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Battling Overlords and Exploring Coral Reefs at GAMA Expo 2020

Candice Harris
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
While I love me some heavy games that I can get lost in for several hours, I also love games that I can play in under an hour. At the game nights during GAMA Expo 2020, I kept stumbling upon games that played in 30-45 minutes. This was awesome because I could squeeze more games in before they turned the lights out on us at midnight. If only we had candles or broke out our cell phone flashlights to keep playing... (Noted for next year!)

Here are two more games I played (on top of Fort, Festo!, and Downforce: Wild Ride, which I covered here) that are worth sharing:

Coralia is a deep sea dice-placement game for 2-4 players from designer Michael Rieneck that's published by HUCH! and R&R Games. In Coralia, players compete to score the most victory points by placing custom dice representing diving robots into thriving coral reefs to collect different sets of cards, tiles, and victory points.

Board Game: Coralia

At first glance, I couldn't help but notice the sea of the vibrant colored dice and ocean-themed game board featuring beautiful art by Miguel Coimbra. Coimbra's art is no stranger to the board game community as it's recognizable from such hits as 7 Wonders, Small World, and Cyclades.

In Coralia, each player starts their turn by drafting a die from the main dice pool to add to the three existing dice from the previous player's turn; then they'll roll all four dice and choose one to place for their action. (The game comes with a nifty research station dice roller that adds to the theme, but also helps keep the dice contained and not rolling all over the place.) The player chooses a die and places it on an open space matching the symbol in the matching colored coral reef. There's also an island you can place dice on if all spots are blocked or if you choose to, so you're never stuck without options even as spaces on the board fill up. Here's a summary of the actions and how each scores:

(1) If you place a pearl, draw two cards from the pearl card deck and place them face down in front of you. At the end of the game, you score 1-4 of your pearl cards depending on how many cards you've collected compared to your opponents.

(2) If you place a fish, draw two cards from the fish card deck and keep one placed face down in front of you. At the end of the game, you score points for sets of different types of fish.

From gallery of candidrum

(3) If you place a starfish, draw three cards from the starfish card deck and keep one placed face down in front of you. At the end of the game, starfish cards give you victory points or other bonuses depending on the outcome of the game.

(4) If you place an octopus, place your octopus meeple on top of the die. Then for each die placed on this reef, you score 1 victory point. During the game, the owner of an already-placed octopus earns additional points each time an additional octopus is placed on a different reef. This is one of the only ways to score points during the game as most scoring happens at game's end.

(5) If you place a turtle, take the corresponding turtle tile, which gives you an immediate bonus. Then flip the turtle tile on its die storage side, which allows you to lock in a die result before rolling all four dice at the start of future turns.

(6) If you place a diver, place your diver on the board or on top of the corresponding die; if your diver has already been placed on a reef, you can relocate it to a different reef and pick up a treasure tile (if available). At the end of the game, each die placed on the diver's reef gives the owner of the diver victory points.

I was pleasantly surprised with the number of decisions Coralia packs compared to it being a lightweight in terms of complexity. Yes, Coralia is a dice game and yes, you will be rolling dice, but the overall luck factor felt considerably low considering how many different paths you have for scoring points. In the game I played, there were no "bad" dice rolls; everyone generally had plenty of different choices each turn.

I also like the fact that the fish, pearl and starfish cards all have the same back so it's not obvious how many pearl cards each player has; you have to pay attention and decide whether that majority is worth fighting for. Overall, Coralia is a fun, light game with a slew of decisions and a 30-35 minute average playtime. You can easily break it out with family, non-gamers, or even heavier gamers looking for something lighter to play with a decent number of decisions.

Board Game: Enchanters: Overlords
• I also checked out Rafał Cywicki's Enchanters: Overlords by GIndie, which is a standalone expansion for the fantasy card-drafting game Enchanters.

In Enchanters: Overlords, 2-4 players are heroes crafting a magical artifact to aid in battling monsters, dragons, and powerful overlords to defend the village and gain the most glory points!

I was able to quickly jump into an Enchanters: Overlords game due to the fast set-up and teach time, with us questing within five minutes of sitting down at the table with three new players. Enchanters has a ton of content and a variable set-up in which you choose a village card, an overlord card, and a kingdom deck per player, with those cards then shuffled to form the adventure deck for each game. Enchanters: Overlords includes six kingdom decks, six villages, and six overlords, so plenty of different combinations are available for play. If you have the base game or any other expansions, you can mix those cards in for even more variety.

The "journey track", i.e., the card market where most of the action happens, is filled with six cards from the adventure deck. On your turn, you're going to either journey or rest. When you take the journey action, you can acquire item and enchantment cards to upgrade your artifact or fight monsters or dragons. The first card on the journey track is free, but additional spaces have an increased crystal cost.

From gallery of candidrum

Each player starts with a "fist" item card and an "of enchanting" enchantment card that forms your weak starting artifact. When you acquire an item or enchantment card, you stack it on your existing cards, in most cases revealing some attack or defense values which you'll need to build up to combat monsters and dragons to score glory points. The visible attack and defense icons determine the current strength of your artifact. As a fun and clever bonus, each time you upgrade your artifact with new item and enchantment cards, you create new combos that each have a little description you're encouraged to read aloud. As an example, the description of my "Short Sword of Fire" combo in the photo below reads, "Still a sword, but almost a dagger that...burns in a fiery ring of fire." (You may need to zoom in to see the small italicized text.)

From gallery of candidrum

Combat with monsters and dragons is pretty straightforward when you choose a monster/dragon card from the journey track. Each monster/dragon has a strength value and health points. First, the enemy attacks you, giving wounds if their strength is greater than your defense level. There's no limit to the number of wounds a player can take, but each is worth a negative point at game's end. Then the player attacks the enemy and must have an attack value that equals or exceeds its health points to successfully defeat it. Assuming you defeat it, you create a stack of monsters/dragons to the right of your artifact cards for final scoring.

If a player can't or doesn't want to journey, they can rest. The rest action varies depending on which village card you're playing with, but generally it offers players a way to heal wounds or collect crystals. When you rest in Enchanters: Overlords, the first card on the journey track is discarded, but if it's a monster, it triggers the overlord to attack. Therefore the timing of taking the rest action can get tricky, especially if you're trying to avoid getting attacked by the overlord.

Players continue taking turns and embarking on quests until all cards from the adventure deck and the journey track have been taken or discarded. Then players score points as described on the village card and for their acquired cards — items, enchantments, monsters, and dragons — minus 1 point per wound. The hero with the most glory points wins.

Having no prior experience or knowledge of the Enchanters series, I felt Enchanters: Overlords was different in a good way. Obviously, the fantasy theme is nothing new, but I thought it was pretty clever how you level up your items and enchantments to continuously build your magical artifact engine. There's also some mixed player interaction sprinkled in as well. The "Sun Tower" village we played with allowed us to take two crystals when resting...or we could take four crystals but had to allow an opponent to heal one wound. A lot of the cards also have effects on them that can impact you or your opponents, positively or negatively. Beyond the short set-up, teach and playtime, Enchanters: Overlords has a ton of content that will present fresh and interesting challenges each game you play.
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