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First Impressions: Biblios, Jaipur, I'm the Boss, Tobago, El Chupacabra

Dave Ross
United States
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Note: this was also posted on my wordpress blog, playing and designing board games.

I’ll probably blog about some of these games in detail later on, but I thought I’d post a quick note with just my first impressions. First impressions aren’t the be-all end-all, obviously, but they do help determine how enthusiastic I am to play again.

First up: Biblios. An excellent little game by Steve Finn, published by Iello. The artwork is amazing, the cards are thick (but I don’t know how durable), and the game is lots of fun. There are meaningful choices aplenty, a bit of luck, and even some bluffing, too. What you’re trying to do is develop a majority in one or more of five different areas, and you’re trying to make the areas you control worth relatively more than the areas you don’t. A good memory definitely helps but is not essential. Both my wife and I loved the game, so It think this one will be hitting the table often.

Next up: Jaipur. S and I tried this one for the first time this morning, and we were both very impressed. The components are all fantastic, the artwork is excellent, and the cards are very well made. I was happy to see that all the cardboard markers had already been punched out and were lined up nicely in their trays — in general, it’s a very attractive (and brightly-colored) package. Here again there are plenty of opportunities for making difficult decisions combined with just a bit of luck. Players either pick up cards or play them down, trying to trade sets of cards for big points. There’s a definite flow to the game, and players who get into the flow will fare much better than players who don’t. There’s an ongoing debate on the ‘Geek as to whether Jaipur or Lost Cities is the better game for two, but from my perspective there’s really no contest: Jaipur takes it hands down (and I enjoy Lost Cities quite a bit). The only difficulty I see is that it’s a little fussy to set up, but it’s not that big of a problem. Overall, a very under-appreciated game — Sébastien Pauchon should be proud.

Time for I’m the Boss. We brought out I’m the Boss for the first time last night, even though we ordered it around Christmas time. We tried to learn the game at game night, which is never a particularly good idea since (a) it’s hard to learn games as a group, (b) it’s always easier when someone can teach the game, and (c) we were all, shall we say, a bit “under the weather.” If it’s not good for driving or operating heavy machinery, it’s certainly not good for learning a board game. Anyhoo, we muddled through a couple turns, realized we were doing a few things wrong, corrected them, and got going. It is, most definitely, a lively game. By the end of it we were getting pretty creative as to the deals we were making, at one point appointing an arbiter to decide whether or not a “stop” card had been played before the deal was finalized and then trying to bribe the arbiter to decide in our favor. A fun game when you want an invigorating, not to say manic time, but not something I’d be in the mood for very often. It’s an extrovert’s game, much like Pit, and not for the faint of heart. Also, it may be a bit too … random for my taste, a bit too chaotic, but only time will tell.

Tobago. S and I played Tobago for the first time about a month ago, and we were both impressed by the mechanics of the game. A lot of creativity went into this game, and most of the game’s subsystems feel refreshingly new. The components, too, are gorgeous, some of the best I’ve ever seen (confession time: it’s part of the reason I bought the game). A game that looks this good, however, inevitably begs the question: is it any good, or is all that beauty just on the surface? I wish I could tell you, but I’m not ready to pass judgement after just one play. It’s definitely interesting, and some of the mechanics are brilliant, but I have a nagging suspicion that the game is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Only time will tell.

And finally, El Chupacabra — the push-your-luck dice game I’ve been working on. We played it with 7 last night, and it didn’t work as well as I had hoped. It was okay, but it felt overly fussy and somehow lacked tension. The “shoot the moon” aspect worked well, and the accusations were fun (K accused M once just so she could call him a “goat-sucker”), but the base game just didn’t work as well as I had hoped with that many people. We may all have had one too many sheets to the wind for a fair and final assessment of the game, but at this point the outlook is less than favorable — I need to find a way to streamline it a bit, clean up the scoring, and generally make it less fiddly. I’ve got a couple ideas up my sleeve, though, so all is not lost. :-)
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