Everything that sucks! And some things that don't.

Sure, that's one way of looking at it. And it isn't totally wrong. But it's also not helping much.
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Upriver, downriver...

Christian Heckmann
Rheinland Pfalz
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Here's a bit of an outlook: At time of writing, I've still got enough material for eight more "On the table"-posts besides this one. That should last me for another two and a half weeks. Which means that I need to get some more gaming in before the middle of December to be all set for the rest of the year. Also exactly six days from now, this blog will celebrate its fourth anniversary. That's quite something, isn't it? Which means that Sunday after next (or next Sunday? I don't know whether four days from now is gonna be "next Sunday" or "this Sunday"), I'll have to start with the countdown of my favorite 75 board games of all time. These are some obligations, right? Anyway, here's a game...

Board Game: Riverside

Riverside is (one of) the (two) first game(s - hard to say whether this or Doodle Dash came first, both came out in October of 2021) released by Chilifox Games, a new publishing company founded by brothers ├ůsmund and Eilif Svensson. You might know the latter of those two from his work on highly regarded games like Santa Maria, Capital Lux or Avenue. That last one being one of my most played flip-n-write-games ever, so since Riverside is a roll-n-write-game, I was intrigued to find out whether Svensson could make lightning strike twice.

Riverside does have a kind of unique selling point when it comes to roll-n-write-games, if I'm not mistaken, by bringing a modular board to the table. Yes, I know, that's not something super-unheard-of in board games in general, but I haven't seen a roll-n-write-game feature something like that yet. Then again, it isn't that spectacularly mindblowing here either. You're just building a river from tiles and the basic form of the river is always the same, locations of different scoring-opportunities and the distances between those only change from game to game (plus the "advanced variant" adds a tile that blocks off one branch of the river). The main ship always moves along the river in a predetermined pattern (from one side to the other in a straight line, then it turns and then goes back down in parallel) and each turn, you first pick a die to fill seats on one of your smaller tourist-boats and can then launch a trip to a nearby landmark. Filling the seats not only unlocks one-time-special-abilities but also increases the multipliers for certain types of trips, which is useful, because you can only take a trip if it nets more points than the previous one of the same color. Once the ship has finished the journey, points are tallied up, a bonus is given to the player who has the most "captain points" (points for the special trips to the two stave-churches on the board, plus their lowest scoring category when it comes to the other kinds of trips) and a malus to the person with the fewest captain points. Highest score is the winner.

Which in both of our games turned out to be me, although the second time, it was kind of close and I only secured victory through the 30-point-swing between the first player in regards to captain points and the second. Which is a pretty big deal if you asked me. But yeah, the second game was kind of close, thanks to a super-speedy pace of the ship and some missed opportunities on my part. Still, victory is victory.

From gallery of Harblnger

So Riverside is fun. Central gameplay is very easy and intuitive. Basically, each turn someone rolls a couple of dice, separates them into two groups (all dice higher than the median roll and all dice equal to or lower), the ship moves as many spaces as the median die showed, then everybody chooses a die (not exclusively) and progress happens. You can also pull off a couple of tricks, like adding the number of the special green die to your roll for a price (not really a price... you have fourteen "heating"-spaces that you can cross off over the course of the game and every time you add the green die and/or choose a die that is higher than the median roll, you have to cross off as many as the chosen die/dice show in pips), use one-time-abilities that you unlocked and/or increase your range for a turn a couple of times (you can only visit locations that are up to three spaces away from the ship, usually). But yeah, generally speaking, it's a very simple and intuitive affair.

Also kind of solitairish. I mean, as implied, those end game points (both positive and negative) for most and least captain points can be a huge deal (especially in a two-player-game, where they are a definitive difference of 30 points, unless both players tie in regards to captain points), but it's the only point of interaction in the whole game. Which isn't that big of a deal, because the whole thing should take fifteen, maybe thirty minutes top, depending on how quickly that ship moves and how long people deliberate their options.

As said, it's fun, though. The visual appeal of the box cover and the board are neat (although the player sheets are a bit drab), the opportunity to combo moves into each other might not be as outrageous as something like That's Pretty Clever!, but completing a row of that color, which gives you two ticks of that other color, which lets you then complete another row and so on is always a lot of fun. The variable game length and slight push-your-luck-aspects, where you have to decide whether to go for big points in one category or try to even your scores out to get a lot of captain points (plus potentially that bonus) are neat things and while the modular board doesn't change considerably from one game to the next, the layout can definitely have an impact on your approach.

Look, Riverside isn't gonna blow anybody's mind. At the end of the day, it's a quick, relatively pretty, easily playable filler-game that doesn't do anything super-unique but combines its tried and tested elements in a pleasant way. I had fun with it, I'm looking forward to playing it again soon... and I also might run a game of it here on this blog in the near future. Would that be something you'd be interested in? If you said "No", tough luck, I might do it anyway!

Also here's my Bandcamp-page. Yes, it's the beginning of December now and my Christmas-song still hasn't released. Just be patient, it'll come.

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