some spaces have pink star icons which are victory points you score at the end of the game if you control that land area. There are also spaces with a section to place an area bonus token, which gives the controlling player access to some helpful special ability.
Players start the game with a bunch of troops (discs) and five commanders (hexagonal cylinders) in their reserve, along with troops on the board. The game is fairly abstract considering we don't represent specific countries, but instead we are simply the blue faction and yellow faction duking it out in a tug-of-war struggle to control a crucial World War II battlefield. Therefore, players can come up with whatever narrative they feel as the play each game.
Before you start the game, you flip the round marker to determine which player starts with the initiative and gets to go first. On your turn, you place one of your commanders from your reserve into an unoccupied action space and resolve the action based on its symbol. Then your opponent does the same, and you alternate taking turns until both players pass, typically from not having any commanders left in your reserve.
Control and supply are important concepts in General Orders and should be defined before delving into the actions. You control a land area if you have troops in it, and a land area is in supply if you control it and it's connected to your HQ land area through an unbroken line of areas you control. In order to perform most actions, you must have a supply path back to your HQ, so a key strategy is to try to interrupt your opponent's supply line, while you also protect your own.
The Advance action, which is available on just about all spaces of the Alpine map, is how you move troops into a space where you don't already have troops. When you Advance, you place one of your available commanders into the area you wish to move into, and then you can move one or more of your troops from adjacent/linked areas that you control and supply. However, you cannot take the last troop from a land area, so at least one will have to hang back. If you moved your troops into an area controlled by your opponent, you resolve a land conflict.
The Barrage action allows you to bombard an area up to three areas away by rolling two dice and then removing troops based on all of the hits you rolled. There are custom six-sided dice in the game that have a blank side, four sides with 1-hit, and a 2-hit side. Don't worry though, there's actually minimal randomness in this tense, "little" strategy game. This is only one of two occasions where you actually roll dice.
When playing on the Alpine board, there's also a Paradrop action where you can place two troops from your reserve into any area on the board except the 2 lake areas that have a "no-paradrop" symbol. Similar to the Advance action, if you end up with your troops in an area controlled by your opponent, you resolve conflict.
Resolving land conflict is very straightforward, just like the actions in this game. First, the defender rolls one die and removes a number of attacking troops equal to the total rolled. Then, if any attacking troops remain, both players simultaneously remove troops from the area until at least one player has no troops in the area. There are occasions when the attacker will swoop in and take over an area, other times when the attacker is unsuccessful and the defenders hold the area, and even some battles when both players are completely annihilated and that area is left uncontrolled. I'm sure you're wondering why the attacker wouldn't just bring in enough troops to make sure they control the space even if the defender rolls a 2 and kills two troops before the battle attrition occurs. Sounds like this is a good time to mention something spicy about General Orders.
In addition to the map actions I've mentioned so far, there are also two actions available on the support board, which is a small board next to the main game board. The Reinforce action allows you to place a number of troops from your reserve into land areas you control and supply, such that there are no more than five troops per land area. There are two action spaces for reinforcing: one allows you to add six troops, and the other allows you to add five. Each player can only take each support action once per round, so in this case it's always best to take the "six troops" space if it's open. It seems like such a slight difference, but placing that extra troop can be crucial. This is an action you'll want to do every round, and hopefully beat your opponent to the optimal action space too.
The Plan action is also available on the support board, and it also comes in two flavors. The first Plan action space allows you to draw two cards from the operation deck, while the other space only allows you to draw one card, but you get the initiative, if you don't already have it. This is the only way initiative changes throughout the game, so it's always a tough decision whether you want to go for two cards, or gain/maintain the initiative. After all, this is a worker placement game, so turn order can be super important.
When I mentioned the spice, I was referring to the operation cards in General Orders. I think this game would be great if it didn't have these cards, but it's so much spicier with them! There are thirty cards included in the game, some are specific to the game mode you're playing (Alpine/Island), but the bulk are played in every game. Each card clearly explains its effect and when it can be played. Or alternatively, you can discard any operation card to re-roll all dice whenever you're doing something that involves dice rolling. Not only is the variety of cards awesome, but it's also great that the operation cards are flexible and give players more than one way to use them.
There are Ground Assault cards that allow you add up to two troops from your reserve after the move in step of the Advance action. There are Mobilize cards that allow you to place up to two additional troops when you take the Reinforce action. I had a lot of fun surprising David with Anti-air cards when he paradropped his troops into spaces I controlled. Anti-air cards allow you to roll two extra dice for your defensive roll before battle attrition when resolving land conflict. If I recall, he dropped in four troops to an area I controlled with only one troop, and I surprised him playing an Anti-air card, then I made what I'll refer to as a "skilled roll" and rolled 2-1-1, which killed all four of his troops before the battle popped off. It was a glorious moment!
There are also Blitz, Ambush, Artillery Strike, and Counter Attack cards which all have different, useful effects. Perhaps what's even better than the cards themselves, is your opponent not knowing which cards you actually have and conversely, you not knowing what they have. It lends itself to lots of mind games and moments where you'll be stressed and sweating, or trying to make your opponent feel that way.
I also mentioned some spaces have victory points on them. Some of the VP spaces have bonus tokens too, so there is lots to fight over. If you don't manage to force your opponent out of their HQ within four rounds, then it's all about points. Our game ended after four tense rounds and it was anyone's game until a pivotal moment at the very end where I was able to prevent David from trying to take my victory points away from me while I was in the lead. We had such a fun time playing, and that was on Tabletop Simulator. I can't wait to play the physical version in person!...and I'm sure David will be looking for a rematch.
There aren't many worker placement games specifically designed for two players, and there certainly aren't many worker placement wargames to my knowledge. This makes General Orders stand out off the bat. After playing a game, I was really impressed with what I saw and how I felt.
First off, David explained the rules in about five minutes and we were off and running. All of the actions are straightforward and easy to understand, which makes this game very accessible. You can play it with just about anyone and have them into the game in no time. The excellent graphic design by Gareth Clarke helps a lot too. Then once you get going, it takes less than an hour to play, which is another nod to its accessibility.
The game itself feels tense and thinky. As we were starting our game, and I was thinking through what I wanted to do for my first turn in response to what David did since he had the initiative, Trevor said "the opening can feel chess-like", and I completely agree. If I do XYZ, my opponent may respond with ABC. You're always trying to think about what your opponent is going to do and it feels tense as the game develops. Then you also have the worker placement struggles. I need to do "this" and "that", but I can't risk them blocking that space. There's so much you want to do, but it's tricky figuring out the timing of when to do it because you don't want to miss out on an opportunity.
There were many moments when I felt my forces were weak, and I was nervous David was going to march his troops in, so I struggled with the tough decision to reinforce then, when I really wanted to secure another space. Then you are also always trying to find clever ways to cut off your opponent's supply, while also trying to protect your own. There is a lot at play here for a game with such simple rules.
I took a peek at the Island board too, and that game mode opens things up a hair more complexity wise and makes the game slightly asymmetric, plus it adds a few different actions, as well as aircrafts. So in addition to troops, you have aircrafts you'll be flying around and managing on the board. I feel like there was a lot of game to be explored with the Alpine mode, and the included Island mode is sure to beef up the game even more. It seems like it'll really have its own feel while packing more variety into the game box.
I think it's safe to say, the Undaunted duo has done it again. First they successfully created an awesome hybrid deck-building wargame with Undaunted: Normandy in 2019, and now they've created an awesome worker placement wargame. General Orders really evokes the feeling and tension of playing a 2-player wargame, with an added layer of tough worker placement choices. I thoroughly enjoyed my first play of General Orders: World War II and I'm already hype to play it more.
Here's the official announcement video from Osprey with some additional info and visuals on General Orders:
Wed Mar 15, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Struggle with Insurgency in Somalia, Command the US 29th Infantry Division, and Battle in the Balkans
10 Feb 2023
GMT's COIN Series continues to expand and evolve with Yann de Villeneuve's A Fading Star: Insurgency and Piracy in Somalia, which is a newer addition to GMT's P500 pre-order system, and sounds very intriguing. A Fading Star sets 1-4 players in Africa for a more modern look at insurgency struggles as detailed below by the publisher: Quote:A Fading Star: Insurgency and Piracy in Somalia is Volume XV of the COIN Series originally designed by Volko Ruhnke. The year is 2007. We reach the climax of the several decades of civil war that have ravaged Somalia since the fall of dictator Siad Barre in 1991. An African Union coalition, assisted by the Ethiopian army, enters Mogadishu to support a nascent but corrupt Transitional Federal Government. They face a relentless and violent insurgency waged by Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, an Islamic group seeking both to expel the "invaders" and to transcend the traditional clan-based government structure of Somalia. In the middle of this power vacuum, minor clans and warlords organize themselves to administrate otherwise ungoverned regions, while others engage in large-scale piracy operations, painting their acts as a fight against foreign trawlers pillaging Somali fishing resources.Fighting Formations: US 29th Infantry Division, which is a tactical World War II game for 2 players designed by the late Chad Jensen, and developed by John Foley and Kai Jensen. US 29th Infantry Division is the second volume in GMT's Fighting Formation Series after Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division, which was released in 2011.
----• An updated take on contemporary aspects of insurgency and peacebuilding. The Al-Shabaab insurgent enjoys intelligence supremacy that allows them to conduct deadly out-of-turn ambushes, while facing a slightly less pronounced asymmetrical disadvantage than insurgent factions in previous volumes (due to the comparative weakness of the Transitional Federal Government). On the other hand, the African Union Mission's logistical, kinetic, and peacebuilding capacities will evolve as contributing countries join or leave the coalition throughout the game.
----• Intense urban warfare is depicted in more detail through the struggle for control of the capital city Mogadishu. Controlling a majority of districts will provide the ruling faction with further legitimacy and enhanced capabilities. However, limited operational effectiveness, mobility restrictions, and the looming threat from a major Al-Shabaab offensive will greatly slow the COIN factions' progress toward stabilizing the city.
----• A new ‘Clan Struggle’ interphase draws out some of the conflict's unique uncertainties. All sides bid to forge new alliances with local clans, bringing new blood to the battlefield, while the African Union must deal with the consequences of delayed reinforcements or unilateral withdrawals by member countries, and the Pirate warlords collect lucrative tolls from roads and ports that they control.
----• A unique piracy subsystem debunks the Somali pirate mythos and explores how piracy stakeholders' interests actually intersected with other local actors during the golden age of Indian Ocean hostage-taking.
Each turn eligible players will select from a faction-specific menu of Operations and Special Activities in an order determined by the current Event card, or choose to trigger the Event text. Typical Operations include Sweep, Assault, March, and Attack, with more unique Operations and Special Activities reflecting the specific nature of this conflict and the factions involved. Regular play is periodically interrupted by Propaganda rounds, during which early victory is possible and some upkeep is conducted; and by Clan Struggle rounds (unique to this game), during which all players have the opportunity to bid for the loyalty of an unaligned regional clan. If nobody achieves an early victory then the winner will be determined by comparing victory thresholds in the final Propaganda round. Each faction has unique victory conditions relating to their aims and objectives during this period of history.
----• Al-Shabaab wages a deadly Islamist insurgency against the African Union ‘occupiers’ and their dependent Transitional Federal Government allies. A clear edge in media warfare provides them with significant recruiting capacities that will help them build a Somali caliphate transcending the customary clan system.
----• Ugandan and Burundian troops serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) aim to enforce peace, build support for the Transitional Federal Government, and train the weak federal army. Neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya may also enter the scene to stabilize their respective borders while interfering in Somali politics.
----• An abysmally weak Transitional Federal Government seeks to survive in a besieged Mogadishu while reaching out into the rest of the country to advance the federalization process. Unprecedented embezzlement capacities and partnerships with like-minded clans may offer the consecutive administrations an opportunity to survive the conflict unharmed and more prosperous than ever, and a new kind of militia unit emphasizes the opportunistic nature of the Somali clans' agendas.
----• Pirates, minor clans, and unaligned warlords pursue their enrichment projects by raiding the high seas or setting up roadblocks across unruly parts of the country. They'll settle for a "customary" Somalia, neither rooted in sharia law nor totally anchored to the liberal world order.
Being a fan of Chad Jensen's prior releases, Combat Commander and Dominant Species/Dominant Species: Marine, and after reading the publisher's detailed description below, I'm very curious to explore this system.Quote:Fighting Formations is intended to be an ongoing series of wargames covering WWII tactical combined-arms combat at the platoon and squad levels. Each game in the series will feature a distinct combat unit, highlighting battles in which that unit participated as well as its particular order of battle and fighting characteristics. In this second volume of Fighting Formations, we feature the US 29th Infantry Division—“Blue and Gray”—as it fought from just after D-Day in June of 1944 to the end of the year.The Doomsday Project: Episode 2 – The Battle for the Balkans is a Q1 2023 release from Adam Starkweather and Compass Games, which is at the tail end of its rapid Kickstarter campaign (KS link), targeted to deliver next month (March 2023). The Battle for the Balkans can be played with 1-4 players and introduces political rules to this unique series focused on hypothetical wars. It is a follow-up to The Doomsday Project: Episode 1 – The Battle for Germany, which was released in 2021.
GAME FLOW: In each scenario, one player will take command of elements of the featured unit while the other assumes control of the opposing forces. These two players will alternate giving orders, activating their units on the map for various military functions. Players attempt to achieve victory by moving their combat units across the game map to attack their opponent’s units and to achieve as many scenario objectives as possible. The degree to which a player succeeds or fails is measured by a scenario’s specific victory conditions—be it the destruction of enemy units, the taking of vital mapboard objectives, or the exiting of friendly units off the opponent’s map edge.
ORDERS & INITIATIVE: Each game turn is divided into ten orders, with each player performing a variable number of these orders. In each turn, the sequence of play is fluid—with orders being given by the active player and reactions being taken by both players—depending upon the relative initiative level at any given moment. Fighting Formations is also not the typical Igo-Yougo fare with a strict sequence of play. Instead, the base game engine is an impulse-type back and forth mechanic whereby the various Orders carry with them a certain cost in Initiative. The game has a “pool” of 40 Initiative that is “spent” to give orders and then to activate units for those orders. At the end of every order, the player with the most Initiative is able to give the next order. In response, the opponent can also spend Initiative to conduct both Opportunity Fire (at moving units) or Reactive Fire (at firing units).
ASSETS: The game has Asset cards—including smoke, artillery, air support, man-portable support weapons and demolitions—but is not card-driven. Each Asset will either take the place of a standard order or provide the player with some form of reactionary capability during an order.
SPECIAL RULES: FF:29 is a stand-alone game in the Fighting Formations game series. While utilizing the basic rules, FF:29’s playbook includes specific terrain, fortification, and unit special action rules in order to more accurately portray tactical warfare as experienced by the participants in France, Holland, and Germany during this time period.
SCALE: The scale of the game is 75 meters per hex with turns representing about 5 minutes of real time.
UNITS: Units represent infantry squads, guns with their inherent crews, and individual vehicles. Platoons are also employed. Leaders are abstractly represented by Command markers, each one coordinating the actions of friendly units within a scenario-defined radius.
Here's a a very brief description of the series and what you can expect from Episode 2:Quote:The Doomsday Project is a subseries of the Operational Scale System featuring wars that never happened. There will be games on the Persian Gulf, the Balkans, the far north, the Far East, the strategic naval war, and of course, a game of total nuclear war. Episode Two, The Battle for the Balkans game, as you will see in all additional games in The Doomsday Project, will add another facet to the mechanics of the system. Sophisticated political rules will make their appearance. Players will have to contend with heads of state and their positives and negatives in play. Rules to retrofit these rules into the Germany game will be provided as well.• For the solo players, and those who enjoy nautical World War II games, Die Seehunde from designer Simon Kohlruss is another 2023 release to check out from Compass Games. Die Seehunde looks and sounds super cool, and plays in 30-45 minutes.
Here's a high-level overview of how it works from the designer:Quote:Die Seehunde is a solitaire nautical wargame set in the last months of World War 2. You, the player, will be in command of a two crew midget submarine Type XXVIIB called “Seehund” (Seal; plural “Seehunde, die”) or simply “Hund” (Hound) by its crews. Equipped with two G7e Torpedoes, the Seehund was designed as a short range commerce raider for deployment in the North Sea.
The game play is divided into two games, which are connected to each other. You will start with the Strategic Game, which is played on a geographic map of the British Channel and it surrounding coasts. Here you will be at risk of encountering different events and challenges while searching for convoys to attack. Once you find a convoy, the Strategic Game pauses, and you switch to the Tactical Game, which is played on a large map, which is centered around the encountered convoy. You will try to maneuver as close a possible to identify the individual vessels
and pick the biggest fish. For torpedo simulation, the game uses a simplified mechanism, which allows you to attack from any angle and any range with minimal restrictions. Once there is no more to achieve against this convoy, you will try to escape the scene by grounding your submarine on the seafloor and hoping for the best.
After your escape, play will continue with the Strategic Game, where you can now choose to continue your journey, or head back to the home harbor of IJmuiden. Once you reach harbor, the game comes to a happy ending. But don’t be fooled, as there is only one happy end, and a dozen ways to die in the cold waters of the North Sea.
- The Doomsday Project: Episode 2 – The Battle for the Balkans
- Die Seehunde
- Fighting Formations: US 29th Infantry Division
- A Fading Star: Insurgency and Piracy in Somalia
- Adam Starkweather
- Chad Jensen
- John Foley
- Kai Jensen
- Simon Kohlruss
- Yann de Villeneuve
- GMT Games
- Compass Games
- Series: COIN (GMT)
- Series: Fighting Formations (GMT)
Fri Feb 10, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Explor8 to get a gameplay rundown of Dimitri Perrier and Matthieu Verdier's 2022 release Federation, an innovative worker placement game all about space politics. Worker placement games, by default, have player interaction, but Federation pushes the needle further in an exciting way, which I experienced firsthand on a review copy provided by the publisher.
In Federation, 2-4 players compete to gain the most prestige points and become the planet worthy of joining the Federation. Federation features a unique double-sided worker placement mechanism combined with what feels like multiple mini-games, making for a highly interactive eurogame.
Federation was successfully funded on Kickstarter in October 2021 and available in Europe in Q4 2022. However, in January 2023, Eagle-Gryphon Games announced they partnered with Explor8 to bring the deluxe version of Federation to the North American market and launched a pre-order, which is targeted to release at Gen Con 2023. As a pre-order bonus, Eagle-Gryphon Games is also including an exclusive, full-color wooden President of the Senate first player pawn.
The version I played is the deluxe version with dual-layered player boards, upgraded ambassador tokens and components, whereas the retail version from Explor8 would have all cardboard components.
The first thing you'll probably notice when you see Federation sprawled out on the table is a large, busy-looking board with a lot of different components. It may appear intimidating initially, but once you understand the flow of the game, you'll appreciate the excellent art and iconography by Miguel Coimbra. It not only makes the game easier to teach and play, but it's also fully language independent, which is a nice bonus. In addition to the main game board, each player has their own player board for managing their ambassadors (workers), resources, special missions, and more. The setup for your first game may take a while because you need to sort through and place several tokens and tiles around the board. However, once you have your first game under your belt, you can easily divide and conquer to speed up setup if other players are down to help.
Federation is played over 5 rounds, and each round is split into 2 phases. In the Ambassador phase, players take turns in clockwise order, placing their ambassador tokens on action spaces within the Senate, then performing the corresponding action. After the Ambassador phase, there's an end-of-round Executive phase where players may gain income and score prestige points for political influence in the Senate.
On your turn during the Ambassador phase, first you must play an ambassador token on an available action space of the Senate, either on its voting side or its funding side. You have two ambassador tokens with a voting value of 1, one with a value of 2, and one with a value of 3. On the opposite side of each ambassador token, there's a funding icon which looks like a coin, and a checkmark in a green circle, which represents you gaining access to a special mission (on your player board). The 2 higher-value voting tokens also give you a resource when played on their funding side. That added bonus of gaining a resource is often very tempting, and often necessary, so it's nice to have that option. Of course you have to decide if it's more important to play those tokens on their voting side though.
The Senate area of the game board is divided into a left wing and a right wing. Most of the actions are available on both wings, but there are a few that are slightly different. Each wing has a 3x3 grid of action spaces, and at the top of each column are funding tracks. Each round, there will be 2 different law (scoring) tiles under each wing, which will factor into your decision of which action space to choose. There are also 5 different planet actions available on both sides which correspond to the matching planet actions around the board. Every section is color-coded, but there are also different shapes and icons to differentiate for clarity. The other action spaces represent rooms of the Senate, as well as an action space on both wings that allows you to spy, or spend a resource to copy another action space, which comes in handy since only 1 ambassador token can occupy a given space.
During the Executive phase, after all players have placed all 4 of their ambassador tokens, whichever player has the most voting strength for each floor (row) in the Senate gains prestige points. Any columns that have ambassador tokens funding side up increase the corresponding major project funding track(s). Then you'll see which side, left wing or right wing, has the most total votes (all players), and all players score prestige points according to the law tile on the corresponding side.
This worker placement system has so many interesting decision points to wrestle with. There are pros and cons to placing your ambassador token on the voting side versus the funding side at different points throughout the game. The voting side could lead to more immediate prestige points, but if you push the funding tracks where you have more influence than your opponents, you can score some big points at the end of the game. So you have to decide which side to place your token on (voting or funding), then you also need to decide which wing of the Senate to place your token on based on which laws might score at the end of the round. It's a worker placement game, so your opponent's may be blocking spaces you're desiring and you often won't have the option to choose which wing of the Senate you want to place your ambassador token on if you are hard-pressed to take a particular action. Ultimately, you're playing this area influence game with the voting side of your ambassador tokens, while also trying to take the actions you need (and want) to, and support the wing of the Senate that's going to score you the most prestige points if a particular law is passed.
As I mentioned above, there are planet actions and Senate room actions. Each planet action works a little differently and feels like a mini-game within the main game, but they're pretty straightforward and can be executed quickly. Each planet action is going to increase your influence for the corresponding planet and give you a helpful benefit, but in its own way.
The pink planet allows you to gain Erudite tiles that have special immediate or one-time use effects. Each tile you gain increases your influence by 1 for the pink planet.
At the yellow planet, you can carry out trades in different stalls. The first level stalls are each worth 1 influence, but if you trade at the same stall more than once, it'll push your marker to the second level which has a better trade rate and is worth 2 influence.
There are 4 different types of resources in Federation: lavendium (pink), coppernium (green), oceanium (blue), and gold diamond (yellow). The blue resource can always replace pink or green, and yellow is most precious since it's harder to get, and it can help you score points with the yellow planet action; in addition, it's required to build megastructures on the green planet, which can be worth a lot of victory points.
The orange planet is a mining planet where you'll move forward each action, similar to the blue planet, but instead of snagging alteration tokens, you gain resources. There are some randomly placed asteroid tokens which can be very tempting and lucrative, but instead of stopping to grab one, you can move 2 steps forward in some cases to increase your influence faster.
Last, but definitely not least, is the green planet where you can spend resources to either build a production structure which gives you an immediate benefit as well as end of round income, or you can build a megastructure to immediately score a chunk of victory points.
Your influence in these 5 different planets matters a lot for a few reasons. For one, you are racing your opponents to gain medals of honor. You can only have 1 medal for each planet, and they become increasingly harder to get the slower you are at getting your influence up. For example, in the 4-player game, the first person to have 3 influence for a planet gains the corresponding medal, then the next player would need 4 influence to gain a medal, the next would need 5, and so on. The more unique medals you have at the end of the game, the more points you'll earn from them. The game incentivizes you to get there before your opponents, but you can't do it all.
The other reason planet influence is important is because that is how the laws score during the Executive phase. The higher your influence for the planet that scores, the more prestige points you'll gain. As an example, if the left wing has more votes in the Senate at the end of the round and there's a green law token, it means all players score 2x their green planet influence level. The end-of-round scoring in Federation really fuels so many tough decisions during the worker placement phase.
Besides the planet actions, the Senate room actions are important too. There's one that allows you to take the President of the Senate pawn to become the first player for the next round, and you also get a medal of honor of your choice from a planet that you don't already have. When you get the medal, you take the one placed on the highest level of influence. Being first player didn't feel tremendously critical in Federation and there are sometimes advantages to being last, since you might have the final say in which law is passed. Either way, the free medal is a nice perk when choosing this action.
There are Senate room actions that increase your accreditation level on your player board and some that help you gain spaceships into the hangar on your player board. At this point, you're probably wondering why spaceships and your accreditation level even matter, so allow me to explain.
On your turn, in addition to placing an ambassador token and performing the corresponding action, you may optionally send 1 spaceship to accomplish a special mission on your player board, assuming you meet a few conditions. You must have an available spaceship in your hangar, the special mission must be accessible, and you must have the required accreditation level. If you meet all of these conditions, you can take a spaceship from your hangar, put it on the corresponding space and perform the action of the special mission. It's basically a bonus action on top of your normal action, so while your brain is processing every other decision in this game, you'll also be trying to set yourself up with as many special mission bonus action opportunities as you can.
On the left side of your player board, you'll keep track of your accreditation level. As you bump up to the next accreditation level, you open up more special mission opportunities that are in the corresponding row, in addition to being qualified for any special missions below. The special missions are almost identical to the action spaces on the Senate board, but you have to make them accessible before you can send a spaceship. Earlier I mentioned an icon with a checkmark in a green circle, which you can find on the funding side of your ambassador tokens. When you place an ambassador token on the funding side, you can add a checkmark token to the special mission matching the action space where you placed your ambassador token. Then assuming your accreditation level meets or exceeds it, you can send a spaceship there after your main action to gain a bonus action, which can lead to some cool combos on your turn.
There's also a Senate room action that allows you to increase your assistant die by 2, and make it available to you if it's not already. During the Ambassador/worker placement phase, your assistant die can be placed with your ambassador token on its voting side to boost that token's voting strength. This can be a tremendous help for winning majority scoring of each Senate floor at the end of the round, as well as influencing which wing's law passes.
At the end of the round, after all players have played all 4 of their ambassador tokens, you begin the Executive phase. First, each player receives income for every production structure they built. Then players with an accreditation level of 3 or higher must pay a resource corresponding to their level. If you can't, you have to lower your accreditation level back down to where you can pay the matching resource, or drop all the way back to the first space of level 2.
Then you increase the major project marker for each ambassador token on its funding side in the corresponding column. There's a joint major project that increases based on any excess funding, and that track has player markers to keep track of who contributed the most, which might factor into final scoring.
After adjusting funding tracks for the major projects, you score each floor of the Senate. The player with the most votes on each floor scores as many prestige points as their level of accreditation. This is one of the main reasons you'll want to focus some of your attention on increasing your accreditation level, besides the special mission bonus action opportunities.
Finally, you determine which law is passed depending on which wing (left or right) had the most total votes and all players score prestige points according to their level of influence for the corresponding planet. There are 2 sets of 5 different tokens corresponding to each of the 5 planets, so you can expect to potentially score each planet twice, but you won't know the timing of when exactly each law tile will appear, or which will be passed. Either way, you'll always want to be ahead of the pack or push for the law that will benefit you most. I love that this votes mechanism lends itself to politics around the table. You may want to work with another player to help push the vote in a direction that's favorable for both of you, or push it away from a player who's in the lead.
At the end of the 5th round, the game ends and you proceed to final scoring. First, everyone scores points for their medals of honor, based on the lowest uncovered value. Then you score points for your remaining resources, followed by majority scoring for any major projects that funded, meaning the marker got to the last space on the track. In a 4-player game, whoever has the most influence for each funded major project scores 16 prestige points, the player with the second most scores 8, and the 3rd most scores 4. It's a significant amount of points so be sure to pay attention to these funding tracks, on top of everything else.
I would say the rules make the game feel medium complexity wise, but all of the strategic decisions you're faced with makes it feel more complex, and to me, more interesting. Besides the fact that you're racing to beat your opponents to everything, from action spaces to medals, each planet action is very satisfying. You're always getting something cool, and it's a matter of figuring out what cool thing is going to help you most each turn. Sometimes you'll try to increase your influence for the planet which seems like its law will pass, but other times you'll march to the beat of your own drum and try to push harder for the law you want passed.
There should be a decent amount of replay value from the variation of tiles and tokens on the different planets, in addition to the varied combination of law tiles that appear each round, but there's also an advanced setup variant where you can change up the green planet from game to game by placing production structure tiles and megastructure tokens for even more variation.
If you're a worker placement fan and thrive on heavy, indirect player interaction, be sure to check out Federation. I'm definitely looking forward to playing it more and I'm happy that it'll be more widely available in the U.S. soon enough.
Fri Feb 3, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Daniele Tascini or Simone Luciani's name on a board game, I'm instantly curious to try it since they're both highly reputable designers and I've enjoyed many of their games in the past. When I see their names together on a board game, I know I'm in for a treat, considering this is the same designer duo behind Tzolk'in and The Voyages of Marco Polo. After I demoed their latest release Tiletum from Board&Dice at Gen Con 2022, I wasn't blown away, but I thought it was a solid, classic-feeling eurogame with mostly familiar mechanisms that worked well together. It wasn't until I played my first full game of Tiletum, where I got the full picture and my eyes and brain lit up.
In Tiletum, 1-4 players take on the roles of rich merchants traveling throughout Europe during the Golden Age of the Renaissance, gathering resources, fulfilling contracts, and competing for victory points at fairs in various towns. The gameplay for Tiletum is centered around a dice drafting, action selection mechanism where the dice have a dual function; the die you choose each turn informs which resource you gain and which action you perform.
Tiletum is played over four rounds and each round is divided into five phases: Preparation, Action, King, Fair, and Cleanup. The goal of the game is to have the most victory points by the end of the game. This is a point salad game where you get points for a lot of different things, and it's not unlikely for scores to be in the 200+ zone by the end of the game.
In the Action phase, the heart of the game, players take turns taking a die from the action wheel, then gaining the corresponding resources provided by the die, and performing the associated action. The color and number on the die you take indicates which resource you get and how many. Then the amount of action points you get is always the difference between 7 and the number on the resource die you chose. For example, if I draft a pink "5" die, I gain 5 food tokens but, I only get 2 action points for the corresponding action. Alternatively, if I pick a yellow "1" die, I only get 1 gold token, but I get 6 action points. So already, you can probably see how there's a lot to consider when choosing a die on your turn. You might need a certain amount of a particular resource, and at the same time you need to take a particular action, but often the stars don't align, so you'll need to do one or the other. That decision is often very tough, especially because your opponents will have their eyes on everything you're considering as well.
On the action wheel, there are 5 different actions you can choose from, but there's also a joker action space, which allows you to take any action. In addition to the interesting choices that arise from the dice distribution and actions, there are also super juicy bonus tiles placed around the action wheel at the start of each turn. There's only 1 tile on each action space, and they're first come, first serve. Thus, they will also factor in your decision process when you're figuring out which die to take on your turn. As you can imagine, turn order is very important.
There are 5 main actions in Tiletum, in addition to tasks (free actions) you can take at any point during your turn. Most of the actions have a variety of ways you can allocate your action points. Again, the amount of actions points you gain depends on which die number you draft.
A big chunk of the game board represents a map of Europe, which initially gave me some Orléans vibes. Players start the game with a merchant (wagon) and an architect (pencil compass) in the Tiletum town space, and there are 2 actions that allow you to manipulate those pieces on the map. When you perform the Architect action, you can spend action points to move your architect around the map, to add a pillar from your personal supply to an empty pillar space in a town with your architect, or to take a bonus tile from the town where your architect is located. The Merchant action works similarly since you can spend action points to move your merchant, take a bonus tile, or you can place a house on an empty house space in the town where your merchant is located.
During final scoring at the end of the game, you'll multiply the number of houses you have on the map by the number of pillars you have on the map and gain that many victory points. Also, when it comes to pillars, having pillars in towns allows you to build cathedrals which are worth a decent amount of points. On the other hand, houses are very helpful especially at fair locations, since you either need to have your merchant at the fair location or a house placed there to participate and score points. Therefore, it's usually a good option to place houses and pillars when you can. There are limited spaces at each town, so it's always a race to beat your opponents there.
Before I explain how the Character and Contract actions work, it's important to note that each player has their own player board in Tiletum, which is where you'll be managing tiles you collect as well as juggling a set collection mini game. Your player board has a warehouse section to store 4 tiles, and a main section where you can place character and crest tiles in different rows and columns. Throughout the game you'll be picking up a variety of different bonus tiles (crests, resources, actions, etc.), as well as contract and character tiles. You can only ever have or take one type of each crest, and each column can only have one type of each character.
When you perform the Character action, you can spend action points to take character tiles from the character offer, which has 5 face-up character tiles to choose from. When you take a character tile, you immediately place it in your warehouse, so you must have an available empty space. With the Character action you can also spend an action point to discard all character tiles from the offer, and immediately refill it with new tiles. You can also spend action points to move a character tile from your warehouse into a room on your player board, noting you cannot have two different buildings (columns) with the same character. After you place a character tile, you'll also earn the bonus in the left corner of the tile. Each player starts the game with a house at the top of each column/building, which you can add to your supply once that column/building is filled with character tiles.
The final action is the King action, where you can spend action points to advance on the King track. That is literally all you do action wise, so it may appear insignificant initially, but your position on this track relative to your opponents is important. During the King phase, you'll adjust turn order based on the King track and this is a game where turn order is extremely important. It's also worth noting that before the first player takes a die in the action phase, they will reveal the rightmost face-down corruption token under the King track and move all players markers back according to the number on the token (0, 1, or 2).
After the last player has taken their third die and has finished resolving their last action for the round, there is a King phase. In the King phase, the player whose marker is highest on the King track takes or discards the bonus tile next to the track. Then players score or lose points based on their position on the King track. Finally, turn order is adjusted so the player highest on the King track becomes the first player, the second-highest becomes the second player, and so on.
Then comes the Fair phase, where players have the opportunity to gain a decent chunk of victory points. The first fair is always in Tiletum, but the subsequent three fair locations (out of eight) are randomly selected at the beginning of the game, along with four (out of eleven) randomly selected fair tiles. The fair tiles have different scoring objectives such as scoring points for each pillar you have on the map, or for each contract you have fulfilled, or for each crest tile on your player board, or for sets of houses and pillars you have on the map, etc. The variety of combinations of fair locations and fair tiles forces you to change up your strategy each game; it makes Tiletum highly re-playable.
After the Fair phase, there's a Cleanup phase where you'll replenish bonus tiles around the action wheel and on the King track. Then you'll return all dice to the bag and rotate the action wheel one step clockwise before starting the next round. Rotating the action wheel each round keeps things interesting as well.
At the end of the Fair phase of the 4th round, there's final scoring where you may earn additional points for the houses and pillars you have on the map, as well as completed buildings on your player board. You can also cash in your remaining resources and gain a point for every 4 resources. Then the player with the most victory points wins.
I glossed over crest tiles, but they also play an important role in Tiletum. You can gain crest tiles as bonus tiles or some may appear in the contract offer as well. To move them from your warehouse to the bottom of a column/building, you have to spend some amount of food, then you gain the bonus of the space you covered. You can cover up the crest spaces in any order you'd like, so if you have the right amount of food, you can strategically place one at the right time for a powerful, helpful bonus. For example, there's one space where you can immediately move your merchant anywhere on the map. There's also one that allows you to place a house from your supply onto any town on the map. Just imagine, your opponent could be gradually moving their merchant somewhere to be first to place their house, and you place a crest just before that and build a house where they were hoping to. The bonuses for placing crest tiles can be very powerful.
If you manage to fill a building on your player board with character tiles and you have a crest placed below it, you get to add one of your bonus action markers near the action wheel space indicated on your character tile(s). These bonus action markers give you 1-3 permanent extra action points for the corresponding action. Action points are valuable so this is an awesome bonus that's worth getting as early as you can. Of course, there are so many things you'll want to do, but you can't do it all.
Tiletum is an excellent, medium-weight eurogame that feels highly competitive. Everything you'll want to do, your opponents will be trying to do as well, whether it's drafting a particular die, or trying to build a house at the next fair location, or snag a particular contract or bonus tile. There is so much that everyone will be trying to do at the same time, which again, makes turn order very important...while also being another thing you'll be trying to beat your opponents on. It feels like there's always a tense race to do everything. Since your opponents will almost always be doing everything you'll want to do, it can be difficult to plan your turn in advance. You really need a backup plan to your backup plan's backup plan to keep the game moving along. There are so many satisfying options to choose from and exploring all of your options can be mentally taxing, so beware of analysis paralysis. If players are familiar with the game and aren't taking too long on their turns, you can play a 4-player game of Tiletum in less than 2 hours.
Tiletum also includes a solo mode designed by Dávid Turczi with Jeremy Avery where you compete against "The Cardinalbot", an automated solo opponent. You win if you have more victory points than the Cardinalbot at the end of the game. In addition to the solo rules, there are also 8 challenge cards you can play with to modify the rules of the Cardinalbot.
Because Tiletum is so competitive, clever, and highly re-playable, it feels like a classic already. I think part of that feeling comes from the classic eurogame theme as well, which is the weakest part of the game for me. As it stands, I really enjoy the gameplay and it's obvious that Tascini and Luciani are still going strong as a designer duo, but a stronger, more interesting theme would've made Tiletum pop even more for me.
If medium-weight eurogames are your thing, I highly recommend checking out Tiletum. It is a very satisfying and competitive game that provides fresh challenges from game to game, primarily because of the fair location and objective variability, but there are so many other contributing factors, such as the dice distribution around the rotating action wheel, and the variety of bonus tiles, which all really vary up the gameplay and make Tiletum shine.
Fri Jan 27, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Glenn Drover's latest release, Mosaic: A Story of Civilization, a big, yet streamlined, civilization-building game for 2-6 players that can be played in 2 hours, from Forbidden Games. Mosaic originally caught my eye when it was on Kickstarter (KS link) in May 2021. Then, after my Gen Con demo game left me wanting more, the kind folks at Forbidden Games sent me a review copy of the Colossus edition (w/ miniatures and premium components) so I could continue building my civilization's mosaic and play it more.
If you're familiar with Empires: Age of Discovery or Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame, you'll know this is not Drover's first rodeo when it comes to civilization board games. And if you're familiar with Raccoon Tycoon, you'll know Drover knows a thing or two about designing a game with quick turns. Enter Mosaic: A Story of Civilization...
Mosaic: A Story of Civilization is a straight-forward action selection, engine-building game fused with a civilization-building game. In Mosaic, like many civilization-building games, each player develops an ancient civilization, starting with a single city and minimal resources, into a thriving, technologically advanced civilization with towns, cities, wonders, culture, military presence, and more.
The large game board for Mosaic features a beautiful mosaic map by Jared Blando, on top of a hex grid which is divided into seven regions differentiated by color. When playing with less than 4 players, there will be some regions not in play. There are spaces for the four decks of cards and their corresponding card offer areas (Build, Population, Technology, and Tax & Tariff), in addition to informative spaces for the other actions in the game which don't have card decks (Work, Military, Wonders, and Government). You'll create the four decks of cards by shuffling an Empire Scoring card into the bottom portion of each deck, noting certain decks are populated differently based on player count.
During setup, you'll flood the board with a ton of trade goods and cache tokens. You have to flip all of the tokens face-down, mix them, and place them on all of the hexes of the game board (cache tokens on cache token spaces, and trade goods on open hexes), then flip them over and remove any 'x' trade good tokens. It's the most tedious part of the setup process, but it's a minor gripe considering how streamlined the gameplay itself is. These tokens are goodies you can acquire throughout the game when you build cities, towns, and wonders on spaces with tokens.
Each player starts the game with a player board, a leader, a starting city on the board, five starting technologies which are drafted, and starting benefits from their leader. There are 9 different leaders included in the game and they each have their own special abilities you can lean into.
Mosaic is played over a series of turns in clockwise order, occasionally interrupted with an Empire Scoring phase, until the game ends and the player with the most victory points wins. On your turn, you may perform one of eight different actions. The game includes a handy reference booklet with all sorts of helpful information, but the actions are all printed around the game board and very straight-forward to execute.
You can take the Work action to produce one of the three non-money resources (ideas, food, and stone). You simply pick a resource, then add your current production of that resource to your current population, and gain that amount of resources. Everyone starts the game with five population, but as you build new cities, you 'spend' your population. Your production can increase for various resources by researching technologies and a few other ways throughout the game.
When you perform the Population action, choose one of the two Population cards available in the Population offer area, pay the amount of food shown on the card, and increase your population accordingly. Then discard the card and draw a new one to refill the Population offer area.
With the Build action, you can choose one of the five available Build cards paying the appropriate cost, if any, then place the corresponding card in your tableau and gain any benefits shown. Then refill the card offering with a new card from the Build deck. Farm and manufactory towns are always free to build, but if the card is a city, port city, or project, it'll have a cost of stone and population for cities, and stone and ideas for projects. It's also worth noting that you can always build a city, port city, or town for the usual cost without selecting a card.
As far as placement goes, a city can be placed on any open hex on the board. A port city can be placed on any open port hex (with a ship icon) on the board. Towns must be placed on an open hex next to one of your cities. If you build on hex with a cache token, you immediately gain the one-time benefit (typically resources) and discard the tile. If you build on a hex with a trade goods token, you take the token and place it on your player board. Some trade goods increase your production for different resources and there are a variety of benefits to having as many unique trade goods as possible, since this represents you building your trade network.
While building stuff and expanding into new regions is important, it's also essential for your civilization to learn new technologies to stay competitive. To perform the Technology action, pay 5 ideas and select one of the five available Technology cards from the Technology offer area. You can place the card face-up in your tableau immediately if you meet the prerequisites (if any), or you can keep it in your hand until you're ready and able to play it.
Technology cards and other cards in Mosaic have pillars of civilization symbols on them. These symbols may contribute to end game scoring for you, special Golden Age achievements, as well as helping you research fancier technologies. The more pillars of civilization symbols you acquire, the more technologies you can learn.
Considering the Military action costs money, you're probably wondering how you get money in Mosaic. One of the main ways you earn money is by taking the Tax & Tariff action and choosing one of the two available Tax & Tariff cards in the Tax & Tariff offer area. You'll gain money as shown on the card you choose and place the card in your tableau to keep track of your unrest, which is shown at the bottom of Tax & Tariff cards. At the end of the game, you total all of your unrest and deduct that many points from your score. Certain wonders, leaders, and technologies may help you ignore unrest.
Tax cards generate money based on population, the number of government pillars of civilization symbols you have, and your tax production on your player board. Tariff cards generate money based on the number of unique trade goods tokens that you have, the number of cities you have on the board, and your tariff production.
In addition to the money you earn from the card you choose, you might also be able to score some bonus money from the Holding Area on the board. Every time a city is built, you place 5 money from the supply in the Holding area. When a port city is built, you place a whopping 10 money instead. As players build more cities, money piles up in the Holding Area, which makes it very tempting to perform the Tax & Tariff action.
The final action you can perform in Mosaic is the Government action. There are six government tiles available at the start of the game, and each has its own pillars of civilization symbol requirements as well as a cost in stone you need to pay to claim the government for your civilization. In addition, each government gives you a special ability and an additional way to score points.
As you progress through the game, taking cards from the various offer areas, eventually you'll reveal an Empire Scoring card which will trigger Empire Scoring. During Empire Scoring, the two players with the most influence in each region score points. Influence is determined by counting 2 influence points for each wonder and city that you own in a region, and 1 influence point for each town and military unit that you own in a region, plus any bonus influence from technologies. The player with the second most influence points in a region scores 2 points, and the player with the most influence scores 3 points plus 1 point per city and wonder in the region, regardless of who owns them. Ties for most influence are friendly, so all players with the most influence receive the full amount of points for a given region. However, if there's a tie for second place, the tied players don't score any points.
A decent chunk of your score comes from Empire Scoring, so most of what you're doing in the game is building cities and positioning your military units to make sure you can score points during Empire scoring, as well as prevent your opponents from scoring when possible. You never know the exact timing of when Empire Scoring cards will be revealed either, so you're on your toes most of the game. However, this is not the only reason you'll be constantly monitoring the board and keeping a close eye on what your opponents are doing.
Mosaic also has Golden Age and Civilization Achievement tiles players will be racing to claim until they're all snatched up. There is a Golden Age tile for each of the nine pillars of civilization symbols and you can claim one if you have at least 6 symbols of a particular type in your tableau. Meanwhile, there are 15 different Civilization Achievement tiles, and each game you randomly choose 9 to play with. I love how much tension these tiles add to the game, especially since they're worth 6 points each. It's also great the that you play with a random set of Civilization Achievement tiles each game so you have to strategize around them, which is more exciting and challenging than if they were the same every game.
The end of the game will be triggered after the third Empire Scoring card is revealed, or if 2 of 3 of the Wonders, Golden Ages, or Civilization Achievements have all been taken. When either occurs, you perform a third and final Empire Scoring, then finish the current round, and play one more final round so each player gets one more action. In addition to the points you scored from the three Empire Scoring phases, you score points for your cities and towns, wonders, Golden Age and Civilization Achievement tiles, Project/Technology/Town cards, and subtract points for unrest on your Tax & Tariff cards. The player with the most victory points wins the game and will be remembered as the greatest civilization in history...at least until you play your next game.
Building up your tableau of technologies with the pillars of civilization symbols is very reminiscent of building your tableau with different tags in Terraforming Mars. It's obviously not anything groundbreaking or new, but it's simple and easy to understand. Plus, the race to claim the Golden Age tiles when you have 6 or more of the same type of symbol adds a lot of excitement to the game and keeps players actively engaged and invested in what other players are doing.
There's a lot of player interaction on the board when it comes to building cities, towns, and wonders, and recruiting military units in the various regions, but the "combat" is very light. In fact, it barely exists, which some people might love and others might dislike. There are some military technologies that allow you to eliminate your opponents' units, but there's no combat system, so it feels more like a lighter area control game in that respect. Like most aspects of Mosaic, it's really simple and easy to understand -- you just read the card you choose, and do what it says. This also stirs up a lot of competition when it comes to grabbing cards from the board.
Between the different card offerings, the Holding Area piling up with money as players build cities, the Golden Age and Civilization Achievement tiles, and the anticipation of the Empire Scoring cards being revealed, there is so much to keep everyone engaged from start to finish when you play Mosaic. Plus, with the variety of Leader cards combined with different governments you can choose, the random mix of cache/trade goods tokens on the board, and the Civilization Achievement tiles, there's a ton of replay value packed into this game.
If you're ever trying to play Mosaic (Colossus edition) and no one's around to join you, you'll be happy the know there are solitaire rules and cards included by Dávid Turczi, where you'll play against an AI opponent Herobotus. I did not check out the solo mode so I can't comment on how it plays, but it's always a plus when there's one included. Please note, the retail edition of the game does not include the solitaire rules and components.
In addition to solitaire rules and components, the Colossus edition of Mosaic: A Story of Civilization also includes dual-layered player boards, plastic miniatures, premium wooden components, metal coins, a score track board, and an extra rulebook and references cards. However, the retail edition comes in a much smaller box and does not have those extras listed above. Instead, you get cardboard token versions of everything. I do not have the retail edition, so I can't comment on the quality of those components.
For those who are already fans of Mosaic and looking for more, the Mosaic: Wars & Disasters expansion, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter in November 2022 (KS link), is due out in 2023. The Wars & Disasters adds Disaster cards, national military powers, new wonders, new Technology, Build, and Leader cards, and more to spice up the base game and offer players new challenges and strategy options.
Fri Jan 6, 2023 9:30 am
- [+] Dice rolls
the launch of the Summit Award to recognize a historical board game published in the preceding year that most broadened the hobby through the ease of teaching and/or play, uniqueness of topic, or novel approach. On December 12, 2022, the San Diego History Con (SDHistCon) board announced Red Flag Over Paris as the 2022 Summit Award winner. Congratulations to Fred Serval and GMT Games!
In the press release below, you can find more details on the Summit Award, Red Flag Over Paris, as well as the three other Summit Award finalists:Quote:The San Diego Historical Games Convention (SDHistCon) is proud to announce the winner of the first annual Summit Award. The Summit Award aims to recognize a historical board game published in the preceding year that most broadened the hobby through the ease of teaching and/or play, uniqueness of topic, or novel approach. The winner of the 2022 Summit Award (for games published in 2021) is Red Flag Over Paris.For a more detailed overview of Red Flag Over Paris, check out my post from March 2022.
Red Flag Over Paris is designed by Fred Serval, with art from Donal Hegarty, development from Jason Carr and Joe Dewherst, and solitaire mode design by Jason Carr. It is published by GMT Games. It is a 20-40 minute card-driven game for one to two players, depicting the two months of intense confrontation between the Communards and the government in Versailles during the 1871 Paris Commune. Players take control of one of those factions and battle not just for physical control of the city, but also for the hearts and minds of the population. Solitaire variants are included for both factions.
The winner of the Summit Award was determined by members of the SDHistCon Board and SDHistCon Advisory Board. The judges praised Red Flag Over Paris for its ease of teaching and play, novelty of topic, and effectiveness as a historical game.
Red Flag Over Paris was one of four Summit Award finalists announced in October following a three-month public call for nominations (sent out in Conflicts of Interest #1) that produced more than 48 submissions. Red Flag Over Paris received the highest public nominations of any candidate. The other three finalists, selected by members of the SDHistCon Board and SDHistCon Advisory Board in October, were (in alphabetical order) Atlantic Chase (designed by Jeremy White, published by GMT Games), Nicaea (designed by Amabel Holland, published by Hollandspiele Games), and No Motherland Without: North Korea In Crisis and Cold War (designed by Dan Bullock, published by Compass Games). Each of those four games was taught and demonstrated at the Nov. 11-13 San Diego Historical Games Convention. Following that, members of the SDHistCon Board and SDHistCon Advisory Board met for a final selection of the 2022 Summit Award winner.
The Summit Award will return in 2023, with games published in 2022 under consideration for that award. A call for public submissions will go out in the summer of 2023. More information can be found on the Summit Award page on the SDHistCon website.
I've had the pleasure of playing all of the Summit Awards finalist games and enjoyed them all. They are all unique and left me wanting to explore them more. I'm loving and appreciating the year-to-year growth of accessible and approachable historical strategy games covering less common historical settings. I'm already excited to hear about 2023's Summit Award nominees!
Fri Dec 16, 2022 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Seven Takeaways from SPIEL '22
07 Nov 2022
W. Eric MartinUnited States
Not revelations about games, mind you, as most of those are still unplayed, but rather about the event itself and goings-on in the game industry, which includes BGG itself. Here's a summary of what I'll talk about in more depth in this video:
1. People missed the BGG booth at SPIEL '22. Whether to check out GeekBuzz, buy stuff at the BGG Store, watch folks being interviewed, ask questions about where a booth is located or whether a game is present, folks had many reasons to visit the BGG booth — but we weren't there in 2022.
2. Customs can wreck a publisher's plans, whether through errors on the part of the publisher or through delay due to all sorts of circumstances.
3. Games prices are up, and manufacturing schedules are jam-packed. In short, things in the game industry aren't back to normal — unless perhaps this is now normal. We won't know, of course, until a couple of more years pass.
4. Nothing was hot, at least not on a wide-scale measure in which you hear about a game from many different sources, all of them saying, "You gotta try this!"
5. The game industry is vast, and we're all just a tiny part of it. For good or ill, you can be overwhelmed by choices, and it's hard to wrap your mind around what's going on in the industry at large.
6. QR codes were everywhere, partly to make up for staff shortages and partly because they're one more way to get information about a game to potential interested parties.
7. BGG can be overwhelming, which is not news to me and probably not to you, but I was reminded of this thanks to many questions from designers, artists, and publishers I met.
In response to these questions, I've decided to start mailing publishers advice once a month on how to use various aspects of BGG. If you work for a publisher, feel free to sign up on my publisher mailing list. I do tons of tiny tasks on the BGG database, and ideally I can share information about how you can do such things yourself so that I can focus more on writing posts and creating videos like this one.
Mon Nov 7, 2022 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
SPIEL '22 Preview: Great Western Trail: Argentina, or Starving for Grain and Strong Cows
03 Oct 2022
Splendor and King of Tokyo, a little game called Great Western Trail melted my brain in the best way possible. I had to buy it. I had to figure it out. I eventually made some board game friends and we played it every week for a few months. Spoiler alert, in 2022, I still haven't figured it out, but I can't help but love it so much.
I was stoked to receive an advance copy of Great Western Trail: Argentina, a standalone sequel to Great Western Trail (Second Edition) from Alexander Pfister and eggertspiele, which is releasing at SPIEL '22. With a handful of games under my belt, I'm eager to share what it's all about and why I think it's worth checking out whether you're already a Great Western Trail fan or not.
Great Western Trail: Argentina is a medium-heavy eurogame that sets you in Argentina at the end of the 19th century, where you and up to three other players take on the role of estancia (cattle ranch) owners in the endless plains of the Pampas, where you must deliver your cattle to Buenos Aires to be shipped abroad. As you make your way up the path to Buenos Aires, you'll maintain your cattle herds, use helpful buildings, and earn money to hire different types of workers to become more efficient.
Each player begins the game with a herd deck of cattle cards and a player board with several wooden discs covering abilities you can unlock throughout the game. In addition, you have 10 private building tiles which you may build on the path to Buenos Aires during the game. The building tiles are double-sided and you can play with them on their A side, B side, or a random mix, similar to Great Western Trail. Whatever you decide applies to all players, so each building is on the same side for each player.
The game board appears very busy-looking upon first sight if you've never played Great Western Trail, but if you have, you'll feel right at home. Well, slightly at home. The trail path and train direction are reversed which is a trip initially for experienced Great Western Trail players. The Great Western Trail: Argentina board also has a glossy finish. I would've preferred the same matte finish they used for Great Western Trail (Second Edition), especially since this is part of a trilogy, but at the end of the day, the gameplay is where it's at, so this is a very minor complaint.
During setup, the board is populated with neutral building and granjero (farmer) tiles along the path, station master tiles on the train stations, and the job market is randomly filled with gaucho (herder), carpintero (carpenter), and maquinista (machinist) worker tiles. There are also ship tiles placed on the side of the board, and 3 double-sided city map boards for Le Havre, Rotterdam, and Liverpool deliveries.
Great Western Trail: Argentina is played over a series of turns in clockwise order until the end of the game is triggered. All victory points are scored at the end of the game from a variety of components and objectives in the game. Then at the end of the game, whoever has the most points wins.
On your turn, you move your estanciero (cattle farmer) forward a number of spaces to another location along the trail, noting on your very first turn of the game, you can start on any location tile. If a location you land on or pass has a green or black hand icon, you have to pay a number of pesos to either your opponent(s) in the case of private buildings, or on the game board above farmer tiles. Then you perform actions at the location you reached, and draw up to your hand limit. If you're not familiar with Great Western Trail, it's also worth mentioning that deck-building and hand management are key to the gameplay. Throughout the game, you can add better cattle cards to your deck at the cattle market, and there are plenty of ways to manipulate your deck by cycling through your deck or permanently removing cards to prepare for delivering cattle to Buenos Aires.
At the beginning of the game there are only neutral buildings and farmer tiles on the board, but as the game develops players may build their own private buildings expanding the rondel path. Each building tile typically has an option to discard a particular type of cattle card to gain a couple pesos (money), in addition to actions such as hiring workers, placing private buildings, moving your train forward, performing auxiliary actions unlocked on your player board, or grabbing an objective card. Most of the actions and iconography are the same as Great Western Trail, so I'll primarily focus on the changes as I delve into details.
Off to the side of the board you have a number of ship tiles with a range of loading values from 0 to 18. Some of the ships have grain costs, and some have immediate benefits or endgame victory points. The 0-value and 18-value ships can have any number of discs from the same player, whereas most locations can only have one disc per player. After you deliver cattle, you'll select farmer and worker tiles from the foresights area above the job market to add them to the job market or to the board if it's a farmer.
As you you add more worker tiles to the job market, the job market marker will occasionally be pushed down to the next row which will trigger you to refill the cattle market, depart ships, and eventually end the game. Some of the ship tiles have anchor icons with either a yellow, green, or purple background. As the job market marker drops past an anchor icon, the corresponding ships immediately depart to send the cattle you delivered (wooden player discs) abroad. The timing of the ship tiles departing adds a spicy timing crunch to Great Western Trail: Argentina, as players want to have as many of their discs on ship tiles before they depart.
Each ship has an anchor icon corresponding to one of spaces (quays) on the three city map boards. When a particular color anchor departs, all three ships with a matching color depart and head to the corresponding city map according to the anchor color and roman numeral. Le Havre and Liverpool have two different drop spaces, whereas Rotterdam only has one.
Grain is a new resource introduced in Great Western Trail: Argentina, and while it seems minor, it actually adds a whole new dimension to Great Western Trail. It's one of those things you can't ignore if you want to be successful in the game, but you can freely decide how strong you want your grain game to be. You need grain to deliver to the city maps' bonus spaces, as well as when you deliver to majority of the ships. When you deliver to the ships, you can spend 2 pesos per grain that you don't have, but you must have grain to claim bonus spaces on the city maps.
Grain is not easy to come by. There are station master tiles and private building tiles that hook you up with access to grain, as well as a neutral building tile that allows you to gain one grain per farmer that you have hired on your player board. By default, you start with one farmer printed on your player board, and you can hire additional farmers via a new "help granjero(s)" action, and by paying the hiring cost on the corresponding spot of your player board. Hiring farmers is key to generating grain. Thankfully, Great Western Trail: Argentina offers players plenty of different options for crafting a variety of strategies. Thus, while it's beneficial to create a healthy grain engine, you can focus on farmers and grain as much or as little as you'd like.
Farmers are a new, fourth type of worker available in Great Western Trail: Argentina. At the beginning of the game, 5 farmer tiles are randomly selected and placed on the appropriate spaces on the game board, similar to the hazard and teepee/outlaw tiles in Great Western Trail. The farmer tiles are double-sided. One side shows the required strength to help them with a background color of green, blue, orange, or yellow, while the other side is used when you hire them and place them on your player board.
Exhaustion cards are another new element in Great Western Trail: Argentina. They are deck cloggers and each one is minus 2 points at the end of the game. There are ways to cull them similar to cattle cards, but you can also get rid of them if you have any in your hand when you make a delivery in Buenos Aires.
After playing Great Western Trail: Argentina five times, I just want to play it more. It feels like Great Western Trail, which I already adore, but it also feels new and very refreshing as a result of all of the changes. There's so much game to be explored here. In the past, you had strategies based on the 3 different types of workers. Now you have a 4th type of worker, an additional resource to manage, ship tiles, shortcuts for delivering, and city maps. These new elements only add a small amount of new rules compared to their impact on making the game feel different and interesting.
The replay value is off the charts when you consider randomly placing the neutral buildings, double-sided private buildings and city map boards, in addition to a variety of station master tiles that are placed in the beginning of the game. Randomizing the placement of the neutral buildings alone presents a whole different challenge from game to game.
There's more to balance and think about, and like many great games, it has great player interaction so your opponents' decisions will often impact your decisions. You could use the same building tile setup for multiple games and play with different players and it won't feel the same. Then, of course, depending on how deep you go with farmers, or herders/cowboys, or carpenters/builders, or machinists/engineers, you can push and pull so many different strategies out of this game. I find it quite magical.
While I haven't had a chance to check out the solo mode yet for Great Western Trail: Argentina, I'm happy that they've included one as they did for Great Western Trail (Second Edition). I enjoy playing with 3 players most, but I think it's awesome at all player counts, aside from solo, which I can't speak to. At 2 players, it felt especially tense from the timing of making deliveries and the ships departing, and also plays quickly, which is another aspect I find appealing in Great Western Trail. It really moves when players know what they're doing. With experienced players, you can play 3 and 4-player games in about 2 hours or less, and a 2-player game in 60-75 minutes.
If you've never played Great Western Trail, you might be better off starting with Great Western Trail (Second Edition), unless you're used to playing heavier games; Argentina boosts the complexity level a tad compared to Great Western Trail (Second Edition). If you already enjoy Great Western Trail, then Great Western Trail: Argentina is definitely worth checking out. If you're on my level, then this is a no-brainer. After playing Great Western Trail: Argentina, I cannot wait to see what Mr. Pfister cooks up for us with Great Western Trail: New Zealand, which is targeted to debut in 2023.
Mon Oct 3, 2022 1:00 pm
- [+] Dice rolls